I’ve just spent a few days in the Welsh borders where I visited Powis Castle near Welshpool. I’d heard of its wonderful Baroque gardens and had always wanted to see them.
Overview of Powis Castle, Wales
The castle, perched on top of a hill in a commanding position, was originally built in about 1200, but it has undergone many changes as the need for fortification gradually gave way to more gracious living in the 17th century. An Italian or French style garden was a must: water features, statuary, terraces, stairs leading down to new vistas and so on.
View from the top, looking down.
Work began in the 1670s, and the rock on which the castle stands was hewn into a series of spectacular garden terraces. Heaven knows how they did it; the work force alone must have been huge. The result is the best remaining example of a Baroque garden in the UK. Some of the water features have disappeared but everything else is there.
Lead statue of a piper
My first photograph gives the overall view and you can see the various terraces. The second photograph was taken from the top. Looking down to the terrace beneath, you can see some delightful lead statues of rustic figures - a shepherdess, a piper and so on – standing along the balustrade. Far below, to the left, you can see a formal garden in the Dutch style, with severely-clipped yew hedges and a fountain.
Stairs down to the second terrace
Coming down a level via the attractive stairs with terracotta basket pots filled with geraniums, you arrive on the lead statues terrace. Here the view of the Welsh hills is spectacular, as you can see. From this vantage point, the formal garden has disappeared. The small statue of the piper shows the love of rustic informality typical of the period – we might almost be in Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon.
Attractive terracotta pot – and stupendous view
The last photo is of the formal garden at ground level. The view of the hills has disappeared, not only because we are now at ground level but also because of the thick yew hedges. There is also a fountain, one of the few water features to survive. The 18th century was a class-conscious age and the personal privacy of the garden’s visitors was paramount. I’m quite sure that any gardener would scuttle out of sight if my lord or my lady appeared.
The formal garden at ground level
As you descend the various levels, there is also an orangerie and various arbours where a young gentleman might converse with a lady in reasonable privacy. It struck me that any young and nimble lady or gentleman could probably get out of sight of a tiresome chaperone in a matter of minutes!