Stowe evolved from an English Baroque garden into a pioneering landscape park. The progression is of the greatest interest. Although the end result does not have quite the drama which one might expect from such a famous place, there are many fine buildings and composed scenes. In the 1690s Stowe had a modest early-Baroque parterre garden, owing more to Italy than to France. This has not survived.
In the 1710s and '20s Charles Bridgeman (garden designer) and John Vanburgh (architect) designed an English Baroque park, inspired by the work of London, Wise and Switzer. In the 1730s William Kent and James Gibbs were appointed to work with Bridgeman, who died in 1738. Kent and Gibbs designed more temples. Stowe began to evolve into a series of natural pictures, to be appreciated from a perambulation rather than from a central point. Kent's Temple of Ancient Virtue (1734) looks across the Elysian Fields to the Shrine of British Worthies. A Palladian Bridge was made in 1744. In the 1741 Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was appointed head gardener. He worked with Kent until the latter's death in 1748 and his own departure in 1751. Bridgeman's Octagonal Pond and Eleven Acre Lake were given a 'natural'shape. Brown made a Grecian Valley which, despite its name, is an abstract composition of landform and woodland. As Loudon remarked in 1831, 'nature has done little or nothing; man a great deal, and time has improved his labours'. Stowe is said to be the first English garden for which a guide book was produced. The Cobham monument has been restored and shows the owner in Roman dress.
Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, England, MK18 5EH
March to October - open 10:30am to 5:30pm Wednesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays. November to February - open 10:30am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday. Closed Christmas.
Adult £7.15 (includes voluntary gift aid donation)
In my opinion, and we have seen many gardens, it is truly an outstanding garden. Not so many flowering shrubs, but an outstanding layout, and enormously extented. 4 hours walking and after every corner another view. Not so overwhelming as Stourhead or Bodnant, but by his size nearly so impressive!
Vast but beautiful! I can't praise this garden enough. So much has been achieved with this hugely important English garden, and there is much yet to accomplish for the team. The New Inn visitor centre was opened recently and makes a lovely 'original' entrance from which to explore the gardens. Take your walking shoes - theres lots to see and it all needs exploring! The planting, architecture, statuary and views, all very classical and refreshing.
about 4 years by
2 / 5
Our outing to Stowe Gardens on Sunday 4th March was a bit of a disappointment. Although we have been there many times before, this was our first try at finding the new entranceway.
1. The Journey
I have to say that we almost gave up and went home after our first two attempts to find you. We had taken care before we left home to make sure we had the new post code (MK18 5EQ), and I put this into my Sat Nav in case we had difficulties. I approached from Bicester via Tingewick and Stony Stratford, as we always do. Arriving at the first of the two original entrances to the site, we found a brown â€˜touristâ€™ sign directing us to turn right onto the A422. Following this road, we got as far as a minor junction, where my Sat Nav told me to turn left. Having seen no other signage, I decided to see where this route led. I came to another tourist sign for Stowe, but this one led me to the second of the original entrances (now marked only for Stowe School). From the school, I then had to work my way back to the A422. By now I had switched off the Sat Nav, having realised the new post code was not going to help me. This time I carried along the A422, past the junction where I previously went wrong. There was no further signage, and we finally arrived in Buckingham (quite a detour!) before my wife suddenly spotted a tiny tourist sign, (with no mention of â€˜Stoweâ€™ on it) which we decided to follow. Sure enough, the distinctive archway then appeared ahead of us, and we knew we were nearly there.
I would conclude that the new post code is not sufficient information to direct people to your new entrance. Clearly better signage is also required. Someone should make the effort to scout the area from all directions, removing the old signage and place a few new signs (preferably with â€˜Stoweâ€™ on them), to help the public to find you!
2. First Impressions
There is a considerable area marked out in the car park for disabled drivers. This seemed disproportionate to the overall provision, but that is only my opinion. The walk from the main parking area was along a muddy, unfinished path. It may be that National Trust will eventually surface this path, but on this wet day it made a rather splashy and unpleasant start to the visit.
The impressive model of the site at the New Inn entrance had one important omission. As I studied it to try and find the â€œyou are hereâ€ marker, I realised there isnâ€™t one! The new entrance is some way off the model, and there is no indication of where the entrance actually is in relation to the rest of the site. This needs to be thought through. Also, the folded maps available at reception do not have the new entrance marked on them. It would certainly help your visitors if this information was provided.
All in all, our trip was a disappointment this time. Admittedly, the changes are very recent, and the work is clearly not finished yet. Also, the weather was wet and cold, so we did not venture the long walk to the gardens themselves.
These things aside, there is some scope for improvement. I do hope you will consider my points as useful customer feedback, as you seek to maintain your usual high standards at Stowe Gardens.
about 5 years by
5 / 5
Great day out! Beautiful, grande gardens with lots of space and freedom. Having a picknick, relax on the lawns or play with the kids? No Problem!
almost 6 years by
Dave and Jane Plumb, Coventry
5 / 5
My husband and I visited your gardens today, Wednesday 12th May, we arrived just in time for the 12 o'clock tour round the gardens with David Wilson. We would just like to say what a smashing walk it was. David was full of enthusiasm and a bottomless well of information! It really made the visit much more worthwhile spending the THREE hours in his company. Please pass on our thanks to him and the next time will he stay long enough for us to treat him to a cream tea.
