Did you know that 2016 is officially the Year of the English Garden? Ok we haven’t really had the weather to make the most of it so far but hopefully that will all change as we get closer and closer to the summer months. The Year of the English Garden was thought up by the good folk over at Visit England in order to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot “Capability” Brown, England’s best ever gardener.
Back in the 18th century, Brown ushered in a whole new era for the English garden. Rather than following the accepted methods of the time, he decided to go in a completely different direction with his designs. This meant that gone were the days of the continental inspired formal gardens with neat rows of flower beds and complicated geometric shapes, instead Brown tried to replicate the feel of the surrounding countryside in his works, using wide open parklands, rolling hills and picturesque lakes – all of which had to be constructed by hand!
To do our bit in commemorating one of Britain’s best ever artistic minds, we’ve tracked down some of the best places that you can visit to see his work with your own eyes, so take a look and see what you think.
The birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is one of the finest country houses going. Capability Brown was commissioned to work on the grounds by the 4th Duke of Marlborough in 1763 and over the course of an 11 year project, he oversaw the landscaping of around 200 acres of parkland. This involved the creation of a massive man-made lake and the uprooting and re-location of thousands of mature trees – some feat without any heavy machinery!
Much of this work survives to this day meaning that Blenheim remains one of the best places to witness Brown’s designs at their finest, and there’s even a Capability Brown Trail through the estate that shows off the best bits!
It is at Chatsworth House in the Peak District that you can arguably see the best example of the sweeping changes that Brown brought to the estates that he worked on. Before his arrival, Chatsworth was the site of classical formal gardens made up of straight lines and organised flower beds, however he soon changed this! They ended being swept under his trademark rolling parkland designs that at one point even required altering the natural course of the River Derwent!
And finally we’ve also picked Highclere Castle. Now there’s a good chance that these sweeping parklands will ring a bell to all the Downton Abbey fans out there as the scene of hunts, garden parties and gentle strolls through the grounds. This is because Highclere landed one of the leading roles in the program, playing the seat of the Grantham family. Whilst this might have catapulted Highclere back into the spotlight, it’s not its only claim to fame – it’s also the site of some of Capability Brown’s finest work. He was commissioned by the 1st Earl of Carnarvon in 1774 and drew up the plans for what would eventually develop into one of England’s finest gardens which are well worth a visit!
So there you go, three of the finest surviving example of Capability Brown’s works to commemorate the tercentenary of his birth. We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about them, and who knows maybe you even fancy paying them a visit? If that’s the case then make sure you take a look at our holiday cottages so that you’ve got somewhere to put up your feet after a long day exploring!