Home to the highest powered fountain in the country, the award-winning gardens include topiary lined vistas, colourful herbaceous borders, an arboretum, a bog garden, which together with swathes of early Spring bulbs and camellias provide all year round interest. Designed to incorporate both the formal and informal aspects of garden design, the straight lines give way to meandering pathways the further you head away from the house, with plenty of benches and seating to admire the views along the way.
A garden is never the finished article, but more like a chapter that is constantly being written, re-written and edited to shape the flow and style of the narrative. It has slowly evolved over 900 years to reflect the lifestyle and taste of each generation living here.
A brief history
The early Cistercian monks would have farmed the land and grown seasonal fruit and vegetables in accordance with a strict vegetarian diet. Today, the only monastic structure that remains in the garden is the Great Pond, used for a practical rather than aesthetic purpose to power a mill on the site of the present day Forge.
Sir Francis Gwyn created the beginnings of the modern garden during the early 18th-century. Gwyn used the water from the Great Pond to create the connecting three lower ponds while also laying out the lawns and drives and, in keeping with the design principles of the day, incorporating great yews and limes to lead the eye along significant views and vistas.
The Walled Garden
The Evans family bought the Abbey and estate in 1864 and under their stewardship the garden at Forde Abbey was of typical Victorian design, with the extensive walled garden to the north and dark shrubberies to the South. Summer bedding provided the colour to frame the house but the garden was very labour intensive and even at the outbreak of the First World War required ten full time gardeners to maintain it.
Using the legacy of the eighteenth-century landscape and the nineteenth-century trees, three generation of the Roper family were responsible for establishing the Bog Garden, Park Garden and Rock Garden and during his lifetime, Geoffrey Roper planted more than 350,000 trees on the estate.
The Centenary Fountain
The Centenary Fountain celebrates 100 years of the Roper family at Forde Abbey. Powered by a pump from the strawberry farm on the estate, it reaches a height of 160 feet and is the highest powered fountain in England. Running in and out of the spray is a great sport for younger visitors to the garden and if you stand at the top end of the fountain, you’ll often see a rainbow.
The Garden Today
From 1141 to the present day, Forde Abbey is a stunning example of history preserved but not petrified. Alice and Julian Kennard have inherited a garden rich in history but are keen to live and work in an informal style and you’ll often find Alice in the garden, tackling the latest project in hand.
As well as taking in the garden on foot, you’ll find benches and seating dotted around so you can take the time to sit and enjoy the view. The swing benches are made by a local company, Sitting Spiritually.