Beeleigh Abbey dates from the 12th century. Once an abbey for the Premonstratensian Order (don’t try to say that with a mouthful of cake), it was later owned by one unfortunate individual who was beheaded for supporting Lady Jane Grey.
The house you see in the picture dates from the 17th century but the timbers and some of the other features of the original abbey have been retained. These days, the place is privately owned and not accessible to visitors.
However, for a few days each year, the gardens are open and make a pleasant afternoon out if you’re in the Maldon area. What follows are some of the highlights of the garden. If you’d like to see for yourself, the last opening of the year is on September 8th and then it will close until the 2018 season.
Adjacent to the house is an area laid to lawn surrounding several ornamental features. There’s plenty of bench seating which was being well used at the time of my visit, as was the marquee serving refreshments. The garden makes the most of its watery setting, with paths alongside the adjacent River Chelmer.
Beeleigh’s pond was very shady and on such a hot day, offered welcome relief from the sun. This area felt less like a formal garden and more like a slice of the beautiful Essex countryside, but again had plenty of benches allowing you to sit and take in the view.
For me, the most impressive part of the gardens were the floral displays, but that’s probably to be expected given the timing of my visit in August when the roses were a riot of colour. As well as the dedicated rose garden, there were a plethora of fragrant specimens in the cottage garden and in the beds lining the many gravel paths.
It’s easy to forget how much deadheading and pruning goes into displays such as this.
Other areas open to visitors included the orchard, kitchen garden, wild flower meadow and wisteria walk. Depending on the time of year, some are past their best or yet to take centre stage. If you can only come once, and at £6 a ticket, that’s probably the case for many people, then think about the time of year which will give you the most pleasure.
To reach Beeleigh, go to the top of Maldon High Street and follow London Road until you pass the cemetery on your left. Make a right turn into Abbey Turning and follow the signs for Beeleigh Abbey.