Southover Grange Gardens is a jewel in this town’s crown, which says a lot about it, given Lewes’s overall beauty. For those of you who either don’t live here or have visited and not found it yet, it is a walled garden of ‘rooms’ that are bounteously planted up in an ordered, ornamental fashion. It makes us feel better about our extortionate council tax. My children and I have been going there at least weekly since we moved here – except in really horrible weather – and my favourite thing about it is that every time we go, even if it’s twice in the same day, the Grange somehow has something new to show us.
On Monday I met a friend there after school drop-off. The tea hatch wasn’t open yet and the whole place was fresh, still and unruffled. My toddler wandered off to the far end and into a circle of wild flowers that begins its life each year as a shout of yellow daffs before becoming studded with bright poppies, only to be replaced by its current incarnation as a disc of daisies. Having been camping last weekend, and with a meadow to run freely in, I wasn’t too surprised that he chose this wilder part of the Grange over its more manicured sections.
Fast-forward six hours and we were back, this time post drop-off. The Grange was jumping with icecream-intent school kids that the tea hatch patiently humoured, who leapt over newly-planted beds from stone walls, scooted the perimeter, and got stuck in the yew tree (its spiky upward-facing branches have me in constant fear for little goolies). It reminded me of the first time we came to Lewes with our six-month-old baby, and wandered through the Grange bang on 3.30pm. Did such a town really exist, that children can be released from school at the end of the day into so pretty a play space?
Life has raced on, and five years later, my kid is one of those children. And here I am, for the second time, in that toddler moment where the Grange is a bit of a bore – so many corners to hide around, and what with him always wanting to do what the older kids do, I am constantly being summoned over to statues or walls that the little one is hanging off mid-climb to help him to the top or bring him down to safety. Not that conducive to chatting.
On the way out, I was also reminded of a time when my older son was about two, and we spent a couple of hours in the Knot Garden collecting snail shells and feathers, which we stuffed in an empty beaker and then sorted into an empty 12-egg box when we got home. There, on a tree trunk that he now always has to climb on the way out towards Keere Street, another child had placed two collections – one of different leaves neatly laid out by colour, and another of seeds, petals and flower buds. “Who had done this?” he and my sometimes-daughter asked. “Was it fairies? Elves?”
‘No,’ I thought. ‘Just someone who left their collection for us to find, instead of taking it home and putting it in an egg box.’
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