Discover: Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge

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Edd Elliott

If you are feeling like some fresh air this year, there are few better places to trundle than Anglesey Abbey. A rolling estate nestled in the quaint Cambridge periphery, Anglesey is a paradise for those who enjoy rustic beauty. We explore its winding trails and Jacobean interiors, and tell you all you need to know about this captivating country manor.

Anglesey Abbey is a National Trust home just a short drive from the city of Cambridge. The site combines a series of diverse gardens and terraces with an historic stately home. Visitors are free to wander the 46-hectares of tranquil scenery year round, and the house is open to visit at selected times. Anglesey also curates a calendar of seasonal events, perfect for family outings.

Anglesey Abbey in Autumn

Photo Credit: Edd Elliott

Make no mistake, visitors to Anglesey will not be found wanting for greenery. The grounds border the East Anglian fens and benefit from the wetlands well-watered terrain. The estates’ central fields comprise an earthy scrubland left largely uncultivated, an ideal pasture for rural romantics. Cutting off south and east, a series of trails lead from the heath through the surrounding woodlands. The twisting system of pathways reveals a selection of themed gardens often accompanied by an array of classical statues and sculptures. A particular highlight includes a marble David and his lions ringed within a stretch of colonnades. The Pilgrims Lawn also has a certain austere beauty with its muted shrubbery.

The gardens host a particularly wide range of coniferous horticulture, and colours are on display no matter the season. The grounds’ Winter Garden is a moodier retreat for the colder months. A winding trail through a collection of silver birches and scarlet willows, it’s a peaceful walk for quiet February weekends. Visitors are advised to ready their noses, with Sarcococca, Mahonia and honeysuckle lining the garden’s beds. In summer, Anglesey’s cultivated gardens close to the manor offer a more manicured delicacy. The neatly arranged beds display everything from roses to chrysanthemums, exuding reds, oranges and yellows.

The Watermill at Anglesey Abbey

Photo Credit: Edd Elliott

The manor gardens lead through to the Lode Mill - a traditional watermill perched across a passing stream. The site is believed to have been used for grinding grain as early as the Domesday survey in 1086. The current building was erected in the 18th century and was fully functioning right through to the 1930s. The chalk-white paint cuts a stunning contrast to the surrounding foliage, especially in autumn, glancing off the mill’s gentle waterways for Monet-esque reflection, irresistible for any Instagramers ambling by.

The Lode isn’t Anglesey’s only vaunt into the past. The central abbey dates back to the 12th century and is believed to have been founded by Henry I. The land was separated from the church during the Henry VIII’s Reformation and sold into lay hands, later converted into a stately house by the Fowkes family in the later 16th century. It was not until the 20th century that the building we can now visit emerged. Lord Fairhaven and his brother bought the estate in 1926, and instigated an extensive series of renovations. The property was donated to the National Trust following Fairhaven’s death. Guests can now explore the manor and its medieval remnants. The home’s central staircase contains a series of gilded tapestries, displayed on its walls to view. The dining hall also has a curved gothic roof reminiscent of feudal feasts of yesteryear.

Fairhaven Manor at Anglesey Abbey

Photo Credit: Andreas Von Einsiedel

Anglesey Abbey has plenty to offer those who are history-averse, however. The more recently constructed Hoe Fen to the east of the grounds provides a play area for younger visitors, complete with a story telling circle, wildlife observation spots, a log-run xylophone and, of course, the Lime Treehouse, a two-story lookout perfect for pretend pirates. Regular activities are hosted by the National Trust. Keep an eye on their website for seasonal events.

No matter how many times you visit Anglesey Abbey there will always be something more to uncover. It’s a place that rewards absentminded wandering, knitting together different lawns and vistas through daydreaming ambles. Come back in different seasons and watch the colours shift; collect conkers in the autumn and pick the daffodils in spring.

For more information regarding The National Trust’s, Anglesey Abbey and Lode Mill, please see online.