Sunday, September 1, 2013
"They've Found Another Bloody Cascade!"
Lord Cobham to Joe, hand on wallet.
And indeed they had; giant men in giant cranes digging with the delicacy of bare hands had discovered yet another of the 'other rills' recorded by Thomas Whately in his Observations on Modern Gardening in 1770.
When he went round Hagley (as I and some garden historian friends did this week) he observed
:...a narrow vale divided into three parts; one of them is quite filled with water which leaves no room for a path, but thick trees on either side come down quite to the brink; and between them the sight is conducted to the bridge with a portico upon it which closes the view: another part of this vale is a deep gloom over hung with large ash, and oaks, and darkened below by a number of yews; these are scattered over very uneven ground, and open underneath; but they are encompassed by a thick covert under which a stream falls, from a stony channel, down a rock; other rills drop into the current, which afterwards pours over a second cascade into the third division of the vale, where it forms a piece of water, and is lost under the bridge. The view from this bridge is a perfect opera scene through all the divisions of the vale up to the rotunda..."
And we saw it too, emerging phoenix-like from a hundred years of silt that descended the valley and eventually completely covered its chain of ponds, its rills and its cascades.
A year ago, this narrow vale was so grown in with trees that it seemed a clear path to the rotunda (barely visible behind its scaffolding at the top) couldn't be recreated. Joe and helpers shone torches from the top to the bottom at night to prove it was possible.
Soon you'll be able to see again the Rotunda and the Ruined Castle, and the view from Milton's Seat (below); the monument to Alexander Pope (a friend of the Lord Lyttleton that created the park), the Palladian Bridge and the Obelisk: all of this landscape where Horace Walpole said he wore out his eyes with gazing, his feet with climbing, and his tongue and vocabulary with commending.
Many thanks to Joe Hawkins and Lord Cobham for giving us a delightful preview; the restored Hagley Hall park will reopen to the public in 2016.
[The other major seventeenth century description of Hagley is by Joseph Heely (1775), available on google books here. See also a BBC slideshow of the Hagley park restoration here.]