That’s exactly what I did when I visited beautiful Bateman’s in East Sussex two years ago. It was that quiet time between Christmas and New Year, and the National Trust had decked the house with beautiful decorations.
I knew that Bateman’s, which was the former home of Rudyard Kipling, was the right setting my for novel, Love in an English Garden, and so it became Orley Court.
I wanted to set my book during the summer months, but my deadline meant that I had to imagine what it looked like in summer, and I didn’t get to visit it again until May this year – two months after the book was published. But how beautiful the garden looked. The wisteria I had imagined, and which features on the cover, was looking glorious and there was plenty going on in the walled garden – a scene which would gladden the hearts of Vanessa, Jonathan and their team.
And it was lovely to see the oast house again. It houses the National Trust shop these days, but readers of the book will recognise it as Jassy’s studio.
I was delighted to meet the custodian and I gave him a signed copy of the novel which is now part of the collection at Bateman’s. How exciting to see my book at Kipling’s home! I feel very honoured indeed.
The nearby village of Burwash became Elhurst in my book, and I have to admit that the one in my imagination has blurred with the real one so completely that, when we visited again, I half expected to see the shops and houses I’d invented!
The Sussex Weald is a very special place and this little corner – the Dudwell Valley (the Ridwell in my novel) is particularly beautiful. Do visit it if you can. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it too.
Opening from Chapter 1 of Love in an English Garden:
Orley Court sat in the Sussex landscape like a jewel. A sprawling Jacobean manor house built in the early seventeenth-century, it was made from pale gold Wealden sandstone which held a warmth even on the dullest days when the clouds hung heavy over the Downs.
It was a gentle landscape of deep wooded valleys, verdant fields dotted with sheep and horses, and villages full of tile-hung homes, cosy pubs and antique shops full of curios…
Love in an English Garden is available now from Amazon, or order from your favourite local bookshop.