The English Abbey: The Tourist's POV

by Elizabeth Kelsey Bradley /
Elizabeth Kelsey Bradley's picture
Mar 25, 2012 / 0 comments

When I think of parks from my youth, I envision rolling fields of endless sunshine and clouds as far as the next crest takes me mixed with hues of deep green and brown and gatherings of trees placed impeccably by the Great Painter; a solo sentinel here, a few maples in this area over here, and all surrounded by a sparse forest of anything and everything resembling a young northerner's paradise.  These are the images either I have locked away in my temple or the computer and TV have implanted on my sightly aging mind.  But, one memory sticks out that tops them all: Woburn Abbey in Cambridgeshire, England.


Woburn Abbey. Used courtesy of flickr Creative Commons,

Woburn Abbey. Used courtesy of flickr Creative Commons,



If you google "English Abbey" you get images of 1,000 year old monasteries and arch after fallen down arch.  But, the wonder that these places hold is more than that.  Woburn Abbey, in particular, is a still fully functioning, well-maintained tourist attraction.  I actually had to pull the numbers off the website because I was unsure of the size, but let me tell you, it is such a massive experience.  The Abbey is home to the Duke of Bedford and also nine different species of deer and you can't miss them on the 3,000 acre grounds.  Deer with antlers, fawns, groups playing chicken with the tourists; they are everywhere, but not in a bad way.  It's just that there is always something to see.   You spot them darting through the trees in packs, or munching on grass while you're driving along the dirt entrance.


But if deer and bird watching aren't your cup of tea, you can sit and enjoy some of the finest scones with clotted cream and raspberry, yes, Raspberry jam, and English tea of course.  Then afterwards, head towards the Antiques Center to check out some classic English stuff (as you can tell, I'm not a museum-goer).  Or you can follow in my footsteps and head off towards the gardens with an empty notebook and feel the inspiration under some unique foliage while listening to the birds in nearby cages.


Woburn Abbey pond

Woburn Abbey pond



Now a lot has been improved since my last visit, as they completed an Aviary, a Bog Garden, and Chinese Diary.  My Uncle Frank always took me and we would spend countless hours whiling away daylight and time in this majestic locale.  Next time I go back, things won't look the same.  Structural 'improvements'  always seem to change childhood memories of our favorite havens.  But, I know Frank is still walking through the trees smiling in his own fashion, reliving his own childhood memories.


Parks do that.  When you next go to England, get out of the city.  Find a nearby Abbey and explore the day away.  Today's kids are starving for nature and here is everything at their fingertips.  Open your hands and enjoy!



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Elizabeth Kelsey is the Family Travel in Asia and Europe Editor for Wandering Educators. You can read more of her work at


Woburn Abbey pond photo courtesy and copyright Elizabeth Kelsey