Sue Marsh reports on our visit to Down Place, near South Harting, on 15th June:
Driving over the Downs in full summer, everything, every leaf and twig, shining and then one arrives at Down Place.
The planting soft and marvellous, the scent of Philadelphus everywhere, and that amazing feel of an endless English afternoon. And then down the hill to another lawn, a pergola, and more immaculate planting. We were already in heaven – and then, sweeping across the bowl of the Downs, the meadow! Never cultivated, possibly used as pastureland some hundreds of years ago, it is just, as our very kind hostess said, as God created it.
When we visited, seven genera of orchid were blooming amongst the daisies, the bird’s foot trefoil and everything else that is delicate and lovely. Pyramid, Butterfly, Twayblade, Common Spotted, Bee, Fly and Helleborenc – and nothing planted, just our Sussex landscape breathing free air.
In August the South Downs National Park sweeps the meadow, garnering the seed and using a proportion of this to repair damaged meadows in other parts of our downland. The whole area is then mown and a new season begins.
Add to this the incredible story of the water that supplies the irrigation barrels as it has done for centuries (when the porch was being built onto the front of the house, the digger tipped into a 160’ Victorian brick lined well!), keeps a wet plant loving bed on the lower lawn happy, and we are in a spiritually charged place.
The water rises in Oxford, travels in nature’s aqueducts beneath London and rises in springs when it hits the chalk downs. The same water has been detected in Canterbury!