Grass Happy at Compton Verney!

The past two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind to be fair, the team having been reduced by 50% due to some well deserved annual leave. Negatively, much has needed to be put on hold during this time as the demands of the season call for grass cutting; and lots of! On the positive side however, I’ve been forced into spending much more time out in the grounds so as not to fall behind with mowing, time that I’ve cherished.

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Looking east from the spring at Compton Verney.

Mowing all the open areas on our larger mower takes around two days at this time of year plus a good deal of follow-up trimming with strimmers and pedestrian mowers. I can also report that I have reaquainted myself with the trusty strimmer which was a bit of a ‘getting back on the bike’ moment, slow but sure…

Mowing on a professional level is very different from grass cutting in a home environment. Due to the length of time spent sitting or strapped to such machines health and safety calls for items of ‘personal protective equipment’, a key item being ear defenders which plunge the user into an almost silent world. It still strikes me as odd when a passer-by makes a casual comment when I’ve a noisy machine running and bright yellow ear defenders on, but it’s nice to be recognised and treated as human I like to think. For the record, I rarely hear anything but the low hum of the machine!

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Looking east over the bridge at Compton Verney

In all honesty, the trick in presenting a ‘Brownian’ landscape garden effectively is its grass care.  If, and it is a big ‘if’, you can keep up with the mowing required: wide open lawns, grass paths around the meadow and through the coppice, and those awkward sloping banks down to the neat lakeside verge; then you’re well on your way to fulfilling ‘Capability’ Brown’s landscape aspirations.

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Strimming the path to the fishing pegs at Compton Verney.

I’m not sure it can ever be finished and we react by prioritising, and re-prioritising the mowing schedule. Mowing is influenced by other events at Compton Verney, but a key factor is typically the weather, our machines cope fairly well in wet conditions but the quality can suffer, especially if the grass has grown longer than we’d have liked. We’re all accustomed to grass growing fast at this time of year, but if managed well it can make all the difference to the presentation of the property as a whole.

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Will the mowing be finished before the rain falls?

This week for a change I centered some mowing on the ‘Untitled boulder’, the John Frankland piece on the approach to the gallery. Instead of mowing up and down the lawn, I started by circling the boulder, continuing outwards in ever-growing circles….it certainly didn’t take any longer and might even have made the rock the centre of attention for a change!

 One final area worth mentioning is the East Park, two large meadow fields we care for with a public right of way which runs right through their middle. To encourage further use we mow a circular footpath around the field nearest to the gallery, a path which cuts a swathe through an area that preserves beneath the archaeological remains of the medieval village of Compton Murdak. Wild flowers and butterflies appear in the summer, and can be enjoyed along with a spectacular view back towards the mansion from the top of the ridge – a view well worth the effort.

I haven’t mentioned the hours of strimming required to keep paths open, shrubs clear of weeds and fishing pegs clear of weed. but for now I’ll spare you the detail, and maybe save that for a future post. Suffice to say that there is more to strimming than walking along with your brain switched off. In bad hands, a strimmer can have devastating effect and cause long-term damage, yet in good hands can finely tune the best of our nations gardens, but more of this anon. 

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I must have been grass-happy to pose for this shot…! Gary Webb at Compton Verney

And for the final image on this post. In a rare moment of bravery I thought I’d add a photo of yours truly, just so you know who is writing all this questionable material about such a fine subject. Don’t worry, I’ll be looking to feature the wider team in the very near future, but for now I’ll sign off after a very long week of mowing. As the title says, I am at the moment grass-happy!

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