Unexpected, revealing and surprising are words that came to mind during a visit yesterday to Stowe Garden, a major National Trust property in Buckinghamshire. The aim of the day was to meet the head gardener and his team, and also to learn about The New Inn, the latest and greatest building restoration project to be completed there in time for spring 2012.
|New Inn-National Trust-Stowe-Gary Webb.|
I was completely thrown on arrival, as the location for the New Inn is a long way from the old visitor reception, but the less grand country lane approach was much more fitting and entirely appropriate – as I was about to learn. This new visitor reception, as it happened had an interesting history, being a venue created in the early eighteenth century by Lord Cobham to welcome Stowe’s earliest, if less wealthy garden visitors. Back in the day, invited guests, those with aristocratic connections of course, would likely have stopped in the impressive mansion by invitation. The New Inn, now as I’d assume then is convivial and welcoming, and I felt worth highlighting in this blog.
|New Inn-Stowe-Gary Webb.|
Once the whole situation is understood, it seems in hindsight very appropriate to be met and introduced to the gardens via this inn, as many people in the past would have been. The open rooms welcome you to explore some of the quaint building, which has genuine and tactile features, there’s even a food production garden beyond the back door. There are none of those prickly teasel flower heads to keep you off chairs, and no ropes to keep you at bay. Conversely; authentic cloaks await trying, copies of early guide books await a flick through, and I was very tempted to try on a tricorne hat while leaning on the mantle holding a clay pipe and tobacco – heaven knows I’ve dug up so many fragments of clay pipe over the years, it was nice to hold a complete one for a change! Artefacts found during the restoration are on display, including some very early roof tiles which were inscribed during moulding with some text which leaves us in no doubt as to the changing moods of tile makers!
Much of our morning was spent learning about the New Inn, but as any proud head gardener would, Barry Smith used the opportunity to explain more about his much-loved Stowe. Some of a recently produced DVD was played where Richard Wheeler, a Garden Historian linked with Stowe unravels the mystery behind the numerous garden buildings, their meanings and reason for being. I think a number of us were so impressed we still bought a copy on the way out, which for thrifty gardeners was quite a challenge.
|Barry introduces some of the planting theory at Stowe.|
We enjoyed sunshine glinting across the surface of the lakes, wild and cultivated plants blooming in the designed wilderness areas near Gurnet’s Walk, and a light footed gardener dancing along a felled tree along Bell Gate Drive – honest! Latterly, just as some of us were feeling the pace, a darkened thundery sky encouraged us back towards the inn, but not before we streamed across the Palladian Bridge, illuminated in all its splendour by the strong, if fading sunshine. A fascinating visit was, as they say, enjoyed by all, all credit goes to Barry and the Stowe team for hosting the day.
|View between the East and West Pavilions to the Corinthian Arch, Stowe. Gary Webb|
Gary Webb (Grounds Manager at Compton Verney)
Flickr Photo Set - Stowe Gardens May 2012
Information about Stowe and the New Inn
An earlier post about Stowe