Buckinghamshire Life Feature
Kriss speaks to Buckinghamshire Life Magazine about why Stockgrove Country Park brings a smile to his face.
by Sandra Smith
Buckinghamshire Life – July
Stockgrove Country Park
“There are so many picturesque views in this peaceful place. You can while away hours, night and day, being close to nature.”
Such a reflective appreciation of the countryside may not be the reaction you’d expect from a legendary athlete who is equally famous for his outgoing persona as a string of European, Commonwealth, World and Olympic medals. But when Kriss Akabusi was searching for somewhere to live within easy access of London he stumbled upon Stockgrove Country Park, an area that continues to trigger passion.
“In 1998 I drove along the road that dissects acres of green parkland, heathland and forest. After driving through the area I knew this was the place to be. At the time the Park was becoming overgrown with brambles growing up trees and blocking out the sun. The vegetation is natural but stripping back some of that growth has allowed more light to seep through.”
Stockgrove is, indeed, a hidden gem on the north east county border, a short meandering drive from Great Brickhill and a few miles south of Milton Keynes. The Park was originally part of Stockgrove Estate and the ancient woodland here, some of which are sites of Special Scientific Interest, dates back centuries.
In addition to gentle walks and eye catching scenery the Stockgrove Sun Dial at first sight resembles a mini Stonehenge. Laid out in a semi circle the 14 stones are sculpted from waste sandstone. To find the correct time just stand in the middle astride the relevant month listed on the ground and, having noted where your shadow falls, count the stones from left to right beginning at 6am and not forgetting to add one hour during British Summer Time.
From this elevated spot a distant mock Georgian country house is visible. One of the largest country properties constructed between the two world wars, the house was built by Sir Michael Kroyer-Kielberg, a Danish businessman and ex Chair of United Molasses, and replaced the original home of Colonel Henry Hanmer, Tory MP and one time High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire.
A short stroll away a haven of soaring pine trees leads to a lake where swans, coots, mallards and mandarin ducks are commonly found. Here also are the remains of a boathouse. Once used as a summer house and changing room, the original thatched roof was destroyed by fire leaving its industrial remains complementing the surrounding nature.
Given the beauty of this intoxicating landscape it’s not surprising that Kriss’s exercise regime includes a morning run around the Park. But an evening walk with his dogs – Roxy, a Doberman, and black Lab, Shabba – encourages him to wind down from his business and motivational speaker commitments.
“At night the sounds are different. You can hear owls hooting or the wild barking of male muntjacs. There are clearings in the woods where tall trees pull up into the night sky. Getting caught up in the grandeur of the universe makes me feel I’m the only person in the world.”
Even during the day, however, there is sufficient space for visitors to enjoy a similar sense of solitude. Meanwhile this attractive Park includes a Nature Discovery Area where children are encouraged to explore the natural world while on the opposite side of the lake Sir Michael’s coat of arms is fashioned into an imposing bench.
Throughout the many acres, numerous signs provide information about the flora and fauna with more details in a small visitor centre which doubles as a café with drinks, cakes and baguettes available although a separate family outdoor area is ideal for children and picnics. Dogs are welcome and owners may help themselves to poop scoop bags.
From Bakers Wood to sessile oak trees, sites of rare mosses and natural pathways, an organic aura makes this Park one of the most unspoilt and restful you could visit. No wonder Kriss was attracted to it, and remains a regular visitor.
“I am seen as an extrovert and my business requires that. But after travelling I always love coming back to Stockgrove for its peace and tranquillity.”