Charleston for Children: Special Kids Tours of a Special House this Half Term

P.L. Charleston Maynard Keyne's room photo. p.fewster-2

Detail from John Maynard Keyne’s room
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

I’m excited – but also gutted. Charleston contacted me earlier this week to tell me they’re doing special children’s tours of the house during half term week. I would love to do this with my son, but we are away or he’s in clubs while I work. Boo. If anyone goes, you must let me know what it was like.

P.L. Charleston Garden Room. photo. p.fewster-2

The Garden Room at Charleston
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

The house is the former home and country meeting place for the Bloomsbury Group of writers, painters and intellectuals (who were also rather naughty under it’s roof). Its interior was painted by two of the group – artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell – and this and the furniture and accessories within it form a perfectly preserved homage to their decorative style.

This place is an integral part of the identity of the area surrounding Lewes, and its creative history is, I’m sure, part of the reason why creative people are drawn in their droves to the town.

P.L. Charleston Dining room. photo. p.fewster

Detail from the Charleston dining room
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

Charleston is somewhere I’ve blogged about before. It’s so special. I particularly love its whimsical cottage garden, both as a picnic spot and just a place to hang out. But apart from my mortifying mute-fan dinner sat beside author Audrey Niffenegger in the kitchen at Charleston, I’ve never set foot inside the house. This is because I have, until now, always had very small children (and boys at that) and you can only see the interior as part of a tour. I couldn’t really imagine them being able to not fidget or run or touch things for that long, but I my older son is nearly six and would really ‘get’ and be interested in it, especially as his dad is an artist and he sees him drawing every day as his job.

P.L. Charleston Vanessa Bell's bedroom. photo. p.fewster

Vanessa Bell’s bedroom
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

This is why I’m really excited that there are special children’s tours running this half term – I hope if they’re a success, Charleston will run them again in half terms and holidays.

The tour will focus on the art in the house – the shapes, colours and textures, with lots of discussion about how it was done. Children on the tour will be encouraged to imagine how they would decorate they down house if they were given free rein. They’ll also be given a sense of the children who lived at Charleston over the years – and the little tell tale marks they left behind on the House.

Charleston. screen. v.B's room. photo. 10-12. original. p.fewster

Screen in Vanessa Bell’s room
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

Virginia Nicholson, the daughter of Quentin Bell and Anne Olivier Bell, granddaughter of Vanessa Bell, and author of books about Charleston and the Bloomsbury Group, spent her school holidays at the House. As she remembers: “It was always a heavenly place for children. It was a place where messy, creative play was a way of life. There was clay, paint, beads, wood, water, wool, endless paper and pencils, jam jars and sellotape, glue, sand, scissors and matches. The grown-ups were up to their elbows in it, and so were the children.”

P.L. Charleston studio paints. photo. p.fewster

Paints in the Charleston studio
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

TOUR ESSENTIALS

Dates + times: Wed 29-Sat 31 Oct, 1pm

Run time: 30 minutes

No. of people per tour: Maximum 10 people – first come, first served (no booking)

Age: 6-16. Under 12s must be accompanied by a parent

Price: £6 per person (both for children and accompanying adults). You may stay on after the tour and enjoy the garden at no extra charge

There are other family/children’s events running during half term at Charleston. See the website for details.

P.L. Charleston Duncan Grant's dressing room photo. p.fewster

Detail from Duncan Grant’s dressing room
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

CHARLESTON ESSENTIALS

Drive: 11 minutes

Address: Firle, Lewes, East Sussex, BN8 6LL

Tel no.: 01323 811 265

Website: charleston.org.uk

Open: Wed-Sat, 1-6pm (last entry 5pm); Sun and Bank Holidays, 1-5.30pm (last entry 4.30pm). Regular tours are one hour long and start approximately every 20 minutes

Price: please see the Charleston website

Disclosure: No compensation financial or otherwise was offered or accepted for the writing of this post. Charleston contacted me about everything they are running over half term and, although I try not to publish posts about time-specific events because they date so quickly, I felt that as this is quite special and is a version of the way that Charleston usually operates, but for kids. It felt like a good fit for Little Lewes. 

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Guilt Be Gone! And Ice Cream on Eastbourne Beach

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Whether from friends or from those who guess that Little Lewes is my blog, I sometimes hear remarks such as ‘your life looks so idyllic’ – or worse, ‘your blog makes me feel so guilty, you do so much stuff with your kids’.

