Our favourite views conceived by England's greatest gardener.
The Capability Brown Festival 2016 is the first nationwide celebration of Brown, marking the 300th anniversary of his birth in August 1716. Some 170 parks were created across the country by Brown, many of which still survive and, indeed, flourish; the festival will encourage as many of them as possible to open in 2016, including those not ordinarily open to the public.
Here are 10 must-see Capability Brown landscapes to visit this year:
1. Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
The Duke of Northumberland says: ‘[My favourite view is] Hulne Park, Alnwick. From the edge of the moorland, close to Robert Adam’s spectacular folly, Brizlee Tower, is my favourite viewpoint, an ancient standing stone from which north Northumberland spreads out before you. The Cheviot Hills guard the Scottish border to the north and west, and ￼the North Sea, Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands provide the eastern edge of this vista. Below this viewpoint, Brown laid out his magnificent creation, complementing the ruined Hulne Abbey and the sparkling River Aln that winds its way through the middle of the park. Great oaks and beech trees cover the hills, looking down their noses at the more recent softwood plantations. Dazzling colours greet the autumn viewer, but, even on the dreariest winter day, this view never fails to raise the spirits.’
Open March 24 to October 25, 10am–5.30pm
(01665 511100; www.alnwickcastle.com)
2. Badminton House, Gloucestershire
Not usually open to visitors other than for special events such as the horse trials, but for information on garden events in 2016, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(01454 218203; www.badmintonestate.co.uk)
3. Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire
The Duchess of Rutland says: ‘My favourite moment in my landscape at Belvoir is galloping on my coloured “gipsy” pony called Ella-Bella around what we call the racecourse. It’s at the top of Blackberry Hill, which is where I have planted a sweet-chestnut avenue, as was intended in Brown’s plan. Then, as the castle appears at the end of the avenue , on the Iron Stone outcrop, I pinch myself and think what a lucky girl I am.’
Open from Easter until September.
(01476 871001; www.belvoircastle.com)
4. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
The Duke of Marlborough says: ‘The view of the Great Lake from the cedar of Lebanon tree used in the film ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’, looking across towards the Palace and Grand Bridge, is one of my favourite Capability Brown vistas. It demonstrates the scale of the landscape work undertaken here at Blenheim Palace and how it fits naturally into its surroundings. You also get a fabulous view of the palace itself, with Vanbrugh’s magnificent bridge in the foreground’
The park opens daily, except on Christmas Day, 9am–6pm (or dusk, if earlier), last admission at 4.45pm.
(01993 810530; www.blenheimpalace.com)
5. Burghley House, Lincolnshire
Opens March 19 to Oct- ober 31, 11am–5pm.
(01780 752451; www.burghley.co.uk)
6. Cadland, Hampshire
The gardens open by private appointment only, but see website for dates of garden events for Brown in 2016.
7. Chatsworth, Derbyshire
Garden reopens on March 19, 11am–6pm, last entry at 5pm.
8. Croome Park, Worcestershire
Open daily, 10am–4.30pm.
(01905 371006; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome)
9. Harewood House, West Yorkshire
The Earl of Harewood says: ‘‘What Capability Brown started 250 years ago at Harewood, we try to continue today: looking after the landscape through a whole range of conservation projects and responding to it creatively with our contemporary art programmes. He’s a big act to follow, one of England’s most extraordinary designers’
Reopens on March 25.
(0113–218 1010; www.harewood.org)
10. Petworth House, West Sussex
Pleasure Ground open daily, 10am–5pm.