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.
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 ‘tourist’ 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 ‘Stowe’ 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 ‘Stowe’ 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.
On entering the New Inn site, we were impressed by the buildings and design. Once the landscaping is complete the outlook from the café should be lovely. However, the café itself was disappointing indeed. There were three young girls serving, and none seemed very sure of themselves. We chose the beef pasties, but discovering they were cold, we asked if they could be heated. “You could warm them up in the microwave”, was the surprising response. Sure enough, a microwave was available for public use, but this is a rather unusual way to supply hot food in a modern facility!
The menu information was lacking. For example, there was no mention of the various coffee options available. We also noticed a ‘Saturday’ menu on the outside of the café, so a day out of date. The filter coffee I had was lukewarm. The food was nice enough, but the overall impression was that the staff were new and inexperienced, and that there was no effort being made to enhance the visitors’ experience.
We did spot a couple of older staff sitting at a table, where they remained throughout our 30 minute visit to the café. I would suggest one of them should have been helping to direct things at the counter.
The impressive model of the site at the New Inn entrance had one important omission. As I studied it to try and find the “you are here” marker, I realised there isn’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.
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!
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
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