Ridings can defy time and erosion as pick their way through the countryside

Ridings can defy time and erosion as pick their way through the countryside

Mrs D from Hampshire gets in touch whenever her old riding complaint plays her up. She asks, “if these ‘ridings’ really existed, why did Capability Brown never map them?”

Well here’s the rejoinder that Humphry Repton might have made her, had she been at his side in 1790: ‘the Drives within the Park, and Ridings in the adjacent Country, will be better marked on the Spot than upon paper; they must of course take the easiest line to those objects which are the most beautiful, the most interesting, or the most curious.’

He might have added that 100 years before the Ordnance Survey first produced its 25” plans, making maps of such large areas would have been a substantial and unnecessary expense.

However I would encourage her to look at the great master’s plan for Belvoir Castle in which roads or tracks are shown winding off the plan and off the edge of the paper. What then could these be? Brown’s yen for yearly yomps around England, from project to project, are the yang and yin of his career. They made his work great, but the effort killed him.