Clearing the Western View
A good deal of Morton Hall’s magical beauty comes from its breath-taking western view over unspoilt Worcestershire countryside to the Welsh mountain ranges. On garden tours, we save this highlight for last when, leaving the Orchard, visitors cannot fail to be awed by the vista that is the finale to their walk. This experience is always spectacular, in all seasons and weathers (see also November 2018 column).
We, who are so fortunate to look out on it every day, are still as amazed by this view as when we saw it for the first time. Incomprehensibly, researching Morton Hall’s history, we found that, for more than 200 years, the back side of the house had been relegated to farming concerns and hum drum functionality of the day to day running of a country estate. We decided that this most definitely needed to change!
The liberation of this gem was not without its challenges: The West Garden was the last part of the garden to be laid out, for the sheer fact that it seemed almost impossible to combine the infinity of the view with the intimacy of the back side of the house with its rambling façade. At the end this was resolved by a sweeping lawn that runs from the back of the house to the ha-ha wall and the vista beyond, with framing tall herbaceous borders that gently focus the viewer’s gaze on what lies ahead.
There is more to embracing and maintaining the view, however, than just clever planting and design. Beyond the ha-ha paddock, the ground drops dramatically along a very steep, wooded slope called the ‘Hanging Wood’. This woodland is hardly accessible and therefore left unmanaged. While this creates a haven for wildlife, it also means that tree seedlings grow up in a rather uncontrolled fashion and, together with scrub on the top of the slope, eventually create unwanted ‘fringes’ in the vista.
Every so often, we must face the challenge of the steep slope and clear out saplings and undergrowth close to the ridge of the escarpment. This is best done in early autumn before the ground gets too wet and the slope becomes dangerous to work on.
A day of strenuous work is rewarded by an unobstructed, even more beautiful view.