As I look out on the last day of British Summer Time at the reds, aubergines and golds of autumn I cast my mind back to mid-summer when we proudly introduced our American friends to Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown at Bowood House in Wiltshire.
As we approached the house we felt a thunderous threat in the air despite the hot sunshine and blue skies.
The terraces were brimming with roses of every kind and each with its own distinctive fragrance. In fact, Rowan and I made a point of taking the scent of every single one and remarking on its flavour.
The roses, contained within low box hedges, mark out the parterre which is punctuated with yew pillars, leaning to one side like hop kilns. I imagined them at night, when the gardens are free of visitors, breaking free from their tether and gliding around the garden in a moonlit dance together with the stags and lions which come to life at sunset.
A statue of a handsome woman surveys the scene, audacious in her nudity, yet on closer inspection, her skin appears worn and riddled with lichen. A lion fountain beneath her laps up water as if afflicted with desperate and unquenchable thirst.
Leaving the terraces behind us we strode out towards the lake and in the distance we heard the rumble of thunder and faint flashes signalling an impending storm. We stood under a tree to take in the view of the Doric temple, which was lit up by the fading sunshine. We would have ventured closer had we decided that it not the right time to be out in the open or under a tree for that matter.
As we turned to walk back, the house was transformed into an imposing structure at the top of the hill with the dangerous clouds almost touching the roof and chimney tops.
We took cover in the house to delight in the history of the gardens at the exhibition ‘Terrestrial Delights: ‘Capability’ Brown and the Bowood Landscape’ which was followed by a very English afternoon tea with homemade cakes.
So much to see and so little time! We must return in May next year to experience the majesty of rhododendrons in the Woodland Garden and to visit the Private Walled Gardens.
Now converted to the ‘Capability Brown’ way, perhaps we can persuade our American friends to visit us again!
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