There are secret gardens at Westminster Abbey. Here you will find an oasis of calm where you can sit in peace and forget that you are in the centre of one of the world’s busiest cities. The gardens are not really a secret, but I wonder how many people notice them or really take the time to appreciate them.
My mother and I found the College Garden by accident really. We went to visit Westminster Abbey late in the afternoon not realizing that the visiting hours are somewhat limited (note to future visitors: check opening times in advance). We decided to take a walk around the building and at least get a good look of the outside when we discovered a back entrance, with a gilded gate and everything!
We quietly walked through the dark stone hallways, fully expecting to be ushered out at any moment, when we happened upon the most beautiful cloister garden. The unexpected is one of the best parts of travel and generally makes for the most memorable experiences, and that is what the College Garden is for me. The high walls and tall trees almost completely block out the noise of the city and I can think of few better places for a sunny afternoon picnic or a relaxing coffee break.
The views of the Abbey were astonishing and unexpected, and being that we were the only people in the garden it felt as though we had the whole place to ourselves. Well, us and a local kitty cat but she was more than welcome.
What is today called the College Garden was originally the Infirmarer’s Garden and medicinal herbs and food were grown here for the occupants of the abbey. At different times in its history it would also have served as an orchard and a cemetery, but it would always have been an area of beauty, just as it is today.
Discovering places like the College Garden remind me to always look around corners and to never let a closed sign ruin my day. If we had entered Westminster Abbey by the front entrance, the way that thousands of people a day do, I’m not sure that we would have happened upon the gardens. I think this has been a lesson well learned.