Now here’s a garden that does exactly what it says on the tin (or so to speak). Painshill Landscape Garden conjures up images of sweeping grass, water graced with bridges and overlooked by trees. I am pleased to report that it is exactly that and more.
Inspired by renaissance art following several ‘grand tours’ across Europe, Charles Hamilton created the garden between 1738-1773, which makes it now possibly the oldest in the United Kingdom.
COMPARING A LANDSCAPE GARDEN TO A PAINTING
Designed to give vistas from all angles, this romantic garden was laid out with the intention of being viewed in a similar manner to how one would view a painting or a piece of art. Hamilton did this by cleverly creating remarkable views using the natural landscape incorporating man-made water in the form of lakes. He then peppered his pleasure grounds with quirky follies and using a foresighted vision, trees that would mature to complete the scene with height and density.
SNOWDROPS AND NARCISSI
The result is a surprising parkland landscape with far reaching views with shrubs and trees that have either stood the test of time or else have been planted with a sympathetic nod towards towards what would have existed in Hamilton’s day . At the time of our visit, great carpets of snowdrops and early daffodils stretched as far the eye could see, giving the illusion of a sea of white and yellow beneath the woodland canopy.
Hamilton punctuated Painshill with a series of unusual follies, giving a focal point from afar and yet each one providing a place from which to view a different aspect of the landscape. It really is a case of ‘don’t forget your camera’ since each well-executed vista is reminiscent of a painting. A stone ‘Turkish Tent’ is one such folly and worth the climb up the hill to admire it’s extraordinary structure.
The most visited folly and indeed the main reason for so many visitors to return to Painshill is surely the ‘crystal grotto’. It’s weathered limestone exterior cleverly disguising the magical interior comprising thousands of individual crystals, each one having been painstakingly placed by hand when the grotto was recently given a facelift and overhaul, having fallen into disrepair. Sunlight reflecting on the still water beside the grotto gives an ethereal quality to this enchanting space which is also used at Christmas to house a very special guest.
Painshill welcomes well behaved dogs on leads and with a tea-room and gift shop it is a lovely place to while away a few hours. Easily accessed from the A3 and M25, Painshill is so near to RHS Wisley that you could almost combine both gardens in a day.