A little off base: Abbey Gardens is perfect day at the ruins
Stars and Stripes March 12, 2008
BURY ST. EDMUNDS — Ever get the sick feeling you just made a terribly impulsive move? What if it took you 20 years to make amends?
That was the case for medieval peasants who lived inside the walls of the Bury St. Edmunds Abbey, a Benedictine monastery that held the remains of St. Edmund. In 1327 they tore down the heavily fortified wall that protected the abbey from the marauding hordes that roamed the East Anglia countryside.
Twenty years later, they rebuilt the wall. One can only wonder what sort of internal discontent prompted the move to destroy the wall, and the depth of collective soul-searching that followed when the abbey was threatened.
Today, however, the only danger lurking around the abbey is from rowdy adolescents with squirt guns and from ice cream queues that won’t let up.
Contemporary visitors to what is now known as the Abbey Gardens will find a flower garden to rival any in the region, a playground where children can scamper away an afternoon and the historic ruins of the monastery.
The flower gardens rotate throughout the year, culminating in a summer floral extravaganza. The playground may be a bit rough around the edges, but it has enough variety in diversion to keep children ages 3 to 12 entertained.
And the ruins, which include columns that climb into the Suffolk sky, stand as a testimony to the durability of early English craftsmanship.
The River Lark runs through the abbey, and it is there that visitors will find scores of ducks eager for a nibble of stale bread.
The abbey is the cultural heart of Bury St. Edmunds, and each day hundreds of townspeople take a short break with a walk amid the ruins and flowers. But you can also hear scores of foreign languages from visitors as it attracts a fair share of tourists who value the combination of history and nature.
For American visitors from the local Air Force community, the gardens are easy to find. Follow A1101 toward the five-points roundabout and then toward Bury St. Edmunds. Once in town, follow the brown signs toward the historic city center.
When you spot the 700-year-old stone wall, you’ve arrived. Pay to park in the nearby parking lot, and take your time enjoying one of Suffolk’s treasures.
Location: Angel Hill in central Bury St. Edmunds.
Hours: Vary by day, but normally sunrise to sunset.
Clientele: Scores of locals and history-minded tourists.