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 planting design

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The planting has been executed in masses of one kind in one place; and this principle has been carried even to the smaller shrubs, the herbaceous plants, and the flowers annually planted out in the dressed grounds. The masses in groups have not the formality attributed to those of M. Sckell; but blend naturally into one another, as first recommended by Sir Wm. Chambers, and afterwards by Price, and ourselves. We were struck with this mode of planting, on entering the approach from the London road. This approach is above a mile long, and the greater part of it is planted either on one or both sides. The first trees are oaks, blended with a few larches; then follow chestnuts, with a few Scotch pines; next sycamores, then limes, then elms; next oaks; next larches; then spruce firs, then Scotch pines, then beeches; and, lastly, when arriving at what may be called the Park, or perhaps, rather, ferme ornee, pines and firs mixed. This approach has been recently made and planted; and appears to pass through lands intended to be cultivated, with the exception of a narrow strip of forest scenery on each side. On arriving at the second gate and lodge, we enter the park; where the trees are of about fifteen years' growth, and are admirably disposed. They are so thinly sprinkled, that each tree of the pine and fir kind has sufficient room to extend its branches from the base upwards, without being crowded by the adjoining trees. The effect of this is, that a very few trees, irregularly placed, produce the appearance, not only of a thick plantation, but of one of the greatest variety of outline; a continually varying succession of prominences and recesses, of different forms and sizes, being presented to the eye in driving along. We consider it one of the greatest excellences of this place, that the fir plantations are judiciously thinned; the trees being clothed with branches from the ground upwards, and their lower branches just touching each other, and no more. The stems of the oak are pruned to a certain height (some of them, in our opinion, too much so); but, in general, we have rarely seen plantations so much to our mind, with reference to ornamental effect, particularly those of the pine and fir tribes. A considerable portion of the grounds is preserved in their original wild state, covered with heath and dwarf furze; and this part, being passed through previously to arriving at the dressed grounds near the house, has an excellent effect. The house, to a stranger, appears not badly placed; but, it seems, since the large lake of water was formed, a very superior situation has been discovered for it. Thither we would certainly recommend it to be taken; for it appears that, even on its present site, it will require to be rebuilt before it can be rendered properly habitable. A roof so completely caricatured by "tall-boys," we do not think we ever before saw, either in London or the country; unless we except that of the new additions to the Duke of Devonshire's mansion at Chatsworth. We by no means dislike the elevation of the house at Bear Wood, which may be characterised as a cottage villa. There are a handsome porch for driving under on the entrance front; and a semicircular colonnade of coupled square columns in the centre of the garden front, with an elegant balcony over. Joined to this is a large conservatory, forming a bend, in Mr. Nash's manner, and serving as a passage to a billiard-room; but, in consequence of the roof of this conservatory being very high, and darkened with the foliage of vines, the plants below do not thrive, and the intention of this elegant appendage is in a great measure defeated. On the entrance front of the house there are rather too many walks and rides, parallel to each other, seen at once: but this may be easily remedied, even if the house be retained in its present situation; and entirely avoided, if it should be removed.