As a generalisation, the condition of historic gardens in most countries is getting better. They enjoy more expert attention, more visitors and more resources. Shalimar Bagh in Kashmir is an exception. When I saw it in 2006, it did not seem to be in quite as good condition as when Susan Jellicoe (black and white photo above) photographed it c1970. And when I saw it again in 2012 (colour photo, above) it seemed in even worse condition. Oddly, there were also far more visitors than in 2006. Does anyone know what the problem is? Lack of money? Lack of will? A concern for the bugs which enjoy rotting timber? A lack of concern for India’s Islamic heritage?
Orvieto, in Umbria, Italy, shown about 80 years apart. The views are not quite the same, though the campanile provides a reference point. The 1930s photograph has a Claudian air. The 2006 photo has less of a town:country contrast and the landscape is being suburanised. When walled cities had to defend themselves the presence of trees in the immediate vicinity was undesirable – and I think I would get rid of them now (for about 250m from the cliff. Thomas Aquinas once taught her and Orvieto used to control the road from Florence to Rome. There is a labyrinth of tunnels in the rock below the town. In 1840, a travel guide noted that ‘For the traveller not having his own carriage the best mode of proceeding will be by the diligence, which leaves Rome on the mornings of Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and arrives at Viterbo early in the afternoon. At daybreak on the following morning, a carriage that conveys the mail, not the cleanest or most comfortable of vehicles, starts for Orvieto, and arrives there about 11 o’clock, giving him sufficient time to vist that interesting city on the same day.’
(2006 photo courtesy pshanson)
These photographs of Assisi’s urban landscape and architecture were taken about 80 years apart. It’s great to see how little has changed (probably ‘thanks to St Francis’ for attracting tourists) but the changes seem to be for the worse: cars, masts for TVs and phones, ugly street signs, heritage lighting, extra downpipes, less picturesque clothing, some odd castellations (top right). Readers are invited to contribute ‘then and now’ pairs of illustrations so that we can keep an eye on how gardens, parks, urban landscapes and rural landscapes are changing. Let’s hope we can find some examples of things getting better.
(2012 photo of Assisi courtesy of preston rhea)