Sunday, 27 September 2015

Harvesting the delight of Parham

"Welcome to the true heart of England, and of Sussex." The voices of the land seemed to speak to me, "Take your time, linger, let us ensnare you. Perhaps you'll never leave." 

As a child, I read many a fairy story (perhaps too many), and arriving at Parham early on a stunning September morning, I could almost believe them. It was one of those perfect mornings, a precious morning, all light and fresh chill, pastels and gold. I have become accustomed to holding my breath as I make my slow way along the winding drive, awaiting and expecting the sense of enchantment that falls, as I take that final bend and the landscape unfolds below to gather me in.

On a September morning such as this, the Downs are silvered, defined by light and shadow, flowing and enveloping; a natural screen that hides all that doesn't matter, allowing one to forget the rest of the world outside. 

On a dew drenched lawn, between trees showing the first autumnal hints of copper and gold, a group of fallow deer graze, picking their way across the timeless vista. Veteran trees sigh under their history, dreaming stories of old, whilst a scattering of saplings, younger than my own score-and-three years, harvest the morning light. In the grasslands and under the trees, strange and varied fungi have appeared overnight.


The Harvest Fair has drawn a crowd. Cars glint in the sunshine as they line up on the green, each following my own slow progression of before, in a broken line down the drive. Visitors stroll from produce stand to produce stand, pausing to perch on straw-bales to watch displays in the arena, and they admire apples, cider, game cookery, plants, and farm animals, or they wander away into the walled gardens. They slow with every step as Parham's spell works its magic. 

Over the garden wall, gnarled and lichen-encrusted apple trees are heavy with fruit. A red admiral butterfly seeks the windfalls. The borders of the gardens are as rich as high summer, a tapestry of deep autumnal colours; fennel seed heads tower over swathes of sedum, a late-flowering clematis scrambles through the fading buddleia. The thick sweet scent of asters fills the air, followed by the hum of bees. That red admiral appears again, or another of his kind, to make the most of the nectar buffet the colourful flowers advertise. 

By mid-afternoon the ephemeral, charmed light of the earlier hours has lifted, and the day has taken on a brighter, yellower light. The flowers are heavy with bees, visitors are warm and content, the parkland is quiet.  A robin twitters. I'd imagine that later, when the crowds have dispersed and long fingers of shadow push the last visitors out of the gates, the robin will replace the chatter of the people with his own song. Perhaps the notes will drift through a window left open in the house; I wonder who will listen. Undisturbed once again, the deer will warm their backs in the low evening sun, picking fallen acorns from the fungi-studded grass beneath the venerable oaks. 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Oh what a delight!

Spend a gloriously sunny afternoon, sipping lemon squash under the shade of a large and leafy tree, on the village green where bunting blows? Don't mind if I do!

This Saturday afternoon I pottered out for a short drive, following handmade signs off the main road and into the enchanting, quintessentially Sussex, village of Stedham. 
Here, overlooked by pretty cottages, the village green was decked out for a village fete. 
The Stedham Womans' Institute had organised the event as part of the nationwide celebration of the WI's centenary and their hard work was evident in all the wonderful details.

The village hall was a buzz of joyful chatter and filled with book stalls, bric-a-brac, and of course the traditional table of WI cakes, jams and other home produce. 
Ladies, gents and families enjoyed tea and cake, or wandered back out onto the village green for hotdogs and glasses of lemon squash. 
Here children played games and races whilst the adults browsed the selection of stands and stalls positioned around the edge of the field. The ladies of the WI mingled amongst the visitors ensuring all ran smoothly, looking fabulous in authentic costumes of a time 100years past. 

 Dogs, Ducks and Dahlias;
all the delights of a fete!

A beautiful bunch of dahlias from one produce stand found their way into my basket, and I simply couldn't resist a dainty cake stand. 

The smell of freshly mown grass, the drifting notes of vintage music, wonderfully warm sunshine and the billowing of triangular bunting completed the delightful scene. A large bumblebee was drawn like a magnet to the bright colour of the dahlias in my basket, diving in for a quick pitstop before flying off on her journey. 
And of course, there was always chance for a girl to relive her childhood and play on the swings...