Templa Quam Dilecta: Stowe Garden

With the garden in pseudo-dormant mode, visiting gardens without the habitual apprehension of neglecting one’s infinite gardening to-do list, is a delight. Unless one harbours strong galanthrophilic tendencies, it could be argued that this may not the best time of year to visit gardens. Void of formal herbaceous borders, landscape gardens are an exception to the rule. Breathtakingly beautiful, Stowe is the remarkable creation of Charles Bridgeman, John Vanburgh, James Gibbs, William Kent and Capability Brown, where ornamental buildings, vast expanses of pristine lawns, woodland and lakes, provide incredibly handsome views, through the seasons.

Stowe is studded with architectural masterpieces, such as (a.o.) the Doric Arch, the Rotunda, the Temple of Ancient Virtue, the Temple of Worthies, the Palladian bridge, the Boycott Pavilions, but its the relatively austere, beautifully restored ha-ha, that I so admire. Ha-has are ingenious, invisible features (or perhaps not a feature as so defined), unifying formal gardens with natural fields, providing the illusion of forever sweeping lawns. To the credit of my parent’s in law, a ha-ha was built in our garden over 40 years ago, and since instilled much respect and admiration for this the most modest of garden features.

Built by Bridgeman, Stowe’s has to be the mother of all ha-has. Thought to be the first of its kind in England and longest ever built, enclosing an area of approximately 400 acres. Curiously, in some places, the ha-ha wall stands a few feet above ground, hence not true to its characteristic obscured impact. Consequently questions are often raised as to it being a bona fide ha-ha. On balance, the terraced walks and bastions, bear more resemblance to military fortification revetted with turf, than the gentle unification of garden and pasture. However, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a ha-ha with protruding fringe benefits.

Spot the ha-ha
Palladian Bridge, Gothic Temple & Lord Cobham's Pillar
Palladian Bridge, Gothic Temple & Lord Cobham's Pillar
Mystery magical tree
Lord Cobham Pillar
The ha-ha
The Doric Arch
Temple of Worthies
The Rotunda
Temple Family Motto
The Cascade
The Western Pavilion
Temple of Ancient Virtue
Temple of Friendship
Dog of culture
Gothic Temple at Stowe
Military battlement ha-ha
Ha-ha wall
Protruding ha-ha
Lake in the Elysian Fields
Stowe House

Since the National Trust took it on in 1989, Stowe has and continues to undergo lengthy restoration. April will see the opening of the newly restored, New Inn Farm buildings with its charming courtyard of stables, coach house, kitchen, and brewery. The New Inn is located to the east of the main avenue, close to the Corinthian Arch. Initially built in 1717 for Lord Cobham, the New Inn serviced both Stowe visitors and travelers along the then, Radclive highway which ran between Stowe and Buckingham. The inn became a farm when the highway ceased to be in 1860. The restored New Inn will function as the new visitor centre, enabling visitors to experience Stowe as their eighteenth century compatriots, on approach from the main avenue leading to the iconic Corinthian Arch.

To the much delighted surprise of fellow visitors at Stowe, dogs are allowed (on the lead). Infact, many National Trust properties, allow dogs as do countless NGS gardens and Arboretums (Westonbirt). An economically sound disposition, as it adds yet another reason for receiving one’s custom. Sadly Rousham, has some way to go, not allowing dogs, nor children under the age of 15, unless as stated it has been ‘pre-arranged’.

Hidden within the lovely Pebble Alcove, beautifully arranged mosaics spell out the very apt Temple family motto; ‘Templa Quam Dilecta’, meaning ‘How lovely are thy temples’. The Temples certainly lived up to their name.

Competition for Space: From Sketch to RHS Chelsea Show Garden Spot the Difference: Wordless Wednesday

any comments?

Comments: 9

  1. Very nice photos, I so loved the view.. :)

  2. @Outofmyshed Thanks for lovely comment on Stowe post. Stowe is stunning, you’ll certainly enjoy it! http://t.co/YkpxDNiW

  3. Absolutely gorgeous photos Petra-very painterly and very inspiring. Stowe now definitely on my list for visiting this year. Landmark Trust buildings do look amazing places to stay-something else to explore for this year, especially if coordinated with garden visits.

  4. Hi, some really stunning photos there. Especially like the one of the Temple of ancient virtue. Is it ok for me to use it as my desktop wallpaper for a few weeks? Great work, really enjoyed this post.

    • Thank you Naomi. Glad you liked the post and photographs. Yes, happy for you to use, for personal usage.

  5. I love Stowe – I stayed at the Gothic Temple (pictured at the top of your blog) years ago with some friends. It was the very hot summer of ’76 and I remember it fondly as an idyllic holiday. I think you can still stay there, with the Landmark Trust. Imagine making your family motto come true with architecture – how cool is that?

    • What a brilliant thought. I know of the Landmark Trust, but have never stayed in one of their buildings. I looked it up and you can still stay at the Gothic Temple. I’ve added a link to the blog to Landmark trust for anyone who’s keen. Pity we are so close to Stowe, otherwise would have booked it today! The family motto is brilliant, seems to have come full circle. The Temples built lovely temples, which remind of us the Temples. Makes me think of Robin William’s daughter, being named Zelda, after a computer game. Consequently, Zelda is now much in demand and being paid shedloads to feature in, and be associated with their computer games…

  6. Thank you for the post. Loved the photos that show the ha ha. Frankly given the scale of the place it is not surprising that there are variations in its form: the topography must dictate that.

    You have inspired me to visit with my dog and also to reconsider allowing dogs in my garden which is open for the NGS. Think I have been guilty of double standards on that subject….

    Rousham – how are you meant to inspire the next generation? What are they worried about? Children drowning in the rills? I have found that my children prefer gardens with an element of surprise where they can run and explore more than looking at plants. Stowe would be a perfect garden to take them to and so would Rousham…

    • I love the ha-ha. We were getting some odd looks as we were taking pictures of what is effectively a ditch and in places a wall. So pleased you are reconsidering allowing dogs in your garden for the NGS. The few that did bring their dogs to our open day were delighted, and it was a joy to see them. Before we got a dog, we never really noticed the ‘dogs allowed’ box on the NGS form but it should be considered as it may help bring in more punters. We try every year to accommodate, so there will be water bowls and doggy biscuits available on our open day. In terms of our visiting other gardens, preference is given to those that allow dogs as it is means we get to see the garden and walk the dog at the same time. All rather efficient really. Westonbirt Arboretum are brilliant for dogs too. Gutted Rousham is so inaccessible for kids and dogs, as we would go more often. Apart from the lovely landscape garden, their kitchen garden is just lovely. As for Stowe, beautiful. We’ll be back soon!