Last time I was in Sussex, two years ago, the Ditchling Museum was only just getting ready for opening. I’d been through the village so many times in the car before, while and after I lived in the county, and spent the brief passages through gazing out of the car window at the beautiful, old, timber-framed buildings. So, time to actually go there and wander round, looking at the buildings up close and exploring the few lanes behind the main crossroads and, of course, the pond.
This time I’d heard that the Museum was now open and had an exhibition of Ethel Mairet’s works – a handweaver and dyer who joined the artists’ community in Ditchling early last century, soon afterwards publishing a book on dyeing (even though you can download it, an actual published edition in the museum shop was too good to miss) and later teaching weaving and dyeing. It was a short train ride to Hassocks, then a half-hour walk along a country lane full of brambles, hemp agrimony, chamomile, wild carrots and other dye plants, not to mention the drying buddleia heads in the gardens and alongside the train tracks. The museum itself is small enough that you don’t get tired walking around, but with just the right amount of exhibits that you feel you’ve spent a worthwhile and very educational trip. Yes, I’d go there again!
After lunch in one of the village pubs (I’d recommend the elderflower beer to wash it down), I sat on the green, doing a bit of drop spindling. After a while, a girl who’d been sitting a distance away came by and asked in a delightful Sussex accent, “Whaat are you doin’?” Truly a day in the country!