One of my favourite things about May is my annual visit to the Decorative Living Fair. My sister in law, Caroline Zoob, started this fair thirteen years ago with her friend Hetty Purbrick, and it has become a favourite fixture for devotees of decorative antiques all over the country. I know just how much care is taken in choosing the exhibitors, not letting the fair grow too big – as so many do – and in matching the style and feel of the fair to the exceptional beauty of the location. From the moment you turn into the drive and see the parkland, edged with cow parsley and dotted with baby lambs, to the first glimpse of the spectacular view across the Sussex weald, you start to relax.
I have found so many treasures at this fair, and now I am finally starting the renovation of my cottage I am particularly excited about this year’s collection of exhibitors. I am a great fan of the wonderful Nutley antiques, and Liza has indicated that she has hoarded some special stock for the fair, as many exhibitors do. Apparently, many of this year’s dealers will be just back from one of the big French fairs, and there is nothing quite like some of the French decorative antiques – huge galvanized tubs for flowers, piles of antique sheets, shutters in faded blues and greys, paintings, ceramics. Sometimes, the impact of so many stunning displays is quite overwhelming, and it is the reason why, rain or shine, Royal Wedding or FA cup final, so many people will be there.
Fabulous decorative brocante from new exhibitor, Shropshire-based Brocante Living
I like to go in and dash around, with an Early Bird ticket, and then have a cup of tea and some cake, and a more leisurely browse. If you like stitching or fancy trying your hand at calligraphy, Caroline, Viv Sliwka and my dear friend Lucy Berridge are running mini workshops during each day, which seems a perfect way to take a break from shopping.
We have sometimes spent all afternoon lingering over a delicious lunch in the sunshine, enjoying the view. It is the sort of place that you take a friend for a lovely day out and don’t really want to leave, with a very happy atmosphere among traders, many of whom have been with the fair from the start.
TN3 9JT but use TN3 9JG for Satnav.
Early bird tickets Friday only, £14. These gain you entry at 9.30 and for the rest of the fair, so you can come back on Saturday as well.
Standard tickets 11.30-4 Friday or 09.30-5pm Saturday. £7.50 Free entry after 4pm Saturday. Children under 18 free. Sorry no dogs.