Nottingham pupils learn gardening with Capability Brown


When it came to landscape gardening, none was as capable as Lancelot Brown. That is not why they called him Capability Brown the nickname was down to his habit of saying to every client that his estate had the “capability” of improvement. Even so, in the 18th century here was the go-to man for garden or park design.

Three-hundred years after his birth in August 1716, could England’s most influential gardener persuade a new green-fingered generation to love the land and what grows on it?

Not the man himself, of course. He died in 1783 after masterminding scores of park and garden designs, leaving his mark on such properties as Chatsworth, Hampton Court, Blenheim Palace and Trentham Gardens.

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, born 300 years ago

But what about Richard ‘Capability Brown’ Arkwright of St Ann’s energy suppliers Allotments in Nottingham? The costumed play therapist this spring introduced himself to the Year 3 pupils from nearby Bluebell Hill Primary School who will become his allotment apprentices over the spring and summer.

The 60 seven- and eight-year-olds will learn about the great landscape gardener and his work and even experience the creation of a Capability Brown garden.

‘We hope they will not only learn about Capability Brown but also enjoy the experience of being in an open space and picking up some skills’

They will visit Belvoir Castle, where some of Brown’s designs, although never executed in his insulation time, are being implemented by the Duchess of Rutland in conjunction with Alan Titchmarsh.

“We like working with local schools and Bluebell Hill is one of them,” says Richard Arkwright no relation to Brown’s industrialist contemporary. “They will be coming back for more visits and we hope they will not only learn about Capability Brown but also enjoy the experience of being in an open space and picking up some skills.”

Belvoir Castle, where Brown’s garden designs are being revived

Bluebell Hill teacher Claire Smith said the pupils had been learning about environmental sustainability issues. The Capability Brown project was valuable in several subject areas like history, maths and the environment.

Emma Scholfield from The Gardens Trust will be visiting the school to tell them all about Capability Brown. This year the trust is organising its own national festival dedicated his work.

The Bluebell Hill School project is sponsored by Notts Decorative and Fine Arts Society (DFAS), whose young arts co-ordinator Sue Punt, who has created the project, said: “Capability Brown helped shape the countryside we see around us and the best way to bring this history to life is for the children to experience it themselves.

Chatsworth Park, one of Capability Brown’s masterpieces

“Learning about nature and the world can be great fun. As well as learning about gardening, the children can enjoy practical tasks such as willow sculpting, identifying trees and leaves, creating collage and arts and crafts along with map making.”

* For more information about St Ann’s Allotments, visit For more about Notts DFAS visit For more about the Gardens Trust’s Capability Brown Festival, visit


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