Earlier this week, my daughter and I spent a wonderful afternoon at the truly beautiful Abbey House Gardens in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. We have visited before, so knew it was the perfect place for my daughter to practice her photography – she has been saving up, and this week bought her first ‘grown-up’ camera.
Abbey House Gardens are open to the public seven days a week from late March until late October, and covers a 5 acre site. These stunning gardens are the result of the vision and hard work of a couple affectionately known as the ‘Naked Gardeners’, and the gardens hold a number of ‘clothes optional’ days throughout the year – which is something to bare in mind when planning a visit.
Malmesbury has been inhabited for centuries, and a religious site is believed to have been established here around 642. Athelstan, Alfred the Great’s grandson and the first king of all England, was buried at Malmesbury Abbey in 935, and is believed to now lie somewhere within the Abbey House Gardens.
Although the Abbey itself still looms impressively over the gardens, it was far bigger in the past, and the garden paths and yew hedging in the formal gardens, have all been laid out and positioned to replicate the exact footprint of the missing parts of the original Abbey. There is even an exposed stone coffin, left in its original location, to be found within one of the flower beds.
The house (which is a private residence) dates from the 16th century, and is built on the foundations of a 13th century Abbot’s house with some evidence of even earlier occupation, including a Saxon arch beneath it.
As well as its collection of some 10,000 plants, the gardens are also dotted with fantastic sculptures and architectural antiques.
Because our visit was so early in the season, these stood out beautifully. In the past we have visited much later in the year, when everything is a sea of blooms. All parts of the gardens are stunning, but I believe that the tulip (some 15,00 of them) and rose (in the region of 2000) collections are said to be of particular note.
The fabulous herb garden is surrounded by a circular walkway over which fruit trees are trained.
There are mythological statues dotted around the gardens, many of which are very generously endowed – my daughter said she would leave if I took pictures of them, so here is Medusa instead!
This is the Laburnum walkway, which I have seen in flower before, and is stunning.
As well as the formal gardens, there is also a woodland garden, planted alongside the River Avon. Steep paths lead down to it, and it really is the most magical and tranquil place. It is the kid’s favourite part of the gardens, and it is easy to see why.
There are lots of exotic looking trees and plants to be found down here, I imagine it’s sheltered position gives it it’s own micro-climate.
This fish sculpture had a little man on the hook of it’s fishing rod.
There is even a secret grotto to be found.
We had a wonderful afternoon, practising our photography at the Abbey House Gardens. If you would like to see more photos of our visit, please check out our Instagram account….
And here is a view of Historic Malmesbury Abbey.