A grove of sweet chestnut on the side of an adventitious valley at Benham

A grove of sweet chestnut on the side of an adventitious valley at Benham

There will occur, in landscape, natural valleys, small advances in the slope, hardly enough to be named.  At Burghley they carried springs and Capability Brown drained and smoothed them off when he made the lake, but in later works – Ugbrooke, Ashridge, Gatton, Benham above the lake – he offered to these adventitious declivities the same spare planting that he gave to the ‘valley direct’ at Claremont. The ‘valley transverse’ at Southill is a minor masterpiece in the gentle respect that it shows for the ground, but the master’s handling of the ‘valley adventitious’ shows his particular delight in the natural form, a few trees single, grouped and in thicker spreads so as to throw their shadows onto the falling ground: with Oak at Ugbrooke, with sweet chestnut at Benham, with  beech at Ashridge – best of all beech, with the mast at its foot, bright-seeming with the reflected sunlight that has found its way through the leaves, and glows quietly below the trunks like a rumpled baize under the halo of a Fabergé lamp. These slight plantings read as signatures: we notice them as marks that Brown had recognised the advantages of the ground and made something where one might have thought there to be nothing. This is the work of no ink-finger ill-fitted to outdoor work. Its delicacy ‘fingers’ Brown, as Mr Honey would put it, as both creator and master.

They are at their best at Ugbrooke.