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

Improvements to Virginia Water

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Now, what would be the additions which art would make to such a scene, in order to enhance its interest ? First, the artist would arrange the turf and the wood on the margin of the water, so as to produce variety; and to admit of roads or walks, either of turf or gravel, so as to display the whole to the greatest advantage to a spectator walking or riding round the lake. Next, he would add such islands as might be necessary to throw the lake into agreeable shapes, and to vary its outline. Then he would relieve the margin of the water from the tame and spiritless effect produced by green grass joining into blue water. Afterwards, he would introduce different sorts of trees and shrubs, instead of the common sorts already existing, unless these were entirely indigenous, and it were intended to keep up a character of indigenous beauty: and, lastly, he would add architectural ornaments, such as a fishing-house, boat-house, covered seats, rocks, sculptures, or other objects. Instead of this, a tame drive has been formed round the lake, so conducted as to produce as little variety as can well be conceived. Nothing but a common-place mixture of trees has been planted; no islands have been added; and no relief, by the introduction of stones or gravel, or even old roots or trunks of trees, has been afforded to the smooth grassy margin of the water. As to architectural ornaments, a gorgeous Chinese fishing-house has been built; having a highly enriched roof with gilt ornaments, set down amidst the common woods of the country, and with nothing exotic around it. In another place, a quantity of the Elgin marbles, consisting chiefly of shafts of columns, with fragments of capitals and architraves, and some Flemish and other statues, have been set down equally without appropriate scenery; with the exception, however, of an arch, serving as a viaduct for the public road. At the dam built to raise the lake, a very good cascade has been produced; and in one or two other places there are some stones arranged in imitation of rockwork. With the cascade and rockwork we have no fault to find; and little with the Grecian fragments, which are put together with considerable taste: but all the rest we consider bad. We must not forget to mention a very handsome stone bridge, of five or six arches, which we think altogether inappropriate to lakes, and more especially to their broad parts. Bridges are best adapted to rivers, or to the narrow parts of lakes; where one, or at most two, arches will suffice for joining the opposite banks. We have the same objection to the long bridge in Kensington Gardens as to this one at Virginia Water, as we have shown at length in our first volume. The Cottage of George the Fourth is taken down, with the exception of one room; and this room, and the adjoining grounds, are in a state of neglect.