Gardening: Autumn enchantment

PUBLISHED: 11:59 11 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:15 20 February 2013

Gnarled oaks dating back to Elizabethan time make a statement

Gnarled oaks dating back to Elizabethan time make a statement

The Brocket Hall estate, originally dating back to the 18th century, is a picture of autumn colour in November as foliage turns on the trees, as Philippa Pearson discovers...

FROM the mid-1700s, country houses and estates throughout the land were metamorphosing from formal French style gardens to a quintessentially English landscape scenario. The key player was Lancelot Capabilty Brown who transformed acres of uninspiring fields into gently rolling parkland with lakes and follies. Another landscaper at this time was also quietly making his mark on the English countryside: Richard Woods. Similar in style to Brown, Woods particularly excelled at smaller estates and when Lord Melbourne re-modelled Brocket Hall in the 1770s as a place to entertain and socialise guests from London, he chose Woods to landscape the estate.

Richard Woods aimed to encompass two design aspects into his landscape creations: he liked to enhance the landscape with natural style planting of trees, and incorporated contrasting flowering shrub or rose walks with plenty of seats from which to view the wider landscape, and these elements were used to good effect at the 543 acres at Brocket Hall.

The estate was Woodss most successful commission with the park and grounds hailed as the most beautiful and picturesque in the country. He widened the river Lea in front of the re-modelled house, designed by Thomas Paine, extending the embankment to Paines Palladian style bridge (there is an identical one at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire) and the effect was set off by both the house and the driveway over the bridge to the Hall. Lord Melbournes wife was the infamous Lady Caroline Lamb who adored the spring blossom and walks in the grounds; Brocket Hall also went on to be home for another Prime Minister, Lord Palmeston. Queen Victoria even visited the estate and enjoyed the gardens.

The Brocket estate is now a world class golf course whilst the Hall a venue for conferences, weddings and special events. The backbone of Woodss design for the parkland still exists, with many original trees now mature and looking graceful amongst the neatly clipped golfing greens. New trees and other plantings have been added over the years and these complement the natural landscaping style laid down by Woods nearly 250 years ago. A public footpath runs through the estate, a chance to appreciate the autumnal canopy cloaking the landscape.

If you are lucky enough to be dining at the Michelin star Auberge Du Lac restaurant on the estate, you will get a good view of the tall and elegant swamp cypress trees planted by the lake. An even better view can be had at the golf clubhouse as the trees look striking with their bronze-red foliage reflecting in the water: Taxodium distichum are deciduous trees, one of only three species in the conifer family that shed their leaves so well worth seeking out. Elsewhere, mature and stately beeches and gnarled oaks, some dating back to Elizabethan times, put on a magnificent display of autumn colour against their grand backdrop.

Around the golf course, many different types of Maple are planted in groups. A useful tree for smaller gardens as well, their attractively-shaped leaves give the best autumn colour, turning intense shades of crimson and red. A walk on the footpath through the Brocket estate brings you into a world once home to Prime Ministers, social lords and ladies and even royalty, but the autumn display from trees old and new is something for everyone to enjoy.

Get in contact

Brocket Hall
Welwyn AL8 7XG 01707 335241

Brocket Hall is not open to the public, but events can be organised.

Auberge du Lac
01707 368888

Garden designer and RHS Silver-Gilt medal winner Philippa Pearson was awarded Peoples Choice Award for Best Show Garden at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2010. Visit or contact her on 01767 651253

A public footpath from Lemsford goes through the estate: please keep to the path, paying attention to notices near the golf greens.

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