Monday, November 22, 2004

A BIT OF ROUGH

A BIT OF ROUGH

Bankside farm.

Twenty-six acres

Set in the north end of Ditchling common this flint walled farmhouse was my home for twenty-one years. My relationship with this house was deep, the farm influenced an entire child and adult, and its surroundings are embedded in history.

Arts and crafts and history
My grandparents lived by nature’s code’s and conducts, the farm had a large garden mainly used for vegetable growing, the land surrounding was rough and unforgiving r but magical, frost and snow covered the skeletal structure of the garden in winter and many cold mornings were spent splitting logs for the large open fire. Life at this time had a precious simplicity you had to do things for yourself just to get the basics. It wasn’t jolly hockey sticks, and the nearest tweed jacket was a mile away.
The surrounding common was a magnet for artists and crafts people and the Bloomsbury group had many connections with them, My grandmother was a weaver and I remember that any free space in the house was packed with wool and spinning wheels. She used to work for Ethel Meriot and designed and weaved patterns for the Royals and anyone else with money, Through her connections she built up an impressive art and craft collection, The shelves in the kitchen and front room were unpretentiously packed with Bernard Leach ceramics and the walls had paintings by Edger Holloway and Eric Gill. Books on art, gardening, farming and writing packed every room,
Outside the front door was Jacobs post, On may 26th 1734 Jacob Harris a smuggler took his packhorse into the stable of the nearby Royal Oak pub and knifed the landlord, the maid and the landlords wife to death, He then robbed the inn and fled. He was caught tried and hanged in Horsham on August 31st and his body was hung on a gibbet outside Bankside farm and this was named Jacobs post. Television crews would visit frequently and on my naughty days (which were very frequent) I would shout and walk in front of the camera so stop the filming, I felt like they were intruding at the time.
The house was supposedly haunted not by Jacob but a woman who suffered from depression she had at one time lived in the house, and was reportedly rich and buried her gains in the garden; I spent a lot of my time looking for this but to no avail.
The manure fed the garden from the yard and the impressive compost heap, which my grandfather called the engine room this was added to 365 days a year. He used to grow all the old favourites and got the seeds from old-fashioned seed companies whom he had used with for years. The vegetable garden was a work of art at all seasons immaculate rows of everything and the soil was black as night. He would never use chemicals and the garden somehow was bug and slug free. The vegetables he grew in the garden lasted most of the year we had a storage shed and things were preserved in sand. Jam and Pickle making was run of the mill as was bread making and butter churning. Everything was organic and. quince jelly was what my grandmother was famous for
In the winter the base of the quince tree was a carpet of white snowdrops then followed fritillaries and wild orchids, the area around the bottom was only mown once a year a job she never let my grandfather do. The roses in the garden were wild and in autumn the enormous bright red hips would appear, I would break these open and use as itching powder at school. Right at the end of the vegetable patch was a yew tree used as camps and climbing.
I had the great freedom to explore my creative interests and garden making, as a very small child I would hinder my grandfather in the garden and he ended up pushing me round in his wheelbarrow to keep me happy so he could get on with his gardening, I see what I do now as a reflection of my time at bankside a home I loved and never to be replaced my own run down dwelling from the past where I live my thoughts memories and philosophy.

Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning

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