Bateman’s in East Sussex, now owned and managed by the National Trust, is renowned as the much beloved home of Rudyard Kipling. Looking for a secluded family home far from the glare of the public and the media, Kipling purchased Bateman’s in 1902, a 17th century house with walled gardens and surrounded by the wooded landscape of the Sussex Weald.
In 1907, Kipling became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature and he used to prize money (apparently about £7,000 at the time) to have the gardens professionally landscaped.
What is immediately striking about the gardens at Bateman’s is the strong presence of English heritage trees and plants, including lots of Yew trees, yew hedging and bay trees. The beautiful rich dark green of the yew contrasts beautifully with lighter green of the lawns.
The working orchard is a mixture of ancient mulberry, apple and pear trees. Along the lovely brick walls are topiary bay trees in the unusual but charming shape of a heart.
To embellish the natural beauty of the house, climbing plants gracefully adorn the exterior walls. A Wisteria Sinensis climbs along one sunny wall and a Hydrangea Petiolaris graces a north facing wall. Evergreen Magnolia Grandiflora frames a corner of the main house.
To the rear of the house sits the beautiful formal garden. Geometrically balanced and beautifully understated, this must have been a summer paradise for the Kipling family. It is not a flamboyant garden but rather a functional space. Kipling wanted it to be very much used – for boating in the shallow lake over the long summer months, playing games on the lawn and even performing amateur dramatics with the children.
The beautifully manicured Yew hedging is a strong feature throughout the garden. Being very famous, Kipling was most keen on privacy and his precious yew hedging kept out prying eyes.
Most magnificent are the two geometrically perfect rows of pleached trees. These are in fact pleached lime trees which were planted over 100 years ago.
Behind the formal garden lies the Wild Garden and beyond that again, the watermill, still functioning today. Everywhere you look, you can see rolling hills and woodlands.