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Humphry Repton designed garden

Valleyfield Wood in the springVALLEYFIELD Wood is a popular spot for walking, but there is a rich history attached to the area.

It was once part of the Valleyfield House estate, owned by Sir Robert Preston, who was a Baronet.

He commissioned Humphry Repton, the celebrated English gardener of the time to improve the house and estate, it being the only commission in Scotland for Repton.

Aged 36 in 1788 when he launched his career, he apparently coined the term 'landscape garden' to describe the style of gardening, requiring the skills of a landscape painter and a gardener.

Although regarded as Lancelot 'Capability' Brown's natural successor, Repton was different, favouring ornate terraces between a house and its landscaped park.

At the same time as designing a landscape, Repton would create a 'Red Book' of the estate, the slim volume becoming his trademark.

Another name associated with the wood was David Douglas, who spent some time as an apprentice to the head gardener, Alex Stuart, before becoming under-gardener at Glasgow Botanic Garden.

He then started on his North American travels to collect new varieties of trees and shrubs (the Douglas Fir is named after him).

Douglas, born in 1799, is actually credited with introducing more than 240 new plant species to Britain.

After completing his apprenticeship on the estate of the Earl of Mansfield, Douglas moved to Valleyfield Estate, where he also made good use of Sir Robert's extensive library of botanical books.

It was in 1823 that he sailed on the first of several plant-hunting expeditions to North America.

Douglas met a tragic end in 1834 while on the island of Hawaii. He fell into a pit dug to capture wild cattle, being horrifically gored to death by a trapped bull.

Sun shines on Valleyfield WoodThe stone cottage he once lived in at Valleyfield stands as a ruin at the edge of the wood, while an area of open ground in front was the kitchen garden, serving the mansion house.

Remains of the ornamental flower garden designed by Repton are still in evidence, notably its wall surrounds.

At the foot of the garden was a linear, ornamental pond known as the canal, but all that can be seen now is a hollow in the ground and the stonework of a weir at its eastern end.

 
 
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