Tuesday, 1 January 2008

IP Address.06 – a week at Ingestre Pavilion: Part the Sixth

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

In which a Walk of Ponkiness and Pulchritude is undertaken; some Bovines are Deluded by Human Cunning; a Great Garden, on a Gradient, is visited; and a Mysterious Nocturnal Assignation takes place near some Cemetery Gates.

To start, Deb and I took Daisy for a nice walk, using I think a leaflet or description from the Pavilion's wonderful stock of information.

We went along to where the lane meets the road, just by Anne's cottage. Then we zoomed straight down the road to where a development is currently failing to enhance the appearance of a formerly-pretty farmhouse. A nice path leads along to, er, a sewage farm, and my goodness you do know it's there, with its delicate, piquant bouquet spicing the air around for some distance.

Reader, if you knew the number of really childish, dreadful poo-related jokes from which you've just been saved by my steely self-restraint and new-found maturity, you'd seek me out and embrace me, I swear.

(Yes, even in the paragraph above.)

The unhelpful urge to speculate about aspects of the Staffordshire diet was suppressed and on we went. Daisy, I might add, was calmly unaffected by all this, though history suggests that somewhere in her grown-up, mature doggy brain, a naughty little puppy instinct was perhaps saying wow, what's that, let's find it and really really roll in it!

The niffoidal aspect of the walk was soon over. Fairly soon over. Well, quite soon. A few minutes. (No, I can't hold my breath that long either. Ah well.)

Having griped about the pongaciousness of this bit of the walk I must add that we were then amply rewarded for our, er, tolerance and fortitude. The walk continued (uphill and upwind!) along an exceedingly pleasant river valley sometimes quite open and sometimes a bit wooded, and always gorgeous. If the Tiny Technical Elves of Blogworld have performed their duties correctly then a nearby photograph will depict Mrs von Neustadt and her faithful (Mad)Hound in just such a place. Really very, very nice indeed. Slight cow-aggro potential was also avoided here, more of which later.

In one pretty woodland bit the leaflet warns you that the public footpath is usually impassable as it's very marshy, and suggests a diversion round the outside; but it hadn't been raining much and we got through dryshod - and it was exquisite in there.

A bit more of that and we were out onto a road chiz. However this led us through the pretty little village of Tixall and eventually back onto footpaths to cut across and get us back up to our lane. There was a good view across Tixall's farm buildings and over to its gatehouse, which of course is a sister Landmark to "our" pavilion and one which I'd very much like to visit one day.

This part of the walk, back up to our lane, was very pleasant, distinguished only by a rather good place where the path was a deep green tunnel mown out of very tall maize, and by another potentially scary encounter with potentially scary mooies.

The reason it was only potentially, not actually, scary relates to a new pet (haha) theory of mine. The cows love or are fascinated by the dog and their insistence on coming for a very close look is the reason for these sometimes-dangerous encounters. However, I don't believe that cattle, lovely though they are, are the very brightest animals around. (I mean, you wouldn't be, would you?) So, my theory states, if you spoil the dog's outline by having her walk very close (even better with two people!), so she has no separate silhouette, then the cows don't really see her. They just think it's a boring old human, albeit an oddly shaped one, and do not trouble themselves counting the legs or whatever. (And anyway bovine numbers, or "cownting", probably doesn't go much further than one, moo, bellow, anudder, etc.)

Obviously this technique isn't going to work if you're already right next to the cattle so they've sussed you and Rover, but my belief is that if they're a little distance off, then doing this may slow down, or prevent, them recognizing the doggy object of their curiosity.

So we managed to zoom unmolested up through this field, hardly even glanced at by our bovine buddies, and back up to our lane and home. Whether this was Vogel's Patent Outline Camouflage Tactic or just luck: dunno, we'd need a large research grant to find out.

A little later we went for today's Gardenoidal Visitor Experience, to the Dorothy Clive Garden. This lovely garden's USP is its accessibility, it having been developed or redeveloped by Colonel Clive (and I think some professional gardeners too) for his wife as she became disabled ... or something. Webbity website. I think they both died some time ago and it's now run by a trust, which seems to be doing an excellent job.

