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Posts Tagged ‘The Mermaid Rye’

Great Dixter!

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

By Tim Sykes

And Great it truly is!

Great Dixter is known the world over as a place of pilgrimage for horticulturalists.

It was the family home of Christopher Lloyd, journalist and world re-knowned gardener himself, who worked so hard to make it the magnet it is today.

His parents Nathaniel and Daisy Lloyd bought the property in 1910, from Sarah Springett.

At the time the house was a shadow of its current granduer. Nathaniel had a vision for it and he hired the great architect of his time, Edwin Lutyens and his team to transform the building. Quite how he pulled this off is a mystery, as the young Lutyens was in great demand. Although closer inspection of the actual transformation experience would suggest that Lutyens colleagues may have been more responsible for the successful completion than he himself. This included dismantling and transporting another house from Benenden to Northiam, where Great Dixter is situated, and bringing the two together.

As was so often the case with architects of this period, Lutyens went onto design the gardens of Great Dixter. Not surprisingly, Lutyens contribution was fairly formal.

Much of this structure still exists today, albeit this is augmented with Christopher Lloyd’s and his mother Daisy’s own influence, which marries the formality with informality.

Christopher Lloyd being particularly well known for his work with the creation of wild meadows.

One of the great characteristics of the gardens are that they surround the house, so as the visitor you get an excellent view of the house as you journey around each room in the garden….

From the Meadow Areas, to the Mixed Borders, to The Walled Garden with its pebble mosaic, The Sunken Garden, The Long Border, and finally The Exotic Garden, there is a huge wealth of colour and mixing of species that is very Christopher Lloyd and a real feast for the eyes!

Our visit was in April 2014 and we’ll be back.

A must see is the Nursery and Shop. The Nursery is one of the best of it’s type and is championed by a brilliant horticulturalist you will find in the Nursery Shop. We bought loads of plants, so leave some boot space for this! The Shop has all manner of interesting gifts, but the star items are the re-furbed garden tools. I bought a fabulous pair of topairy shears for just £25.

I also bought……

- An ornamental rhubarb – Rheum Palmatum Atrosanguineum.

- Camassia Leichtlinii Caerulea – for its lilac blue flowerheads

- Geranium Maderense – for it’s Spring flowering Magenta Pink Flowers

- Achillea Millefolium Red Velvet – you pop this in a full sun position in moist well drained soil

Great Dixter is based at Northiam, near Rye. So if you are staying at The Mermaid, it’s a must visit.

For further information see

Or call 01797 254044, or go to Great Dixter, Northiam, Rye, East Sussex TN31 6PH

If you are visiting Chapel Down Vineyards, go to Great Dixter first, then call into Chapel Down and book a taxi home. On this occasion we ended up at The George in Robertsbridge.

This is a fine Coaching Inn, run by John and Jane Turner.  See more at or call Jane at 01580 880315. The food is excellent, there is a very fine Argentinian Malbec on the wine list, and you have to leave room for the deserts as they are just brilliant!

For more information about Great Dixter call Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820.

Lamb House – Home of Henry James

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Lamb House was built in 1723 by James Lamb, an important citizen of Rye and 13 times mayor. The house remained in the family until 1864.

The author Henry James who fell in love with the house then took on a lease in 1898 and lived there until his death in 1916. The house and gardens were to provide the quiet and peaceful retreat from which he wrote many of his novels from a garden house in the grounds (this was destroyed in an air raid on 18th August 1940), including The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl.

The writer E.F.Benson, an admirer of James, came to live in the house after Henry James died. He shared the tenancy with his brother (also a writer) famous for having written the words to Elgar’s ” Land of Hope and Glory”. E.F. Benson went onto live in the house until his death in 1940.

Today the house and gardens are looked after by The National Trust. If you are staying at The Mermaid or one of the other superb hotels and guest houses in Rye, Lamb House is conveniently placed and definitely worth a visit!

Despite having no prior knowledge ( ” I am hopeless about the garden, which I don’t know what to do with and shall never, never know – I am densely ignorant.”), Henry James secured the help of a friend Alfred Parsons – a landscape gardener, to help create a beautiful walled garden, leading from a pair of french doors on one side of the house.

The layout of the garden is much the same as in James’s time with a large sweeping lawn, various flower beds, shrubs and a rose garden and kitchen garden situated behind an attractive trellis supporting climbing roses.

Various attractive benches adorn the grounds acting as resting and focal points…

Other features added by Henry James to the house and garden help give a unique perspective and charm..

At the back of the shrubbery, in the South-West corner of the garden, you can still see the dog cemetery where he buried many of his favourite dogs.

James’s favourite Mulberry tree was blown down in a gale, this has now been replaced and he’d be very pleased to note is bearing lots of fruit!

The gardens were a delight…

When you consider this oasis sat within the beauty of Rye, you can easily understand how the setting gave Henry James so much inspiration for his great works.

Lamb House, house and gardens are open from 24th March to 27th October, Tuesday and Saturdays, 2 – 6pm ( last admissions 5.30pm). For further information see The National Trust website at and