Ross-on-Wye Civic Society

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Ross-on-Wye & District Civic Society newsletter Autumn 2004 (number 84)

25 Members and friends assembled at the former Builders' Yard of the Croome Estate, from where the National Trust administer the Estate. Following coffee in the former Carpenter's Workshop, we heard a very informative slide lecture from Michael Smith, the Property Manager, whose knowledge and enthusiasm was central to our enjoyment of the day.

His talk covered not only the history of the park, but also the mansion at its heart, which the Trust do not own and is not accessible to the public. However, it is currently up for sale and

the Trust are exploring options for, if not acquiring the property, at least obtaining some form of public access. Following an excellent, and very reasonably priced, buffet lunch, Michael led a walk around the Pleasure Grounds at the heart of the Park, which the Trust have been gradually restoring over the last few years. It was a hot and sultry afternoon, with thunder rumbling in the distance, but fortunately it was not until just after we returned to our cars that the rain came down in torrents.

The Park is interesting because it was the first full commission of the famous Capability Brown, and also because of its unusual layout. There is a small area of lawn round the house, then a large area of pasture in which sheep and cattle picturesquely grazed and beyond that the Pleasure Grounds. There are therefore, not one, but two of Brown's celebrated ha-has, or sunken fences, one to keep animals off the area of the house and one on the other side to keep them from the Pleasure Grounds.

These Pleasure Grounds consist of a long strip of shrubberies extending from the church -another Brown design installed as a park feature on a hill - down to a lake. The lake is connected to the house by the "Croome River", a winding artificial waterway. The various works of restoration the Trust has done were pointed out - replanting shrubberies, dredging the lake and river, reinstating bridges and renovating park buildings, including Brown's grotto at the end of the lake and the magnificent Temple Greenhouse, designed by Robert Adam. Also one of the several brick culverts installed by Brown has been exposed, to remind us what an extraordinary feat of engineering it was to create this splendid landscape from what had previously been a featureless bog.

Brockhampton Church before
The restored Capability Brown grotto

Thanks are due to Peter Chester - a member of the National Trust committee concerned with the development of Croome - for arranging the visit, and to Michael Smith and his team for all the time and effort they gave for our benefit.

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