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Born in America’s Deep South, Lady Carla Carlisle is just at home in the Suffolk countryside. Together with her husband Sir Kenneth they have risen to the challenge of making their Wyken farm and estate a much admired rural business
Words: Richard Bryson. Main photographs: Andy Abbott
 Lady Carla Carlisle, November 2021
When Carla Carlisle left her leafy residence on the edge of Putney to come as a bride to the pastoral heart of Suffolk, the romanticism was mixed with pragmatism.
Some of her early tasks involved, “planting a belt of trees to block out the hum of the A143, enlarging the septic tank and turning the farmyard into a car park.
“I believed that if we didn’t diversify the farm we would lose it,” she says.
But if there was some drudgery in those early tasks Carla was also inspired, in particular by a south-facing slope with sandy loam over chalk, perfect for planting a
vineyard. “I also knew that if you grow grapes and make wine, you have to sell wine. Preferably with good food. That means a restaurant.”
Enterprise and gumption have enabled Carla to make an interesting way in life. Born in the cotton fields of America’s Mississippi Delta, she grew up amidst the turmoil of civil rights. “My parents were Southern liberals who took a stand against the Citizens Council - a group my father called ‘the Ku Klux Klan in cufflinks’. The result: we lived under bomb threats and burning crosses ourselves until we ended up leaving the state and moving to Washington D.C.
“When we had to move to another part of the state a ‘

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