As I changed down into second gear to help the car climb the steep hill that leads to Uppark House and Garden I remarked to the trio that everything used to build the house in Georgian times would have been transported up the hill long before the invention of cars, lorries and power assisted transport and we talked about how that might have been.
Much of our learning takes place in the car and the conversations that stem from inspiration we find along the way on our many gallivants. That is because we have chosen to educate our three children otherwise than at school using the legal option of Home Education. The National Trust recognise the importance of learning outside the classroom and offer a special membership for home educators.
Our third visit to Uppark this year and every visit has a new angle, the height of the location emphasised again yesterday as, for the first time, we were able to see the Isle of Wight and Spinnaker tower as we played cricket. Yesterday, as well as meeting up with several other home educating families we know, we met up with Andy the head gardener in a shaded spot under some trees.
Initially Sapphire and Etienne, my home educated eight and six year old children, had been disappointed to find that the tall meadow grass they so enjoyed running in on our last visit had been cut back into bales but Andy soon pointed them in the direction of a new secret area to explore and they were off. Running and laughing and playing with their friends.
Much of the inspiration for the decor and furniture at Uppark comes from the “Grand Tour” and especially Italy 250 years ago now. Sapphire and I have talked about this before on previous visits as two years ago we drove, in the same car we have now, from our house in Pulborough, West Sussex the 1000 miles to Tuscany in Italy undertaking a grand tour of our very own. In Tuscany we saw marble stacked at the side of the road ready for export although I doubt it was as beautiful as the samples on the tables in Uppark that S and I so admire.
So, after a picnic and cricket and a chat with Andy about his role and ideas for the garden, very reluctantly, the boys came in from the sunshine and the garden to the house and we set out to find the grand tour inspired flowers around the house.
‘Switzerland’ arranged by Judy Culhane for Ditcham Park School
But not before my youngest Orin made a special request for a glass of the delicious water, he remembered from last time. We spotted the flags of Paris, Germany and Switzerland but were then sidetracked discussing whether or not some of the lemon trees we found were real or fake!
Belgium & Germany arranged by Harting School
We often experience that when we are looking for one particular thing we miss out on others but we persisted and talked about how difficult it must have been to find black flowers. Our friends managed to find most of the flag flowers though. I often arrange to meet my parents at Uppark so that the boys can stay outside and Sapphire and I can explore the house in more detail.
Above, ‘Greece’ arranged by Sarah from Alitex
We always leave Uppark talking about what we will do when we return the next time. Even after three visits there is still so much we have not seen.
Below ‘Italy’ arranged by Susie Culhane (internal photography Russell Baker, external photograph Andy Lewis)