High and dry for Benson Rye day

Keith Cavers, Allan Downend and Bill Taylor of the EF Benson Society prepare to welcome guests to Fletchers'

Members of the EF Benson society gathered for their highlight of the year, the annual “Rye Day” on Saturday, July 8.

About 30 fans of EF Benson from far and wide gathered to celebrate the prolific author who lived in Rye and set his popular Mapp and Lucia novels here, or as he called it, Tilling.

Allan Downend shows Society members the famous crooked chimney in West Street

The day kicked off with a slap up feast upstairs at Fletchers House, on Lion Street, courtesy of owners Pete Anderson and Lee Ransom.  The weather had cooled down compared to earlier in the week, for which we were very grateful. The courtyard garden was a wonderful place to while away an hour or two.

When the guests had stuffed themselves so full they could barely move, it was time for a brisk walk to work up an appetite for tea. Two parties set off, one under the stewardship  of the Society’s Chair, Keith Cavers, heading for Benson’s grave, which is in the cemetery at the top of the hill. The group came down Military Road, passing the house Benson called Grebe, which was the first house Lucia owned when she moved to Tilling in the books.

The other party enjoyed a more sedate walk around the citadel, looking at the houses which the characters had lived in in the books as well as seeing the properties which had been used in the BBC series that was shown in 2015. This walk was led by Allan Downend, the Society’s Secretary. Allan also conducts regular Benson walks on Saturdays throughout the summer. It ended with a visit to the holy of holies, Lamb House, the National Trust property on West Street, where both Mapp, Lucia and Benson lived.

Then back to Fletchers’ for tea and an assortment of cakes, scones and meringues with lashings of cream. The guests were not just indulging their greed, but rather feeding their brains as the fiendishly difficult Benson quiz was to follow. The air was rent with groans of frustration as participants couldn’t retrieve the answers that were on the tips of their tongues. But the afternoon ended with a pop as the winners were awarded a bottle of fizz.

Then it was back to our respective bases to prepare for the finale of the day’s entertainment.

Photos: Seana Lanigan


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