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Abbey House Gardens

Visits > Past Visit Reports and Pictures > Wiltshire DayTrip 2012
After a truly horticultural experience at Ridleys Cheer this morning, this garden was a complete contrast and I felt created to make a stunning  visual impact.

For those of you who might not have visited these gardens before, the larger than life bronze statue of the two wrestling men  - I believe this was their intent although their faces did not seem aggressive enough -  before the entrance would certainly prepare you for the  extravaganza ahead.

The gardens are set around a late Tudor House beside the Abbey and on entering, on the right hand area are the formal gardens which include a knot garden in the shape of a Celtic cross which echoed  the ancient surroundings.

On our visit the box parterres were filled with many varieties of tulip affording an extremely colourful display.   

This area is surrounded by many tall hedges with openings leading to other ‘rooms’ all of which frame a view, modern sculpture or water feature as well as being filled with more tulips and other spring flowers.

There are also many old stone features which befit the surroundings and when looking west the ruins of the old Abbey dwarf the upper gardens.

As to emphasise the age of the place some of you may have been lucky enough to come across the resident tortoise who must almost be as medieval a fixture.
However, on leaving this formal area nothing prepares you for the impact of the serpentine border filled to the hilt with more tulips of all varieties and colour , more than     100,000 I am informed.  I am at a loss to think how many different named varieties were planted, most of which were labelled, but of course the most spectacular ones seemed not to be named at all!   It also occurred to me, and I could not find anyone to ask, whether or not all these tulips were lifted and new ones replanted each year.   I distinctly remember Mary telling me that if tulips were left in the ground from year to year they would not survive to bloom again unless the ground was well drained and the summer dry.   Red varieties seem to be more tolerant and will bloom again.  Mary also mentioned that universally nearly all large displays of tulips are dug up and replanted each year with new bulbs. However, it would seem that to tend to the roses (more than 2000), many of which were planted in the same border, it would be deemed necessary to lift them to enable weeding and mulching to take place.
This area led to an enormous arcade-encircled herb garden with many species of apple trees planted in both a step-over style as well as being tied in to the frame of the structure. On my last visit the apple blossom was in full flower which added to the impact of this feature.

The other part of the garden drops down to the River Avon.   This was a very peaceful area accessed along sloping pathways through the trees with much planting of woodland species on the banks. (10,000 different species they say but it was such a large area and so early in the season the full impact of this planting was quite embryonic.)  There were two monastic fish ponds and further on was a very atmospheric pool into which tumbled a waterfall and in warmer weather would provide a good place to sit and contemplate.  I think due to the weather conditions little bird life was apparent but  their own information promises kingfishers, goldcrest, tree creepers, fly catchers as well as the majority of the tit and finch families as well as a variety of water birds.

On walking back to the upper level from the river one was riveted by two giant sized bronze male torsos each of which was suitably adorned by a suitable sized lizard.  My mythology is not up to speed and I am at a loss as to which story is represented, if any!

Having walked around both areas for some 2 hours we were enjoying a well earned cup of tea when almost to re-iterate the extravagance of the planting and the setting we were entertained by a most spectacular hail storm which rendered the paths and grass totally white.   It seemed a very fitting climax .
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