It was a fine and warm early March morning when we visited Rudyard Kipling’s beautiful 17th-century home in the heart of the Sussex Weald. Complete with gardens, meadows and a mill to explore, this glorious sandstone house, known as Bateman’s, is now owned by The National Trust.
We picked up their children’s checklist, which kept my daughter engaged throughout. She liked best the alphabet necklace that Kipling gave to his adored daughter, Josephine, whose ‘satiable curiosity had inspired the Just So stories.
Other highlights included the gilt-painted leather dining room walls, Kipling’s book-lined study as he had left it, collectables from his Indian days, original carved Jacobean panelling, a 1920s Rolls-Royce, and son John’s bedroom with school uniform, rugby, football, skis and boots still in residence.
It was the warmest day of the year so far, thus luncheon – a home-baked cheese scone and locally made lemon drizzle cake – was partaken in the sunny walled garden beside the herb patch.
We ambled through the gardens with their high yew hedges, seasonally-dormant orchard and ornamental fountain, spring hovering close at hand, lying in wait to devour the last vestiges of winter. Snowdrops, daffodils and crocuses had burst through the turf, there were chickens scratching and foraging in the undergrowth, and we spotted a grey wagtail flicking its tail on the mill river.
We sat on a bench and read aloud:
‘Give me back the leafless woodlands where the winds of Springtime range –
Give me back one day in England, for it’s Spring in England now!’
Images by Nadine Mellor