I had read a book about the making of the gardens at Brantwood in the Lake District, so when we found ourselves nearby we were determined to make time for a visit. Brantwood was the home of John Ruskin who believed in gardening with wildlife so his garden is often described as one of the closest to the ideals propounded by William Robinson.
We visited on a hot sunny day so were pleased that we were exploring a woodland garden. As with other places we visited in the Lake District we were astonished to hear so much birdsong, missing now in much of the UK due to modern agricultural practices. Thrushes both Song and Mistle, along with their cousins the Blackbird, seemed to sing loudly from every tree. Blackcaps, Robins, Wrens and Whitethroats performed with equal gusto from the layer of shrubs and bushes.
Every surface whether ground, tree trunk, wall or rock-face seemed to be home to plants. We had to look everywhere all around us to make sure we didn’t miss a hidden gem or two.
From the highest parts of the garden we glimpsed on occasion views of Coniston Water. It is possible to arrive at Brantwood via the lake on a steam paddle boat.
The woodland garden felt just as Ruskin wished it to when he wrote about gardening there. He wanted to look back at where he had been gardening and see no sign that he had been there, just the hand of nature.
As we wandered the garden paths through the valleys, alongside streams and beneath trees we kept a look out for Ruskin’s seat, set in his favourite part of the garden. It was beautifully crafted from local slate and was now weathered and covered in lichen. I think this would please Ruskin if he could see it now.