Stowe House, an SF Museum, and a smashing lunch

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There’s more to English towns than ancient villages choked in traffic like Buckingham and London. Linda and Mike live near Milton Keynes, a deliberately designed city envisioned in the 1960s. Here’s a quote from the Wikipedia article.

“Recognising how traditional towns and cities had become choked in traffic, [the designers] established a ‘relaxed’ grid of distributor roads about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) between edges, leaving the spaces between to develop more organically. An extensive network of shared paths for leisure cyclists and pedestrians criss-crosses through and between them. Again rejecting the residential tower blocks that had been so recently fashionable but unloved, they set a height limit of three storeys outside the planned centre.”

And I have to say it works. Housing estates are separated from the main roads by greenery. From the car, I could barely see the roofs of houses beyond the greenery. About 25% of the urban area is parkland or woodland, very different from the cramped and overcrowded suburbs of inner London. And if you happen to work in inner London, a train will get you there in under 40 minutes.

Linda went to considerable trouble to show me the concrete cows, an iconic public sculpture set up next to one of the main roads. To get there, we made our way through the narrow streets of an estate lined with lovely stand-alone houses. We abandoned the car and walked onto a green. And there they were. You can learn more about them here. By the way, they’re meant to be impressionist.

Milton Keynes is the site of a small but fun Science Fiction and Films Museum. Linda and I decided it was probably set up by a few geeks who wanted to show off their own collections. I had a ball wandering around there, recognising items from various franchises. Star Wars was prominent and I entertained Linda by telling her which movie said item appeared in etc. Apart from the many displays of models of ships like the Enterprise and the Millenium Falcon, the place was full of Lego and Revel kits, and collectable figures going way back to the ’80’s. Ah me. It brought back memories.

Unfortunately, photography was prohibited except for designated ‘selfie’ spots, where we hammed it up with Sulley (Monsters Inc), the inside of the Tardis, the Muppets, Game of Thrones, and Alien.

At the controls of the Tardis
Game of thrones
Sulley from Monsters Inc with Linda

Meanwhile, Peter and Mike had been to Stowe House. This magnificent property is now a private school but visitors are allowed into non-school areas of the house. Parts of the house date back to the 17th century but most of it is 18th century. It was originally owned by the Temple family whose family fortune came from sheep farming. Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville became the 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos in 1822. The Dukedom was bestowed in exchange for support of then Prime Minister Lord Liverpool‘s administration.

You might have seen it on the Antiques Road Show

The Dukedom didn’t last long. The second Duke managed to accumulate £1,464,959 in debts (well over £100,000,000 in 2003 terms) by 1845. He went overseas to avoid his debtors and many of his properties and assets were sold to pay his debts. The third Duke died without a male heir so the title lapsed. [source]

These days the house is owned by the Stowe House Preservation Trust and the magnificent gardens, created in part by legendary landscape artist Capability Brown, is managed by the National Trust.

The figures in the garden are part of an undertaking to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of the D Day landings this year.

Some of the garden’s art work

Inside, the house is still undergoing restoration. It features magnificent ceilings, and copies of art works that were originally housed there.

The pillars in this room are made of glass and were created in situ.
The school dining room.

This piece and the others hung around the dining room were tapestries. They were sold long ago to pay of debts but detailed photos have been taken of the real tapestries. The photo is what you see in this image.

I’m told Stowe House is stunning and I missed out. Probably. But then I wouldn’t have seen the SF movie museum.

We all met in Milton Keynes and went off to the Fox and Hounds gastro-pub for a wonderful lunch. Check the website for pictures of scrumptious food. I had roast beef two ways with Yorkshire pudding and veg and Peter had roast pork belly with crackling and veg. I couldn’t resist sticky date pudding for dessert – even though I didn’t need it.

We sat in that bay window
A lovely place to sit on a warmer day.

By the way, if you’ve happened upon this page by accident and you’d like to read more about the tour, go to the tour page where you’ll find the rest of our adventures.

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