Stepping carefully through frozen leaves so not to squish snowdrops, I ventured through vegetation to the river’s edge until it appeared – a view of a boathouse from across the water. I merely sought another perspective and to understand why there, and why built in such an unusual way?
Visible mostly by the crisp outlines of a tiled roof perched upon hefty, stripped bark tree trunk pillars, the recently restored boathouse was a subtle, historic and hidden gem. Indeed, in such a vast landscape dressed with attention seeking sculptures, formal gardens, ancient trees and deer herd, you would be forgiven for passing by this rustic shaded beauty unawares.
As it would have been inside the mind of its Georgian creator, this boathouse was a dream-like work of art. Rising from the four corners of its roof were precisely cut tiles that climbed towards flag and globe finials, rendered gold yet largely unseen from this angle, and mostly cast in shade. Between the ridges, scalloped, hand crafted slates added even more character to the already pretty house. There was something more to this structure though, as it felt like a part of something else, something bigger.
This new vista had proved a success, gifting me a hoped for view of the boat house from across the river. At this point along its route the water was a cloudy, gracefully passing mass, and just a few paces downstream, a portion would soon be scooped away for a special purpose. Through a picturesque stone arch and in contrast to the calming river, the stolen water raced and fell rapidly, flooding the area in atmospheric sound worthy of the wildest wilderness.
My gaze was held by the primary river though, patterned with a scene of shadows, trees and sky, even the crazy stick work of the boathouse itself was reflected in crisp perfection. Inverted, towering plane trees reached down into an alternate world of hope, holding a mirrored sun firmly between their branches. This long natural river scene however, with its stone arches and composed cascades, with its lofty trees and view framed by outgrown evergreen yew clumps – was a complete fabrication.
The boathouse – bespoke, the river – carved, the landform – manipulated, the archway stones – stacked, and the trees – very carefully selected, located, and pruned; the entire space originally created over two centuries ago had been designed. Yet the scene, aside from its exquisite boathouse and unusual stonework nearby, appeared so correct as could easily be mistaken for the work of nature itself.
Just a few moments on that river bank, and a few moments earlier touching the timber knots of the boathouse itself, was enough. Enough to feel the energy that flowed relentlessly from the sun, through every cell of those tall trees, along each grassy blade and inside the river itself. Enough to sense the respect, passion and dedication given by countless people in times past. Moments enough to comprehend and consider the broader creation.
So, to the spirit and creators and carers of that boathouse and its wider, wilder home, your thoughtful work and passion continues, living in the folks who patiently try to see, to understand and appreciate what went before. We can only imagine how it must have been, how it must have felt back in its prime. Of the modern day efforts though, we most earnestly hope you approve, whoever, or whatever you are.
An experience of a boathouse at Belton, Lincolnshire, by Gary Webb.