Introducing… Sharing Repton: Historic Landscapes for All

This year The Gardens Trust are leading an inspiring project piloting ways to engage new people with the wonders of our gardens and landscape history. I've been working with the Trust for a while and was delighted that one of the pilots ran a Heritage Open Day! Last week a meeting at beautiful Kenwood in London showcased the work done so far and lessons learnt, but there is more to come so to help spread the word here is Linden Groves, Strategic Development Officer at the Gardens Trust, to tell us about it all.

Refugees explore a stunning Autumnal landscape at Kenwood, London © The Gardens Trust

‘To cheer the hearts and delight the eyes of all’

In the closing pages of his Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1816), landscape gardener Humphry Repton urged “For the honour of the Country, let the Parks and Pleasure-grounds of England be ever open, to cheer the hearts and delight the eyes of all, who have taste to enjoy the beauties of Nature.” At the Gardens Trust we decided to take his words literally, and to mark the bicentenary of his death in 1818 we have been encouraging and supporting County Gardens Trusts, sites and other organisations to pool energies and organise hundreds of Repton-inspired activities, from special garden openings and conferences to research projects and books, meaning that Humphry Repton and his parks and pleasure-grounds have been able to delight hearts more than ever before.

Sharing Repton

One of the most exciting spin-offs of the celebrations is our Heritage Lottery Funded project, Sharing Repton: Historic Landscapes for All. This takes as its inspiration Repton’s emphasis on landscapes delighting all rather than a few, and uses the bicentenary as a springboard for work to pilot 5 simple activities to engage new supporters with historic parks and gardens and then share the learning so that we can all benefit in future. This kind of outward-looking approach is going to be essential in the years to come if garden history is to be valued and therefore conserved by future generations.

Autumn gold

Painting the landscape at Catton Park's open day / © Angela Sharpe

Our autumn 2018 has been fantastically busy! Thanks to a collaboration with Northamptonshire Gardens Trust we were able to welcome 27 guests from the Victoria Community Centre in Wellingborough to Wicksteed Park at the start of September. The following weekend we supported Broadland District Council, Friends of Catton Park and Norfolk Gardens Trust to run a Heritage Open Day for 600 visitors at Catton Park in Norfolk. Then we ended September by launching the first of four research and recording workshops for new volunteers at Warley Woods in the Black Country, alongside a fabulous afternoon working with a local school.

October was not much quieter though, as London Parks & Gardens Trust with English Heritage hosted 40 guests from local refugee groups at Kenwood in London, where they were introduced to historic parks and the concept that we are all empowered to help protect them. Through all of this, we have had the pleasure of meeting children intimately acquainted with a Reptonian slope by sledging down it, an Afghan grandmother now keen to get involved in our work as a volunteer, a young lady who has spent her lifetime living round the corner from Warley Woods but only recently visited for the first time, and an Egyptian gentleman who walked daily past Catton Park but had always assumed that the imposing lodge and gates meant it was an inaccessible private residence.

Seeing with new eyes

Families enjoying Wicksteed Park, Northamptonshire - the trip included paper boats, tree measuring and view framing / © The Gardens Trust

Having been deeply involved in historic parks and gardens for two decades now, I have to confess to having become somewhat numbed to their delights. Another 18th century landscape ... another beautiful view ... another interesting historic story. This project has completely changed all of that – there is nothing more rewarding or inspiring than walking a historic landscape with someone to whom the concept is completely new. After an autumn spent explaining how trees and water have been carefully arranged to form a perfect view, or tramping a hillside and showing how the path was designed two hundred years ago for such an experience, I too am now experiencing these delights as though for the first time.

Find out more

This project runs until the end of 2019 and is producing a flotilla of case studies and legacy materials so that others can use our experiences to find new supporters in their own areas. We are particularly interested in hearing from others who may like our support to repeat elements of the pilot activities.

Get involved - Sharing Landscapes competition

The man himself! Made by Haddonstone, you can win this special bust of Humphry Repton by entering the Sharing Landscapes competition.

As a delightful add-on to the project, the Gardens Trust is delighted to be running a Sharing Landscapes competition to win a bust of Repton, kindly donated by Haddonstone. The competition is open to anybody and the bust will be awarded for our favourite plan to get as many and diverse people as possible to see it. The winner could be a garden that plans to hold an open day with a twist, a public park that intends to actively encourage community groups to use its space, an individual working with a site to lead inclusive tours, a voluntary group planning an exhibition to reach new audiences ... the sky’s the limit! To enter, please send no more than 1000 words and 3 pictures to Judges will be particularly looking for evidence that your proposal is a plan rather than idea, and for projects that consciously try to attract new audiences.

The closing date for applications is 30th March 2019

About Linden Groves

Linden Groves has worked as a landscape historian for 20 years, including as a conservation officer with the Garden History Society. She juggles a variety of roles, all ultimately focussed on conservation through winning hearts and minds be they of adults or children, including as the Gardens Trust’s Strategic Development Officer.