Monday, April 22, 2013

Stowe Gardens Part 1

Saturday was a perfect Spring day for wandering the paths of Stowe Gardens. Over 400 acres of beautiful grounds that contain a dozen monuments, pavilions, temples, a grotto, a fake ruin (very fashionable in the Romantic period, according to Lynn), a huge estate house, and an exclusive private school.

The previous owners of the estate (before it became the property of The National Trust) were wealthier than the King. When a Lord Whoever came for a visit, they would have a colossal column or temple built in his honor.

The landscape architecture makes use of a technique called ha-ha. To keep sheep and other livestock confined to certain areas without the visual distraction of walls and fences, hidden walls are made by digging trenches and building a hidden brick or stone wall. The ground level from that point on is several feet lower than the top of the wall. From the main house you can’t see the trenches or walls and the landscape looks like an uninterrupted flow of grassy fields, much like an infinity pool hides the pool’s edge and the water blends into the sky or sometimes the ocean. If you can afford a temple for a guest, you can certainly afford a ha-ha or two. I hate it when a fence or wall messes up the view from my mansion.

In 1786 Thomas Jefferson visited Stowe and wrote “The enclosure is entirely by ha! ha!”

Robin demonstrates her Quasimodo bell-ringing technique at The Bell Gate.
Or maybe that bell is a lot heavier than it looks.

Looking toward the main house which was completely rebuilt in late 1600s.

A pastoral setting indeed.

It’s always nice to include a Gothic temple on the property. 

The House of Friendship. Lord Cobham had this built so he’d have a nice little retreat for himself and his well-connected friends who belonged to the Kit Kat Club. This building had a cellar kitchen for the banquets they had here.   Several years later he built a similar building a half-mile away for his wife and her friends, with a direct line of site between the two buildings. Lord Cobham sounds like a much more fun chap than Lord Grantham over at Downton Abbey.

A Palladium Bridge crosses a stream. Italian architect Palladio was very hot at the time. 

Robin pauses in the archway of a fake ruin. Fake ruins were a must-have if you wanted to be cool.

The Pebble Alcove.

The mosaics in the Pebble Cove are made of pebbles. Lord Cobham, I like your style.