Josie d'Arby marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot "Capability" Brown, and Aled Jones samples some biblically-inspired beers, with inspirational hymns and music.
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Today on Songs of Praise,
I'm marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of Britain's
most famous landscape gardener, Lancelot "Capability" Brown.
The beautiful grounds here at Ashburnham Place in Sussex
look so natural, but they were in fact
meticulously designed by this humble pioneer,
who transformed hundreds of landscapes across the country.
Aled is tasting beers with a biblical twist over in Sheffield.
And Claire McCollum hears from soul singer Dana Masters
who, when she's not leading worship at church,
has been performing on the big stage.
# Here we are... #
And just like this landscape,
there's an array of music to inspire you.
We've hymns that celebrate the beauty of nature.
And we begin with this childhood favourite.
The father of landscape gardening, Lancelot "Capability" Brown
began his career as a humble cabbage planter, rising to royal gardener.
He left his mark on over 250 different English landscapes.
His most famous surviving works include the parklands at
Blenheim Palace, Highclere Castle, the setting for Downton Abbey,
and Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.
The unusual nickname of Capability
was given to Brown during his lifetime
because he would enthusiastically describe
the landscape as having great capability for improvement.
His signature features include
the grand sweeping drive, with glimpses of the house beyond,
the use of imported cedars of Lebanon
and decorative garden buildings, like temples and follies,
that others were quick to copy.
He spent more than a decade overseeing the design
of the Ashburnham parkland and gardener Jay Ashworth has studied
how Brown transformed this Sussex landscape.
One of the key elements
that Capability Brown used so well was water.
There was a very small mill pond here,
but nothing like this amazing lake
that he put in along with two others further up the property
and that's one of his classic things is to have
a serpentine series of lakes that you can't see the end of
so there's a sense of mystery, a sense of you don't know
what's around the corner so you want to keep walking to find out.
It's incredible to think now that he did all of this
without machinery, without diggers.
What a labour of love it must have been!
I know, absolutely.
There were men hand-digging these lakes out with shovels.
I know, it's astonishing.
And we also have records of a local man being employed
to bring his oxen in to puddle the clay at the bottom of the lake
to form a lining.
So, what inspired Brown and what did he want to achieve?
I think he was really inspired by the English countryside
that he grew up seeing and being part of and I think
what he was trying to achieve was an idealised version of that.
He called himself a gardener and a placemaker.
It wasn't just about putting a back garden in for somebody.
It was about creating a place, a space,
something completely different than what had gone before,
much more inspired by the English nature and much more reflecting it,
but a real idealised version of it.
It does make you wonder if this love of creation that he had
was a fruit of his spiritual life.
Yes, I think you cannot but be amazed by creation
when you're working in it in the way that he did and I hope and imagine
that that's what he felt.
It's certainly what I feel when I'm working here cos it's just
so obviously to me pointing to creation and to the creator.
Today, a community of Christians live at Ashburnham Place
and thousands of visitors also come on retreat.
But individuals can find sanctuary here, too,
sometimes at difficult times in their lives,
like volunteer Wendy Gregory.
I'm not as good as you are. You seem like a natural out here.
Oh, I think it's a work in progress! I haven't always done this.
I was a teacher for over 20 years.
I thought I was going to be doing that forever,
but I had a lot of things going on - coming to terms with
a marriage that had broken up and learning how to be
a single mum and I found I just couldn't teach any more.
I became very ill.
It kind of came to a head where I had a complete breakdown.
a good friend of mine was able to phone the emergency services
who picked me up,
took me to hospital where I stayed for nearly two months.
'A year and a half on, Wendy finds that being here
'has been an important part of her recovery.'
For me, I think just rediscovering gardening has just reminded me
of the little things in life and how they can anchor you
and just give you so much more fulfilment.
You know, I'm somewhere between having a faith
that had kind of crumbled for a long, long time,
that door was firmly closed for many years, but since working here,
I get a sense of there being a much bigger idea out there.
