Forde Abbey House and Gardens, Chard, Somerset
Anyone who likes beautiful gardens is going to love Forde Abbey House and Gardens, and if you happen to have a thing for historic houses too, well, consider it your lucky day. Straddling the borders of Somerset and Dorset, Forde Abbey has stood on the banks of the River Axe for over 900 years; it served as a Cistercian Monastery as far back as the 12th century and is one of few such ecclesiastical buildings that managed to survive the Dissolution. The cloisters are hauntingly beautiful and it’s not hard to imagine the monks walking along here, quiet in reflective prayer.
There’s much to marvel at, inside and out; the 16th century Great Hall, the nationally important 17th century Mortlake Tapestries in the saloon, and the peaceful chapel. You could easily spend all day in the 30 acre gardens, roaming around, discovering this and that, delighting in the plants; it’s all so lovely – the little Chinese bridge that leads you to the meandering paths in the bog garden, the bounty of vegetables in the walled garden, the exquisitely planted borders, and the stillness of the lake. Younger folk will have a whale of a time dodging the spray from the 60ft cascade of the Centenary Fountain, oh, they’ll be shrieking with delight. They’ll love the swing benches, the Beech Hut at the top of the gardens, the Willow Labyrinth in the arboretum and just running about on the lawns, letting off steam.
There are events held at Forde Abbey House and Gardens throughout the year, the most popular being the Plant Fair, The Summer Fair and the wonderfully festive Forde Abbey White Christmas. Come in early spring and there will be a profusion of snowdrops and crocus to feast your eyes upon; in autumn there’s a Pumpkin Trail and sometimes Pumpkin Rolling, which is rather fun. But whatever time of year you visit Forde Abbey what you must make time for is the homemade scones and biscuits in the tearoom; it’s the perfect way to round off your trip.
Dogs are welcome in the grounds but they must be kept on short leads.
Opening times: House - Mar-Oct: Tues-Fri, Sun & Bank Holiday Mondays 12.00-4.00pm
Garden: All year, every day 10.00am-4.00pm
T: 01460 220231 All information correct at the time of writing