Thorncombe – Forde Abbey and the River Axe

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The Parish of Thorncombe lies in the north-west corner of Dorset, bordering both Devon and Somerset. It is set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The parish is over 5,200 acres in extent and is principally agricultural land. It forms part of the district of West Dorset. In Chard Street is the Anglican Church of St Mary's. Thorncombe has a long history. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book and it was already a flourishing place in the Middle Ages. In early times it was much connected with Forde Abbey, the Cistercian Monastery founded in the 12th Century, which was a great religious centre, thriving for three centuries until the reign of Henry VIII, when it passed into private hands. In 1312 Edward II granted the Abbot of Forde the right to hold a market in the Manor of Thorncombe on Wednesday and also a six-day fair beginning on the Tuesday after Easter. During the Civil War the Vicar of Thorncombe was exiled to the West Indies for his royalist sympathies. In the same century, thirty-three of the men of the village were known to have been active on behalf of Monmouth, but could not be apprehended.

Forde Abbey is a treasure in an area already known for its outstanding beauty. More than 900 years of history and romance are encapsulated in this elegant former Cistercian monastery. The house is surrounded by thirty acres of spectacular award-winning gardens. The landscape has developed slowly since monastic times. The monks certainly grew vegetables in large quantities, but their gardens have disappeared over the centuries. During the early 18th Century, Sir Francis Gwyn created the beginnings of the garden that can be seen today. Monsieur Beaumont, who was a pupil of Le Notre in Paris and later worked for Colonel Graham at Levens Hall in Cumbria, may well have influenced the design. Graham and Gwyn were close friends and colleagues in parliament. Gwyn used the water to create the three lower ponds and the cascades that can be viewed from the centre of the border. He also planted the great yews as part of his design and probably the largest limes. It is likely that little was done early in the 19th Century and the garden was in as poor a state as the house when Jane Evans purchased it in 1863.

The spacious giftshop offers an unusual range of gifts, toys, books, jewellery and condiments. Like the Undercroft Restaurant, the giftshop is committed to supporting local producers and craftsmen and women. The gardens are open daily throughout the year 10am - 4.30pm (last admission) and the shop and tea room are also open on fine days. Well-behaved dogs are welcome on a short lead.

The house will re-open on Sunday 1st April 2007, when it will be open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays until the end of October.

England - South West England - Dorset - Countryside


Ancient Monument, Birds, Butterflies, Church, Flowers, Food Shop, Gift Shop, Great Views, Mostly Flat, Pub, Restaurant, River, Tea Shop, Wildlife, Woodland
10/26/2015 - Valerie Monaghan

We did this walk on a reasonable October day, starting from the church in Thorncombe. A few points: Point 2; after traversing the graveyard, bear left across the grass to the corner of the plot. Two footpaths are indicated on the post: we went left, through a passage; the stone wall was visible at the end of this. Point 3: keep straight on to Point 4, ignoring a footpath going across the field to your right. Point 4: the signage for the Jubilee Trail is poor in the middle of this section. We missed the point where the path turned left through the hedge and followed the hedge line right around the field to a gate (climbed!) on the other side of the hedge to the official route. Point 9: the double stile is at the end of the farm yard (the second has lost its upper bar) and these now lead to nearby a gate (by an electric fence on the day we did the walk) - carry straight on in the direction of the double stiles, ignoring a stile away on your right leading into a wood. Point 11: after leaving the sports field car park, we crossed the road and took the footpath almost directly opposite, which cuts a corner to reach the road in Thorncombe near the shop. Walk measured as 5.2 miles by our GPS.

4/22/2014 - Barry Hood

22/04/2014. A lovely walk with very clear instructions. Most of the stiles at the early stages have now thankfully been replaced by kissing gates. At WM8, 'Cross the road and enter the field opposite' The farmer had decided to plough said field and lay plastic sheeting at various angles making it impossible to follow the public footpath. To overcome this we had to turn right and follow the line of the hedge to the reach the gate at the far end underneath the telegraph lines - naughty farmer!

7/11/2009 - TONY PARRY

Great walk good dog friendly stiles and not much livestock about.

1/22/2009 - Roy Davenport

All checked and OK December 2008.