Stewarding the Sussex Landscape

Frank Wootton’s oil on canvas ‘A Passing Storm, Windover Hill, Sussex’ © Toovey’s 2021

The South Downs have for centuries been shaped by farming. The ancient, managed chalk grasslands are still maintained on some of the steep downland slopes. The rich biodiversity of birds, fauna and insects predate on those that eat the crops. In the valleys and open fields mixed farming ensures that the fertility of the soil is improved and maintained by the under planting of cereal crops with rich clovers and grass grazed by sheep and cattle in seven year crop rotations to limit disease. Some of the most balanced and sustainable farming practice in the country is to be found in the leas of the South Downs.

The oil painting titled ‘A Passing Storm, Windover Hill, Sussex’ by the Sussex artist Frank Wootton. OBE (1911-1998) depicts a rural idyll with grazing cattle beneath the majesty of the Sussex Downs. It sold at Toovey’s for £2600. You sense the heat in the tone and palette of the scene. The storm casts its shadow, moving quickly across the landscape as the rain falls. It is this quality of landscape which speaks into the very identity of our nation. What the Shipley poet Hilaire Belloc described as ‘The great hills of the South Country, They stand along the sea’.
Frank Wootton studied at The Eastbourne College of Art under Eric Ravilious and Arthur Reeves-Fowkes. Whilst his landscapes and equestrian scenes are celebrated Wootton is perhaps most famous for his aeronautical paintings.
In the late 19th and 20th centuries many of Britain’s leading artists were inspired to leave London, our towns and cities for the country. For some it was to escape the effects of the industrial revolution and for others the wars

And here’s the thing, that sense of the rural idyll remains alive in popular culture and the public’s imagination. In contrast we have become more and more removed from the reality of country life even though the debate around farming in this country is entering into our national conversation.

The overwhelming majority of the farmers here in Sussex work constantly to achieve a balance between maintaining the fertility of the land, producing food in a sustainable way for the nation with close attention to the preservation of nature.

In a mixed agricultural response to the challenges of climate change it is vital that we seek to restore our soils and feed the nation through mixed agriculture. Local food supply chains, balanced mixed farming, and working with nature must surely have a dramatically reduced carbon footprint over the alternative of importing our food on hugely polluting ships and planes.

Our farmer’s continue to steward the landscapes which have inspired artists and musicians over the centuries and never more so than in Sussex in the 20th century. In our hearts and minds the countryside with its generous communities connected with the seasons and the abundance of the land have provided hope against the back drop and grind of urbanisation.

Walking with nature and in conversation with those we love is a great blessing. Our countryside, maintained by our farmers, is the perfect place for a day’s holiday-after all Sussex has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. And we must do our best to support our Sussex farmers as we shop.

A Sussex Celebration of Motorsport on and off the Track at Goodwood

The start of the 2019 Goodwood Revival Kinrara Trophy © GRRC/Chrislson.

I am really excited, I’ve just booked my tickets for the 2020 Goodwood motor racing season 78th GRRC Members’ Meeting, Festival of Speed and Revival. Goodwood’s quintessential British motorsport events celebrate not only the best of historic racing but also the cutting edge and contemporary in the automotive world. It’s a winning combination here in heart of Sussex.

For me the highlight of this year’s Goodwood Revival was the Kinrara Trophy for pre-1963 GT cars with closed-cockpits. Dubbed ‘the most expensive motor race in the world’ the line up on the grid included Ferrari 250 GTs Aston Martin DB4s, AC Cobras and Austin-Healeys promising some very special racing.

The race lasts an hour. As dusk approached the first race of the 2019 Revival got underway. By the time the leading cars had reached Fordwater on the opening lap the Ferrari 250 GT of Andrew Smith and Gary Pearson was being closely followed by the navy blue Aston Martin DB4GT driven by Darren Turner and Simon Hadfield. The racing was close and the pit-lane siren wailed as the cars came in for their compulsory pit-stop and to change drivers. As the race progressed the safety car joined the track after Jack Young went off in his Jaguar E-type. The safety car came in with just 10 laps to go with the leaders closely bunched up. The sun began to set as the drivers battled towards the finish their headlights blazing. It was Pearson and Smith’s Ferrari which took the trophy setting a new Kinrara Trophy lap record of 1 minute 28.825 seconds. They were closely pursued by Turner and Hadfield’s Aston Martin DB4GT in second place as they had been from the beginning.

