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Among the rolling Dorset hills, in a valley with a unique, temperate microclimate, is the small village of Abbotsbury. As beautiful as the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty within which is sits, Abbotsbury is the perfect example of a ‘picture postcard’ village. Its main street, lined with stone cottages, widens to what was once a central market square, still the heart of the village and location of Strangways Hall, several independent shops and tearooms, and one of Abbotsbury’s two characterful pubs.

Endless evidence in the landscape around Abbotsbury speaks of human activity in the area dating as far back as 6,000 BC. The village we know today is so named due to its historic connection to abbots. It was Orc, a Christian steward of King Canute, who built a Benedictine monastery, the Abbey of St. Peter, on the site of a previous wooden church some time after 1016 AD. The Dissolution of the Monasteries laid waste to the abbey in 1538, though the adjacent Tithe Barn and St Catherine’s Chapel, a hilltop pilgrimage site above the village, both survived and still exist today.

Just a mile from Chesil Beach and the Fleet Lagoon (all part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site), Abbotsbury also has a long-standing relationship with the sea, which began with the arrival of Saxon pirates in 500 AD. Throughout its history of times of both prosperity and hardship, chief village industries included fishing, net and ropemaking, though in 1752, the London Journal proclaimed that “all the people of Abbotsbury, including the vicar, are thieves, smugglers and plunderers of wrecks”. Mackerel fisherman can still be found on the Abbotsbury stretch of Chesil Beach just about 365 days a year, served by a bait and tackle shop in the village itself.

As well as its beauty and history, Abbotsbury is famous for its Swannery and Subtropical Gardens, both now popular visitor attractions. The former, first recorded in 1393, was originally a source of food for the abbey monks, and is now the largest managed colony of nesting Mute Swans in the world. Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens began life as kitchen garden planted by the Countess of Ilchester for the nearby castle (since destroyed by fire) in 1765. Over the years, the gardens grew to 20-acres filled with exotic plants, many newly discovered species when they were first introduced. The site includes formal, informal and walled gardens as well as woodland walks, and plays host to numerous events (and weddings!) throughout the year.

 

Local

Local store/post office, butcher, village hall, two public houses and several shops, galleries and tearooms

Transport

Local bus service

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