Followers of Bath Newseum will know l have been taking a short holiday break which took me away from Bath and across to the Sussex Coast.
The idea was to finally get around to visiting a couple of places that ranked pretty highly on the artistic bucket list.
We were based in Brighton but set off one day to drive to the amazing headland that is Dungeness.
It’s one of the largest expanses of shingle in Europe with a remarkable variety of wildlife – with over 600 different types of plants.
According to Wikipedia: ‘One of the most remarkable features of the site is an area known as “the patch” or, by anglers, as “the boil”.
The waste hot water from the Dungeness nuclear power stations is pumped into the sea through two outfall pipes, enriching the biological productivity of the sea bed and attracting seabirds from miles around.’
In addition to the power station and lighthouse, there is a collection of dwellings – most of them wooden weatherboard beach houses – and one of them being our main reason for visiting.
It’s Prospect Cottage, formerly owned by the late artist and film director Derek Jarman. The cottage is painted black, with a poem, part of John Donne’s ‘The Sunne Rising’ written on one side in black lettering.
The garden – which Jarman created – reflects the bleak, windswept landscape of the peninsula, and is made of pebbles, driftwood, scrap metal and a few hardy plants.
Another day saw us motoring off to Charleston Farmhouse at Firle in East Sussex which was the country home of artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant for fifty years.
The couple moved there in 1916 – together transforming the house and garden into an incredible physical work of art.
Walls, doors and furniture were decorated – inspired by Italian fresco painting and the Post Impressionists. Charleston also became the country meeting place for the group of artists, writers and intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury Group.
We did spend one day looking around the city of Brighton & Hove – a place l came to for work – fifty years ago – as a young freelance journalist at BBC Radio Brighton (now BBC Radio Sussex).
In my day the station was just across the road from the Royal Pavilion and in a building now re-purposed as a language school.
I have to say Brighton seems a bit tired in places but – like other seaside resorts – is trying to chart a new economic course in keeping what is best of its Regency and Victorian heritage and doing what it can to attract younger people to spend holiday time there too.
Full marks to the local authority for promoting clean air and public transport on the side of its double-decker buses AND in being busy planting many new trees – not spindly saplings either – which so easily can get snapped off.
It’s also transforming many parkland borders into banks of colourful wild flowers – which is doing wonders for insect life!
More trees, wild flowers, improved public transport and a working fountain – please Bath. Not much to ask for?