There aren’t many places that allow you to strip off and enjoy grounds and the scenery but Abbey House in Wiltshire is one such place. Abbey House Gardens is a country house garden in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England, covering 5 acres. Privately owned, the gardens—but not the house itself—are open to the public seven days a week from late March until late October. It is one of the main tourist attractions in England’s oldest town.Abbey House dates from the 16th century, built on 13th century foundations, with some evidence of a substantial house on the site as early as the 11th century; in the ‘basement’ there also is a Saxon arch.It has been extensively renovated and extended since, particularly in Tudor times.
In 1994, Abbey House was bought by Ian and Barbara Pollard, who had previously owned and run Hazelbury Manor, another mansion near Box in Wiltshire. They set about transforming the 5 acres (20,000 m2), and opened the gardens to the public in 1996. In 1998, a large skeleton was unearthed in the gardens, close to the site of the ruined Lady Chapel of Malmesbury Abbey. In 2001 and increasingly in 2002, the gardens were brought to wider public attention, particularly through the acclamation of Alan Titchmarsh, who devoted an episode of the BBC TV programme Gardeners’ World to Abbey House Gardens, broadcast in June 2002. On the week of transmission, the Pollards were featured in that week’s edition of Radio Times.
As well as the gardens, the Pollards also became known as ‘The Naked Gardeners’. Both Ian and Barbara, particularly Ian, spoke freely of their love of naturism, and were often featured in newspapers and magazines pictured naked among the foliage of Abbey House. In August 2005, and followed again with more similar events in 2006, Abbey House Gardens hosted what was thought to be the first ‘Clothes Optional Day’ at a major inland British tourist attraction. Naturists from all over the country flocked to the gardens, and as many as two-thirds of the visitors that day enjoyed the gardens in the nude. Similar clothing optional days are held regularly a few times a year.
Visitors reviews of their visits:
“This was my first visit to these beautiful gardens, as a bonus, this was one of the clothing optional days. A very enjoyable day spent in a place that absolutely reeks of history. The cafe is in a charming spot next to the Koi ponds.This is a most delightful garden done by a couple who love gardening with a passion.”
“It is full of life,colour ,flowers and focal points.There are formal gardens with sweeping lawns and fountains and fish ponds with koi fish.A herb garden and arbours.The house is beautiful with climbers covering ,words are not enough you need to visit and become enchanted.meet the Brutus the tortoise and walk the lower paths and see river.The garden 3,5 acres and garden by the famous naked gardeners.”
“The meandering walk through the wood down to the river and ponds obscures the house and you feel in another world. There are little bridges and stepping stones across the river, and a good viewing platform to appreciate the size of the abbey house.The gardens are absolutely amazing, the prettiest gardens I have ever seen, the beautiful wisteria just took my breath away! There are laburnum walkways and raised gardens, lots of water features and garden ornaments. The scents were intoxicating, an assault on all your senses with the array of colours and smells – amazing place, will go again, with or without clothes, the place is wonderful and I hope the garden is open to the public as it will be a shame if we lose such an enjoyable treasure”
It’s not quite clear who owns Abbey House Gardens these days but they still host the public on their clothes optional days and hopefully they will continue for several years to come.
This year they will be hosting clothes optional days on the following dates:
Sunday 21st May 2017
Sunday 11th June 2017
Sunday 16th July 2017
Sunday 13th August 2017
Sunday 3rd September 2017