Once again it was a pre-dawn start, particularly as Milton Keynes, like Gateshead, seems to be one of those towns which never sleep, though it is certainly less filled with pre-dawn traffic than Gateshead.
It was very foggy, but I didn’t want to risk waiting and getting mixed in with too much traffic, especially as it looked as though we had quite a few built up areas to go through, but without too much trouble we were on our way through sleeping towns and villages and as we drove up the long avenue to towards the monumental arch at the top of the hill it was just as it was light enough to see.
I had hoped for some sort of layby to wait until a suitable time to arrive, but in the fog and dark spotted nowhere. Parking Thebus I took Phoebe with me to walk up the hill and check out the lie of the land regarding the approaches to the carpark. Everything was closed up and I wandered across to the opposite side of the avenue which looked as though builder's lorries were using it as an entrance. But being unsure if we might cause an obstruction I wandered back, and one leaf of the carpark gate was now open, so being a National Trust member, which gives me free carparking I decided it was probably okay to go in early and we quietly parked in one of the coach bays hoping that at this time of year early on a Sunday morning it wouldn’t be a problem.
We could have gone on in as soon as the gardens opened but the mist was hanging so low and thick I thought it best to wait a while. I say we, as dog are allowed in the grounds at Stowe, and I told Phoebe we were going for a walk and she seemed very pleased about the whole idea.
First we had to go to the reception area, where as usual she got load of fuss, which cheered her up even more, then with me on the scooter and her on the retractable lead we set off. I have been training her, to never get in front of the scooter, and to always stay on the left side. She is used to walking to heel so has taken to it very well.
Down the long driveway which takes you to the public entrance to the gardens there were various signs saying to look across the meadows for glimpses of the treats in store in the gardens, but all we could see was a thick blanket of white mist, and I was beginning to think the day might be a wash out, or should I say white out.
Owing to the heavy rain over the last weeks the paths were, though not what you could call muddy, very, very wet, and Phoebe, who is not into wet under any circumstances was looking muddier than I had seen her in my life, but she kept up a good pace considering I was on the scooter. I kept stopping and checking her breathing, as really she has had very little strenous exercise since our trip started. She is of the view, that she will go at my pace, which is normally pretty slow, and not for long, but today we were whizzing along.
We made it up to the house, which is now a school, and what a wonderful place it must be to spend your formative years. Being a Sunday quite a few of the pupils were walking, I think from church back to lunch, and of course Phoebe got lots of attention again. She is beginning to assume it is her natural right, and doesn’t particularly respond, just stands aloof whilst being stroked and admired - though normally manages to get in a bit of leaning as well!
The gardens there are truly breathtaking and it more than one way. Unless you are on a mobility scooter or one of their huge garden buggies to seat about six it is a very long walk round, which I did not really appreciate until we got the the far corner, just about as far as possible from Thebus and the carpark, and I realised it was all getting too much for Phoebe. She wasn’t out of breath and her heart wasn’t pounding but her legs had gone all wibbly wobbly. I was seriously worried about her. She is an old dog. Here we were, probably a mile or more back to Thebus and what was I to do? I knew she wouldn’t allow herself to be left, and would just follow me if I tried to go and get help, and in any case even help at the gates was probably half a mile or more away.
In the end we just went straight back, but very, very slowly. I was worried whether she would make it up the steps into Thebus, but she managed and it was with great relief that I got her into her bed. I sat and watched her for an hour or so, but she seemed more tired than anything else.
As the day wore on the sun burnt off some, though not all of the fog. Telling her to stay and rest I took the scooter down for a last look at the places we had missed. The gateman was a bit worried with me going in so late, but I told him I just wanted to go quickly round, and I really did whizz this time, though I think got some quite good photos.
When I got back Phoebe was still sleeping, but this time on the settee, so I think she was not quite as bad as I imagined. I might rephrase that - as ill as I imagined - she was obviously 'bad enough to get up on the settee uninvited!