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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Doggy Walk At Stowe

Carol is on Half-Term this week. As it's been reasonably bright and sunny this morning, we decided to take the dogs out for a walk. We had to nip to Lidl to get some groceries, and, having got the dogs in the car, after something of a wrestling match to get Alfie loaded into his cage in the back of the car, amidst his protestations, we eventually decided to drive over to Stowe Landscape Gardens.  How he knows we're going out, I have no idea. I think he manages to pick up the little signs when we mention the word 'walk' and sees us putting our coats on. There has been some new building done there, a brand new carpark and visitor centre which we knew was opened recently and were keen to have a look. We haven't been to Stowe for quite a while (have a look at the previous post on this.) This was one of the first places we visited together when we first met and it was also at Stowe where we joined the National Trust. For those who don't know, if you are a fully paid-up member of the National Trust you can get into their many and various properties throughout the country free. As a annual membership for a couple is around £85-90 and the average admission to one of their properties is around £6-8 per person you can see how much you save as members. Not only that, but there are usually excellent tearooms and restaurants where the food is excellent. Whenever we go away on holiday we usually manage to visit the near-by National Trust properties.

Stowe is near Buckingham, around 15 miles out of Milton Keynes. The journey generally takes around 20-30 minutes, depending on how much traffic there is. You drive through the centre of Buckingham and approach Stowe along a straight road, through an avenue of trees, and you see a large arch which leads into Stowe (which also has the famous school within Stowe House, which isn't managed by the National Trust, but which is sometimes open to the public on certain days throughout the year.) Previously, you entered the park from a totally different direction, and parked up near the school. The entrance is now near the archway and near the visitor centre, which houses a shop, restaurant and other modern facilities and an area outside which has tables and chairs set up ready for the better weather so people can enjoy their tea and cakes in the sunshine.

We parked in the new car-park, which was already half full when we arrived and then unloaded the dogs, with Alfie yapping at full-volume, which let all and sundry know that we had arrived. Poppy is just happy to be out and going for a walk and doesn't need to make so much noise.

The walk down to the gardens was quite long, and there is, we noticed, a landtrain, not so much a train, as such, as a tractor pulling two trailers with seating inside, and covered with a green awning. We thought it better to let the dogs walk as they needed the exercise as much as we did. We haven't been out with them for a long time, well before Christmas, owing to the weather. Alfie in particular doesn't like cold weather although Poppy doesn't seem to bother so much as she has a thick coat. There were lots of other people walking towards the gardens and some had dogs with them. Poppy makes friends easily and Alfie marched ahead like a good little dog. He was so easy to train to the lead and walks to heel without any bother. He may be small but he's a tough little character. A lot of children love to pet him and make a fuss and if he meets up with dogs that are a good deal bigger than he is he goes up to them and sniffs them without in any way being scared. He gets in their faces, which probably scares them because he is so fast, dashing around like a whirl-wind and they don't know how to deal with him. Poppy is more measured, quiet and takes things in her stride, which is just as well.

You now enter the garden by a gate near one of the pavilions which face the main house (which is across the lake) and has a cottage at the back. We walked towards the Palladian Bridge and then back round towards the arch. We were quite surprised to discover that there was a fair amount of ice on the lake. We then walked back to the gate and got the land train back to the carpark. Alfie wasn't too sure about the ride. I don't think the likes the movement of the land train as it was somewhat bumpy over the surface of the new road. We got back to the carpark and came home. We will have to return this weekend and sample the food in the restaurant. The old restaurant was the other side of the gardens, in a somewhat delapidated temporary building which had seen far better days, so it was time to replace it. We will also bring the digital camera so that we can take photographs and upload them onto my post for that day.

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