A post-card from Robin Hood’s Bay, very welcome but alas unsigned, asks whether we should regard the gardener, Capability Brown, given the idiosyncrasy of his achievement, as the only designer of ridings. In other words, wherever we find evidence of a riding we should make an attribution to Brown. Sounds a bit risky to me, but the way to proceed would be to build up a list of ridings at places where we have no other evidence of Brown’s work, and see how long it gets. Dogmersfield comes to mind, with its rather quixotic emphasis on King John – the famous Hunting Lodge and Odiham Castle, just down the canal. I’d have said the pines there were William Sawrey Gilpin’s work, if anyone’s, but it looks as though there must have been ridings between these buildings and Dogmersfield House in the 18th century, and probably before William Emes got there.
Then Repton writes about ridings. In fact his definition of ridings at Shardeloes is not bad: ‘There is an essential difference betwixt a drive and a riding; the latter requires an open airy, prospect, in which the same distant objects may continue in view for many miles without palling the eye, because exercise is the chief object of a riding; and the character of the scenery should be so bold, that those who run may read them.’ Besides Shardeloes, one might want to look at Repton’s work at Blaise, Cobham, Honing, Moggerhanger, Owston, Plas Newydd, Sarsden, Shrubland and Vinters for a few more examples. … even so, I’d still judge the presence of a riding to add something to the plausibility of an attribution to Brown.
Unless further distracted, I’ll get on to the related subjects of Brown’s avenues, long approaches and turnpikes in my next.