Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens are celebrating their 250th Anniversary in 2015.
Established in 1765 by the First Countess of Ilchester initially as a kitchen garden for her nearby castle, Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens has evolved into a magnificent 30 acre garden with exotic plants from all over the world.
Some of the plants have a real Jurassic feel with ferns and large leaves making you wonder, “will a dinosaur appear around the next corner?”
This year, to mark the special 250th anniversary of Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens, a 36 metre (in Olde English that is nearly 120ft) “Burma Rope Bridge” (or “Myanmar Rope Bridge” as the country is now known), has been installed across the Jurassic pond area at the very bottom of the valley. It’s a site that really does have a steamy tropical appearance and a very jungle-like atmosphere. It is one of the longest rope bridges in the UK and cost £100,000 to build. This is just part of a programme of events to celebrate the gardens’ anniversary, which includes a special 250th anniversary ale, brewed by Dorset microbrewery Gyle 59. Abbotsbury has them produce beer flavoured with Drimys Llanceolata – also known as mountain pepper – an Australian rainforest shrub that grows in the gardens. Mountain pepper is used today as a bushfood condiment to spice curries. Being high in antioxidants, it was once used to treat scurvy in sailors.
We were lucky enough to be present at the opening of the bridge where non-other than writer and broadcaster Roy Lancaster cut the red tape. Then the local school children could explore and experience the bouncy and somewhat swinging bridge. Some of them were looking out for crocodiles and possibly a sighting of that dinosaur in the swamp – fantastic imaginations.
The gardens’ owner, The Hon Charlotte Townshend, said “It’s a brilliant addition to this end of the gardens and it adds a wonderful element of fun.”
The bridge is certainly a fantastic addition to the gardens which are wonderful at all times of year. The localised micro-climate gives a real subtropical warmth, which on a fairly cool and slightly damp morning made for a nice break – especially when followed by a nice cup of tea and piece of cake in the colonial style restaurant building.
Abbotsbury is certainly worth a visit at any time of year and is suitable for all the family as well as a great day out.