A chance visit to Adderbury Lakes

Editors Note April 2019: Adderbury Lakes is situated in a residential area – No Parking Available.

There’s a special little corner of Oxfordshire I once visited, known as Adderbury Lakes…

This post, despite the odd mention of old ‘Capability’, is I have to say less about the history, and more about a cherished moment, in a special place.

It was clear to me that through the efforts and devotion of local folk, and despite being off the beaten track so to speak, it was a much loved place in good shape.

Suffice to say that the landscape here was originally designed by an 18th garden designer called Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who supplied a plan for the lakes in the 1760’s. Actual landscaping in his style seems to have been created sometime later by the then owner of the estate William Hunt Chamberlain.

It might not have had the finesse of a long manicured plot, but it had been thoughtfully restored with clear objectives to preserve the design and, importantly, to encourage wildlife.

A notice board had mentions of a restoration in the 1980’s, and evidence of much work since had left the lake in good condition; no small feat given the annual leaf fall that must result from the dense canopy of mature alder, cedar and plane trees.

An established understory of hazel and hawthorn clothed the banks, along with some more recent planting, and lower still were naturalised snowdrops and a sprinkling of winter aconites – originals or recent introductions I wondered…

A view to the distant historic mansion was just about achievable, which was as much obscured by the form of the land as it was by the trees.

Despite writing about the planting and views, I was really drawn to post because of the ambience that place held for me, for an all too short hour, an ambience I look for in all historic landscapes.

Sure, the space had clues to its earlier character, but it had clearly evolved into something very different.

Numerous locations gave views out of the valley, past old walls, hedges and across established parkland to some stunning veteran trees.

But from one spot in particular, a seat that Brown seems to have suggested on an old plan, there was a view to the west that was simply stunning. If it was exactly as Brown intended, then it was great proof of his vision and attention to detail.

I was so lucky to have been invited to walk around, and to have had that reflective hour with those silhouetted trees and that fiery sunset view; even if the seat was a little damp!

To expand on the note at the head of this article, I must stress that general visits to the lakes are not encouraged due to parking and management issues. If however you’ve been inspired by my article I would heartily recommend seeking out a ‘Capability’ Brown landscape near you, and to that end, you’ll find all the guidance you’ll need here: click here!

Regards, Gary..

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