Although autumn is not the ideal time of the year to visit a garden, sometimes you have no option. A couple of years ago we were in the New Forest and enjoyed Exbury Gardens, where the colours of the leaves, golden rudbeckia, grasses and multi-coloured hydrangeas in their faded autumnal dress were enough to keep us happy. This year we were in West Dorset and a quick search brought up the Abbotsbury gardens only a few miles away from where we were staying. A lot of people may have heard about the Abbotsbury Swannery, but we headed for the gardens, a mile or so west of the village.
It is not a garden with masses of well-tended borders of colour and much of it is quite wild, but if you are reasonably fit is well worth taking a couple of hours to wander as there are lots of hidden gems. If you are looking for a manicured garden with easy accessible footpaths, this may not be the garden for you. But if you like exploring off the sign-posted paths then you will enjoy it.
Through the entrance is a beautiful colonial styled restaurant with a lovely outside terrace and outdoor seating, very busy at lunch-time on this sunny day. You can visit the restaurant and the plant centre without paying to enter the garden. Pass through into the Walled Garden with a sunken lawn before heading along to the Jungle Glade. And everywhere you walk the air is permeated with the smell of burnt toffee.
The Sunken Garden
A fairly steep climb uphill brings you to a highlight of the garden. This view. From here you can see all along the Jurassic Coast and Lyme Bay from Portland in the east. With binoculars or a good zoom you can even spot the Abbotsbury Swannery below.
Jurassic Coast View Point
The Sino-Himalayan Glade, Bamboo Ride and Jurassic Pond in the east part of the garden is the wildest and darkest area with uneven and sloping paths meandering through trees, shrubbery, bamboos and streams. But keep your eyes open as there are many interesting colours and shapes and textures hidden here. And if you hear an odd coughing noise it is most likely to be a pheasant.
White arrows direct you through the best parts of the garden, but don’t stick to them as there are some interesting paths leading off to other discoveries. And if you are in a wheelchair, don’t confuse them with the wheelchair route as it is not.
Colour in the Garden
Although I mentioned that you shouldn’t expect masses of colour at this time of year, that doesn’t mean that there is none. In fact there are many plants still in bloom and where they aren’t don’t forget to look up at the leaves, many turning colour, and if the light is right they can look just as beautiful.
A lovely Pavilion in the top corner provides shade from the sun or shelter from the rain and where you can sit and look out over the Southern Hemisphere Garden.
Finally finish off with a slice of Victoria Sponge cake from the Colonial Tea-room. You’ve earned it!