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

Highclere scenery

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The views from the house, on the entrance front, are singularly grand. To the right, they command the park scenery, with its high hilly outline of wood as the boundary, and the temple beforementioned seen rising from a wooded valley. To the left lies the valley of the Kennet, several miles in width; a rich hilly corn country rising beyond. The principal view from the lawn front forms a striking contrast to those already mentioned. In this view we look down to a smooth grassy hollow, and up to the wild woods of Sidon Hill. To the left of this, the Beacon Hill, with its bold outline and bare surface, the latter partially concealed by a wooded eminence rising from the valley right before it, forms a fine contrast to the rich wooded scenery of Sidon. This last-mentioned hill is ascended by a spiral drive, partly open, and partly wooded, which terminates unexpectedly in a triumphal arch, through which the eye looks down on the house, the pleasure-ground, and the whole park, as on a map. The substratum of this hill being chalk, the turf has the smooth character belonging to the downs or pastures of chalky districts; and this circumstance, together with the wild manner in which sloe thorns, junipers, and other native shrubs have risen up on it, forms a remarkable contrast to the smooth polish of the pleasure-ground, and its groups of rhododendrons and magnolias, below. From the east front of the house is seen, within the pleasure-ground, upon a raised platform, a very handsome Palladian temple, roofed, and having a floor, but open on all sides. It is a most impressive and delightful object, and is in correct architecture, though now somewhat out of repair. This temple (like the circular one on the border of the approach road) is seen from many points of view in the grounds, and always with excellent effect. "The beauties of this place are entirely the creation of the last two Earls of Caernarvon, father and son. When Henry George, the first Earl of Caernarvon of the Herbert family, succeeded his uncle in 1769, the place consisted of a small pleasure-ground on two sides (the east and south) of the mansion-house, and a long avenue of beech trees, included between two quickset hedges, which connected the pleasure-ground with Sidon Hill. This hill, which is now covered with the most luxuriant vegetation, had then only five beech trees, and a few ash and oak. To the north of the house, a series of enclosed fields and a rabbit warren extended to Milford Water, then subdivided into three ponds, with the natural beech wood beforementioned upon its longest side.