Thursday, 10 July 2014

A double dose of Capability Brown

Capability Brown landscapes provided an impressive backdrop for two June events: Capability Brown Festival Information Day and the Garden Museum Literary Festival.

Compton Verney, the national museum and art gallery that nestles in 120 acres of Brown landscape, hosted the Festival Information Day. 
Brown landscape owners and managers, and the organisations involved with planning the 2016 Festival, were updated on its progress and had the opportunity to share ideas.

Compton Verney - copyright Liz Ware
As John Phibbs pointed out, it's the scale and number of sites where Brown advised that made him so remarkable and worthy of celebration.  New information about his work continues to be unearthed from the archives by the County Garden Trusts. All the new material will be available  on the Parks and Gardens UK website.

CB Festival Project Manager Ceryl Evans and her team are working towards the Heritage Lottery Fund 2nd round bid in October. Among their tasks is the search for 12 Capability Brown sites that are easily accessible from urban areas.

Bettina Harden, founder and Chairman of the Gateway Gardens Trust, was one of several speakers who discussed ways in which new audiences can be encouraged to visit Brown landscapes. As Bettina pointed out, for some sections of the population, visiting a heritage site isn't an obvious choice. Often, people don’t know that such sites exit, and even if they do, they're not sure that they will be welcome in them.

In the last 10 years Compton Verney has increased its visitor numbers by 70%.  The advice of Head of Marketing, Sam Skillings, is to ‘keep it local’ and to focus on an area within 30 minutes drive.  Sam has the help of a team of volunteers who feel strongly about everything that Compton Verney has to offer. These ‘ambassadors’ carry out very successful marketing on a local level.

Another day, another Brown landscape.  Yet more idyllic surroundings and inspiring speakers but this time with a focus on thought-provoking books – it could only be the Garden Museum Literary Festival.  Petworth House, was the venue for the 2nd celebration of all that is good in garden-related literature.

Petworth Park - copyright Liz Ware
Was it too much to expect perfect weather for 2 years in a row?  The sun shone on us for the entire weekend in the beautiful private gardens of Lord and Lady Egremont and their family. It was tempting to think, as Max Egremont discussed the fantasy English landscapes conjured up by WWI poets, that we too had stepped into a fantasy world. As the solstice sun fell over Brown’s Petworth Park, it was impossible to imagine a more perfectly English scene.

This magical weekend supported the Garden Museum’s development project. If you haven’t sponsored its Director, Christopher Woodward, as he prepares for his fundraising swim along the Thames, now is as good a time as any!

Looking ahead:
19th -20th September, The University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape is devoting its Annual Landscape History Conference to The History of Groves.

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