Monday, 9 September 2013

A walk in the woods

The Dower House, Stoke Park
Last weekend after having brunch at Yurt Lush and tracking down a couple of the last Gromits, we decided to go for a walk in Stoke Park.

Stoke Park stretches out lazily alongside the M32 as you head into Bristol.  I've driven past it, and its distinctive mustard-yellow house that sits atop a hill, for years without even thinking about exploring the area.  Luckily Dave is a Bristolian so he knew where he was going, even though he hadn't been there for years.

I followed the winding path down the hill, while Dave and Lucas cut across country like true explorers, stopping to look at animal tracks, weird bugs, and other such things.  (Incidentally, we entered from Jellico Ave, which is the best entrance for buggies and little 'uns on bikes.)

The adventure begins
The path is dominated by the massive bulk of the Dower House which looms above you, on top of a ridge of rock.  In days gone by it was a stately home used as a dower house by the Dukes of Beaufort.  It spent almost 80 years as part of a mental handicap institution and was then converted into luxury apartments in 2004.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, we turned and looked up at the house; it really is huge and much more ornate than you'd ever guess while zooming past at 70mph.

At this point, Lucas said that he wanted to climb up the hill to see the monument and since it didn't look that steep, I agreed.  So, lesson learned there, then.  Star Hill, as it turns out to be called, is lovely and gentle until the path rounds a corner and you suddenly find yourself going rather more vertically than anyone would like.  Well, unless you're Lucas; he skipped up like a young mountain goat.

The obelisk on top of Star Hill
The monument turned out to be the base of a huge obelisk, which was erected in memory of Lady Elizabeth Somerset who died while riding in Stoke Park in 1760.  It has since been destroyed by lightning, leaving only the base behind.  It must have been truly immense judging from the size of the base!

The view was amazing from the top.  We watched tiny cars glinting as they raced down the black ribbon of the M32 below and gazed with surprised eyes at the Duchess Pond (a fishing lake).

A panorama from the top of Star Hill
Since the last part of the climb was pretty steep--I wish my walking lunges were so good at the gym--I asked Dave to get us back in a more civilised fashion.  I could easily see me going all Humpty Dumpty and tumbling down the hill.  And that's how our walk in the park turned into an adventure in the woods.

(r) Doesn't it look like there's a person trapped in the tree?
We had fun teaching Lucas to walk like a ninja in the woods.  He was a strange fusion of a ninja and a clone trooper as he took point, peering round trees and motioning us on if it was safe.

While we were padding around the woods, trying to sneak up on squirrels, we stumbled across this monument on a pedestal.  I googled when we got home and it's the Beaufort Monument, commemorating the 4th Duke of Beaufort, dating from 1755.

I really want to go back to Stoke Park when Autumn really sets in.  There were a few fallen leaves but everything was still stubbornly green.  I want to see golds and the occasional hint of red, perhaps.  I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be the place to go for jumping in huge extra-crispy drifts of leaves!

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1 comment

  1. I wanted to invite you to the Friday Flash Blog Party, the best linky in town! I hope you'll join us and link up. Who knows. You may just get highlighted!

    The party goes on ALL weekend.

    Jennifer @ The Jenny Evolution


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