Just off the A1 at Alnwick, Northumberland.
Location – Google Map
This landscape is the third added to my list of Capability Brown landscapes, and was a good sized commission for Brown. Alnwick Castle and the associated Alnwick Garden are major attractions on the tourist trail in North East England – and justifiably so. The recent formal garden development has proved very popular, spearheaded by the Duchess of Northumberland to a ‘Wirtz’ design it features a stunning large scale water cascade, water play features and a unique gated Poison Garden area.
I personally visited the Alnwick Garden in 2009 but my exploration was limited to the formal garden – this alone more than filled up the short time I had available. As fascinating as I found the garden, it is the landscape that draws my attention in this post. Links however are highlighted for more information on both the castle and garden; both of which have their own dedicated websites.
The 18th century Brown improvements appear to go largely unnotice, and blend in to the location without causing a fuss. This is probably down to the focus being drawn toward the formal garden, and also due to the common problem of Brown’s landscapes being largely ‘natural’ in their design; making them blend into their surroundings. Alnwick is already blessed with a dramatic landscape; the North Sea itself but a couple of miles away to the east. The castle therefore, originally situated in a more rugged and rocky setting appears to have been ‘softened’ by Brown – their are many pictures on Google Images showing the castle surrounded by a skirt of green, sloping down to the river.
The contemporary descriptions and modern interpretation of Brown’s work describe a new approach, the creation of a new terrace, adjustments to the River Aln and much smoothing and grassing of the slopes around the castle walls. There were also plans for the creation of a lake, but this wasn’t executed. Plantations and walks were created, and tree planting initiated; it is said the Duke of Northumberland planted twelve hundred trees every year for the next twenty years.
Brown seems also to have worked with Robert Adam at Hulne Priory, located within Hulne Park, a substantial walled park* and part of the Alnwick Estate. Elsewhere in the park is Brizlee Tower, an ornate viewing platform over the landscape built for Hugh Percy, the 1st Duke of Northumberland.
Brown’s work was well recieved, with a cluster of positive comments by contemporary visitors, and it appears much of his work is still there to be found. Access to the immediate landscaped areas appears possible from the castle itself, and Hulne Park, although not marketed as an attraction can also be accessed. There’s a number of websites available with visiting information but I would particularly welcome an update/comment from anyone with current and more detailed access information – where and how can we get to the best view of the key Brown landscaping elements etc.
In addition to the Alnwick Castle and Garden links above, the following is very helpful:
Hulne Park – The Northumberland Estates (with map)