A writer from Welby was a finalist in the Oscars of the gardening world after publishing a book which took her 28 years to write.
Steffie Shields’ book – Moving Heaven and Earth: Capability Brown’s Gift of Landscape, published by Unicorn Press – made her a finalist in the Inspirational Book of the Year category at the Garden Media Guild Awards. And although she did not win during the ceremony at London’s The Savoy hotel, Steffie was ‘absolutely delighted’ to have been a finalist for such a prestigious national award.
Steffie, 70, said: “After all these years walking the ground I never dreamed my book would end up as a finalist in the Inspirational Book of the Year. The Garden Media Guild Awards (formerly Garden Writers Guild) are the gardening world’s equivalent to the Oscars!
“It was a glitzy and grand lunch at The Savoy with many leading TV and radio personalities, writers, horticulturaliists and garden photographers, with the awards introduced by [TV presenter and gardening expert] Carole Klein. I was nervous but with friends.”
Born in Wimbledon, Steffie orginally trained as a teacher and has been contributing to magazines with illustrated articles since 1989.
It was when her husband Michael’s career as an RAF officer took them around the country, with their adopted daughter Gabrielle, that Steffie began researching Capability Brown, the English landscape architect born 300 years ago.
She explained: “I began researching Brown after the terrible 1987 hurricane, when we were living in Northumberland.
“There were biographies of Brown but no coffee-table type books to display the scale of his artistry, and of course his ideas and planting are fast disapearing if not already lost, so I thought Brown could teach me to look and teach me landscape photography.
“So I began in Northumberland where he was born, in 1988 to 2016 – the book has taken 28 years! An amazing and sometimes very challenging journey.”
Capability Brown had strong links to Lincolnshire, working on five estates, including in Grimsthorpe, Burghley and Belvoir Castle. He also owned land in the county when he died.
Steffie said: “Of course I know that it is Capability Brown who is the real star – and the good news is he will be at last recognised at Westminster Abbey with a fountain in the cloisters to highlight his tercentenary and the contribution of gardening to the life of the nation.”
Steffie is a member of the Wyndham Park Forum and Lincolnshire Gardens Trust, and gives talks and lectures at Madingley College in Cambridge.