The trip home through Reading was an experience – Reading Station has 15 platforms – so much for a country stop.
Check out Monday August 18 and we leave the unfriendly people of Travelodge Slough to travel to Buckingham (Kerry does not want to sit on the M25 going home but wants to see pretty villages). So I set the GPS (“Tommy”) for Buckingham formerly the centre for Buckinghamshire (some centuries earlier but now a village of some 12,000 people). Well we found a way around the M25 and its called the M40 but we made the mistake of having breakfast at one of the “Services” along the way. Service are usually a small shopping centre with bathroom facilities and take away food outlets a petrol station truck stop and often a motel. We had spent under 10 pound for a full English breakfast at Windsor the day before and here we are today 17 pounds for some burcher muesli and a ham and cheese toastie.
After about 1 hour we arrived at Buckingham but its not a pretty village (interesting old goal in the middle of town though – Kerry is not amused so I will have to see the goal next time). So we plot our return to Long Eaton and before long we see in the distance a large gate (no fence) looking like the Arch de Triumph and a sign saying “Stowe House”. Kerry is interested so after a near collision at a blind corner (my fault not looking at the road but where we are going) we turn towards the entrance which has some amazing similarities to the Long Walk (this observation would be proven correct later). We were met at the car park and asked for our National Trust card which of course we did not have. No worries so in we went and parked near the “New Inn”. On entering the New Inn I found that it was set up just as it would have appeared in the 18th century but Kerry went straight to the information centre. By the time I got there she was signing us up as Trust members and had found a chap from Toton (next village over from Long Eaton). He explained that there were extensive gardens and a large house which we could visit free as members of the Trust. Also the house was open to be viewed because of the school holidays (6 weeks in summer). So off we set. (Just before we go any further I will mention the great invention I saw at the centre – a set of stairs that retract into the floor to expose an elevator for disabled people – photo follows)
Any way we walked and walked and walked to finally arrive at the bell house (visitor would ring the bell to be let into the estate). On entering the estate and gardens you are hit by the enormity of the estate and the home at the centre of it. Looking across two adjoining lakes and past the golf course sits Stowe House. We were to learn that the Temple family were sheep farmers up till 1546 and in 1589 they bought the estate and constructed the original Stowe house which was completed in the early 17th century by Sir Richard Temple 3rd Baronet. There is a lengthy history of how this family climbed the political ladder and the royal ladder from Baronet to Earl to Viscount to Marquess to Duke. During this climb the house was extended enormously until it became the longest house in the UK. The house remained in the family but the family name changed through marriage to Grenville. One of the daughters was wife of William Pitt and therefore mother to William Pitt the Younger (two Prime Ministers of the UK) and the family became Grenvilles who were also Prime Ministers therefore the family was richly endowed with good political fortune. The sons also married well to add to the fortune which they spent just as quickly developing Stowe. At one time the Baron moved 600 people out of the village of Stowe keeping their church and resuming their land. It all came to a sad end when after entertaining Queen Victoria and the Prince consort the bailiffs moved in and sold up everything. The house of course was to emulate grand homes and impress political and royal dignitaries hence the look alike Long Walk (my idea – not based on anything else)
There is much more to the story and I suggest you look at Wikipedia if interested in the full family history. Other sites are http://www.stowe.co.uk.
In 1922 the house and estate were sold to the governors of the Stowe School and the property put into the Stowe House Preservation Trust and rented to the school for boarding and schooling accommodation. A great use preserving the best and continuing to use the building and the grounds. And the curry for lunch for the staff smelt pretty good also but no invitation was forth coming to us.
Oh I forgot to add that New Inn was built by the family for visitors to stay (obviously not important visitors) and visit the estate.
A picture tells a thousand words or so they say. See what you think:
• New Inn and the restored rooms
• Stowe House
• The Gothic building
• Garden scenes
• The front door and the back door and steps
• The main entertaining room and it statutes
• The Egyptian Room (one of them went all over the middle east and Greece to collect for the house)
• The Library the deputy Heads office and other rooms
• The Church
• The footy shed and field
• An aerial view and
• Those amazing stairs at the information centre.
As I said we went back the second day so after completing our visit to the castle we went to a pub and then to Windsor Riverside Railway Station to travel to Royal Ascot. As the Royals always rode to Ascot there is no direct train link but on arriving at Ascot you would swear there was only the racecourse and all roads lead to it.
Truly breathtaking. The first thing you see (apart from the 25,000 other people visiting) is the mounting enclosure and a modern glass and metal stand of huge proportions. Standing room only when we got inside. I bought a beer from a friendly vendor and we settled down (actually we stood up) till the events started.
First there was the fly by from the Red Arrow RAR aerial acrobatics team. That was it – we were left somewhat dumbfounded but then came the Chinook – well what this thing could not do – just amazing. This was followed by the race – time trials across a course where the pilot manoeuvre his plane through various obstacles on a course in propeller driven planes at 300 kph. There was an Aussie competing -Matt Hall and he qualified by beating the favourite Pom. Unfortunately he missed out on the next qualifying round so we went home. My camera battery was flat also and I had not packed my spare battery. NOTE TO TRAVELLERS – BACKPACK WITH ALL NECESSARY SPARES, COATS, UMBRELLAS AND WET ONES NEEDED.
