We have managed to spend more time in Somerset this year as travelling to the house in Spain hasn’t been easy. From this week international travel other than for business is banned ! What has been worse is the quarantine on return. I went to the house as soon as the air bridge was announced only to find it was just as quickly removed.
What was meant to be three weeks away to check the house and garden turned into eight. If I was to return to a quarantine I might as well stay as long as I could. Quarantine is harsh and I found it more difficult than the 3 month lockdown. But. It was a price I had to pay for the trip and I followed it to the letter. It was my choice to go away. I’m in no hurry to quarantine again.
I digress. We have spent more time in Somerset this year despite lockdowns and have just returned to spend lockdown 2 in London. It sounds like a movie but I’m hoping it stops at number 2. No prequels. No remakes.
It never ceases to amaze me that there are still places within an hours drive from the cottage that we still haven’t visited. To be fair we have only been there nearly 30 years.
We made a first trip to Forde Abbey and gardens – only a 50 minute drive away. I had seen Instagram posts from friends and decided that as we couldn’t get into Stourhead ~ it was half term and fully booked (like a number of restaurants we tried) it was an opportunity to try something new. It didn’t matter that the weather was wet. At times biblical rain ~ it was well worth it.
Expectation for the perennial beds wasn’t huge. It was the end of October. Things weren’t at their best. We were yet to have a frost but there had been a lot of rain with strong gusts of wind.
But I wasn’t expecting to still see beds of dahlias with such colour and vibrancy. Yes. Some of the perennials had gone over. You could see the Tithonia had seen better days.
But oh. The dahlias. Still standing tall. Still showing that lovely colour and shape.
I could only imagine what the beds looked like at the height of summer but I will definitely be back and hopefully the Abbey will be open then. We also didn’t get to see every bit of the grounds. Another excuse to visit and I didn’t get to see the swinging seats made by Sitting Spiritually. They were the first large stand I remember from my visits to RHS Chelsea. Always in the same spot on the corner opposite the first show garden you saw as you entered the grounds. I promise I will look them out when I’m next at the Abbey.
I must get that Sound of Music ear worm out of my head from the song sung by the Nuns. ‘ Maria’s not an asset to the Abbey ‘
We were told not to miss the fountain which would be going off at midday. Apparently it was not to be missed. The centenary fountain at 160 ft the largest in England. Set in the Great Lake with the mermaid statue it didn’t disappoint. But it did soak those standing down wind. It was more luck than judgement that we were on the opposite side. Surrounded by beautiful autumnal colours and the main house it sure was a spectacle.
In contrast to the herbaceous borders the Bog garden with its streams and bridge was dramatic. Even with things dying back the colours of Autumn were amazing.
A huge variety of trees have been planted in the grounds. Beautiful bark, stunning autumnal leaves and a golden carpet to walk on.
More late Autumn colour in the borders ~ I fear that this week the impending frosts will have a major cull of the plants. Another season over. Lovely Deep colours of Salvia Amistad along with persicaria. The borders and beds such an inspiration for ideas for me for next years planting.
The vegetable garden was looking good. Brassica city and full of lovely healthy looking vegetables with an amazing back drop of the house.
The Abbey is privately owned and is a former Cistercian monastery with the gardens grade II listed. Forde Abbey is Grade I listed.
Day 2 was a very different day. A trip to the coast to one of my favourite beaches with a fabulous beach restaurant for lunch. Two years ago we were here a week later when we sat outside for brunch. Not this time. The wind was blowing a hoolie. When we sat down for lunch the heavens opened and the rain was biblical.
The Jurassic coast though we saw no dinosaurs. I remember telling my god kids we were off to the Jurassic coast. ‘ is it like Jurassic Park ‘ they asked. A bit was the reply but the dinosaurs are away at the moment. Burton Bradstock is perfect. A National Trust car park. A great beach cafe Hive Beach Cafe and a restaurant and boarding house on the cliff above ~ the lovely Seaside Boarding House
The sea was rough. When I say rough I mean rough. Brutal waves. High waves and nobody was in the sea. Surprise that. It certainly was bracing as we walked up onto the cliff top. There is sometimes a bonus to being a little on the heavy side. No chance of the wind taking you over the cliff. But it amazing how many people walk either too close to the cliff top. Or too close to the cliffs on the beach. You can almost see which bit of cliff is next to fall into the sea.
I think I’d be a bit worried sleeping here. I doubt I’d sleep when the weather was as rough as it was when we walked past. The little seat we say on looking at to sea was no more.
Um. This sign was on the gate into the public right of way through some scrub land. Did we walk through it? No. Never. I have a pathological fear of snakes. Why wind myself up and have a coronary.
My fear stems from my childhood. When walking through woods in west Wales down to beach at Pwll Ddu my father grabbed my collar and yanked me back off the path. An adder was sunbathing across the path and I was about to step on it. Now I’m a big scaredy-cat. At an office event held in the reptile house at london zoo I could be found with my back pinned against the wall as far away as possible.
After a bracing walk. Lunch at Hive Beach Cafe. Well worth the drive down.
The final day out was a short drive to Shepton Mallet. Well a longer one than usual due to the never ending road works. Kilver Court gardens are a revelation. Many people just visit Kilver Court for the shopping adventures but are unaware of the gorgeous gardens behind. They shop. They pack the cars and retreat. I admit. We’ve done the same but I remembered visiting one autumn previously and remembered the fabulous colours.
The gardens have an amazing backdrop of the 27 span Charlton Viaduct. Once a working viaduct for the Somerset and Dorset Railway and beautifully maintained. It’s a grade II listed structure.
The gardens gave an interesting history ~ established in the early 1900s by industrialist Ernest Jardine as a recreational space for workers at his lace mill. Since then, they have passed through owners including the Showering family (of Babycham fame) and Allied Domecq. Roger Saul bought Kilver Court as a headquarters for Mulberry in 1996. The gardens are a delight. The herbaceous borders inspired by the colour gardens of Santa and Nori Pope from Hadspen gardens were coming to the end of their seasons best but you could see Thor beauty still.
The lake and the rockery designed by a Chelsea gold medal winner adds to the beauty with the autumnal colours spectacular this year.
It’s a three and a half acre garden which packs in a punch and features in the new book by Abigail Willis. ‘ Secret Gardens of Somerset’
To round off the visit. Lunch and a hot chocolate in the cafe. Brilliantly socially distanced.
The colours in our Somerset garden are no match for the two gardens we visited this week!!
Autumnal colours of the spindle berry
I thought there would be no garden adventures for the next month with lockdown no 2. But. Hurrah the gardens of the RHS are open so I have booked our tickets for Wisley. I now need to look at the NT gardens. If they are open then that’s another day out.