The Garden Guide

Book: Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, 1816
Chapter: Fragment Xvi. Concerning Villas.

Villa in Epping Forest, Essex

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REPORT CONCERNING A VILLA IN ESSEX, VERY SINGULARLY SITUATED; Consisting of four or five acres of Garden, in the centre of Epping Forest, abounding in Deer, and immediately surrounded by a Rabbit Warren of twenty acres. IN delivering my opinion concerning the improvement of this place, I must state the peculiar circumstances which render it very different from any other. The house was much out of repair. It had long been the Rein-deer Tavern: occupied, not as an inn by the side of some great road, but as a house in a sequestered part of the forest, with summer access by green lanes, or broad grass glades; and appropriated to the Sunday visits of those who made holiday, fancying they enjoyed solitude in a forest, amidst the crowd of "felicity hunters," who came here to forget the cares of London. It was not uncommon to see fifty horses in the yards and stables, and twice as many guests filling the large rooms; but these visits were confined to the summer months, and, on this account, the cool views towards the north were preferred to the sunshine of the south. Now, it must have occurred to all who attend to situation in the country, that, in this climate, the first object of cheerfulness and comfort for a permanent residence is a south or south-east aspect. If a family ever reside here during the winter, they will, perhaps, discover, that the window on the staircase to the south admits more cheerfulness than any other in the house: and this may, perhaps, suggest the idea of opening windows to the south in the great room, although they may only look into a conservatory, or green-house, which may be also a grapery; but the difference between a public-house and a private one operates in so many ways, that I must proceed farther. The public-house required broad glades and free access in all directions; large stables, stable-yards, and out-buildings, far more extensive than are necessary to a private-house; and, consequently, all these may be reduced, and the access to them simplified. There is yet another consideration, which makes this place different from all others: it is not only a spot of four or five acres enclosed from a forest, but it is surrounded by a rabbit-warren, which the late occupier made an object of profit, though with the utmost difficulty could he preserve from these rapacious animals the vegetables in the garden, intended for his scarcely less rapacious guests; and thus the whole is subdivided by unsightly palings, and the place altogether is a scene of slovenliness, with dirty ponds, and numerous puddles, cesspools, and traps for vermin, in every part of the premises; while the surface presents nothing but yawning chasms, or barren mounds of clay, without a blade of grass, which is wholly destroyed by the rabbits. The first thing, therefore, to be done, is to secure the whole by such a fence as shall, at the same time, exclude the deer of the forest, who leap over anything that is less than six feet above ground, and the rabbits, who burrow under anything, but a brick wall, two or three feet beneath the ground. Now, such a fence, quite round the premises, will be expensive; yet, without an effective fence, there can be no enjoyment of the place: I will, therefore, suppose, that much of the present fence may be repaired, and, where a new fence is necessary, it should be constructed according to the annexed section: thus-suppose the dotted line the present surface of the ground; then begin by digging out the earth at A [in fig. 193], five or six feet wide, and throw it up at B, to raise the walk on a terrace; then face the bottom of the bank, about three feet deep, with bricks, and put upon it a paling about three feet high: this will make a fence of six feet against the deer, while a person walking withinside will look over the pale, and enjoy the prospect of the forest.