The Garden Guide

Book: Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening, 1795
Chapter: Chapter 7: Concerning approaches, with some remarks on the affinity betwixt painting and gardening

Downton Vale, Ludlow, Richard Payne Knight

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I flatter myself that no part of this chapter will be deemed irrelevant to the subject of my work, which is an attempt to explain and elucidate certain general principles in the art I profess: especially as those principles have been formally attacked and misrepresented, by one who has given such consummate proof of good taste in the improvement of his own place, Downton Vale, near Ludlow, one of the most beautiful and romantic valleys that the imagination can conceive. It is impossible, by description, to convey an idea of its natural charms, or to do justice to that taste which has displayed these charms to the greatest advantage, "With art clandestine, and conceal'd design." A narrow, wild, and natural path sometimes creeps under the beetling rock, close by the margin of a mountain stream. It sometimes ascends to an awful precipice, from whence the foaming waters are heard roaring in the dark abyss below, or seen wildly dashing against its opposite banks; while, in other places, the course of the river Teme being impeded by natural ledges of rock, the vale presents a calm, glassy mirror, that reflects the surrounding foliage. The path, in various places, crosses the water by bridges of the most romantic and contrasted forms; and, branching in various directions, including some miles in length, is occasionally varied and enriched by caves and cells, hovels, and covered seats, or other buildings, in perfect harmony with the wild but pleasing horrors of the scene. Yet, if the same picturesque objects were introduced in the gardens of a villa near the capital, or in the more tame, yet interesting, pleasure-grounds which I am frequently called upon to decorate, they would be as absurd, incongruous, and out of character, as a Chinese temple from Vauxhall transplanted into the Vale of Downton. "Whate'er its essence, or whate'er its name, Whate'er its modes, 'tis still in all the same; 'Tis just congruity of parts combined, Must please the sense, and satisfy the mind."