Friday 13 July 2012

Rural rides

I don't know why this image particularly appeals to me, but it does. 

Taken today in the deer park of Dyrham Park, a National Trust property a few miles outside Bath, this is the shuttle bus that trundles all day up and down the hill from the car park to the main house.

What interests me is how this landscape of Arcadian perfection has been so thoroughly designed and redesigned over the last few centuries.

Originally a wooded combe cut into the southern-most extremity of the Cotswold scarp slope, this steep sided valley became part of the emparked hunting grounds of a medieval manor house. In an act of deliberate dislocation with the past the house was demolished in the late seventeenth century and replaced with a baroque mansion complete with ornate formal gardens, re-imagined in the fashionable Versailles style of the period and almost impossible to imagine on the site now (see image below). By the later eighteenth century the lavishly ornamental grounds had fallen out of style and were overlain with a 'naturalistic' designed park laid out by Humphrey Repton. This is largely the landscape that we can see today, possibly now fossilised into perpetuity by the National Trust, the stream issuing from the springs at the head of the valley long since buried underground.

And so back to our bus, following the course of medieval hunting parties and carriages transporting the Georgian and Victorian gentry through their contemporary visions of the ideal landscape, to be eventually replaced by who knows what.
View of Dyrham Park by Johannes Kip (1712)

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