I first came across Chiswick House and Gardens on a cold wet November day in the early 1990’s as a young 23-year-old. I was looking for the perfect place to walk my energetic and frankly rather nutty rescue Lurcher Tilly. I found the perfect place on a number of different levels.
Sandwiched between the busy and noisy A4 and A316 out of London is the most magnificent, glorious, divine, beautiful bucolic combination of house, garden and landscape in the entire world.Chiswick Gardens on a sunny, frosty morning © Andre Patterden
I had long admired the work of William Kent for the landscapes he created at Rousham House, and at Stowe and the interiors at Houghton Hall but here on my doorstep in the early 1990’s in West London was a frankly rather unloved and unkempt landscape that still had the bones of greatness. Much has been written about the history of the house and garden and the colourful stories it can tell, here I am purely saying why I love it so muchCrocus flowers in front of Chiswick House © Chiswick House
I entered the imposing stone Burlington Lane gates, to see the 15-metre-high stone Obelisk. I was captivated at the craftmanship, the scale, the decayed elegance and the theatre. The obelisk is centred on a Patte d’oie, or Goose Foot to you and I and gives you four choices of which direction to go. I wanted to walk to the Ionic Temple which was being beautifully framed by an avenue of tall trees. Tilly the dog had seen a squirrel and had other ideas and was off like the wind. I had to follow her though the dense undergrowth of the wilderness areas.A stunning view across the lake to the grotto © Chiswick House
After finding a cricket pitch and some wonderful old Yew trees we came across the Classical bridge which straddles the canal, that Kent had built purposefully not straight and more natural. It is this combination of the formal and the informal that I find so inspiring and that informs the timelessly elegant gardens that I design. The fact that the freed terrapins now mix with native coots and moor hens on the canal is a bonus! I walked for hours that day in total disbelief that something could be so utterly divine and inspiring. I even exhausted the dog…
When visiting the 65 acres of gardens and grounds I never seem to take the same paths or follow the same route so approach all the wonderful neo classical features and buildings (too many to list here) from different directions and see different features ever time. You can be lead from cascade to obelisk, amphitheatre to majestic Cedar of Lebanon, to rose garden to conservatory… all the while being surrounded by the classical antiquity created over 300 years ago.The Ionic temple © Paolo Pampolin
I’ll never tire of Chiswick House, the birthplace of the world-famous English Landscape Movement and am so glad that in the 00’s it underwent a massive restoration and is now safe in great hands of the Chiswick House Garden trust and that it is ‘there for everyone everyday’.
I know where I’m off to now…