Archive for Sussex

The Wilmington Giant, Eric Ravilious

Posted in Art, Sussex with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2015 by mysearchformagic

This week I visited an exhibition dedicated to the short life of mid twentieth-century artist Eric Ravilious at the rather lovely Dulwich Picture Gallery. Ravilious spent much of his life in Sussex, and many of his best works are views of the South Downs and the charming countryside that lies around them. Images of winding country lanes, travellers’ caravans and rolling hills recall a magical rural England, reminders of a time now long past.

, Eric Ravilious

I particularly loved his painting of the Wilmington Giant, which can be found on Windover Hill just outside the village of Alfriston.  While many things may have changed since Ravilious painted this scene in 1939, the Wilmington Giant, also known as the Long Man, remains steadfastly the same. He’s been there since time immemorial, and will not doubt still be there for centuries to come; huge, silent and mysteriously magical.

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The Spink, Charleston Farmhouse

Posted in Art, Gardens, History, House, Sussex with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2014 by mysearchformagic

Following my climb up Windover Hill, I made the short journey west to Charleston Farmhouse. This beautiful place was once home to artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and played host to their circle of bohemian friends, now better known as the Bloomsbury Group.

The interior of the house, with its murals, painted furniture and fascinating collection of art and objects, is definitely magical. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside, so I wasn’t able to capture that magic for this blog.

The house and garden at Charleston Farm

The house and garden at Charleston Farm

However, the perfect English cottage gardens more than made up for that loss. A riot of colourful and perfume, the gardens of Charleston Farmhouse are an oasis of peace and quiet. It was while wandering through those gardens that I came across a small orchard. Hiding in the shadows of the surrounding trees, I found a strange, rather magical sculpture.

The Spink in the garden of Charleston Farmhouse

The Spink in the garden of Charleston Farmhouse

Further research has revealed that this sphinx-like beast, which is carved out of a large stack of bricks, was created by Vanessa’s son Clive Bell in 1931 and is known as the Spink. Just like the mythical beast that it is named after, the Charleson spink is a bit of an enigma, loitering silently in a quiet corner of the garden.

What is it thinking? Your guess is as good as mine…

Windover Hill, Sussex

Posted in History, Landscape, Sussex with tags , , , , , , on June 8, 2014 by mysearchformagic

I was lucky enough to enjoy a rare day of sunshine on a recent visit to one of my favourite magical places, the South Downs. A long range of hills which run along the foot of England, the South Downs offer some beautiful stretches of unspoilt countryside, as well as some incredible views across the rolling plains to the north and the sea to the south.

I began my walk in the pretty village of Alfriston, which is filled with charming thatched cottages and old timbered houses. The chalky path was shady and tree-lined to start with, but soon emerged onto open hillside. The sun was hot, and skylarks chirped and twittered above me in the clear blue sky.

The chalk path up to Windover Hill, Sussex

The chalk path up to Windover Hill, Sussex

As I climbed the steep path, I caught sight of the mysterious Longman of Wilmington, a huge chalk figure cut into the hillside. Once thought to be prehistoric, this carving is now dated to more recent times, and was probably created in the 16th or 17th centuries. The Longman, also known as the Wilmington Giant, carries two staves, and although there are various theories about who or what he represents, the truth behind his creation will probably never be known. Today, pagan ceremonies are conducted next to him on important days of the year, and morris men celebrate the dawn of every May Day by dancing at his feet.

The Longman of Wilmington, Sussex

The Longman of Wilmington, Sussex

I finally made it to the top of Windover Hill, and found there, just above the Longman, a large ancient tumulus, known as Windover-Wilmington Barrow. This ancient burial mound is surrounded by a ditch, and is of the type known called a ‘bowl’ barrow.

The Wilmington-Windover Barrow, Sussex

The Wilmington-Windover Barrow, Sussex

The views from here are incredible, with historic Wilmington Priory not far below, the soft ridge of the Downs stretching into the distance and green fields as far as the eye can see. The top of this ridge is dotted with burial sites and prehistoric remains, suggesting that our ancestors thought of it as somewhere special, magical even. Standing there, with the lark song cutting through the warm summer breeze and the world spread out at my feet, I could definitely see why.

The stunning views from Windover Hill, Sussex

The stunning views from Windover Hill, Sussex