Here are some of the photos I took:
• The pub
The racecourse the royal box and mounting yard
Buying a beer
• The fly by
• The Chinook
• One of the racers and
• The finish line – we were standing directly in front of the finish line and where they took off – another lucky fluke
August 16 – 18
A visit to Mr and Mrs Windsor and their castle
We had booked to go to the Red Bull Air Race at Royal Ascot Racecourse on August 17. We loaded up the car and drove down to Slough (near Windsor and Heathrow). Its only 2 hours on the M1 but the M25 is always a risk for delays. We arrived at Slough pretty much on time and after identifying our hotel and parking the car for two days we went to the rail station at Slough and headed to Windsor. Surprisingly Slough has a dedicated line to Windsor and Eton as Queen Victoria decided she wanted one. She also decided she wanted another dedicated station Windsor Riverside which connects into the Staines line. This was to prove valuable in getting to Ascot.
We caught the train (photo attached) and arrived at Windsor to learn that Frogmore House was open.
This house is in the Great Windsor Park ((Frogmore estate about one half mile from Windsor Castle along the Long Walk) and is the house (as opposed to Castle or Palace) used by the Royal family and includes their crypt in the grounds. In 1790 Queen Charlotte decided she wanted a country home for her and her daughters and its been in use as a retreat or royal residence ever since and is a favourite of the present Queen (she has special little doors for the corgis – not dog flaps but proper little doors on all the doors leading to the verandah). It is only opened twice a year and we fluked one of those days.
After walking through Windsor from the station we came to the Long Walk which has been the ceremonial drive into the castle to the Royal and State Apartments. It is quite amazing a line of trees with a road in the middle going to the horizon. Some years ago when we caught up with Angus Innes in London he took us to Hampton Court and then a pub just off the Long Walk for lunch. So I was somewhat surprised to find the pub again. Great pub and beautiful location.
Our visit to Frogmore was quite strenuous as the estate is large and the house set well into the estate. We visited the mausoleum/crypt and noticed that Edward and Wallis are buried there side by side but quite apart from the other graves (and not inside the crypt). The house is something else. I’ll let the pictures tell the story. We spent a couple of hours there (mainly because of the distance to walk) and this meant we were destined to be caught up in the queue to get into the castle.
So after a spot of shopping for some new shoes (Kerry’s feet still giving her trouble) we lined up for 40 minutes to get in. NOTE TO ALL VISITING HERITAGE SITES AND MONUMENTS IN LONDON – you will be scanned for anti – terrorist reasons so leave your crocodile Dundee knives at home – the blade has to be less than 7cm so I got mine through when we visited the Shard some time ago but I just don’t take my knife with me to public buildings any more. Waiting while they measure the length of the knife can be a bit embarrassing.
After the scanning and collecting our free audio guide we set off to visit the castle and what a castle. Primarily now a residence it is a community within itself with formidable defences for its period. It started as a wooden keep under William the Conqueror. He got his soldiers to dig a large circular trench atop a hill and to throw the dirt and rubble into the centre and on top of the pile he built a wooden Keep (circular tower) and after 100 years (the time judged as necessary to let it compact) they built the present stone Keep and the other accoutrements like gatehouse and barbican (no longer standing) and over the centuries added all the rest. The last addition to the castle was another 10m added to the keep by George IV just to make it look more impressive.
We toured inside the castle and St. George’s Chapel (it is the size of a Cathedral) (no photos allowed) and most impressive was the hall of the knights of the garter. You may recall there was a fire at the castle well you would not know it now. But good old Phil (Prince Philip) made one alteration to connect the state apartments to the castle proper. It took a good couple of hours to see it all. It is a must see in my view.
There is quite a nice surprise at the end. You can extend your ticket for one year by having it stamped by one of the wardens which means you can return for free (avoid all the queues and still get your free audio guide).
We did go back the following day – Kerry to see Queen Mary’s doll house and me to climb the Keep. The doll house was not my cup of tea as the queue is always there and never shortens but Kerry tells me it is a miniature working house with running water and electricity silver table ware and working furniture. The Keep has over two hundred stairs to its top and at the end of the first flight is a canon looking straight at you to repel intruders. Once at the top you have an unrestricted view but no photographs allowed of the State and Royal Apartments (we don’t want to catch Fergie sucking toes on camera again).
I have included some photos of:
• The bus station at Slough (a pity the rest of Slough is not as modern)
• The train – actually a museum piece on show at the station
• The Long Walk and the entrance to the State Apartments form the Long Walk
• The crypt front and back (where the graves are)
• Frogmore House and Frogmore Estate gardens
• Flowers in the streets of Windsor
• The Keep (the Union Jack means the Queen is away – her own flag is flown when she is home), St Georges gate
• St Georges Chapel and the apartments of the clergy and some of the grotesques on the Chapel exterior (these are the little faces images featuring throughout gothic structures. I always thought them to be gargoyles until reading about them in the castle)
• The moat (never filled with water)
• The gate house to the Keep and the views from the Keep