This evocative race captured the spirit and excitement of the Goodwood Revival bringing together the marques which raced there back in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Sussex historic racing season will open with the 78th GRRC Member’s Meeting on the weekend of 28th and 29th March 2020. The spring Members’ Meeting is a celebration of motor racing exclusively for members of the Goodwood Road Racing Club (GRRC), and the ever growing GRRC Fellowship. It has its own unique atmosphere. This member only event allows enthusiasts, drivers and the car owners to mingle in the paddocks.

The 2019 Festival of Speed saw the UK launch of the much anticipated new Land Rover Defender alongside a spectacular celebration of Aston Martin 70 years after they first raced at Goodwood in 1949 and 60 years after their triumph in the 1959 World Sports Car Championship. The 2020 Festival of Speed will be held from 9th – 12th July.

September’s Goodwood Revival has a unique and special quality with the atmosphere of a motorsport party with vintage outfits, cars and racing. The 2020 event will be held from the 11th – 13th September.
To find out more about the benefits of membership of the GRRC and GRRC

Rupert Toovey at the Goodwood Festival of Speed
Rupert Toovey at the Goodwood Festival of Speed

Fellowship, how to join, as well news about this year’s Festival of Speed, Goodwood Revival, and to book tickets go to www.goodwood.com/sports/motorsport. Tickets for the Goodwood motoring season sell as fast as a speeding Aston Martin so be quick off the start and be sure to get yours!

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

A Postcard from Parham

The Georgian Saloon at Parham
The Georgian Saloon at Parham

What could be nicer than a holiday in Sussex with the backdrop of the South Downs!

We reached this conclusion whilst sipping Wiston bubbly in our garden and so this week we are revisiting Parham House & Gardens on our holidays in the company of its current custodian Lady Emma Barnard.

Lady Emma’s great-grandmother the Hon. Mrs Clive Pearson wrote “There are many old and historic houses now opening their doors…but none, I believe, holds safe within its walls a more enchanted atmosphere, a greater peace and kindliness, distilled perhaps from all the centuries it has outlived.”

In my view the English Country House is one of our nation’s greatest contributions to human civilization. Their assemblance of paintings and objects have a particular beauty born of the passions of successive generations of their families and, importantly, English Country House taste is also comfortable. Parham’s beauty is so essentially English.

As we enter the Great Parlour we stand beside a 17th century chair covered with exquisite gros and needlepoint and a Charles II walnut table with a vase of flowers arranged in the ‘Parham way’. Behind Lady Emma hangs a 17th century portrait which is thought to depict the French King Henry IV’s daughter, Christine of Savoy, Princess of Piedmont (1606-1663).

Lady Emma Barnard in the Great Parlour at Parham
Lady Emma Barnard in the Great Parlour at Parham

Lady Emma says “There is a sense of layering if you live in a place like this, with the imprint of people who’ve gone before you. I find it very moving and enormously humbling when I think about all the people who’ve closed a door or walked through the house before me – houses are made from people.”
We enter the Saloon, which was remodelled as an elegant Georgian drawing room by Cecil Bisshopp, 8th Baronet, 12th Lord Zouche in about 1790.

The sense of the processional, generational quality in our lives in part defines the English. Lady Emma has a deep understanding that our blessings are given to us to be shared. She comments “At the heart of Parham is a desire to educate and delight, to use the words of my great-grandmother.” The qualities of inhabiting and rootedness which Lady Emma and her family give expression to has people at its centre. Their generous patronage provides a canvas upon which others paint their lives.

I ask Lady Emma what it is like to live at Parham. She replies unhesitatingly “It’s emotional. We’ve brought up our family here, but above all it’s a vocation, a calling.”

Parham gives expression to a beauty beyond its gardens and ancient facades. It blesses the visitor as it has always done over the centuries.
Whether you are visiting for the first time or returning to an old friend, as I often do, Parham never fails to delight with its architecture, collections, gardens and sense of history, and is the perfect August Bank holiday destination! For more information go to www.parhaminsussex.co.uk or telephone 01903 742021.

As I pen this postcard to you from Parham it remains for me to say wish you were here!

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Inspired by the Landscape

Rupert Toovey at Petworth Park
Rupert Toovey at Petworth Park

Inspired by the Horsham Museum & Art Galleries latest exhibition of local landscapes I have been trying to walk off my Christmas indulgence, with my terrier Bonnie in the beauty of the Sussex countryside. And what strikes me is how influential and important human stewardship and industry has been to the appearance and beauty of our landscape.

