Just to the west of Barton the MI motorway, as it heads northwards from London, divides this green and pleasant land. So far we have managed to avoid using this busy thoroughfare, although we have crossed it repeatedly, or so it seems. Yesterday we went over to Woburn, which is “on the other side” of this river of trucks and buses and cars. Today we drove over to a little village called Chackmore, which is a few miles from Buckingham, which is also on the other side.
The reason for our visit to this charming village was Sam’s friend, Nick, who he has known since they were at school together in Tamworth. Nick moved to Sydney a few years ago, and we moved to Sweden. However, Nick’s grandparents live in Chackmore, and he and his sister Chloe are visiting, with their mum, Lindsey. So Nick and Sam got to met up again after all this time, and they chatted and raved and played as if they had seen each other yesterday. Lindsey’s parents treated us to lunch at the pub across the road from their home. The Queens Head. The food was great, and the little crooked house was wonderfully country English. We had been talking to the kids yesterday about all the pubs we passed on our travels, and made a point of picking out their strange and colourful names. It was indeed a treat to have a meal in one today.
After lunch we went walking in the Stowe Landscape Gardens which are next to Chackmore. The most extraordinary place. An incredible palace like stately home dating back to the 1600s with a colourful history. Now a school, rescued in 1923 from decay and almost certain demolition because of insurmountable debts of the family who lived there. The landscape gardens, now owned by the National Trust, are hundreds of hectares of rolling slopes and old trees and lakes and woods and fields, but most interesting of all are the dozens – about 40 I think – of “follies” in the grounds of the estate. I was struck again by the eccentric magnificence of English country houses, and this would have to be one of the most outrageous.
It made a lovely afternoon walk, and a marked contrast to the utilitarian blandness of Milton Keynes, where we stopped on the way home to do some shopping. Sam is staying overnight with Nick. We will meet up with them and Lindsey again tomorrow, somewhere else “on the other side.”