In the tradition of The Garden at Chatsworth, this book started out as an account of the gardens of another great Cavendish estate, Holker Hall in Cumbria. It has turned into much more: it is the story of a family, of a life, of a community, of continuity with the past and adaptation to the modern age.
Hugh Cavendish writes about the history of Holker, which dates back to the sixteenth century and has never been bought or sold but has passed by inheritance through the family line, with each each generation leaving its impressions. He writes too about his family--his grandparents who, faced with 'serious financial embarrassment' sat down with a list to find savings and 'having identified essentials, they agreed to give up taking Country Life and having hot water and lemon after dinner'--but still thought it not unreasonable to plan to divert a river to run through the park; his mother ('relations with my mother were never good, and often spectacularly bad'); his aunts (collectively identified as the 'Aunt Heap'). He describes his own life, as a child at Holker ('when I look back I allow myself the indulgence of believing I was not quite as stupid as my schoolmasters held me to be; nor quite as lazy) and later as the owner of Holker, finding a way of managing huge resources and responsibilities and also immense debt. And, of course, he writes about the garden.