An eventful life for Old Rectory residents
There never seems to be a dull moment at The Old Rectory. A full activities programme and structured outings leave little time to be kicking one’s heels.
In addition to regular coffee mornings and seaside excursions, two events loom large on the social calendar: a picnic at Royal Ascot and our ever popular trip to historic Lukyns House in Ewhurst for afternoon tea.
A day at the races
Our residents have made the annual journey to St James Park to observe the royal carriages on their way to Ascot for over 15 years. Although tricky to organise, a fleet of Volvos makes short work of logistics and all the effort is rewarded when residents arrive and take in the incredible atmosphere that awaits, as Cub Scouts mingle with WI groups and Brownies take position alongside royal-watchers.
Special access tickets enable us to be in close proximity when the royal motorcade arrives and the family disembarks to transfer to horse-drawn carriages. We are then able to watch the procession pass slowly by as we send them on their way with our good wishes.
It is also an added pleasure to have Old Hall residents join us for this auspicious event and share in the wine, strawberries, sandwiches and afternoon tea, before our journey home takes us through town and past the hustle and bustle of the race course.
Royal Ascot is always a wonderful day out, and the sense of occasion offered by this most British of events lives long in the memory over the ensuing months until we are back under starters’ orders again the following year.
‘You rang M’Lord?’
Another annual outing we share with residents at The Old Hall in Send is a visit to nearby Lukyns House, situated under Holmbury Hill and close to the hamlet of Forest Green.
We are fortunate that our friends at Lukyns allow us access to their beautiful gardens for the afternoon to enjoy the stunning views of the South Downs, whilst partaking in a very special afternoon tea served poolside by the Lukyns House butler!
Built in 1911 in the Queen Anne style by Sir Dugald Clerk, the house is reported to have a ghost ─ first noted during the 1930s by the then owners Sir Kenneth Lee and his operatic spouse Lady Julia. The ghost is still occasionally to be heard to this day, but luckily it has never joined us for cucumber sandwiches or a cup of Earl Grey…yet!
Today, the farm ─ with its horses and sheep grazing nonchalantly ─ creates a delightful, pastoral idyll. However, this oasis of calm was rudely interrupted by the advent of World War Two when Canadian soldiers stationed nearby came to work the farm, occasionally joined by Italian and German prisoners of war. The war years also saw part of the building utilised as a private school for London schoolchildren. Nowadays, though, its visitors are of an altogether more mature and gentile nature.
The gardens at Lukyns were designed by renowned horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll, but little remains of the original plantings. There is, however, a ‘Secret Garden’ which the current owners make available when we visit. A variety of sculptural artefacts and artistic installations are to be found there, featuring everything from 400 million-year-old Moroccan limestone fossil fishes to a contemporary statue of ‘Alice’ ─ escaped from Wonderland and seated on a bench, peering through her looking glass.
Our visits to Lukyns are always memorable thanks to the kindness of our hosts. It is truly a fascinating and delightful place, and one we hope to return to on a regular basis for the foreseeable future.