The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Middlesex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wilshire, Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent in the Summer of 1832

Bear Wood lessons

Previous - Next

We recommend Bear Wood both to the wealthy citizen who wishes to create a country residence, and to the young gardener who is desirous of acquiring the art of laying out grounds. To the former we recommend it, as showing the sort of soil, which, from its general unsuitableness for corn culture, as well as from its dryness and its elevated situation, may most economically and judiciously be employed in plantations and pleasure-grounds, and as a healthy site for a house. Not only is the cost of such land considerably less than that of rich soils, but, from its friability, it is more easily worked; and, as from its poverty grass and weeds do not grow freely on it, the dug grounds are kept hoed, and the lawns mown, at less expense. There is also, in such a case, the satisfaction of creating, not only a habitable, but a beautiful residence out of a wild, and apparently useless waste; and, in all this, the pleasure is enhanced by the consciousness that the expense incurred is moderate. No man of good taste will ever make choice of a low, flat, dull, sleepy situation, and a rich loamy soil, for a country residence. Were we to fix upon a spot for building ourselves a villa, at a short distance from London, on the west side, it should be on some elevated knoll on Bagshot Heath; on the east, we would select the remains of chalk hills and chalk pits in Kent, high above a noble reach of the Thames, like the beautiful Elizabethan villa of Mr. Sheriff Harmer, near Greenhithe; on the south, we would choose a spot on the highest and poorest part of Leith Hill; and on the north, if we went beyond the commanding situation of Mr. Longman's villa at Hampstead, we should be at a loss where to stop till we had reached Cumberland, where the site of Elleray, the residence of the celebrated poet and philosopher, Professor Wilson, rises before our imagination. It is only on situations that are considerably elevated, and at the same time varied on the surface, that the art of landscape-gardening can powerfully affect the imagination; and, without operating on the imagination, no work of this art, or of any other, can ever be worth notice as such. Without considerable elevation for the site of the house, it is impossible for it to display that attitude of command which is the essential cause of the emotion of sublimity; and without considerable variation of surface, it is equally impossible to add to the sublime, the beautiful, the varied, and the picturesque. At Bear Wood, the young gardener will learn more of landscape-gardening than in any other place which we know within the same distance of London. He will there see a practical illustration of the principles of massing, grouping, and of every kind of planting; of varying the outline of water; of managing pieces of water on different levels; and of judiciously thinning plantations.