Touring places of genius

I visited three more of the short-listed houses and their landscape short-listed for our genius of the place awards. I know it sounds like a dreary headmaster to say “the standard was extremely high” but each has been mind-blowing in their own way; Cannwood Farm is the subject of a new book by the owners A Year in an English Meadow written by the owners, Andy and Polly Garnett, detailing the flowers and grasses that emerge in the meadow near their house which they rescued from modern farming and inspired a gradual acquisition of land right around their house. The judging is next week and discussions will be heated.

It is to be published by Frances Lincoln in July; but every story of each house on the short-list impresses and delights in different ways, for new woodlands, new lakes, for bold acquisitions of ugly bungalows and pulling them down, for cherishing the simple truths of cherishing the landscape. I hope that whichever is the winner the examples of all those short-listed will be a national inspiration.

I took my family for a walk in the park-like gardens of Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge, of which I was once the curator. The dense avenues of trees here, planted from the 1920s onwards are exactly what I enjoy about all these amazing revived parklands we are looking at. They transform a dullish landscape into a cultivated wonderland. Our children ran off towards the classical sculptures that provide vistas here and there and as we watched them run, time seemed to stand still. We also went to touch the ancient Roman porphyry vase that sits in a temple.

The 1st Lord Fairhaven must have a great feeling for trees and the impression that avenues create and, most of all, an imagination that stretched out into the future able to see what an impression they would create when mature. I wonder if he thought of the people who would be walking down these avenues in 100 years time.