03 September 2012 By Billy Hawkins
Uppark, just up the road from our HQ here at Torberry on the South Downs is rather special to all of us here at Alitex.
As a volunteering group, we have all had a day helping with the gardens in the past, plus Andy Lewis the head gardener zips in and out of our National Trust greenhouse here tending to seedlings which thrive under glass.
Yesterday, seemingly in the bleak midwinter, I had the good fortune to visit Uppark and see how the gardens have been developing over the summer, as lots of clearing work has been going on. It was great to see how much Andy and the garden team have achieved. There have been whole areas reclaimed and made useful for growing edible crops and it is very evident that improvements to available space frame the house in a manner which befits its grandeur and beauty.
The challenge at Uppark is to re-establish the views and create an enhanced visibility across theDownsthat Uppark bestrides. As the gardens have moved through the centuries they have morphed from woodland and open plains which Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh hunted on, to areas which have been contained and “prettified”, with flowers and borders. Of course it is these flowers which many of today’s visitors enjoy and relax amongst but in the pursuit of historical accuracy they are not quite right and it poses quite a dilemma.
I was able to spot immediately the influence of Capability Brown having spent the last twenty years walking around Petworth Park and the previous twenty a regular visitor to Temple Newsam in Yorkshire.
The wide sweeping views, underwritten with tight closely cropped lawns closer to the house become more Repton inspired and following original plans can lead to interesting discoveries. For example, a winding path originally went around the house, drawing the stroller onto the lawns to appreciate the views. The gardening challenge is to restore, reclaim and nurture, ensuring that the donor family are kept within the process.
The history of Uppark, built as a hunting lodge is fascinating; Sir Harry inherited it age twenty and spent his time whooping it up with the likes of Emma Hamilton, a celebrated beauty, who would dance naked on the tables for Sir Harry’s guests (male, I’m guessing). The Prince of Wales was a great friend and visited regularly and HG Wells’ mother was the housekeeper 1880-83. HG Wells is said to have taken inspiration from the house in his novel “Tono-Bungay”, where Bladesover House is actually Uppark.
Uppark had the most visitors it has ever had on Bank Holiday Sunday (1000+) and with the second year of the Victorian Day happening on 8 & 9 September, there has never been a better time to visit Uppark. Click here for more details.