Thursday, August 20, 2009

More Stourhead


by Michele Ann Young

This was my first view of the gardens at Stourhead.

The reflection of the bridge in the water, the distant folly and the tree branches framing the picture all made the perfect portrait of another time.

I didn't quite believe what I was seeing.

I took several shots of this view, but this is my favorite, even if it does have a bit of fence in the foreground. Although this next one, from a slightly different angle comes pretty close.

Do you think the designer of the garden intended for the bridge to make such a perfect ellipse? My guess is yes.

I will be using this on my website in the header, as soon as I can remember how.

The gardens were designed by Henry Hoare II (remember Hoare's bank) and laid out between 1741 and 1780 in a classical 18th-century design set around a large lake achieved by damming a small stream. The inspiration behind their creation were the painters Claude Lorrain, Poussin and in particular, Gaspar Dughet who painted Utopian-type views of Italian landscapes.

You certainly can't get more Utopian that the views above, which is why I am going to to post all of my Stourhead pictures over the next few blogs, and I hope you will not be bored, but for me this estate epitomised my internal image of the perfect English country estate in the late 18th and early 19th century and I want to capture it where I can visit it again and again.

At the time of year we visited, early June, one of the draws for the gardens was the display of "azaleas". It was only as we walked around that I realized that azaleas and rhododendrons are of the same family.

The Rhododendron ponticum, called Common Rhododendron were introduced around the lake by Sir Richard Colt Hoare in 1791. Unfortunately these bushes while beautiful, are not native to Britain and have been encroaching on our natural plants at an alarming rate. But since this is not a blog about saving natural plantlife, I will say no more on that topic. Later he added two Rhododendron arboreum.

In this last picture you will see flashes of colour which are some of the rhododendrons in bloom, for we were lucky enough to be there right when most of them were flowering and the colours, everything from white which you see at the edge of this shot to deep red, which you see just beyond the bridge, were ours to enjoy.

This is a very long ramble, and so here we will take a rest and begin our journey around the lake next time. Until then, drink a nice cup of tea and keep cool beneath the trees.