Only yesterday I made the observation to my friend Captain Ken, as we paused at a spinney for him to seek out a good hazel stick, that I am frequently struck by the surprising way a word, an idea, a place, mentioned once, can become suddenly ubiquitous. For thus it has been for me and Wales – and on the very day following our conversation.
I wrote a note on that country (note 199) and suddenly no news comes to my table at the Tatler’s Waste-bin without the tag of Wales somehow attached to it. The Captain has taken it upon himself to buy tickets for the Leicester City v Swansea match; Mr Honey, normally no taker of exeats from the metropolis, speaks of a spree to Wynnstay to hear Gareth Williams speak of the place-maker ‘xtra-ordinaire’ Capability Brown, and now I have next been asked to justify the significance I attach to the same man’s, that is Brown’s, Walk at Dinefwr.
Let us begin, as the Captain would insist, with the facts. There is mention of a walk in a minute written and kept after one of Brown’s visits to the place, probably in 1775 and recorded by the agent: ‘that Mr. Rices [the owner] intentions with relation to the improvement of this place & Mr. Browns directions with regard to it may not be forgotten I shall leave them with the plans given by Mr. Brown.’
The gist now follows: Brown recommended a plantation from the proposed kitchen garden (still extant) to Llandeilo (the Walk Plantation); and in the middle of the park ‘a Gravel Path to be continued to the Castle’. Then in addition to that, and most important, ‘a turf path from the Castle by the Edge of the wood across the Lawn to a single tree with a Bench round it, and from thence to the Large Ash with a white Bench.’
If we define a ride, as I should like to, as a drive at the perimeter of the parkland, then the first of these, Walk Plantation, was a ride; the second, the gravel path (which also survives) was wide enough for carriages, and so was actually a drive; the third, ‘the turf walk’ was on the other hand a walk, and hence was ornamented with benches on which to rest and take in the view. There are landscapes in which walks play a particularly important role, these are landscapes of outstanding textural quality, where there may be places at which to stop and take in the view, but where fresh air and constantly varying scenes are equally the object. Such are the places like Dodington, Fawsley and Petworth, where the ground naturally rolls and spools. This quality of lightly rolling champaign country most remarks the great landscapes of Northamptonshire, and despite the grandeur of the surrounding scenery, it is just this character that remarks Dinefwr also.