Capability Brown Anniversary Results in Tree-mendous Legacy

Thousands of trees have been planted across England as part of the Capability Brown Festival, which last year celebrated the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the man who shaped much of the British landscape as we know it today. 

Brown was one of the 18th century’s most successful and pioneering entrepreneurs, masterminding hundreds of ambitious landscape design projects. He is associated with more than 250 landscapes across England and Wales, and his impressive clientele included King George III, 6 Prime Ministers, 7 Dukes, 26 Earls, 19 Knights and Baronets, 2 generals and a judge. 

His landscapes feature a range of stylistic elements, including the carefully considered planting of trees, from the exotic and highly fashionable Cedar of Lebanon planted individually, to other species clustered in clumps or belts of trees to define and guide visitors through the landscapes. He described his process to Hannah More, a leading intellectual of the day in terms of punctuation “‘Now there’, said he, pointing his finger, ‘I make a comma, and there ... where an interruption is desirable to break the view, a parenthesis; now a full stop, and then I begin another subject’. Trees formed a great part of these plans for punctuating the landscape. Brown had an incredible vision, and was able to envisage how young and newly planted trees would eventually look, centuries before they grew to maturity. He also maintained established trees, and devised a special tree-moving machine, which to this day is still considered an effective way of transplanting fully grown trees. 

Now, 300 years on, several of his original landscapes have been carrying on his legacy, reinstating original tree locations and planting new trees. Plantings range from a single iconic Cedar of Lebanon planted at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, to the creation of the entire parkland at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire using Brown’s original plans 

Besides visitors being able to access and enjoy his spectacular landscapes today, the wood pasture and parkland Brown created provides a haven for our native wildlife. Many of the trees Brown planted have survived, and these ancient and ‘veteran’ trees have become full of nooks and crannies and rotting wood, which support thousands of different species of plants, animals and fungi, some of which cannot live anywhere else. 

Ceryl Evans, Capability Brown Festival Director said: “The Capability Brown Festival has been about encouraging people to better understand Brown’s influence, and get outdoors and enjoy the stunning landscapes he left behind. Although the Festival has come to a close, it is very satisfying to know that future generations will be able to continue to benefit from his legacy, thanks to all those working so hard today to care for these historic landscapes.” 

Many Brown landscapes will soon be re-opening after the winter season. To find the one nearest you, visit; www.capabilitybrown.org/map 

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