One would expect parkland walks to be gravelled only if the wet could not be controlled in any other way. Grass was always softer to walk on.

One would expect parkland walks to be gravelled only if the wet could not be controlled in any other way. Grass was always softer to walk on.

I have been wondering how much progress we have made with the walks laid out by that joker and jester, the gardener Capability Brown, in his landscapes?

Dinefwr’s is well-recorded, and is essentially a tour of the periphery, something over 3 miles long – in fact if we didn’t know it was a walk, long sections of it might be mistaken for a ride. There’s another similar at Belvoir Castle, only part made, running from the old boat-house up to what were then the ruins of Woolsthorpe Church, and you can still trace much of a walk of two miles or so at Milton Abbey, probably the very one taken by Arthur Young on his visit: ‘The riding’ – well he calls it a riding, but great lengths of it look equally like a walk  – ‘ that surrounds the amphitheatre rises the hill on this side, and, skirting the edge of it … looks down on the vale, and has a full command of the vast range of wood.’ It does seem as though these walks become longer, and more frequent, in the last decade or so of Brown’s career.

But what about the short walks – usually around 1 metre wide and usually running from a ride or drive to a particular view-point? The first I ever saw was at the Conybury in Moccas deer park. What are these short walks for, and why did they have to be constructed? Did Brown, if it was him, have one particular route he wanted visitors to take, so he could show off the landscape exactly as he had designed it. It suggests a degree of control that is surprising in someone reportedly so dedicated to the natural.

I would very much welcome any reports of other walks in Brown’s landscapes.