Dave and Jane Plumb
over 6 years by
4 / 5
Just been to Stowe today 2nd January 2010, very cold day, all the lakes frozen over with hardly any free water for the poor ducks and swans to paddle.. but it was stunning in it's wintery beauty, most of the trees were bare and there was frost everywhere. We walked round snapping pictures of the various monuments and admiring the scenery. There were plenty of people around but it was not crowded even though it was a lovely sunny chilly day.
It was just the job to blow all the Christmas cobwebs away and get some fresh air and exercise after the seasons excess. Cold but a smashing winter's day out.
over 6 years by
4 / 5
we went on a Sunday visit in August. The weather was dry and sunny so that obviously helped a lot. I was impressed. Everything was clean and accessible, easy walking paths, lots to see as you walked round the park. There are about 50 outdoor monuments, mostly on ancient Greek or Roman themes, and some nationalistic British ones. So it is open parkland with two lakes, and 17th C ideas of history set in stone.
almost 7 years by
5 / 5
You weren't suppose to be there anonymous! That is why they were upset at you, your stupid! And how did you get in? Climb under a fence or something? If I worked there I would be pissed too! They are probably fed up with people like Gian Franco, Marian and you visiting them!! Your complaining when you were in the wrong! She had every right to tell you to get the hell out you don't own the place so stop acting like you do!!!!
about 7 years by
1 / 5
I am a photography hobbiest and visited the Stowe Gardens just recently along with my friend, who is also a hobbiest photographer. We took pictures just for fun, and just capturing the moment. We do not, in any way, sell our pictures but only share them to our circle of friends and in flickr. When we were in Stowe gardens taking some pictures, two women identifying themselves as Stowe Staff suddenly approached us and somewhat interrogated us like criminals due to the reason they said that the garden is closed at that time! They asked questions like where we made our entrance, where we parked our cars and so on. They even cautioned us not to sell our pictures! Even if the garden was closed, which we didn't even know (no signs whatsoever) but the approach was very rude and I find it so embarrasing! My question is, Is this the kind of attitude (the staff of this garden) to show for the tourist like us? Is this the kind of promotion will the visiting tourist convey to others who are looking forward to visit the place? We are so annoyed that they said we should leave at once! For other tourist who are planning to visit this place, be aware!
over 7 years by
4 / 5
We visited the gardens on spec on a foggy November day. As we parked the car, the mists blew away, the sun shone in its winter glory, and we thoroughly enjoyed a strong walk through the park. Obviously, no flowers, but stunning scenery, interesting monuments - particularly the gothic church - a great afternoon out! We'll be back in the Spring!
Gianfranco and Marian, very active and of pensionable age
almost 8 years by
Daniel Robert Macey Simpson
5 / 5
When me and my friend recently visited stowe gardens it was a beautiful sunny day, which really brought out the life in the tree's. Of course, we were really high by that point. After riding our motorcycles and parking we rolled two fat joints and found a nice shady cove to dwell in whilst we smoked the little peice of our own Botanics! Around ten minutes after indulging the fine green, we found ourselves plodding our way to the nearest temple building and ravaging our packed lunches.It was so nice to see all the children playing and adults smiling whilst we two high boys enjoyed our meal, there was even a small caravan of pony riders which trotted past to our stoned amusement. With pink eyes and hungry stomachs we journeyed to the cafe'. To our high horror, there was an tremendous que, and no air-con, we tried to cut in front of a few people, but a lady put us in line, and being too high to argue, we fell back. after what seemed like forever, we had devoured three ice creams... EACH! and the girl at the till was exceedingly pretty, but as we were too high to act on this impulse, we continued our day. After a blurry 30 minutes, we reached a bench, which was good as we were both very worn out from all the giggling we had been doing non-stop. We rested on the bench, exchanging grins and hysterics for a while gazing into the eyes of passer-by's then decided we were both too high to stay here, so off we crawled, back to our motorcycles to end the day.
Stowe in a nutshell was a fantastic day out whether your baked with your best friend, walking with your wife, or spending time with your kids, the only bone i had to pick was ther was no water fountains!!!
Is this a garden or a landscape ? Definetly the latter ! I felt it was like an overblown Rousham.
One is drawn from one vista to another through this other worldly romantic landscaped space ! Lovely, and yet a tad bizarre or at odds with todays agressive life and restrictive beurocracy.
I love the space, romance, adventure and wonderful charm but at the end of the 'journey' getting back into the car is a rude snap back to reality.
over 8 years by
4 / 5
What's the point in arguing over what to call Stowe? Its a beautiful place and the Palladian Bridge is brilliant.
over 8 years by
4 / 5
No, 'landscape garden' is the best name for Stowe. It was designed as an 'enclosed place' (ie a garden) but it was inspired by paintings of classical landscapes.
over 8 years by
3 / 5
OK, the history is great and the buildings are interesting. But why call it at garden? Surely Stowe should be called a 'landscape park'.
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