Forde Abbey

Forde Abbey is lost in a wooded valley on the borders of Dorset, Somerset and Devon. The Cistercian Abbey dates back to the 11th Century. Today, it is less of a place of worship and more of a grand country house and well-tended garden with a patchwork of artificial lakes. Beyond the gardens there is wood pasture grazed by horses with an avenue of ancient Lime trees. The modern attraction is a towering fountain that is set off twice a day; at the allotted time everybody gathers round to stand and stare but, like a monotonous sermon, after a while most of the congregation drift off. Perhaps the most captivating is the walled garden with a Victorian lean-to greenhouse stretching along the entire south face. The gardens themselves are full of spring bulbs and cherry blossom, and yews clipped into large pyramids; there are echoes of the more compact and intricate designs at Sissinghurst and Great Dixter.

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