Stroll through acres of daffodils at Cobham Hall, in a park designed by Humphry Repton
Avisit to the gardens at Cobham Hall, once home to the Earls of Darnley and now an independent girls’ school, will literally have you walking in the footsteps of Charles Dickens.
A great friend of the 6th Earl, the author would often pass through the park on his way from his home at Gad’s Hill to enjoy the ale at the Leather Bottle Inn in Cobham village.
A sense of timelessness pervades the landscape, laid out by Humphry Repton, who was featured in February Kent Life and considered the successor to Capability Brown, with rolling Grade II-listed parkland extending over 150 acres around the imposing house.
The estate is steeped in history, dating right back to Roman times, and Cobham Hall has welcomed an array of important visitors over the centuries. These include Queen Elizabeth I as well as Charles I spending a night of his honeymoon here with his bride Henrietta Maria.
From 1790 to 1813 Repton was employed by the 4th Earl to restyle the grounds to a naturalistic landscape, as was fashionable at the time. He drew up ‘before’ and ‘after’ views in one of his characteristic Red Books to showcase his design proposals and over a gradual process, visiting the Earl many times, the grounds evolved.
Some ideas, such as stuccoed walls to the Hall and a sweeping drive to the west front were turned down. Repton had all but one of the lime avenues removed, Elizabethan fishponds were given a more picturesque shape, an existing pinetum was turned into pleasure grounds and some giant sequoias were planted.
He planned two bastions as viewpoints, one made from a balustrade of Bath stone at the end of a wide gravel walk which looked out over herds of deer and cattle grazing amongst ancient trees. The cattle have long gone but you may still see footprints of the surviving small deer herd.
In Victorian times Cobham