2016 marks the 300th anniversary of landscape artist Lancelot “Capability” Brown, whose designs changed the face of of 18th century England. Born in Northumberland in 1716, he learnt the skills of horticulture and husbandry from the age of 16, as an apprentice on the Wallington estate. His vision was extraordinary and over the course of 40 years he moved gardens away from formal design to a style that is unmistakably his.
Brown persuaded the rich and famous to invest in landscapes which were beautiful, productive, and would take a century to mature. He designed on an immense scale, moving hills and making flowing lakes that resembled artificial rivers. His work frequently produced an Arcadian idyll. Sadly I have never visited Stowe in Buckinghamshire, his best known work, but he was involved in the design of over 250 sites throughout the UK.
Scampston Hall in North Yorkshire sits beside the busy A64 road. Wandering serenely across the estate you might never know. A lazy sheep or two blink, and turn their backs. The grounds at Scampston were redesigned by Capability in the 1770’s. They bear all the hallmarks of his work. A ‘ha ha’, or sunken fence, to confuse the eye, carefully planted trees and an expansive lake that resembles a river running off into infinity.
Oddly enough, I didn’t come to Scampston in search of the Palladian Bridge, but I think that Paula might like it for her Traces of the past. The lure of the Walled Garden is the ‘new European garden style’, designed in 1999 by Piet Oudolf. 1999 no longer feels new but I did find enchantment in the drifts of Molinia grass. Here is a small sample of what you might find.
There’s much more, of course. You can do some hedge trimming, or even have a cream tea.
But you can’t beat Capability and a few Marsh Marigolds, can you?