I feel very humble being part of that,
-but I feel quite comforted by it, too.
We all have things we like to do to relax,
like being at a retreat like this one.
But some people like to pop to the pub for a pint
so what if that pint came with a religious message?
Aled's in Sheffield to meet a man who's marrying his faith
with his passion for a good pint.
So I see a selection of bottles in front of me here.
It's got Jesus on the front,
-but they've also got biblical-esque names.
-Take us through them.
So the core range consists of Oh Hoppy Day, Jonah and the Pale
and we've just done this American one called Glory, Glory - Aleluia.
Nick Law has been brewing Bible-inspired beers since 2014.
I got into it a few years ago just as a way
of trying to express my own personal faith in Jesus
and bringing a passion that I love together of brewing beer
and I found that obviously when you start brewing beer,
you have to put labels on it and stuff
so I just came up with this brand Emmanuales
and I just found that it was a really great conversation opener.
Is it a way of evangelising your faith, then?
I mean, yeah, on one level, yes, but our vision is to brew beers
of biblical proportions and spread the good news one beer at a time.
You've used that line before!
But I'm not trying to force religion down people's throats,
yet if you find something more in that and it makes you start
a conversation about religion or spirituality or just love
and what's going on in the world, then great.
A lot of people will say what's Christian about it?
Well, there is quite a large heritage in the church history
over thousands of years of Christians brewing beer
so if you think about the Trappist monks,
they effectively industrialised the brewing of beer
so you get these monks in monasteries throughout Europe
brewing this beer to welcome pilgrims on their journeys,
partly because it was safer to drink than drinking water
and partly they used it to fund the work of the monasteries.
What do you say to those who maybe find the vision of Christ
on a bottle of beer offensive?
Jesus' first miracle, recorded in the Gospel of John,
is to turn water into wine and I think one of the things that
I really believe is that Jesus loves everybody
and I love on the logo that it's the open arms.
-It's the all-encompassing welcome of Jesus.
-I suppose we should try one, shouldn't we?
-What have I got here?
-So, that's Jonah and the Pale.
I'd better get trying. Cheers!
Later in the programme, we'll find out how one trainee vicar
came to inherit Ashburnham Place
and its Capability Brown-designed landscape.
Our next hymn celebrates creation and renewal,
comparing each new dawn to that first day in the Garden of Eden.
Next up, Claire McCollum is catching up
with singer-songwriter Dana Masters.
Originally from America,
she's made a new home in Lisburn, Northern Ireland.
# Your love that breaks every chain... #
Dana is one of the pastors at the Lagan Valley Vineyard Church
in Lisburn, County Down, but when she's not leading the worship there,
she's performing to thousands at events like the BBC Proms.
# And here we are, here we are
# In heaven, baby... #
Dana only moved to Northern Ireland eight years ago
and both she and her husband
were two of the founding members of the church.
Andrew oversees the vision and direction
while Dana is involved with the music.
Music is obviously a very important part of the service here
-so what are the acoustics like?
-You know, this is a warehouse.
It wasn't built necessarily for...
No, it was a pet food shop so, yeah,
it was definitely not designed with music in mind,
although I think it works.
It works OK, we have to just be really careful with the sound
and how loud things are and our drum kit is in, like,
a little cage with a top on it.
I feel so bad for our drummer, he probably feels like a hamster,
-but, yeah, so...
# I found a dream... #
Since coming to Northern Ireland,
Dana's music career has taken off,
playing with names like Sir Van Morrison.
# When I am lonely as I can be
# I know that God shines his light on me... #
# Burning ground
# Please, please let it take me down... #
I don't think I expected any of this, really,
when we first moved here.
I always sort of say to people
my music career is sort of a happy accident.
It's amazing, I feel super blessed.
Do you feel God is always close to you when you're singing
wherever that may be?
