The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

Orea­son not the need,” quoth King Lear to his fool. They are words that came to mind while gaz­ing across fields the other day at a strange stone-built struc­ture that rose up from the ground in the Glouces­ter­shire land­scape. It was per­haps 20ft high and shaped like a gi­gan­tic cone. Sheep grazed around it. “What is it?” I asked. “A folly,” came the re­ply. Ah, yes; a folly. The lovely thing about fol­lies is that they are not nec­es­sary. They are not con­structed out of a ba­sic need, but out of a de­sire for amuse­ment and a will­ing­ness to show off a bit. At a time when our minds mull over the du­bi­ous wis­dom of fix­ing en­ergy prices and the pros and cons of bed­room taxes, the prospect of a folly pro­vides a wel­come di­ver­sion from more se­ri­ous mat­ters. Fol­lies come in all shapes and sizes, from obelisks and pyra­mids to tow­ers and tur­rets, shell-stud­ded grot­toes and belved­eres, pavil­ions and tem­ples, pago­das and pan­theons. Once the prov­ince of the landed gen­try, in this egal­i­tar­ian age they are avail­able to all, at a scale to suit the land avail­able, but with­out a doubt, those that im­press the most are gen­er­ously pro­por­tioned. It is also a good idea to give them a grandiose ti­tle such as the Tem­ple of the Four Winds (Cas­tle Howard) and the Col­umn of Bri­tish Lib­erty (Gib­side). Clas­si­cal ar­chi­tec­ture is not de rigueur. Look at White Nancy at Bolling­ton in Cheshire – a whitepainted bot­tle­like struc­ture some 12ft high con­structed on Ker­ridge Hill near High Peak. It was built at the in­sti­ga­tion of Col Gaskell in 1817 to com­mem­o­rate Wellington’s vic­tory at Water­loo. At Far­ley Cham­ber­layne in Hamp­shire sits an even taller struc­ture – the Far­ley Down Mon­u­ment – a 30ft-high white-painted pyra­mid on the downs to the south-east of Winch­ester un­der which lies the body of a horse. The tablet in­side the mon­u­ment reads: “Un­der­neath lies buried a horse the prop­erty of Paulet St John Esq. That in the month of Septem­ber 1733, it leapt into a chalk pit 25ft deep a fox­hunt­ing with his mas­ter on his back.” By some mir­a­cle of fate both horse and rider sur­vived, and the horse was re­named Be­ware Chalkpit to com­mem­o­rate the oc­ca­sion. While per­haps not fol­low­ing Paulet St John’s lead and erect­ing a mon­u­ment to a cher­ished ham­ster, you could cer­tainly em­u­late Lord Cob­ham’s struc­ture at Stowe in Buck­ing­hamshire. In the Tem­ple of Bri­tish Wor­thies, de­signed by Wil­liam Kent, are dis­played a se­ries of busts of prom­i­nent per­son­ages – from El­iz­a­beth I to Shakespeare, Drake and Mil­ton. Visi­tors to the Prince of Wales’s gar­den at High­grove may have no­ticed a new take on this Ge­or­gian fea­ture – a se­ries of busts ar­ranged atop a high wall near the kitchen gar­den. The Bishop of Lon­don and Dame Miriam Roth­schild are just two of the Prince’s friends who are thus com­mem­o­rated. There is noth­ing at all to pre­vent you from do­ing the same, even if busts of Aun­tie Doris and Un­cle Bert do not have quite the same so­cial ca­chet. The Prince Re­gent took folly con­struc­tion to new heights (and lengths) when he com­mis­sioned the Brighton Pavil­ion, but for me one of the finest fol­lies of all is that built in the 18th cen­tury by the fourth Earl of Dun­more at Dun­more near Falkirk. It is a pavil­ion – a sum­mer­house with a por­tico. Noth­ing par­tic­u­larly re­mark­able in that, ex­cept that above the por­tico is a win­dowed tower topped by a vast pineap­ple, which forms the en­tire roof. Orig­i­nally used as a sym­bol of wealth and pros­per­ity, stone or lead pineap­ples were of­ten em­ployed as finials on gateposts, but this par­tic­u­lar trop­i­cal fruit is the largest ex­am­ple I know. Stay in it if you feel so in­clined – it is owned by the Land­mark Trust who have smartly re­fur­bished it. Sleep­ing four guests, it can be yours for as lit­tle as £213 for four nights – which works out at around £13 per per­son per night. But aside from ad­mir­ing the pagoda at Kew (de­signed by Sir Wil­liam Cham­bers and erected in 1761) and A La Ronde (a 16-sided cot­tage orné built in Ex­mouth by the Parminter sis­ters in 1798) think about adding your own folly to your prop­erty. Th­ese elab­o­rate

To­tally trop­i­cal: Built in the 18th cen­tury, the por­tico of Dun­more, near Falkirk, is topped by a vast pineap­ple, a sym­bol of wealth, which forms the en­tire roof

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