Recently I found myself contemplating the nature of ‘classical’ landscapes, not from the comfort of home reading a book, but from the remains of a damp hermitage perched on a hillside at Stourhead.
Having felt much like Aeneas, having firstly sheltered from a torrential downpour in the grotto, I then commenced the walk up to the Temple of Apollo via the rock bridge and zig-zag path. As the rain increased to such an extent as to almost obscure the view, I found myself thoroughly soaking wet and took shelter halfway up in the hermitage.
It was here looking out at the view that something didn’t feel right about Stourhead, the problem not being the mix of classical architecture, or the loosely based classical references, but the view – or more precisely the lack of it.
Where was the view? All I could see through the rain was a mass of beech trees. Earlier on, following the route down from the house, brief glimpses of the pantheon and grotto would jump suddenly into view but be quickly replaced by an almost claustrophobic feeling of being enclosed by trees. Continue reading