What to expect on a visit to Stowe
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Stowe is a landscape of many differences. Head gardener at Stowe, Barry Smith, explains what you might see on your visit.
The Grand Avenue
'As you approach the Stowe estate from Buckingham you will drive up the Grand Avenue. The look of the avenue changes throughout the year – it can be completely white in the winter with a hoar frost or be a range of stunning oranges and reds in autumn. It’s quite an impressive sight and certainly shows off just how wealthy the family were to be able to have such a grand approach road.
'We leave the grass to grow long in the verges, to help promote wildflowers, it is then cut annually for hay or silage.
'At the top of the road is the majestic Corinthian Arch, which frames a superb view of Stowe House.
New Inn's landscape
'Turning right towards the New Inn and car park you will notice that the landscape and hedges are very natural-looking. This is intentional, as in the 18th century New Inn was a busy inn and farm so there would have been no time to look after the verges. This is the atmosphere we’ve tried to recreate, letting nature take over to give you a wealth of wildflowers, especially during the summer months. You should be able to count several different wildflowers as you walk from the car park to New Inn. This walk is on the original Ratley Ridgeway which was once a public road from Towcester to Bicester. The road’s closure certainly influenced the demise of the Inn in the 19th century.
'We’ve tried to recreate the exterior of the Inn based on photos from the turn of the 19th century, so gradually the hedges will grow and the planting will help to soften the look of the Inn so that it looks like a slightly unkempt, rustic Inn in the middle of a typical English pastoral landscape. This will certainly be in sharp contrast to the carefully planned landscape of the main garden!
'After you’ve had a good look at the Inn and the parlour rooms, and maybe had a pre-walk cuppa, you will head down Bellgate Drive, through the parkland, towards the gardens’ entrance.
'This is the original walkway that tourists 300 years ago would have used to enter the gardens. It’s about a 700 yard walk so will take you 10-15 minutes, or you can take our land train. Along the route you will catch sneak previews of the main house, and lovely views over the parkland. We’ve done a lot of work in the last couple of years along Bellgate putting up boxes for bats and owls to nest in, plus you will also see a variety of wildflowers.
Into the gardens
'Once you’re at the end of Bellgate you’ll see a small bell – this would have been rung by Georgian visitors to request access to the gardens. I recommend you turn left inside the gardens to see the most majestic view in all of the gardens – Stowe House over the lake, framed by trees and landscaping.
'We have a variety of trails and walking maps to help you explore the gardens. There are 250 acres and 40 temples for you to find. I hope you visit the gardens soon and enjoy them as much as I do.'