The postman has bounced again, and this has brought further inquiries to my breakfast table, all on the subject of quarrying and mess.

This persistent interest might be expressed in two questions; one from Mr W of Kent, asking how that ‘Titan’ (his words) ‘who turned the Trent to the Thames’ (he refers here to Capability Brown’s work in Staffordshire)  constructed his landscapes, and one penned by Mr B from his London attic, wondering what I mean by the Concave at Petworth.

The Concave is the name given to a hole in the hill at the north end of the park at Petworth. This is so vast that it has been assumed by many to be natural. To them I suggest that on that basis the lakes of Blenheim and Patshull must be natural, Church Hill at Croome and the embankment at Belvoir Castle must be natural. No, I put it down as a quarryman’s work, but smoothed out – presumably by Brown, for it is like the smoothing of the quarry at the west end of Tong Knoll at Weston. But the mention of Weston prompts a further observation. Have you noticed Mr B that the Concave is at ‘point blank’ that is directly in front of the house at Petworth? An odd place one might have thought to put something so obviously messy  – but the west end of Tong Knoll is also at a point close to point-blank (smoothed out in a similar fashion to the Concave), and what about the quarry that runs round the west side of the folly at Wimpole, also at point blank, and best of all, the gravel pit at point blank, on the edge of Long Wood at Berrington. All of these are in conspicuous positions in the landscape, and a less tentative spirit than my own might tend to conclude that all were intended to make a more dramatic frame to the scenery, with steep slopes to frame the view, as happened naturally with Melmoth’s Hill at Milton Abbey and South Hill at Wardour.

I am left with little room to accommodate Mr W’s query, but happily English Heritage is arranging a whole day to discuss Brown’s construction methods at Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, on the 18 May 2016. Open to all I understand, subject to booking with English Heritage, and sure to be one of the revelatory events of the centenary year.