The Mad Woman of the Lists

Mirinda has, apparently, always written lists. It seems that when she dies she’ll not leave a diary but, rather, lots of half crossed out list items on any manner of writing material. Be it writing pads, envelopes, small pretty books from smelly shops, etc. I am also a victim of these everlasting lists. Naturally there are lists with my name on them. Fortunately old ones tend to get superseded by newer ones as some items are removed. Why am I writing this in our travel journal? Because each night there has been frantic list making and each day a litany of items are revealed in conversation. My life is becoming a list.

Another glorious day, anyway, apart from an icy wind which didn’t feel so bad when it stopped blowing. I went wandering off for another walk along the coast, this time taking in the Jurassic cliffs from the shingle beach. I had decided on a round trip but a landslide decided this was not to be. So I turned back and retraced my steps. Some of the rock formations were pretty amazing!

Rock formations on the Jurassic coastline near Burton Bradstock, Dorset

Regardless of what Mirinda thinks! I should mention that the rock slide happened a long time ago and not while I was standing there. Mirinda was a tad concerned when I said a rock slide had stopped my path.

We were on our way to Forde Abbey when a sudden urge to visit an ATM required an unscheduled stop in Beaminster. What a perfect little town. It has everything. A butcher, a fishmonger, a greengrocer, a pharmacy, two pubs, a very big church, and so much more. Most of all it doesn’t have any chains or superstores. I could really live in Beaminster.

The church (St Mary’s) is fantastic. It has the most amazing sculptures running up the sides of its tower.

Gargoyles on the tower of St Marys, Beaminster, Dorset

Rather than the usual piece of A4 folded three ways, they were selling a very big and comprehensive guide book. This proved very informative.

As we entered, a whole herd of little old ladies was preparing the flowers – getting rid of the old, replacing them with new blooms. We weaved our way between them, admiring the wonderful rood screen which turned out to be nowhere near as old as I’d hoped, and the two tombs of the Strodes one of whom fancied himself a bit of a Caesar by the looks of his statue.

We wandered around the inside then the outside then we wandered the back streets of Beaminster before returning to the car and continuing on to Forde Abbey. An excellent, if accidental, diversion.

Now, Forde Abbey has a bit of a chequered career. It started life as an Abbey 850 years ago. The early history is rather bizarre and starts with the establishment of the first Cistercian monastery in England which is just down the road from where we live (Waverley Abbey). Someone came from there and decided to build a daughter abbey somewhere else but then he died and when the crops failed for the millionth time, they all upped sticks and wandered over to Somerset where they bumped into this woman they all knew and she gave them the land where Forde Abbey was eventually built. Weird. And possibly a bit confusing.

Old chapter house, Forde Abbey

For the next four hundred years things went swimmingly at Forde Abbey but then came Henry VIII who dissolved it all, including the final abbot, Thomas Chard. The crown took over the Abbey and leased it out to Richard Pollard and it went pretty much to wrack and ruin. And then along came Prideaux.

Edmund Prideaux transformed the Abbey into the magnificent private residence that is now being privately lived in. Apart from stupidly inviting the Duke of Monmouth to tea one night and almost being executed as a traitor, he managed to live out his life at Forde Abbey. Then came the Gwyns.

By 1815 the last of the Gwyns (John Fraunceis) moved abroad and rented the place to Jeremy Bentham (a total eccentric in his own right!). When the last of the Gwyns died, the place was sold to a Bristol merchant who lived in five rooms and left the rest to rot. He eventually sold it to Mrs Bertram Evans in 1863 and she fixed the place up again.

Finally the Ropers came along in 1905 and they are still there, hidden upstairs while strangers roam the rooms and garden of this massive estate.


We wandered through the rooms, marvelling at the marvellous and tutting at the few tuttable things. It’s generally quite a nice place and bares witness to its many changes over the centuries. It’s best feature, however, has to be the extensive gardens. They are truly glorious. Particularly the pleached beech hide overlooking the tranquil pond (the size of a lake) where swans floated, butts up.

Swans on the pond as seen from the hide

They also served one hell of a great lunch. Pheasant with apple gravy and fresh veg. Brilliant.

Mirinda decided to take an evening stroll tonight. She wandered down to Hive Beach then walked along the shingles until she reached the other end of the cliffs and suddenly realised the sun had gone down. So, in the almost pitch, she walked back along the crumbling cliff edge to where her husband was waiting for her. Crazy Mirinda!

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