Wilkie has been commissioned by the Baring family, which owns the estate, and will work closely with them and The Grange Festival team to restore the original Arcadian vision of the park, creating a new experience for opera audiences in the first season in June and July 2017.
Kim Wilkie’s plans include restoring parts of the original driveway to The Grange so opera goers will not only have a smoother ride to the site, but also experience stunning views of the historic mansion on the approach. Shrubs and trees which have for decades hidden views of the extensive ornamental lakes, are to be taken down, opening up the original vistas. Arable land surrounding the mansion will also be returned to pasture, recreating the pastoral paradise originally envisaged when the parklands were first landscaped in the 1760s.
Mark Baring, owner of The Grange, said: “My father and I are delighted to have secured Kim Wilkie’s help in restoring key features of the parkland at The Grange. We are confident that, coupled with TGF’s exciting plans for the opera, the changes we are making will help transform the experience of opera-goers.”
Kim Wilkie commented: “The Grange is a wonderful Arcadian landscape of ruined temples, grazing cattle and swans drifting on a still lake. The restoration of the park will create a perfect setting on a summer’s evening to wander out from the opera with your head full of music to feast in the meadow.”
Alan Titchmarsh, gardener, novelist and broadcaster, who is on the Board of The Grange Festival, will collaborate with Wilkie to ensure the wider plans for the park are married with the best possible experience for The Grange Festival’s audiences. The former parterre garden will be removed and a new lawn with mowing plan will provide private picnic pavilions overlooking the lake and valley and a space to stroll and take in the delights of an evening at The Grange.
Alan Titchmarsh said: “No-one is more qualified than Kim Wilkie to enhance The Grange’s landscape so that the building and its setting complement one another perfectly. His work at Boughton, at Claremont and other high profile estates have shown him to be supremely creative; his style, while being sympathetic to existing surroundings, has tremendous originality and verve. His ability to elevate and improve a landscape with sensitivity and élan is second to none. It is an honour and a delight for me to have some small involvement in the work of a landscaping giant. The Grange is hugely fortunate to be able to benefit from his skills.”
Michael Chance, Artistic Director of The Grange Festival, said: “An opera house in Arcadia is what we are all aiming for. Kim Wilkie’s plans to return this fabled park to its 18th century look are inspiring. We at The Grange Festival are thrilled to be collaborating with such an artistically minded landlord, who is mindful of both the rich heritage of The Grange and the rich possibilities of the theatre, and who is investing so much in our combined futures.”
The landscaping project is already under way and will be completed in time for the opening of the inaugural season of The Grange Festival on 7 June 2017 with a new production of Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria, directed by Tim Supple, Bizet’s Carmen, directed by Annabel Arden and Britten’s Albert Herring, directed by John Copley.