Art, Creativity, Photography, Travel, Writing

Abbey House Gardens

On the one sunny day we had while we were in Bristol we decided to drive to Malmesbury in Wiltshire to visit Abbey House Gardens.

This is the home of the “Naked Gardeners” and they regularly hold “clothes optional days” which are the best attended of all! Our visit did not coincide with one of these days – just as well as it would probably have been very difficult to take any photos of the plants! We arrived shortly after opening and spent the next couple of hours wandering through a series of rooms and admiring the planting. The gardens have been constructed in part of what was the original abbey and from nearly everywhere in the garden you can catch a glimpse of the old stonework of one of the broken arches of the abbey.

Abbey House


As you enter the main part of the garden the first thing you see is a topiary face, the first example of a topiary face I had ever seen.



This looked over the Celtic Cross garden





You pass through the “Saxon arch” into the upper lawn area formerly the Lady Chapel where a sculpted monk sits in contemplation of  roses and lilies


One of the beds (the serpentine bed) had been planted with 2000 roses apparently following the colours of the rainbow but some of them had not flowered in the colours they were supposed to but they had been left anyway.


mixed in with the roses were alstromeria, verbascum, geraniums and hollyhocks


There were a number of other sculptures scattered throughout the garden celebrating the human body.


This one is called “Amazon”

This naked man with chains round his wrists was un-named


as was this one


I call this one “Mushroom Head”

In front of the naked man was another sculpture, this time incorporating water. As the water trickled down over the metal disks it emitted a delightful tinkling musical sound, the perfect accompaniment to the garden


All the borders were a mass of colour





a delicate red clematis



tiger lilies against the backdrop of a smoke tree


I love poppies

and I guess this garden has lots of different ones, judging by all the poppy seed heads in evidence.

A huge circular herb garden was surrounded by a sort of trellised cloister over which climbed espaliered fruit trees, vines and clematis. The owners apparently designed this and built it with raised beds as described in a 9th century poem “Hortulus” (Little Garden) written by Walafrid Strabo.

view through “cloister” arch

a similar view but this one echoes the arch of the old abbey 20110805_IMG_1549_herb-garden

the herb garden

lavenders in a raised bed in the herb garden

Miscellaneous shots


the architectural spires of Eucomis
a beautiful passion flower
a miniature portable greenhouse
furry brown fruit of the Medlar tree, they are apparently edible!


In the pond were a number of the largest koi carp I had ever seen.

Several silver balls floated on the surface and visitors were invited to roll these along the surface of the water (not to throw them as this would frighten the fish) and the fish appeared to enjoy floating up to the surface and nosing at the balls.

Afterwards we went to visit the abbey itself.

The present abbey, large in its own right, represents only a third of the size of the original abbey.

carving above the main internal doorway It had some fine stained glass windows,



this one was designed by the artist Burne Jones, which commemorates a young serviceman killed in combat.
There was also another one which I only found out about later (and therefore missed seeing) of a young monk called Eilmer who apparently constructed himself a pair of wings and flew some 200m from the roof of the abbey in the 11th century.


ruined arch at the back of the abbey visible from the gardens
delicate arch/trellis in the abbey grounds.

After lunching in a nearby pub called “the Whole Hog” whose walls were decorated with paintings of pigs in assorted shapes and sizes, we returned to the car via the garden, spotting this carved lintel en route.


Peeping over the top of the wall was this little gazebo

We had intended visiting the wilder part of the garden and the woodland walk but somehow missed our way.


view of the river garden from the bridge near the car park


the weir

and found ourselves back at the car park where we witnessed an angry swan seeing off a dog that came too close to its cygnets on the grass near the river.

Comments on: "Abbey House Gardens" (4)

  1. What a wonderful place to wander! You must have had a great day. Was that a passion flower I saw? I haven’t seen one since my first rip to Bermuda. Never realized how close they were to clematis, same family perhaps?

    Thanks for the tour, I always enjoy your pictures and comments!

  2. Great pics. Great day.

  3. These are terrific photos Carol (sorry to call you Caro – it was typo). The flowers photos are great and the resolution in the photos of stained glass windows is excellent – I can’t photo things like that. What kind of camera do you use?
    The abbey is a lovely place – the topiary face is really something.

    • I used a Canon Eos 500D for all of these. Usually I use an Olympus C-60 zoom because it’s small enough to carry around in my handbag all the time. I only use the Canon for special trips like this one

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