Swan lake gives new dimension to Capability's vision
Saturday 28 December 1996
Brown was one of a series of landscape architects to leave his mark on the home of the Earls of Hardwicke which was bequeathed to the National Trust by Elsie Bambridge, daughter of Rudyard Kipling.
The trust has just completed a pounds 120,000 restoration project, which involved dredging two lakes created by Brown in the 1760s, tree planting, improvements to public access and the return of an arable field to grass.
The two lakes, at the centre of 350 acres of parkland which attract thousands of walkers each year, are the most dramatic aspect of the transformation. Where for a lifetime there have been trees, thickets and reed beds, there is now open water.
Little interest was shown in the lakes after a dam on the lower one was breached 60 years ago. Scrub took hold. The lower lake as good as disappeared - "an impenetrable jungle beneath full-grown willows", according to Graham Damant, the Wimpole property manager. The upper one became silted up and covered in reeds.
Mud down to a depth of seven feet was dredged from the four-acre upper lake and down to four feet from the slightly smaller lower one. Spread across 10 acres of adjoining hillside, it has raised the ground level by an average of two feet.
Mr Damant has watched teal, tufted duck, mute swans and other birds return to the lakes. A kingfisher darts from the overhanging branches. The upper lake has been stocked with small carp. It was a fish pond before Brown extended it.
Wimpole, which also has a working farm with rare breeds of sheep, cattle and pigs, does not draw on the trust's central funds. Money for the restoration project came from a variety of sources, including a Countryside Commission grant, donations and the proceeds of an on-going second-hand book sale at the hall.
The last of the great landscape designers to work at Wimpole was Humphry Repton. He developed Brown's informal landscape and in his Red Book of 1801 contrasted the woodland and hillsides of the estate with the flat cornfields of much of the counties of Cambridge and Huntingdon. It was, he wrote, "like a flower in the desert, beautiful in itself, but more beautiful by its situation".
Not all of Repton's vision will feature in the restoration. Lying in a fold, the lakes are hidden from the view of the hall. The great designer proposed a boat so that its mast would be seen by the earl's guests and indicate the presence of water. But for the trust's arbiters of taste, a boat was thought inappropriate.
- 1 I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
- 4 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 5 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
Sarah Vine criticises lesbian mother Jack Monroe: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'
Black Friday 2014: Opening times for Asda, John Lewis, PC World, GAME and Argos
Three-year-old boy accidentally shoots dead his mother in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as she changes her younger daughter's nappy
Michael Brown shooting: Driver smashes into crowd as protests erupt across the US during a second night of unrest
Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...
£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...
£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...