Orpheus comes to Boughton

Posted on March 17th, 2010 by Charles Boot

Jonathan Lovie writes:

Dedicated readers of the Conservation Notes may recall reference in 2007 to plans for a new landform to be designed by Kim Wilkie for the Grade I registered landscape at Boughton House, Northamptonshire. We commented at the time that it was exciting, and all too rare, to find an owner such as the Duke of Buccleuch who has the vision, enthusiasm and understanding of his historic landscape to plan a sensitive contemporary addition to that landscape. The opening of the new landform in late July 2009 fully justified our earlier enthusiasm.

The view from the historic Mount across the canal (the Styx?) that divides the realms of the living and dead (phot0 by Jonathan Lovie)

The view from the historic Mount across the canal (the Styx?) that divides the realms of the living and dead (phot0 by Jonathan Lovie)

Kim’s design takes the form of an inverted grass pyramid sunk seven metres below the level of the surrounding formal gardens. Descending a gently sloping grass path to a square pool, the sounds of the outside world become strangely muffled and the water reflects the sky, even on an overcast summer day.* The inverted pyramid echoes the form of the early eighteenth century mount nearby, an Orphean Hades to complement the Olympian Mount.

The downwards ramp leads to a square reflecting pool (photo by Jonathan Lovie)

The downwards ramp leads to a square reflecting pool (photo by Jonathan Lovie)

The square reflecting pool is ‘fed’ by the spring under the steely cube framework sheltering a stone edged rill (photo by Jonathan Lovie)

The square reflecting pool is ‘fed’ by the spring under the steely cube framework sheltering a stone edged rill (photo by Jonathan Lovie)

Orpheus takes its rightful place as part of the Boughton landscape, where for the past five years the Duke and his staff and professional advisors have been undertaking what must be one of the most significant landscape restoration projects in the country.

It is rare to find such a sensitively planned scheme, executed to the highest standard and following exemplary conservation principles. We hope that it may be possible to arrange a visit for members to see both the restored landscape and the new landform during 2010.

August 2009

* The earthwork is named after Orpheus to celebrate its descending form and as a place for music and contemplation. When Orpheus’ wife, Eurydice, was killed by the bite of a serpent, he went down to the underworld to bring her back. His songs were so beautiful that Hades finally agreed to allow Eurydice to return to the world of the living, KW.


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