Forde Abbey & Gardens

Partner Garden
Free access for RHS members at selected times

Forde Abbey
TA20 4LU

4 miles south-east of Chard.

30 acres

01460 221290

Visit website

Opening Hours

10.30am–5pm (last entry 4pm), daily, 1 Mar–31 Oct (weekends in Feb for snowdrops).


Please see website for admission prices.

RHS members

Free access (member 1 only for joint memberships) applies Mar and Mons, Apr–Oct.


  • Accessible facilities
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Children's activities
  • Dogs welcome
  • Gift shop
  • Group rates
  • Parking
  • Picnic area
  • Plant sales
  • Refreshments
  • Toilets


  • Autumn colour
  • Bog garden
  • Champion trees
  • Pond or lake
  • Wildflower meadow

About the garden

Owned by
Alice Kennard

Forde Abbey is a treasure set in the beautiful rural Dorset, on the banks of river Axe; 900 years of history is encapsulated in this elegant former Cistercian monastery and its 30 acres of award-winning gardens and ponds.

The last abbot re-modelled the abbey, and further developments by Edmund Prideaux transformed the house into the magnificent private residence it is today, leading Pevsner to include it as one of the Hundred Best Buildings of England. However, Forde Abbey is first and foremost a family home, offering a warm and friendly welcome to our visitors.       

Today the gardens are in the hands of owner and head gardener Alice Kennard, and her family, who continue to make it ‘a garden for all seasons’. After the pared back minimalism of winter topiaries, the crocus carpet the lawns and meadows in sheets of purple. The spring catwalk of tulips is an exuberant flush of colour. The arboretum bursts into clouds of pink with magnolias coming into bloom. The alliums take on from tulips, and the herbaceous borders begin to burst with colour. The wildflower meadows are flecked with green-winged and common spotted orchids with a haze of Lilium martagon.    
The walled Kitchen Garden is traditionally planted with dahlias and other ornamentals. However, the majority of it is used to grow vegetables throughout the year. We are particularly proud of our giant pumpkins and an array of autumn gourds which are on display in autumn.    

The summer has sweet peas on the scramble, the airspace crammed full of roses, poppies, lilies and dahlias. The Kitchen Garden and Park Garden billow and burgeon throughout the year. The Swirl constantly evolves with spring bulbs followed by wildflowers.     

In Autumn the arboretum is lit up in shades of burnt ambers. Star performers include Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’, Liriodendron tulipifera, an impressive tulip tree that turns golden yellow and the burnt orange leaves of Quercus rubra Aurea. The avenue of lime trees with their bright buttery yellow hues welcome winter and underneath snowdrops start in drifts the following spring.  

Please note: this garden is partially accessible.

Plants of special interest

  • Agapanthus
  • Alliums
  • Alpines
  • Asters
  • Autumn bulbs
  • Bluebells
  • Camellias
  • Clematis
  • Conifers
  • Cornus (for winter stems or spring bracts)
  • Cut flowers
  • Cyclamen
  • Daffodils
  • Dahlias
  • Delphiniums
  • Ferns
  • Fruit blossom
  • Fruit bushes/trees
  • Grasses
  • Heathers
  • Hellebores
  • Hemerocallis
  • Herbs
  • Hostas
  • Irises
  • Lilies
  • Magnolias
  • Maple
  • Meconopsis
  • Orchids
  • Primulas
  • Rhododendrons/azaleas
  • Roses
  • Shade-loving plants
  • Snowdrops
  • Spring bulbs
  • Sweet peas
  • Topiary
  • Vegetables
  • Wildflowers
  • Wisteria

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.