architecture, church, eyecatcher, Folly, garden, garden history, landscape, Northumberland, Rustic shelter, Summerhouse

The Sitooteries at Belsay, Northumberland: 20 Years On

One of the few upsides to the current situation is that there is time to rootle around in the attic and find all sorts of forgotten files full of treasure. Opening one box revealed this invitation to the private view of The Sitooteries, 20 years ago this month. What’s a sitooterie you may ask? Well it’s as simple as it sounds – a building to sit out in (the term is supposed to originate in Scotland, so try saying it in your best Caledonian accent).

architecture, Folly, garden, hermitage, landscape, Lincolnshire, Rustic shelter

The Hermitage, Brocklesby, North East Lincolnshire

As the nation settles into staying at home, forgoing a social life and, more practically, visits to the hairdresser and beauty salon, the Folly Flâneuse got to thinking about those fashionable landscape ornaments called hermitages, in which men (presumably women had more sense than to apply for the vacancy) lived in isolation. With ragged clothing, long fingernails, and unkempt beards, the hermits animated the landscape, whilst creating a little drama for the visitors who caught a (staged) glimpse of the recluse.

architecture, belvedere, eyecatcher, Folly, garden, landscape, North Yorkshire, Rustic shelter, Summerhouse

Fisher’s Hall, Hackfall, near Masham, North Yorkshire

Photograph courtesy of Gail Falkingham

Studley Royal, near Ripon, stays comfortably in the upper reaches of the list of most-visited National Trust properties, helped by the fact that the landscape garden features that epitome of eye-catchers, Fountains Abbey. But only a few miles away from Studley’s shops and scones is Hackfall, a tranquil vale* which is sublime, romantic and wild – and totally devoid of facilities. Both were created in the 18th century by the Aislabie family of Studley.

architecture, belvedere, Folly, garden, Grotto, landscape, Rustic shelter, Summerhouse, Temple, Tower

Kyre Park, near Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire

The grounds of Kyre Park were laid out in the second half of the 18th century for the Pytts family. A roughly horseshoe string of ponds was created, with ornamental cascades and bridges, and this landscape formed the backdrop to pageants and garden parties in the Edwardian era. In 1930 the estate was sold, and a series of institutional tenants then occupied the house. In the 1980s the depressing phrases ‘semi-ruinous’ and ‘partially collapsed’ were used to describe a Hermit’s Cave and a tunnel. But by the end of the century Kyre Park had found its saviours…

architecture, Folly, garden, landscape, Rustic shelter, South Yorkshire, Summerhouse

Deffer Wood summerhouse, Cannon Hall, Barnsley, South Yorkshire

Deffer Wood summer house, Cannon Hall, Barnsley

Root houses, so named because they incorporated natural materials such as tree trunks, branches, bark, moss or heather, became key features of gardens and parks in the 18th century. Richard Payne Knight summed up the genre in his poem The Landscape in 1794

The cover’d seat, that shelters from the storm,
May oft a feature of the landscape form,
Whether composed of native stumps and roots,
It spreads the creeper’s rich fantastic shoots;