Keir Davidson obituary | History books

Melissa Bradford

My close friend Keir Davidson, who has died aged 74, was a landscape designer and author. His textbooks variety from the record of Zen gardens in Japan to an account of Coleridge’s groundbreaking Lakeland fell walks in the early 19th century.

Born in London, son of the distinguished African historian and radical journalist Basil Davidson and his spouse, Marion (nee Younger), a Jungian psychotherapist, Keir attended St Paul’s faculty, London. His hole calendar year was expended in Zambia instructing civics to substantial-faculty pupils, followed by four a long time at Leeds instructor coaching university. In 1973, he moved to the Welsh Marches to enable a close friend restore an abandoned 14th-century building. There he commenced backyard and construction operate, though in the evenings participating in guitar with his band in community pubs.

From 1976 to 1981 Keir lived in Japan, training English as a overseas language and developing a deep interest in Zen backyard garden style and design. His e-book Zen Gardening was published in 1982, adopted a year later by The Artwork of Zen Gardens. He also embarked on a extensive quest to investigate the everyday living of the 14th-century Japanese monk Musō Soseki. A Zen Everyday living in Mother nature: Musō Soseki in His Gardens was ultimately completed and printed in 2007. He regarded it as his profoundest function.

In 1983, Keir been given a letter from a wealthy American who, owning study The Art of Zen Gardens, wished him to renovate 1,300 bare acres in upstate New York into a manmade landscape of streams, ponds, waterfalls and trees. It was a large enterprise, long lasting 18 a long time. Throughout this time, in 1985, in New York Town, Keir fulfilled Linda Crockett, a nutritionist and a potter who afterwards turned an different health practitioner. They married in 1988.

Keir Davidson surveying at Woburn Abbey
Keir Davidson surveying at Woburn Abbey

Shortly soon after returning to the British isles in 1996 he began working for the Russell family at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire, to begin with building and developing a pond for the Duke of Bedford. He went on to work on the restoration of Humphry Repton’s first 18th-century landscape models for the household, and was eventually specified unlimited accessibility to investigate and produce Woburn Abbey: The Park and Gardens, released in 2016 and described in Place Lifetime as “the greatest country-household historical past printed in recent years”. Two yrs later on, in 2018, he revealed O Pleasure for Me!, in which he retraced Coleridge’s walks in the Lake District.

At the request of the Duke of Bedford’s brother Lord Robin Russell, he ongoing studying the Russell spouse and children background. His handsome double biography of the sixth duke and his next wife, Unbelievable Pioneers of the Passionate Age, telling of their involvement with early 19th-century developments in the arts and sciences, was published in Might 2022.

Three months afterwards Keir was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. He died at his property at the foot of a mountain, surrounded by rocks and trees, and beside a functioning stream.

Keir is survived by Linda and by his brothers, Nick and Jas, and several nieces and nephews.

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