Working at the Landscape Institute, I had a good idea about the activity of the Capability Brown Festival and had checked out the website, pilot tested interactive online games and drooled over Capabili-Teas and the Bake Brown a Birthday Cake competition. Having sat next to the Capability Brown Festival team for some time I was very aware of all the work going into making the festival a success, and seeing the fevered preparations for the big ‘baptism’ weekend, I eventually gave in and checked out the interactive map for any local (near SE London) Brown sites.
I discovered a site close to home at Foots Cray Meadows (which I had previously never heard of), clicked on the links, found a walking trail and convinced my partner to give it a whirl. We set off on a glorious summer's day and spent almost 2 hours walking a circular route through a rolling landscape, cooling off in ancient woodland, wandering across meadows and alongside the River Cray, the most obvious survivor of Brown’s design. The local shallow river was dammed in the 1780s to create a wider and much deeper lake. The dam is disguised as a pretty 5 arch bridge and acts as a weir, allowing the shallow meandering Cray to continue on its way towards the North Sea.
The ‘new’ lake is now a nature reserve and lovely in its own right, but the shallow river downstream of the bridge is incredibly popular with young families who all know that "if its hot, you head for 5 arches…"
I’m not sure quite what Mr Brown would have made of it all but I hope that he would be proud to see that the landscape's capabilities were still being enjoyed to the full.
About the Author: Emma Wood works for the Landscape Institute which manages the CapabilityBrown Festival on behalf of the wider partnership.