So here’s a quick post to put that to rest. Now don’t fear, I am not getting defensive here, it’s just that I’m worried. I absolutely do not want this blog to be a source of guilt to anyone! I just need to say that everyone’s life looks idyllic when passed through an Instagram filter, and that’s what happens to all the Little Lewes pictures. Like on Instagram, this blog only shows you snapshots of my family’s time. We are most certainly not out roaming the countryside or walking around museums all the time. If I was a full time blogger and could post a couple of times a day, I would simply not have enough content to post, because we probably go and do something I can write about once every two or three weeks. It’s why I’ve started branching out into the odd post about design, fashion, blogging and books.

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EVERYTHING being washed to get rid of the moths – even all the cuddlies

Here’s the reality: I have to freak out at my kids sometimes (actually quite often) to get them out the door to school. They watch a good deal of TV, some of which is not age appropriate for the younger one. I don’t do any crafting or baking with them (and I don’t feel bad about it). When people ask ‘how do you fit it all in?’, my answer is always: ‘because my house is chaos.’ My son turns six next week and still has a baby ABC poster on the wall of his bedroom because I never get around to rethinking it (because I am lazy). Also we have drawers and drawers in our house that are just full of crap – spare buttons, loose paperclips, old batteries etc. These will never ever get sorted out, and I can’t bear to open them because they are physical manifestations of my own disorganised mind (and because I am lazy).

I am also an EPIC failure at birthday parties – I am not joking. Last year I made a green – GREEN – birthday cake with an edible sticker of Lightning McQueen on it that I ordered off eBay. None of the children at my son’s party wanted to eat it because it looked disgusting. No exaggeration. And I forgot to bring any food at all for the accompanying adults. And I organised the party at a play farm as I always do, so that I wouldn’t have to stage any party games. This year I was hoping to do it at the cinema for minimum effort/engagement (but I think my son cottoned on and it’s back to the play farm we go). Someone else is making the birthday cake – and I will post a picture of it on these here pages next week because it’s going to be stunning and it’ll make him happy. And children will eat it.

But I figure that in every situation, something has to give, right? For me it’s drawer-loads of crap and age inappropriate TV and outsourcing birthday cakes.

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Homemade lavender bags for de-mothing every drawer in the house. You need: a bag of dried lavender (£1 from Landsdown Health), a pair of old maternity tights and some loom bands

Then, this past weekend, we had to de-moth our house from TOP to BOTTOM. Every single drawer, cupboard, nook and cranny had to be hoovered, wiped, steamed and then sprayed before we could let off toxic ‘foggers’ in all the rooms to really make sure we were killing the moths that have infested our house. And everything – EVERYTHING – had to go through the wash or be dry cleaned (or tragically, be thrown away). All the wool had to spend 12 hours in the freezer. I am generally quite scratchy about this whole sitch.

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Frozen knitwear

I have become a total moth bore, so I will not continue with this story here (although I do want to say, we all love vintage but DO NOT BRING IT INTO YOUR HOUSE UNTIL YOU HAVE HAD IT CLEANED. SERIOUSLY, TREAT IT LIKE IT HAS THE PLAGUE. This problem saw me pull my older son’s bed away from the wall to reveal a bed-sized web of threads where the carpet used to be. Imagine my guilt? This problem has also so far cost us about £500, and we now have to rip up all our carpet and lay floorboards in the upper two floors of our house. Terrifying with Christmas around the corner).

So my children watched acres and acres and acres of television and were basically ignored for 12 hours on Saturday, and most of Sunday – and bear in mind that it was the first time in a while that it was not raining! Talk about the guilts. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, we let off the toxic moth killing fog bombs and because we had to be out of the house for four hours we drove to Eastbourne and the beach.

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I have been to Eastbourne only once since we’ve lived in Lewes (I know, nuts!), and it probably deserves a proper post, but the gloriously long beach is obviously the main draw, as is the Towner (free to get into!). It was one of the most beautiful evenings I have seen in a long time and such a treat after our horrific moth slog. It was also our 10th anniversary, so we all went for a homemade ice cream at proper Sixties Art Deco-style ice cream bar and café call Fusciardi’s where they have sundaes called Moonraker and Pink Panther and Melon Melody and Palm Peach.

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Anyway, I am probably driving the point home a bit too hard, but I just want you to know that Little Lewes is a real person with a real life full of complications, stress, disasters, and stuff that’s a total drag, and whose children, while being pretty OK, by no means spend their every waking hour being connected to, engaged by, and beautifully parented by us.

Please don’t let my blog be a source of guilt, or I will feel so guilty about making you feel guilty that I will have to shut it down!

