Last year I completed a MSc course at Bath University on the ‘Conservation of Historic Landscapes and Cultural Landscapes’ in a CPD capacity, allowing me to contribute further to Liz Lake Associates’ well-established specialism in historic landscapes, a legacy of Liz Lake herself.
Since then I have been fortunate enough, courtesy of Liz Lake Associates, to attend a series of heritage-related events and conferences, to continue to strengthen my knowledge and skills in this fascinating and complex field.
A Landscape Institute South West (LISW) trip to the National Trust’s Tyntesfield this month, organized by myself and Samantha (Leathers), generated a very respectable turnout, with attendees from as far afield as Cornwall.
The torrential rain did little to dampen our spirits as we networked over lunch, and then enjoyed an informative talk and (admittedly rather damp) walk by Paul Evans, Head Gardener, who focused on some of the quirkier, behind-the-scenes aspects of the historic estate restoration, giving us a real – and refreshingly honest – insight into the trials, tribulations and successes of such an ambitious project.
We were also lucky to have Paul’s predecessor, Deborah Evans, present, thus enabling us to understand how the restoration project unfolded right from Day 1.
I then visited Wrest Park to attend English Heritage’s conference entitled ‘Capability Brown the Technician: Gardener, Architect, Hydrologist’, comprising a diverse mix of short lectures and a tour of the park, which is in the midst of a challenging restoration and re-presentation programme – another prime example of conservation in action.
One of the emerging themes of the day was that, despite Brown’s prolific involvement in over 200 sites across Britain, he left very few written records and no published works, to the extent that “We never really know what Brown actually did” (I quote John Phibbs). Perhaps this sense of mystery fuels our ongoing fascination with the designer?
A further theme, common to both of the above events, is the enormous amount of research, reflection, thought and problem-solving which these landscape restoration projects demand. A complex – and immensely rewarding – field indeed.