2019 Day 122 – Lesnes Abbey

Well they said it would rain and it does. A polite drizzle at first, all the way through to thunderingly fat drops and everything in between. Much of the UK is on severe storm warnings. Flood warnings have been issued. It certainly gives driving a whole new twist.

We’ve some 70 miles to get to Abbey Wood – it always looks much closer on the map. 🤔But for once, it seems drivers have heeded warnings. Behaviour on the road appears much more circumspect than usual.

We arrive in Abbey Wood mid afternoon to a brief respite in the rain. Our site sits on the old Abbey’s grounds, full of sweet chestnut and oak trees: we see so many squirrels busily gathering their autumn harvest that it’s hard to keep count.

We decide it’s too late to go in to London. The weather’s adopted a cat and mouse approach – when we’re inside, it’s clear. Consider stepping a foot out, the rains come. Hmmm. Just as well I make a friend. She turns up on arrival and demands entry and pats. Isn’t she lovely! I miss kitty love.

Eventually though, twitchiness gets the better of me. “Let’s go” I signal to Himself, “I can be inside no longer”.

We set off to explore the nearby Lesnes Abbey ruins, for which the Abbey Wood suburb is named.

Lesnes Abbey’s history goes back to the 12th century.

Founded in 1178 by Richard de Luci who was then Chief Justiciar of England (equivalent to today’s Prime Minister), he lived in the Abbey briefly in retirement and was buried in the Chapter House on his death.

The Abbey was home to an order of Augustinian Canons:

their duties are reflected in a modern day mosaic.

Sadly, the Abbey was one of the first casualties under Henry VIII’s 1534 “Dissolution of the Monasteries” Act. Having suffered ineffective financial management and fallen into poor condition, at that time the Abbey housed fewer than eight monks, allowing it be dissolved immediately under the Act.

The Abbey was subsequently plundered for building materials, leaving the ruins we see today. In hindsight, Henry VIII was somewhat of a selfish old bastard. It was all about him, always. Human and capital cost be dammed.

There’s also the Monks’ Garden where medicinal herbs were grown and beehives were kept.

I rather like this modern sculptural hive interpretation.

The garden has attracted a flock of green parrots who have made themselves quite at home, thank you.

We also see an ancient mulberry tree, planted as part of King James I’s attempt to extend silk production in England.

He may not have been advised well, however: silkworms apparently only feed from the white fruited mulberry – the ones planted are were dark fruited.

The ground of Lesnes Abbey now form a series of educational woodland walks. Not that we’re going to have the opportunity today. High on the hill, with views through to London, we see menacing skies.

There’s much more to explore but Himself calls a double time march home.

We make it back just as the rains hit. Perhaps he had a point after all.