P.S. How’s this for idyllic: check out this picture of Cuckmere Haven! Taken out the window of our moving car in the semi-dark as we drove home. Gotta love Instagram and those filters… (And click here for the post on biking at Cuckmere).

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See the Child – Again

You may be having a sense of deja-vu because, yes, I’ve written about Kids Company’s ‘See the Child. Change the System‘ campaign before. That post is here.

SEE THE CHILD MAZE poster

There are now over 23,500 signatures on the See the Child petition. However, as the campaign gathers speed, it needs more signatures than ever to have any real impact. You can add yours at the seethechild.org website.

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Meetings with Remarkable Trees: Sheffield Park and Garden, East Sussex

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post on rainy day ideas, I have been wanting to publish this post for the past 10 days, but have been too sad to put pen to paper because I couldn’t look at the pictures of that sparkling Sunday before last when it’s been so soggy since. It’s not raining today (yet), so forge on we must. There’s a distinctive bite to the air, the heating has gone on this week, and autumn is here. It’ll soon be time to get out my Marimekko dream coat!

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RAIN! Wet Weather Things to Do With Kids in and Near Lewes

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Rain – it doesn’t always have to mean Monkey Bizness…

The blog has been silent for a week, which these days is a bit unusual. You’re probably not wondering why, but I’ll tell you anyway: it’s because it’s raining. Yes, I am one of those people who becomes quite severely demotivated in every way by wet weather, so no, I am not that suited to living in England. And I’m probably not that suited to writing a ‘things to do’ blog either.

But anyway, I’m here and I have to deal with it, as do you. And according to The Independent today, we are really in for it this week (but then it’s going to massively improve at the weekend). So let’s get started on ways to get the kids out of the house, so that we don’t all get too scratchy with them, shall we?

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READER GIVEAWAY: ‘H is for Hummus, A Modern Parent’s ABC’, by Joel Rickett + Spencer Wilson

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I am high-fiving myself about being able to write this post, because I know it’ll give you a laugh on this windy, autumnal Monday morning. And we always need those, don’t we?

I have been laughing at the memory of some of the pages of ‘H is for Hummus, A Modern Parent’s ABC‘, by Joel Rickett and Spencer Wilson, ever since I spotted the hardback version in Bags of Books about a year ago. I know you’ll love it and laugh at it too because you’ll all relate to it, the ‘modern’ parents that you are. And most especially because you are modern LEWES parents.

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Neat Petite: Donna Wilson’s New Kids’ Threads for John Lewis

Fox long sleeves £15 1-8 years

‘Fox’ long-sleeve tee, sized for ages 1 to 8, £15. Also available in soft green with light green pocket

I am not trying to make this a blog that is all about buying stuff and fashion/design, honest. I promise there are some more ‘doing things with kids in and near Lewes’ bulletins coming right up.

Aztec print bodysuit £10

‘Baby Aztec’ print bodysuit, sized for ages 0 to 12 months, £10

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Where to Stay, What to Do and Where to Drink on an Easy, No-Kids Helsinki Weekend from Lewes

So a couple of days ago I wrote about our fun fun fun weekend away in Helsinki. Sorry, this was not meant to be an exercise in gloating. I wasn’t trying to make anyone feel jealous. I just couldn’t help but write about it because it was so fun fun fun.

Anyway, for practicalities’ sake (because that is sort of the point of this blog) I thought I’d separately share all my recommends for a weekend in Helsinki, because it’s so easy to do from Lewes.

Here they are:

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If the toy shops don’t do it for you, let them gorge on pretty packets of liquorice

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Escape to Helsinki (Or: Why Sometimes Leaving the Kids Behind is a Really Good Idea)

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Kafe Mokba – no children allowed!

Feel free to move along because this post is right off topic. It’s neither about Lewes and its surrounds, nor about things to do with kids. In fact, it’s about a weekend in which Mister LL and I left ours with my mother and took off in celebration of his 40th, to do what we used to do before we became parents: drift around a Scandinavian city’s museums and buildings of note, flea markets and beautiful design stores, punctuating it all with eating delicious food and getting pissed. So fun!

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Walks from Lewes: Landport Bottom

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My my, what a month of firsts September has been. There was the Duke of Yorks/Duke’s at Komedia weekend cinematic Kids’ Club. Then there was the Half Moon in Plumpton. And this past weekend, there was Landport Bottom.

Yes really. Five years. And we’ve never done this simple little leg stretch around one of Lewes’s pretty nature reserves. It begins practically in town for crying out loud!

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