The kitchen garden at Gravetye Manor

At the start of the month we headed down to Sussex for an early celebratory meal at Gravetye Manor; it's somewhere that's been on my radar and to visit list for a while and I'd heard the afternoon teas there were just fabulous. Although when I looked at the sample menus, everything looked fabulous and we quickly upgraded ourselves to a proper meal. We'd hope to book a dinner reservation, but by the time we remembered to actually book they were full for the dates that worked for us, so we opted for lunch instead.  

It felt slightly strange, but quite decadent, to spoil ourselves on a Tuesday lunchtime, but it actually worked out really well as despite being full of gorgeous food we were able to wander around the gardens and beautiful grounds in our finery, which wouldn't have been an option after an evening meal, and let's face it it'd be highly unlikely that we'd get there early enough to do it beforehand (although on reflection that is probably the best advice I can give you!)

After cocktails, three courses and coffee with petit fours and some relaxing and recovering in the lounge we headed out to the gardens. I'd read that there was a walled garden, so that was incentive enough. I'll admit though it's the first garden I've explored in heels, but given that this exploration took place after a gourmet lunch, I think it was the lunch more than the heels that slowed us down.

When I saw these gates, the entrance to the walled garden, I knew we'd made the right choice to get up and explore. Aren't they beautiful?

Fantastic gates and a great entrance to the walled garden at Gravetye Manor in Sussex

Inside the walled garden we were to discover the most bountiful of gardens which is used to supply fruit, vegetables and flowers for the hotel and restaurant, and that explains why there were such mounds of rhubarb and artichokes. That's quite a responsibility to grow enough to satisfy a restaurant dish.

RHUBARB

RHUBARB

GLOBE ARTICHOKES

GLOBE ARTICHOKES

The garden is oval in shape, or elliptical if you want to be formal about these things, and the path leads and encourages you around the garden. It's one of the few remaining Victorian walled kitchen gardens that remains in production and covers 1.5 acres of what Gravetye Manor say is "the most beautiful soil imaginable" and I suspect they have a point.

the path leading you around the walled garden at Gravetye Manor in Sussex

What surprised me was the number of flowers being grown, but on reflection and learning they supply the hotel with cut flowers it's not that surprising. It did remind me that I should grow more flowers in my allotment and this year I'm determined to add a cut flower bed. 

FOXGLOVE

FOXGLOVE

LOOK AT THOSE PURPLE STEMS

LOOK AT THOSE PURPLE STEMS

Part-way round the garden I spotted another gate, and I think this one, even more beautiful than the entrance gates. Its design, the clematis clambering over it and the lichen covered sandstone walls all contributing to the prettiest of pictures.

Another iron gate clad with clematis in the walled garden at Gravetye Manor in Sussex

As we continued to walk around the walled garden it was the flowers and flowering herbs that caught my attention, and I'm rather pleased with some of my iPhone shots.

POPPY

POPPY

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CHIVES

CHIVES

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FROTHY FRONDS

FROTHY FRONDS

It was good to see the apple blossom, I think it's slightly longer lasting than the cherry blossom which has already been and gone in our own garden and is often the blossom "snow" so prevalent in April and early May.

APPLE BLOSSOM

APPLE BLOSSOM

And there were berries too, that will no doubt end up on a fortunate diner's plate. We were curious though as to what colour these would turn out to be, and it's unlikely we'll ever know.

A STRING OF BERRIES

A STRING OF BERRIES

As we left the garden there was a small brick hut right by the entrance which was covered with roses and clematis entwined and it made what is no doubt still a functional space pretty and seem completely at home in its environment.

CLEMATIS AND ROSES ENTWINED

CLEMATIS AND ROSES ENTWINED

So a great wander around a fantastic space, and my fascination for walled and kitchen gardens remains in place, there really is something special about them, but when there's a walled kitchen garden to explore, it's totally something else!

An architectural wander into Hastings Old Town

Last Christmas we escaped the usual rituals and London and headed down to a cottage in Hastings for the duration. Browsing through the photos on my phone - yes most of my blog photos are taken on my iPhone as it's always close to hand - I was taken by just how charming and quaint our walk into the Old Town in search of the sea was. That's such a seaside thing to do isn't it, head off to see the sea?

I'd been to Hastings many years ago, and remembered the funicular, mainly because my uncle tried to convince the ticket seller he was one of the children, and of course the six children found it hilarious. I've no idea what fare he paid, or rather my dad paid, because why would the child pay, but it's a memory that stuck. I think it may have obscured all my other Hastings memory as none of the rest of it looked familiar, not even the fish sheds (more on those another day), but then again at that age I probably wasn't that interested in them and no doubt the seafront has changed in the many years that have gone by.

But I'm not sure all of the views have changed, just look:

A view down the main street in Hastings Old Town with its mix of architecture styles

It looks so much more appealing than a standard row of terraced houses doesn't it?  You might imagine that even all the higgledy-piggledy-ness soon gets taken for granted but there is such a mix of architectural styles it was almost too much to take in on a single visit. Almost. It was one of those walks that was very stop-start, much to MOH's fake annoyance - it had to be fake annoyance as I'm sure no one could be annoyed with stopping to look at these, and on Christmas Day morning too.

I was fascinated by the brickwork on the house below, and the flower pots on top of the bay, which I presume hints there's an outdoor space up there. But even the ironwork on the front of the upper bay, and then the alleyway leading to another part of the town. 

Fancy brickwork and lots of interesting architecture features
A mix of styles right next door to each other

And the more modern style of the grey, sleek and stylish house next door. It's a real reminder that traditional and contemporary styles really can work together, which is always a relief as I can never choose between the two.  Further along there's an old shop converted into living accommodation but in keeping with the street, retaining the fantastic - and dare I call it - vintage sign.

A traditional shop sign kept even though the building has been transformed

The colours too contribute to the general ambience, and it's not just pastels either as you'll see further down the post.  Unsurprisingly for a seaside town blue and white features heavily, but splashes of pinks and yellows and corals add to the mix.

A street view that I don't think I could tire of
The cheddar cheese house in Hastings Old Town

I'd been looking out for the Piece of Cheese Cottage, and never did I expect it to be so yellow and cheese-coloured, or even shaped like a wedge of cheese, but it was. It's easy to see how it got its name isn't it?

Going back to colour there's pale pinks and brighter pinks, creamy yellows and cheese yellows and brick fronted houses too. Plus the coral or orange which on its own might appear garish, but not here.

It's more than pastel shades here, they're actually quite bold colours

As we reached the front the wood panelled or clapboard style buildings, and they were a hint of what was to come as we wandered around the fish sheds. It was eerily quiet in this part of town, most likely because everyone else was no doubt opening presents!

A hint of what was to come closer to the seafront in Hastings Old Town

But we weren't quite done yet. We found an even more quirky house, whose outside was just full of texture and charm. And check out the name plate.

A house that caught my eye, full of charm and character
Pulpitt Gate in Hastings East Sussex

There was one more house that I insisted we stop and investigate and all because it had these giant plants and seedheads seemingly growing out of the building's foundations. Their shape though, made them appear to be decorations, in the most rustic of styles.

One of the timber framed buildings completely fascinated me
A close up of the plants - giant ones - that were growing out the house

And now we really were ready for all the usual trimmings of the day, all that remained was to find our way back to our holiday cottage and work out how to use the oven!

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