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

Comparing Caversham Park and Bear Wood

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Comparing Caversham Park with Bear Wood, the situation of the house, in the former case, is much more commanding than in the latter, because of its greater elevation. The prospect is also more extensive for the same reason, and because at the base of Caversham Park is the broad and extensive valley of the Thames. The grandeur and dignity of expression, therefore, of the house at Caversham Park are greater than those of the house at Bear Wood. Comparing the grounds of the two situations, those of Bear Wood are distinguished by undulations, knolls, valleys, and steep banks; those at Caversham, on the other hand, present a uniform surface, flat on the upper part of the park behind the house, and gently sloping on all the remaining part in front of it. There are, therefore, no sources of natural beauty and variety in the grounds at Caversham. When once the view from the house has been seen, nothing about the place remains worth seeing; nothing invites to further examination. There is thus an essential difference between these two situations; for, though both are grand, but in different degrees, yet, in one, the grounds are positively varied and beautiful, while those of the other are wholly without either beauty or variety. For a constant residence, it is evident that the place containing the greatest natural variety and beauty would be by far the more desirable, independently altogether of the heightening of these beauties by gardening. By reflecting on the natural features of Bear Wood and Caversham, and on their respective capabilities for improvement, the reader will see the immense importance, in the choice of a country residence, of fixing on one that possesses positive natural beauties; that, unassisted by art of any kind, is capable of affecting the imagination, and raising the emotions of grandeur, sublimity, or beauty. On such a foundation, the art of the landscape-gardener and the architect will work with tenfold effect; whereas, where natural beauty is wholly wanting, though art, more particularly in the house, may do a great deal, yet it can never supply the deficiencies of nature. There is this disadvantage, also, in the beauties created by art, that they require continual care and expense in order to maintain them; whereas those engrafted on nature in a great measure maintain themselves. The ride from Reading to Pangbourne, along the banks of the Thames, is one of very great beauty. The valley is about half a mile in width, bounded on each side by chalk hills, exhibiting the greatest variety of outline; sometimes clothed with grass, and at other times with corn or wood, or crowned by a gentleman's seat. Near Purley is Purley Hall, a place of considerable beauty, from the undulation of its surface, and the judicious disposition of its woods. There are also some beautiful cottages with gardens, and some small villas, both at Purley and Pangbourne.