Arcadia reminds me of my childhood. I grew up near Stowe and often wandered around the park on my horse, going from ruin to ruined folly wondering what it was all about, why everything was falling down through neglect or design but enthralled by the fantasy. Stowe was in a terrible state of repair in those days and the fact that the great house was home to one of England’s great public schools, which can count Sir Richard Branson amongst its expelled alumni, usury I think was the cause, had done nothing to ensure that the great park was maintained. And yet, this great park with its 24 or so follies inspired a Europe wide landscape movement.
I am not going to try to explain the philosophy behind Arcadia: I am not even sure I understand Masonic symbolism. And, of course, compared to Stowe it is very modest. Yet, it has its charms. The most delightful must be the rotunda, a Roman temple standing at the end of the lake (if only one could arrive by boat…now there is potential for outsourcing). The temple contains a small museum of mainly Roman objects from vanity mirrors to funerary scultpure. Nothing is identified or explained: one has to wonder what the curator and staff get up to all day long. Visitors go in, glance and leave indifferent, none the wiser. If they were helped to look they might be enchanted. Roll on privatisation and yet, the lack of care, the decay, the chaos are surely some of the reasons I live in Poland. It is like England was when I was a child.
For some reason, every tree in the park had been numbered. Actually, the whole place is a little over run with trees. Perhaps they are all doomed to be felled and order will be restored. Good and not so good. The present is catching up too quickly.
Above the temple entrance the words of Francesco Petrarch greet the visitor,”dove pace trovai d`ogni mia guerra”
Which roughly means,” Where I found peace from all my troubles”. Ah, the past.