I first came across the word at college. The seminar is forgotten but the word, serendipity, has forever been a favourite, “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”
This week we spend three days in Somerset for a break. Why Somerset? It’s not too far and we don’t know it. What we saw of it is worth two maybe three blog posts. But here I am going to describe an act of serendipity. On arrival at our Airbnb, we found we had no broadband. My mistake, I usually check these things and it would have not been booked had I realised, but it was a delightful place. Nestled as it was in a valley, surrounded by fields and gardens full of sweet-smelling rambling roses and honeysuckle. The problem was, I had no plan about where to go and what to do, expecting to look it up once we got there. True, there was a box full of leaflets and pamphlets and suggested walks in a folder. Too many to choose from.
On the first day we did one of those walks from the folder, more of that in another post. On the second day we went to the coast, familiar and favourite places in Devon – Beer and Branscombe (maybe another post). What to do on day three? I plucked a place from the map, it was nearby, it was gardens – always hopeful and easy walking. Would it keep us occupied? – I wasn’t sure.
A short journey down Somerset lanes – no more than the width of our car – and we arrived at Forde Abbey
We were early and there were few cars in the carpark and no coaches, always a bonus, but a good sign? Maybe not.
What a gem of a place. No, not a gem – that would suggest something small. Forde Abbey is a the Koh-I-Noor Diamond of private houses and gardens open to the public. We walked and sat in nearly every seat in astonishingly beautiful gardens and parkland. Views of the abbey, views of the lakes, flowers, trees, everything was delightful, peaceful and serene. Not as sumptuous as Chatsworth House, which we visited two years ago. This is somewhere you can imagine walking everyday amidst the changing seasons. It was so well cared for too and the walled vegetable garden was enormous. My husband definitely had his eye on that.
The bog garden near the lake, full of nemesia and unusual primulas, complete with rill and winding path was magical. We felt like we had the place to ourselves until the noon hour approached. It is then that the hundred-foot fountain is turned on for 15 minutes and the house open for inspection. The place began to fill with visitors but not too many. The Abbey itself still feels like an abbey, and you can imagine the ghosts of Cistercian monks working, praying and wandering the cloisters and the corridors, despite the family photographs and furnishings. It was full of atmosphere. What of the other people who have inhabited since. I have bought the guide book. Will a story leap out, even s short one? As I walked around, a whisper here began to invade my consciousness. This was truly a find of serendipitous proportions.