A glorious day at Petworth Park in West Sussex.
We picnicked in the park and spotted lots of small blue butterflies feeding on buttercups. Could it be a Small Blue or Cupido minimus?
It is amazing to realise that this beautiful landscape was created by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the 1750s. A valley was damned to create the lakes, the hills and hollows were contoured by man and horse power, and thousands of trees were planted. The natural landscape we see today was the result of fashion and enormous wealth. Cottages were demolished, lanes relocated outside the park walls and farmland swept away to create the 700 acre park.
I simply adore the lakes at Petworth, their natural shape and the way the grassland comes right down to the water’s edge.
The parkland also comes right up to the house terrace. There is really no formal garden at Petworth. A small shrubbery is planted around the north side of the house and the pleasure grounds, as distinct from the park, are a mix of fine trees, including some magnificent sweet chestnuts, with drifts of spring bulbs and at this time of year carpets of naturalised cyclamen.
Walking around the house we saw that roof top tours were being offered.
How could we refuse?
A once in a lifetime opportunity to climb the scaffolding and view the Park and Town from a height of 21 metres.
The aluminium roof covering was put on in the 1970s. Unsurprisingly it had failed.
The roof was therefore being releaded. The rolls of lead, each weighing about 40kg, were cut to size on the ground and transported by lift to the roof where a team of five skilled lead workers rolled them out and secured them to wooden battens with copper nails. The joins were then soldered together producing a crimped effect. The quality of the workmanship was outstanding. I’m guessing this job will last hundreds of years.
The slate roof tiles were quarried and transported from Northumberland in the late 17th century. They make quite a statement compared to the more local Horsham stone roof tiles we see elsewhere in Petworth. Charles Seymour, the 6th Duke of Somerset married Elizabeth Percy, daughter of the 11th Duke of Northumberland in 1682. Elizabeth was only 16 years old and already twice widowed and it was Elizabeth’s wealth which allowed for the re-building of the medieval manor house in the grand Baroque style we see today.
Looking across to the South Downs.
And looking across the Weald to the North Downs. We were up on the roof for almost an hour, it was an unforgettable experience.