Situated on the very edge of the Lake District National Park, just south of Kendal, Levens Hall is surrounded not by towering craggy mountains, but by rounded hills that swell and roll away to the horizon. The Hall itself is old, built on the site of a medieval pele tower in the late 16th century. The gardens followed some 100 years later, flourishing under the care of the then owner Colonel James Grahme and his gardener Guillaume Beaumont.
Remarkably, the garden design you see at Levens Hall today remains just the same as it was 220 years ago. The topiary is some of the oldest in the world, with trees holding the same shapes as they were first trained to take by Beaumont himself.
It is this that we went to see. The day was one of bright, hot sunshine; we travelled on the early train from London, arriving into those glorious hills, happily taking in the view. At the Hall we were met by the current Head Gardener, Chris Crowder, and the rich, slightly bitter smell of box and yew. Our landscape contracted – from the wide skies and countryside of Cumbria to the formal design of the garden, and then, as we set to work taking these photographs, to the intricate topography of the trees themselves. They stretched high in triangular points, smoothed their edges in perfect circles, cast great shadows over us with their curves, caught the light with stark angles, and they mimicked the hills around us, undulating, rolling, swelling deep green toward the sky.