The Manor House had been added to and largely altered, but many years had brought it into harmony with its surroundings, while Nature had dealt kindly with its colouring, so that it carried the charm of long use and continuous human habitation. Behind the house an old walled garden, with flower-bordered grass walks under arches of honeysuckle and roses, gave vistas of an ample mill-pond at the lower end, forming one of the garden boundaries. The pond was almost surrounded by tall black poplars which stretched protecting arms over the water, forming a wide and lofty avenue extending to the faded red-brick mill itself, and whispering continuously on the stillest summer day. The mill-wheel could be seen revolving and glittering in the sunlight, and the hum of distant machinery inside the mill could be heard. The brook, which fed the pond, was fringed by ancient pollard willows; it wound through luxuriant meadows with ploughed land or cornfields still farther back. The whole formed a peaceful picture almost to the verge of drowsiness, and reminded one of the “land in which it seemed always afternoon.”
The space below the house and the upper part of the garden immediately behind it was occupied by the rickyard, reaching to the mill and pond, and a long range of mossy-roofed barns divided it from the farmyard with its stables and cattle-sheds.
The village occupied one side only of the street, as it was called—the street consisting of two arms at a right angle, with the Manor House near its apex. The cottages were built, mostly in pairs, of old brick, and tiled, having dormer windows, and gardens in front and at the sides, well stocked with fruit-trees and fruit-bushes, and this helped the cottagers towards the payment of their very moderate rents, which had remained the same, I believe, for the best part of half a century.
Throughout all the available space not so occupied, on either side of the two arms of the street, and again behind the cottages themselves, beautiful old orchards, chiefly of apple-trees, formed an unsurpassed setting both when the blossom was out in pink and white, or the fruit was ripening in gold and crimson, and even in winter, when the grey limbs and twisted trunks of the bare trees admitted the level rays of the sun.
The farm consisted of about 300 acres of mixed arable and grass land on either side of two shallow valleys, along which wandered the main brook and its tributary, uniting, where the valleys joined, into one larger stream, so that all the grass land was abundantly supplied with water for the stock. These irregular brooks, bordered throughout their whole course with pollard willows, made a charming feature and gave great character to the picture.