Thursday, 10 September 2020

Thorncombe and Forde Abbey

St Mary's church, Thorncombe

We started today's walk from St Mary's church, which was rebuilt in 1866-7. There are, according to Pevsner, wonderful 15th century brasses inside the church.

We headed away from the church towards the north west, being immediately struck by the dramatic countryside.

We followed a series of paths quite comfortably until we reached a very large field where none of the route description in the walk book seemed to apply. We used our skill and judgement and managed to find our way to the Forde Abbey fruit farm and the road which was our target.

We followed the road for a short while then turned right into a massive field of sweetcorn, enlivened only by a pretty set-aside at the end.

We wondered what these (slightly out of focus) attractive blue flowers were.

Now across a field to reach a road and the entrance to Forde Abbey, which we had hoped could be visited as a detour from the walk. We walked up the drive to see in quick succession the dormitory range (or Dorter) ...

... and then the beautiful exterior of the main part of the Abbey.

The Abbey was founded in the 12th century, but like so many others, was in decline by the the time of the Reformation with an abbot and only 12 monks. It was then in ruins until 1649 when it was bought by Edmund Prideaux who created an unusual mansion from former parts of the monastery.

The Chapel (once the Chapter House) is on the right with the Abbot's Hall, the West Dining Room and the Drawing room arranged from right to left. 

The gardens were laid out in the 18th century and include the Long Walk with cheerful flower plantings on both sides, and three ponds. We rather liked these two wart hogs under a tree.

A high point in the gardens offered a lovely lateral view of the main front of the House and part of the Long Walk and Long Pond.

Leaving the Abbey we crossed the River Axe, only a small stream here, with deep banks. 

We followed the river for a while and then headed away from it, passing this curious piece of landscaping. We couldn't work out what was going on.

After this, a narrow path through another large field of sweetcorn, several field paths and a small copse led us back to the village.

Conditions: warm and sunny.

From: 50 walks in Dorset (AA).

Distance: 5 miles, plus the wander round Ford Abbey.

Map: Explorer 116 (Lyme Regis & Bridport).

Rating: four stars.

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