Smiles of a summer afternoon

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As a child I grew up listening to and reading Rudyard Kipling’s wonderful stories of adventure. The Just So stories have a particularly special place in my heart and for as long as I can remember I have wanted to visit Bateman’s, his family home in Kent. For a man who did not come to England until he was 36, he chose the most quintessentially English place to live and one where I’m pleased to say you really do feel the family’s presence.  There is the vintage Rolls Royce in the garage in which he adored tearing round country lanes (it didn’t go very fast by today’s standards!), prone to frequent breakdowns, but still magnificent to look at.

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The house is beautiful and intimate, filled with the 17th century furniture bought to preserve the spirit of the place but famously uncomfortable to use. Just outside, you find the pond into which Carrie, Kipling’s rather intimidating but devoted wife, once fell according to daughter Elsie’s entry into the visitors’ book. Tucked away behind the roses and the hedges, there is even a small section of the wild garden where family pets are buried and hens wander. You imagine the family lying in the shade of the walnut trees, entertaining their many friends on the magnificent lawn or striding out for walks in the acres of countryside they acquired. I found the cottage garden particularly enchanting where runner beans, courgettes and other vegetables jostle for space with sunflowers, dahlias and other wonderful flowers and plants. I wandered through a section with nasturtiums in bloom to an arch where pears were growing. It really is the loveliest place imaginable, one where time seems to stop and you fully appreciate the magnificence of an English summer over tea and cake.

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8 thoughts on “Smiles of a summer afternoon

  1. How beautiful! Especially the Rolls, the pond – how lucky, you didn’t fall in it, and most of all, the study. I have to re-read Kipling! I understand, he was abit of a racist, so chosing the quintessential English spot after returning from the colonies might not come as a surprise…

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  2. It’s true that he was rather jingoistic and today some of his views are just awful. But luckily his writing and house can still be enjoyed. He really was a master storyteller. It would be wonderful to go there again together – I thought of you the moment I saw the vintage Rolls!

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  3. What are those wonderful large spherical flowers in the garden behind the manicured shrubs (in the 12th photo)? I saw those (or some similar) at Kew Gardens and I really loved them. This wild but manicured garden is how I would love my front garden to be but instead I have one rose bush that’s beautiful and doing really well and another that doesn’t want to grow much larger than the size it was when I bought it 2+ years ago. Oh well…. at least one of them is nice to look at!

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  4. These are Allium cristophii which come from Turkey. They’re grown from bulbs and low maintenance so they would look good in your garden. How lovely you have roses. I don’t always have success with plants and my garden is rather wild but the cottage garden like this one is my dream too.

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  5. I’m overjoyed to see such beautiful images and read your essay. How fortunate you are to see that handsome house, the gorgeous grounds and oolala that ravishing Rolls-Royce. Thanks for taking me along on your adventure.

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  6. Emily, how absolutely gorgeous. I feel almost as though I was there through your beautiful photographs. Yes, Kipling was a man of his time but that’s okay. “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there….” Anyway, he wrote such a wonderful poem about the death of his dog that he forever has a place in my heart. “The Power of the Dog.”

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