As you all know well, my son and I love visiting Stowe Landscape Gardens. It’s one of our closest National Trust sites and somewhere we visit regularly. On Christmas Eve we both needed some fresh air, so without even thinking about it, we put on our walking boots and headed over to our happy place. When we arrived in the car park it became apparent that Christmas Eve was one of the few days a year that the main gardens are closed, including the cafe, shop and toilets. Oh dear, I was in the dog house, but then I had a brainwave. Although the facilities and gardens were closed, we could still have a walk and spend the time exploring the Stowe Parkland instead. Disaster averted.
We’d completed a circular walk of the Stowe Parkland with my son’s god-mum and her daughter when Stowe School had sole access to the gardens for their speech day. At that time we’d spotted a tower in the distance that we’d never noticed before, and had pledged at some point in the future to get a closer look at it.
So it seemed that Christmas Eve was going to be that day. I suggested the idea to my son and he was raring to go. We agreed that we wouldn’t do the complete loop that we’d walked previously, as I didn’t have any drinks or snacks with us, but a walk to the tower and back would answer our need for fresh air.
As we began our walk exploring the Stowe Parkland, we passed the fields that we know well from our many walks along Bell Gate Drive.
It was a really misty morning and the landscape looked really rather magical. Even more so, as we had the place to ourselves. My son was trying to spot the sheep that are normally in the field, but without much luck.
We know the grounds well from within the landscape gardens so it was interesting looking in from across the perimeter. We looked past the Haha to where we should have been able to see the Palladian Bridge in the distance. Not much sign of it in the mist.
We had to wait a couple of hours for our return walk to see it in all it’s glory.
My tour guide was on top form and led the way as we spent time exploring the Stowe Parkland. There are times when it’s not always easy to get my son out of the house, but I’m eternally gratefully that once he’s outdoors, he’s always happy to explore and have an adventure.
We passed the rear of the Temple of Friendship. The Trust had been carrying out some restoration work on it earlier in the year, but the scaffolding is now down, so I’m not sure if more work is intended in 2019 or not.
We could just make out the Gothic Temple through the archway, in the mist.
Wherever we go my son always seems to find a stick or two, although on this particular adventure he found what I’d describe as more of a log. It took some persuading for him to actually not try to carry this one along as we continued exploring the Stowe Parkland.
As we continued our walk we came to a field we’ve now named Dome field. Are they old mole hills that have grassed over? I don’t know, but my son was fascinated by them, and we didn’t see them in any other field on our adventure.
He had so much fun running from one mound to another as we walked up the field.
They held just as much interest on our walk back later in the day.
When he wasn’t mound hopping, he was cow spotting.
Before running on ahead, seeking out the elusive Bourbon Tower we were searching for.
I wish I had his energy!
We could see Bourbon Tower ahead, but at this point we didn’t know how close we could actually get to it.
But I was impressed when my son turned round and pointed out Lord Cobham’s Pillar back across in the main grounds. He knows the landmark well.
As well as spotting the Pillar and Tower, we could also see another new Obelisk ahead and off my son sped to investigate further.
He was very pleased with our discovery and even read out the inscription to me. A result!
We could also spot the Gothic Temple in the distance that we often walk past when we’re in the main grounds.
As we looked around we could see our route to Bourbon Tower and my son was off again, he was so thrilled that he’d be able to get up close to it.
The tower was built in 1741 as the Keeper’s Lodge, it must have been a wonderful place to wake up in, with views across the estate.
Some time after it was built this moat was added, so of course, as far as my son is concerned the tower is really a castle.
You can no longer go inside the Bourbon Tower and the windows are boarded up.
But that wasn’t going to stop my son from giving me a guided tour of the grounds!
We’d achieved our goal and got to see the tower up close for the first time. We both agreed that it was time to head back to the car park, and enjoy the walk in a different light now the mist was starting to clear. We took a slightly different route back too.
He finally got to see some of the sheep closer up.
Before I managed to take what is probably my favourite photo of 2018. It just sums up my son perfectly, running off on a new adventure.
We were back at Stowe on Boxing Day with Daddy P in tow, it’s a bit of a tradition, as it was the first place we ever took my son in 2009 when he was two weeks old. My now nine-year old was full of our Christmas Eve adventures, so as well as walking one of our normal routes around the landscape gardens we veered off at one point into the parkland so my son could show his Dad what we’d discovered earlier in the week. Somehow I think we’ll be visiting Bourbon Tower a lot in the coming years.
Where have you been recently?