Friday, September 2, 2011

An Excellent Day

We had the best day yesterday. We got up early and took the bus, changing once, to a little medieval village called Alfriston - site of the National Trust's first acquisition. From Alfriston we walked to Charleston, the summer home of the Bloomsbury Group for nearly 60 years. Going there, we walked old paths in the valley, including an old coaching road. Returning we climbed to the top of the downs and walked along the ridge on the South Downs Way, with amazing views in all directions. It was the warmest sunniest day we've had here and it was sublime.

We stopped en route to visit the church in the tiny village of Berwick. The first picture is part of the path from Alfriston to Berwick - the path points almost directly toward the tip of the church steeple, which you can almost see.

The church, which has murals painted by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, is wonderful - 12th or 13th century, with a much earlier Anglo-Saxon font and a barrow just outside the church that is even earlier. It has been a sacred spot for a long time. The murals are my favorite of all the work I've seen by Bell and Grant. They used family members as models and the landscapes in the background are familiar places - the garden at Charleston or the cliffs nearby.
Here is Christ in His Splendor - notice the WW2 service men in the left foreground with the white cliffs of the English coast behind them.

I particularly like the picture of the Annunciation - the Virgin Mary was Angelica Bell (the daughter of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, who thought her father was Vanessa's husband Clive Bell until her 18th birthday - it's quite a story) and the angel Gabriel is a friend of hers.

Charleston is amazing. I went with Sister Rose a couple of years ago and that, too, was a wonderful day. I am not sure I actually admire the work of the Bloomsbury artists but somehow seeing it all in place is really terrific. We spent some time in the gardens, which are wonderful in a particularly English cottagey way. Not that Charleston is a cottage. It's quite a big house, though not grand, dating in art to the 16th century but much ammended and added on to in the 18th century. The Bloomsbury group never owned it - they rented it from Lord Gage(whose ancestor lost the Revolutionary War) and 'all' they did is to cover it with painting on every possible surface. The COG and I were wishing my brother Enward could see it. The COG took pictures, but I didn't. At the moment he is having trouble uploading them, but I'm sure some will appear on his blog, although none from inside as that was not allowed.

The return walk was really sublime. The last picture was taken about half way to the top of the downs. Later, I was too much involved in the experience to remember to take picture, and I knew the COG would.

It was an amazing, wonderful day.

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