Capability Brown Skills Sharing Session at Wrest Park.

I’ve just returned from a fascinating and surprisingly emotional day at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, which was the host venue for the last of several Skill Sharing Sessions arranged by the Capability Brown Festival team.

‘Capability’ Brown monument at Wrest Park.

The sessions as always were delivered by and to a selection of people who’ve been associated with the festival at least through 2016, some even from the initial idea gathering meeting at Ampthill Park some four years ago.

The Gardens Trust, Historic England, the National Trust, Landscape Institute, Historic Houses Association and Heritage Lottery Fund were all represented alongside many prominent Brownian landscapes such as Blenheim, Bowood, Chatsworth and of course Compton Verney. (Apologies if I missed anyone out!)


Throughout the day, much time was devoted towards the underlying theme of evaluation, but given the nature of the day and the venue, there was of course a garden tour squeezed in – just! This post isn’t though intended to review the day itself, but is simply to mention something which caught me, and a few other people unawares…

In short it was a presentation from Katherine Alker and Rachel Sharpe, representing the landscape of Croome in Worcestershire. The case study they described was funded through the CB300 festival by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and was titled Potter & Ponder: Sensory Experiences At Croome.

Gilly Drummond starts the day and sets the bar high!

I’m not going to get into why the project was constructed, or how it has come to pass, as I’m certain to fall short of doing the project and the people involved justice in this blog article. I would simply like to pass on my reaction to a stunning presentation that touched me, and most if not everyone in that wonderful room at Wrest.

Potter & Ponder was and is a real winner, and not just in terms of one visible end result; a custom designed sensory experience map for the Croome landscape. It is a winner because it put a very special group of individuals at the very heart of its being, and held them there.

To all intents and purposes, anyone can now visit the website for Croome, download the map, visit and enjoy the sensory experiences of a very rich and diverse place. For me though, it is the construction and delivery of this project that was inspired: It came from a very personal place, it learned from a special group of individuals, it engaged and it enabled.

Potter and Ponder sensory experiences map.

Hearing of the project reminded me why as a gardener and landscape manager I do what I do, and why I have learned the importance of engagement. It also, most importantly made me question who I’m doing it for. In a way, it has renewed my appreciation for the journey involved, the quality of engagement, and not just the numbers of people through the door.

If I ever doubted, for a moment, the power of a garden to inspire, to nourish or heal, then my doubts have disappeared and my faith restored.

Looking back, I remember that I walked towards the ‘Capability’ Brown 2016 Festival with simple hopes that a few more people would see what I saw in a Brown landscape, and that Brown himself and his remaining landscapes might gain a wider appreciation and respect. This all happened and much, much more besides, and I’m proud to have played a small part. I’ve seen evidence today through Katherine and Rachel’s presentation, and others; that so many more people have been reached, and more lives have been touched in ways I never couldn’t have imagined.

Full respect to those people above and many more who saw the potential of the festival. A great job and very well done!

For original CB300 article and links for more information click here.

Now, did somebody mention Repton 2018?!


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