A great favourite of ours is the circular walk at the top of Chantry Hill at the back of Storrington. From the car park you follow the footpath to the west. The views carry your eye across the undulating hills of the Angmering Park Estate to the sea at Worthing and the Isle of Wight. Leaving the main path and heading North the ground steadily rises until the view opens onto the Sussex Weald. A few hundred yards to the east between Kithurst Hill and Chantry Hill you come upon a late Bronze Age / Iron Age cross dyke. The deep ditch and steep embankment still defines its boundary and affords the most wonderful views with Storrington below. As you walk in this man made earthworks you have a real sense of the ancient and your place in the procession of history. It is farming which has created and preserved the Downland landscape which surrounds it.

At Petworth Park the qualities of the picturesque are alive in Capability Brown’s man made landscape, preserved and maintained by The National Trust.

Bonnie delighted to be on the Bronze Age cross dyke on Chantry Hill

Bonnie and I love to walk through the park and around the lake. The house and park are united in the landscape. Here you come upon a series of constructed, vignette views onto sweeping areas of grass, curving lakes and beautifully conceived woodland clumps of trees. It is as though you are walking in a series paintings.

This aesthetic was born out of the rococo in reaction to the formal straight lines and topiary of the French royal gardens designed by André Le Notre (1613-1700), which had been made popular in England in the late 17th and early 18th centuries by George London (d.1714) and Henry Wise (1653-1738). Together they had created the parterres not only at Petworth but also at Hampton Court Palace, Chatsworth and Longleat.

In early 18th century England there was a political desire, held by both the Whig government and Hanoverian King George I, to distance themselves from the excesses of the French Court at Versailles. This combined with a fascination for ‘unbounded nature’. In this climate Capability Brown’s park landscapes evolved in dialogue with his patrons. Perhaps this is why his idealised landscapes speak into the hearts and imaginations of the English and, in part, define us.

Sussex and her landscape continues to inspire successive generations of artists, writers and composers as she has over the centuries. I look forward to exploring the Sussex landscape and the continuing contribution of its contemporary stewards to the identity and heritage of the county.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Royal Visit Celebrates Heritage and Community

HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent with Peter Thorogood, Roger Linton, and The Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper, opening the new King’s Garden at St Mary’s, Bramber

It is a bright early Summer afternoon as Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra of Kent opens the new King’s Garden in the company of the Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper, Peter Thorogood, Roger Linton and the volunteers at St Mary’s House and Gardens, Bramber. Heritage, hard work and community are affirmed and celebrated.

Peter Thorogood., MBE and Roger Linton., MBE, bought the house and gardens in 1984. Their passion for this wonderful place is infectious. They have created and gathered a community of people around the house and gardens. This team of volunteers have also offered their resources, time and talents to the repair, restoration and maintenance of this important house and garden.

Peter Thorogood has just celebrated his 90th birthday. I offer my congratulations on his birthday and work at St Mary’s. He responds self-effacingly noting the “hard work of the volunteers” and the camaraderie of all who have been involved in the house and gardens. These sentiments are echoed by Roger Linton who reflects upon how he gains such “pleasure from their pleasure”.

St Mary’s House and Gardens, Bramber

Whilst we await the arrival of the Princess I join the volunteers in the tea rooms. The great affection in which they hold Peter and Roger quickly becomes apparent. They clearly value the friendships and sense of community which underpins the work of St Mary’s.

HRH Princess Alexandra is shown around the house and gardens. She pauses in the Jubilee Garden to admire the Princess Alexandra of Kent roses and the Acer palmatum shindeshojo which has been planted to mark her visit.

A Boscobel Rose in The King’s Garden

The King’s Garden also shares a royal theme and has been designed by Roger Linton to commemorate Prince Charles, later Charles II’s escape through Bramber village to Brighton and then to Shoreham from where he would sail into exile in France. It is said that Charles eluded the Parliamentarian forces at both Houghton and Bramber by disguising himself as Colonel George Gunter’s servant and leading his horse. At the heart of The King’s Garden is a sapling oak whose lineage goes back to the famous Boscobel Oak in which Charles II hid after the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

St Mary’s House and Gardens has a vital and continuing role in our community. Its story encompasses and tells the story of our county’s place in the history of our nation.

The vision, dedication, hard work and generosity of Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton has permanently written their names into the story and history of this grand old house and her gardens.

These generous custodians have always wanted to share St Mary’s with others and it is their intention that St Mary’s will remain accessible and at the heart of the local community for future generations.

St Mary’s House and Gardens, The Street, Bramber, BN44 3WE, are open to the public for the 2017 season. For further details of opening times, concerts and events visit www.stmarysbramber.co.uk or telephone 01903 816205.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.