The day started foggy and murky. But as the day progressed the fog cleared and it turned out to be an exceptionally bright, sunny and warm day. We went to the 9 a.m. service at Milton Keynes Christian Centre. Which means as it ends at around 10.15 we had the rest of the day to go out. As it's been a rather wet and miserable week of half-term, it seemed a pity to not make some sort of effort and go out somewhere in the car. But where? We had been to Whipsnade Zoo last week, so we thought it a good idea to make the most of our National Trust membership and visit a property which was within easy reach, so we chose Stowe Landscape Garden, around a 15-mile journey from Milton Keynes and just outside Buckingham. We have visited on several occasions in the past and, in fact, we probably visited there as a couple on our first date. Carol tells me now that until she met me she had never heard of the place. Since we've been visiting there is now a new carpark and visitor centre and they have restored the original inn near the entrance which is apparently where visitors would have stayed when the gardens were originally constructed in the 18th century and you walk along a path and enter the garden at the opposite side to where we used to enter when we first visited around 10 years ago. All very much improved along with a smart restaurant and shop. If you prefer not to walk you can always hitch a ride on the buggy which takes you direct to the garden entrance, but as we had to wait a long time for the transport to return we decided to walk, which takes around 20 minutes. As it was so warm and sunny this was hardly a hardship and with the pleasant scenery, mainly of open countryside and meadows with grazing sheep, it made a rather pleasant stroll.
Statue of George II
We discovered that Stowe House was open. Although we'd visited the landscape gardens several times before we had never been inside the adjacent house, basically because it is a school and it is only open on a few days during the year. Today being Half-Term it was open, so we walked there from the entrance, a fairly considerable walk. But we discovered tht it was worth the wait as the inside is quite spectacular, with some amazingly decorated ceilings including a dome where we were totally unaware of. Stowe Landscape Gardens alone are really spectacular and intriguing and, once you learn a little more about who built it and the significance of it's political meaning it becomes far more interesting and makes your visit more worthwhile. As we are already National Trust members we can visit the landscape gardens for free, but Stowe House has an entrance fee of £4.50 which is actually not a great deal when you consider what is on offer for the price and considering further the amount which must have been spent on restoring it to it's former glory, a very small price indeed. The autumn sunshine had brought out quite a crowd of people, a lot of children, some in pushchairs and plenty of dogs on leads. We have bought our two, Poppy and Alfie, before now, but it was just as well we hadn't on this occasion because we wouldn't have been able to go inside the house.
Bell Gate Drive. A pleasant walk from the visitor centre to the garden entrance at, would you believe it, the Bell Gate entrance.
A detail of the spectacular frieze of the domed ceiling
Lion statue carved by Flaminio Vacca
Statue of George II