Chiswick House and Iford Manor
By some bizzare coincidence Guardian art critic Jonathon Jones, and I, had the same idea for an article today. http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/jun/08/british-gardens-chiswick-house. It has been a while now since I left England, and feelings of nostalgia for the homeland are beginning to set in! I began to remember lovely days wandering in the grounds of Chiswick house, an idyll tucked away in a busy corner of west London. The striking palladian style house designed by William Kent, is situated in extensive landscaped grounds, which as Jones describes, have been designed to look as though nature intended them that way. Thus, they are not overly ornate, or rigid in design. These grounds feel (happily) worlds away from their surroundings.
Enchanting tree lined avenues lead away from the central lawn, each providing a vista for a charming rotunda, a temple, a lake, or a sculpture. The grounds feel steeped in antiquity, which may have something to do with the little classical Greek and Romanesque style buildings dotted around, and the proliforation of sphinx sculptures and roman busts. The gardens are also home to many beautiful old trees and meadow flowers, lending a sense of wilderness and poetry to the place.
The gardens are free, the house has a small entrance fee but is also worth a visit.
The English are well known for their love of gardens, and at this time of year they are at their most delightful, and none more so, I feel, than Iford Manor, located in the west country, near Bath. http://www.ifordmanor.co.uk/ You may wonder why I am writing about gardens in this blog, but truly they are living works of art to be experienced (much like installation art has to be experienced).
This house was bought by the great garden designer and architect, Harold Peto (11 July 1854 – 16 April 1933) who made the grounds at Iford his own. By all accounts, he achieved a perfect balance between delicacy, refinement and wilderness. The garden is sweet and beautiful rather than imposing and severely formal. It has a clear design and a structure, but it is a delightful, meandering one, intercepted at points by Italianate columns, cloisters and giant clay urns. It has a distinctly mediterranean feel to it, but one softened by gorgeous flower beds bursting with fragrant English flora. It is a wonderful place to spend a relaxing afternoon, or to sketch, and is located in a beautiful part of the English countryside. Anyone visiting London, should take the opportunity (in the summer at least) to venture out to these more remote places, which reveal a very different, more charming side to the country.