Following my ‘Delightful Destinations’ blogs on Whitby and on Bosham, I would now like to make a brief visit to Malmesbury, an ancient hilltop town in England’s southern Cotswolds. The town is almost completely encircled by the river Avon, and it claims to be the oldest Borough in England. On the flat top of its hill stands the town’s ancient abbey, which was founded in the 7th century as a Benedictine monastery by Adhelm, the nephew of the then King of Wessex. From then on the site became a renowned place of pilgrimage. Later, in the 10th century, Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, and the first King of all England, chose Malmesbury as his capital. Although he died in Gloucester, Athelstan is buried in the Abbey at Malmesbury.
The town, with its ancient abbey, its grounds and gardens, is a delight. One of its most stunning sights is the abbey church’s imposing south porch, dating from the late 12th Century, which has eight rows of carvings of biblical scenes.
There are many fascinating stories associated with the town and its abbey, including that of the 11th century monk, Eilmer, who attempted one of the earliest human flights. Details of Eilmer’s story can be found on Wikipediea at: ST.EILMER’S STORY . . .
Another story concerns the death of a Hannah Twiddow. who, in 1703, became, or so it is recorded, the first woman to have been killed in the UK by a tiger. More of this and other local stories can be discovered at the museum in the old Town Hall.
Several paintings of the abbey at Malmesbury were made by J.M.W. Turner in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. I reproduce two of them below …
One of the foremost attractions of modern day Malmesbury for me is the Abbey Gardens. Adjacent to the Abbey itself, and built on a steep hillside directly above the River Avon, the gardens are a delight, with numerous sections each offering different plants, colours and perspectives.
On my first visit there several years ago, I took this photograph of a decidedly risqué gardener hedge pruning . . .
I later discovered that the gardens have a secondary status as the horticultural project of the ‘Naked Gardeners’. The concept certainly added interest to an already extraordinary garden.
I have very recently found, however, that the future of the gardens is under threat as the intrepid pioneers of naked gardening, who have created and sustained the garden for many years, have now placed the whole property up for sale. So, how long the abbey gardens will remain open, and whether or not, and in what form, the project will continue is very much in doubt.
The current position regarding the future of these beautiful gardens was summarised in a recent article in the’ Telegraph’,under the heading: ‘Paradise Lost for Divorcing Naked Gardeners’ . . .
From: The Daily Telegraph – Friday 12 August 2016
. . . the article was accompanied by this photograph . . .