It's funny because I definitely feel God with me when I'm in church,
but there's a special way that I feel God's presence
when I get to do it outside of church.
Like, God isn't hiding in church buildings
and so when I'm in a room full of people,
be it a dingy pub or a theatre or whatever,
I feel a very sweet sense of God's presence.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Thank you so much. Thank you.
# Lift every voice and sing
# Till earth and heaven ring
# Ring with the harmonies of liberty
# Let our rejoicing rise
# High as the listening skies
# Let it resound loud as the rolling seas
# Stony the road we trod
# Bitter the chastening rod
# Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
# Yet with a steady beat
# Have not our weary feet
# Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
# Sing a song
# Full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
# Sing a song
# Full of the hope that the present has brought us
# And facing the rising sun of our new day begun
# Let us march on till victory is won
# God of our weary years
# God of our silent tears
# Thou who has brought us thus far along the way
# Thou who has by thy might
# Led us into the light
# Keep us forever on the path, we pray
# Facing the rising sun
# Of our new day begun
# Let us march on till victory is won
# Let us march on till victory is won. #
Today, visitors come to Ashburnham Place
here in Sussex for spiritual retreat.
Someone who was fortunate enough to grow up in the grounds
designed by Capability Brown is Richard Bickersteth.
Richard, how did your father come to inherit Ashburnham Place?
My father John Bickersteth was a trainee vicar in London
and he got a phone call in the middle of the night
saying, "You've inherited an 82-room mansion, 8,500 acres,"
and that's the good news.
The less good news was that he had a 70% death duty tax to pay
and the house was full of dry rot
so they said nobody will ever live in this house again.
So, it was a pivotal moment for the house and the gardens
-and your father had some important decisions to make.
-Yeah, he did.
He had to sell, effectively,
the whole of the contents of the house
as well as half of the estate
in order to raise the money for the death duties
and he then wrestled before God for about five years
to work out what to do, why God had given him this house
when he wanted just to be a quiet vicar somewhere
in a nice country parish.
-And he got his answer.
-He did. By the end of those five years,
he kept coming across verses that really spoke to him very clearly
from the Bible and two in particular
from a minor prophet called Haggai that talk about...
"The silver is mine and the gold is mine,
"says the Lord God Almighty, and the glory of the latter house
"will be greater than the glory of the former."
And so my father took that as a really strong promise for him
in this place and so, in 1960,
he gave the house and the 220 acres of Capability Brown grounds
around it to a Christian charity
called the Ashburnham Christian Trust
that he and my mother then ran for 40 years.
And that's a big move and he did it on the 1st of April
cos he said it would be very foolish in the world's eyes.
So, now, lots of people can come and enjoy this amazing space,
but for you personally, Richard, do you often go out in it wandering?
I do. I love walking round the grounds and the lakes
and obviously I've spent many, many times walking with my father
and I loved doing that and now that he's gone to Heaven,
I do the same with my heavenly father
and I think it's a very special place,
not just for me but for many others -
a place of peace where God speaks to you through his creation,
through this amazing ground that Capability Brown designed.
It's just wonderful.
There's something so peaceful about this place.
It's been a real treat to experience the legacy
of Capability Brown's landscape here.
Next week, I take to the highways and byways to talk to members
of the traveller and gypsy community about how they live out their faith.
Until then, our final hymn is one of praise. Thanks for watching.
Josie d'Arby marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of one of Britain's most famous landscape gardeners, Lancelot "Capability" Brown, and Aled Jones samples some biblically-inspired beers, with inspirational hymns and music from across the UK.
All Things Bright and Beautiful from St Mary-le-Tower, Ipswich For the Beauty of the Earth from St Alban's Church, Bristol Our God is Greater from Ballydown Presbyterian Church, Banbridge, Northern Ireland Morning Has Broken from St Aidan's Church, Leeds Lift Every Voice performed by Dana Masters How Great Thou Art from St Colmcille's, Holywood Praise, My Soul, The King Of Heaven from Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.