The question is asked by Lady O in response to my last, and it is perfectly true that many of the parks of the self-taught Capability Brown have a woodland belt around the perimeter.
So what about Stapleford in Leicestershire? It has a little lake, about the shape of a playful whale, and one or two interesting banks and earthworks, but the place got hugely extended after Brown’s time – and the increase in extent took from the beauty of the place, simply because it doesn’t have a belt. The house sits in a very large flattish field, with no boundary and no frame. It shows how difficult it is to make a landscape a work of art if there is no barrier at all between it and the surrounding countryside.
Even Brown’s greatest critic, Richard Payne Knight, could not accuse him of closing his landscapes off from the rest of the countryside: ‘The belt with which Mr. Brown and his followers encircled the scenes of their improvements, is a boundary only in the map … in all the places where I have seen it employed by Mr. Brown and his followers, the adjoining country has appeared over it; and it has had the effect of a heavy dark piece of frame-work crossing the middle of the picture.’
Lady O, if your quarry is the origin of the belt, then you might call in on Hampton Court, where there is a row of oaks beside the path that runs around the edge of Bushy Park. It wasn’t first planted by Brown, more like Cardinal Wolsey from the look of it, but it gives Brown a precedent for the rides that he put through the peripheral belts around his parkland, and it’s pretty plain there that the point of this was to give as long a drive as possible within the confines of the park, and to shelter it from the worst of the weather with planting. Come to think of it, you might want to have a look at Francis Bacon’s Long Walk at Gorhambury as well.