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A BALOOmingly lovely place, IF you like this sort of thing.....
Bateman's (East Sussex, England)
Member Name: kcsevenoaks
Bateman's (East Sussex, England)
Advantages: Stunning location, house, information about Kipling
Disadvantages: Gardens prob best in the summer not mid Oct!
Now if I asked what type of person your average National Trust member would be, I'm not sure if you would think of a single man in his early 30's? Well that is me, a fairly newly signed up member. I think it's my nosiness, being able to snoop around houses and other historic buildings, lovingly cared for by the NT and their army of volunteers. Being the person I have just described does have its down points when visiting these properties though, but more on that later.
So this morning was a slightly overcast sort of day in the south-east and I decided it was time to make use of my membership once more. A little trip down the A21 was in order to visit the country home of the author Rudyard Kipling. Batemans is a 17th century Jacobean country house, on the outskirts of the village of Burwash, in the glorious Sussex countryside. By the time I had got there the sun was out and I had lovely weather for my trip - another crazy autumn day, as now as I type it is chucking it down outside!!. The journey is a lovely one and mine took me through the pretty villages of Etchingham and Burwash amongst others. The advantage of some of these NT properties being in rural locations is that sometimes the drive can be part of the experience. Batemans is down a little lane from the village and is set in a lovely rolling valley. It has good car parking facilities though they seemed a little small and seemed full when I left. At the entrance there is a ticket booth and toilet facilities, and from there you walk through a lovely garden passing their herb boarders on the way to the main buildings.
Down in the main area of buildings there are a number of outbuildings housing, the gift shop, restaurant, and garage where Kipling's Rolls Royce can be found. The Rolls whilst originally being owned by Kipling in recent years has been in the hands of many different people and even used for transporting baby giraffes at Marwell Zoo!, but has been loaned to Batemans by its current owner. The shop sells you regular NT type of gifts from sweets, biscuits, jams etc to books, CD and other gifts. The Tea room was small, but had a good selection of snacks, main meals and of course my favourite, the NT cream tea. £4.50 will get you two freshly baked scones with jam and cream and a pot of tea of coffee. Mmmmmm. Though in complete fairness the best NT scones I have had, and there have been a few, have been at Chartwell (more on that in another review). Just a quick mention on toilets, there are more toilets here by the tea room, and they are clean and well looked after.
Right, moving onto the house. The house is set in some lovely formal gardens which have a lovely pond as a centrepiece which is full of fish. Now this is where me as a non stereotypical NT member comes into play. Now let's get this straight there are a lot more younger NT member than before, though when you go round sometimes you do get confused looks from the volunteer stewards who I have found in some properties to be a but stuffy and dare I say snobby. Though at Batemans I couldn't have been better looked after, what a lovely bunch of people, clearly enjoying what they were doing and their enjoyment about sharing the history of the property. They were all very welcoming and informative.
The house tour starts in the main hall of the house where you are given a double sided A3 sized map and guide, with things of particular interest to look for in each room. There is a steward as well in each room to offer more help. The hall is a wooden panelled room which leads into a smaller area which has the staircase as well as the parlour and a small sitting room. Both rooms are set out as they were when the house was given to the NT back in 1939 after Mrs Kipling's Death. The Kipling's owned the house from 1902 and Rudyard lived in it until his death in 1936, and most rooms are set up as they would have been back then. All round the house there are reminder of Rudyard's early years in India, as well as scenes from one of his most famous works "The Jungle Book" with bronze and stone pictures and carvings throughout.
Upstairs there is a small guest room which has the Kipling's actual bed in. The helpful steward informed me that this was the couple's bed and was moved into this room as their main bedroom is now an exhibition space. All the furniture is on a grand antique scale. The steward informed the Kipling's theory was he had to have furniture which fitted in with the house's style. From there you enter Kipling's study in which he did many of his most well known work including his poem "If..". His messy desk is how it was, and looking out through the window in front of the desk you can see that the views from his window must have been a great source of inspiration as well as to take time out.
The main bedroom is now an exhibition with lots of interesting bits and pieces from the Kipling's life at Batemans, as well as more about young Rudyard's life. It also has many excerpts of his work including a copy of the poem "If...". Now I have to admit, apart from the jungle book (and that's mainly down to the Disney film) I didn't know much of Kipling's work, so reading a copy of "If...", was an eye-opener. Basically it is a beautifully worded poem which is actually a guide to life for his son John. If you have never read it I highly recommend looking it up online, it's great. There is a small room devoted to The Jungle Book with original pictures adorning the walls. The final room upstairs is the small children's room. The Kipling's had three children, two girls and a boy, and this is a very sweet room, though at the moment it only has one single bed, so goodness knows how two more beds squeezed in the room.
From there you go down some steep stairs to the dining room. Apparently dinner parties at Batemans were known for serving fairly plain food, but they more than made up for that by serving sensational wine!!! Another interesting fact about this room is that the wall "paper" is actually made from calves' skin!
From there you leave the house back into the gardens. You can take a stroll down to the mill where on Weds, Sat and Bank Holidays they actually produce their own flour. Its interesting to look round whether they are grinding or not. It's a nice stroll through the meadow and along the River Dudwell.
All in all Batemans is a lovely place to spend an hour or two, for all ages and as a member entrance to me was free. There are numerous events throughout the year and today there were half term activity trails round the gardens for families. Current prices are below as found on the NT website:
Gift Aid Admission (Standard Admission prices in brackets) March to October: adult £8.60 (£7.80), child £4.30 (£3.90), family £21.50 (£19.50)
Please check http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits /w-findaplace/w-batemans.htm for more info about Batemans including winter opening times, accessibility and special events.
Summary: A lovely day out
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