Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Landscapes and Gardeners, old and new

Just how tricky do you think it might be to curate, in a confined space, an exhibition capable of expressing the vastness of 'Capability' Brown's designed landscapes?  One exhibition running this summer seems to have found a solution. You can see 'Capability Brown and the Landscapes of Middle England' at Compton Verney, the award-winning art gallery in Warwickshire where, in 1769, Brown started work on the grounds.  The exhibition really came to life for me in the final, light-filled gallery that focuses on Brown's work at Compton Verney. How satisfying to be able view the plans on the wall while glancing through the open window at them in action on the ground.

Also at Compton Verney is 'Stanley Spencer and the English Garden'.  This tranquil and thought-provoking exhibition re-awakened my interest in the artist and his work. Both exhibitions run until 2nd October. http://www.comptonverney.org.uk/  Fired with enthusiasm, I went straight off to see Spencer's monumental (but not garden-related) work in the tiny but glorious Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere, in Hampshire. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-sandhammemorialchapel If you haven't seen it, it is more than worth the detour from M4, Junction 13.

Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire are the 3 counties most affected by the proposed High Speed Rail Link. The AGT, together with The Georgian Group and The Garden History Society have responded jointly to the Government 2011 Consultation Paper.  In support of the Garden Trusts in the affected counties, they particularly expressed their concerns about the impact on 3 18th century designed landscapes - Hartwell and Shardeloes in Buckinghamshire, and Stoneleigh in Warwickshire.  The response of 3 national bodies representing 12.500 members can hardly be dismissed as 'nimbyism'.
'Love Parks Week' at Ashenbury Park

The most recently formed Gardens Trust, the Berkshire Gardens Trust, has come a long way in its first 3 years. Last week, it held its 3rd AGM at Watlington House in Reading, the site of just one of its Garden Projects.  A print from 1820 shows Watlington House in a spacious plot and surrounded by fields.  Today you will struggle to find it. Hidden away in a particularly busy part of Reading, its once leafy gardens are reduced to a gravel car park.  But all that is set to change. With the support of the committee, Gaila Adair's design 'A garden for the future. A link to the Past' will slowly begin to take shape. The long (and still visible) history of the house stretches from the medieval almost to the present day. Its collection of air raid shelters, nestling against a wall in the car park, are a stark reminder of its miraculous survival.  The new garden will not only provide a fitting setting for this gem of a building but will also be a tranquil retreat in which people can both relax and garden.

Another initiative that is making progress is the Trust's new award scheme.  In common with all Gardens Trusts, Berkshire's main focus will always be historic gardens and landscapes, but it recognises the need to nurture the designers and gardeners of the future. How encouraging it was to see a pupil from a Berkshire infant school among those collecting an award.

'Love Parks Week' is over for another year.  The small event we organised in our local park seems to have been a success. We spent July putting together a leaflet full of information about the history of the park in which we walk.  Despite a manic distribution of flyers and notices to advertise the event, we thought we would be lucky to attract 50 people. What a surprise when 164 turned up! I'll be passing the figure on to GreenSpace. One of the most satisfying aspects of the morning was the many stories we heard from the people who came along.  It could be a fascinating project to collect them together. My dog-walking friends are threatening to boycott the park if I try to involve them in anything else so I'd better keep quiet about that one.

1 comment:

  1. The HS2 matter is raised in the latest GHS newsletter, which says that it isn't commenting on the economics. The problem is how can you defend a designed landscape if you haven't any intellectual tools? This week the Economist has a special essay on High Speed Rail, with some of their special pleading issues. Then, this morning, Radio 3 had a news broadcast on the planning framework, with a different story on each slot, one of which referred to quality of life, and young people. Now here is an argument we can deal with.