It's situated in North Staffs, just a junction or two up the M6 from us, so it wasn't a huge drive. I really liked this place. The surprising thing - given the USP - is that it's amazingly hilly in places: I suppose this may reflect its not having been originally planned to be accessible. Basically the whole thing is one huge slope, interrupted by interesting less-slopey bits and other landscape moments. It's got about a million paths and - o huge importance! - a lovely tea-room.

Just behind the tea-room, theoretically up-slope from it, is an old quarry which, surprise, is now a quarry garden and a very fine one too. It's got paths and steps and little corners and viewpoints and hidey-holes had water features and - well, the works, basically. Oh and a great big sculpture of a stag. Arooo! It's all the sort of thing I was inordinately fond of aged 10, and as you know little has changed in the last few decades, so I was blissful.

We did have one, ah, exciting moment when a distress call from the Kronprinzessin Becca's personal telephonic device sent me dashing to the almost-rescue. Can you say: power-chair, heavy power-chair, slopey path, gravelly skiddy slopey path, dodgy clutch? Hmm? Indeed yes. I'm almost tempted to add: can you say ejector seat, but fortunately it didn't quite come to that. And let's face it, you'd have to be very careful about tree cover. Whoosh zoom whee thunk aargh, sortafing.

There was also a rather good place up behind the quarry where you could reach the top corner of the garden and have a rather nice view across open countryside; and a gravel garden off to the side of the quarry, a very pretty and tranquil spot. The caff itself is in front of the quarry garden, at the top of the main open(ish) slope. We had our tea (or whatever) on its little level bit, right on the edge of the said slope: an excellent place to sit.

We'd also had a little try at some semi-random cross-lawn wandering in this upper part of the hill, but the combination of (a) the iffy clutch and (b) the tendency of the power-chair to dig in and create its own mini-Passchendaele meant that it was all just a touch alarming so we retreated to nice solid path pretty goshdarned smartish.

Below, the paths take you down through various formal and informal bits - there's a nice Alpine bit down there somewhere too - until you arrive at another focal point, a little lake with lots of marshy and marginally-relevant (aha) vegetation. More than that I don't know (jabnaas), but Becca and I both found that it brought back fond, nay pond, memories of the beautiful Bog Garden at Howick.

That was pretty much it for this visit - we'd found the Dorothy Clive Garden interesting, pretty and well-run so, I'm like, yeah. In fact I think I'm a bit of a Friend of Dorothy!

Othergates, I must just mention one thing. It may have been this night or some other but it's not exactly crucial. We had an Indian takeaway one night. The logbook cheerfully insisted that this particular restaurant knew exactly where the Pavilion was and could deliver to the door, which is certainly a nice thought. The young man to whom I spoke, though, was a lot less convincing. He was one of those people who can exude an air of massive self-confidence in the generality of what they say while fatally undermining it in the detail. So by the time I'd briefed him on exactly where we were, and he'd assured me he knew exactly where it was then rung me back in scarcely-veiled confusion two minutes later, and we'd already been round this cycle a couple of times, I was beginning to feel that we might have a long hungry evening ahead. So we agreed on a compromise, a place close enough but on whose location all parties could definitely agree without trouble.

And that's how Deb and I came to be sitting in the car in the entrance to the cemetery, watching the traffic lights change. It was quite isolated and dark (with green/amber/red tinges, yes). This whole thing seemed odd and perhaps slightly sinister and then when the food-containing car turned up I am sure it looked positively shady. Fortunately we weren't there for long so even if an observant CCTV operator had scrambled Special Branch, the Drug Squad, Vice Squad or the Cemetery-Lurking Squad, the only trace found would have only been a lingering hint of onion bhaji hovering enigmatically near the crossroads. Mmm. Anyway: weird scene, nice food. Good night and thank you: thank you and good night.

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