Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Great Dixter

The Oast House, Great Dixter
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencil in Daler Rowney sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Yesterday, we visited the house and gardens at Great Dixter in East Sussex. I've heard of it often but have never made the longish journey down to its location in the village of Northiam, seven miles northwest of Rye.

To tell the truth I found most of of the garden almost impossible to sketch for various reasons:
  • there are virtually no places to sit
  • the gardens are much more about a profusion and an experience than about views (the garden is compartmentalised and is simply stuffed with an amazing mixture of plants)
  • there is no place to put a collapsible stool or seat even if one were allowed to as paths are by and large narrow and the plants are spilling over them. There might be places where one could sit - but I found it very difficult to compose views with the camera and I'm guessing the problem would be even worse if trying to sketch compounded by the virtual absence of seats.
Do take a look at the website for more details about the layout, design and conponents of the gardens. (When I've got the photos sorted I'll come back and add some into this post)

Finally I sat on the stone ledge seats in the Sunk Garden - next to the lily pond - and sketched the oast house roofs. We'd been having some rather threatening rain clouds and very fortunately we got that wonderful light you sometimes get when sun combines with rain clouds and hence had citric acid lemon trees against purpley blue skies right next to a rich terracotta tiled roof oft he oast house. I'm afraid I wasn't much interested in drawing much of the garden having seen those colours!

We then visited the house and admired the hammerbeam roof in the Great Hall, the solar and Christopher Lloyd's collection of gardening books.

What I found fascinating was the career of Nathanial Lloyd (Christo's father) who made the money to purchase and renovate the property and develop the garden by developing a very suucessful business supplying graphic art for advertising at the turn of the twentieth century. This effectively enabled him to retire - at which point he worked with Lutyens to develop the accommodation at Great Dixter and then became something of an expert on brickwork in English houses!

We came home via Rye. I don't know quite why but each time I eat there I have a dreadful meal. Ever the optimist? You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now!

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