The weather this week in Michigan has been more than superb. As I’ve told a lot of people I believe I am solar-powered. There is nothing better than finding a sunbeam and recharging the batteries. Of course if that doesn’t work there is always coffee.
When I was a youngster everyday was full of sunshine, and rain just meant that there would be puddles and mud to go and roll in. On the odd days where I wasn’t covered in dirt and the sun was out my Father or my Mother would take me for a trip off to Town. A trip to Town consisted of a walk to the bus stop, a ride in to Town and then what was for a six-year-old, a long walk to the Abbey Gardens. A place that then, and now is still my favorite spot in Bury St.Edmunds.
For those who want an in-depth history of the Abbey Gardens and its ruins, this blog is not the place to look for it. You can try this Wiki Entry if you want, that’s a good place to start. From me you will get this history. The Abbey was built over 1000 years ago, and at some point got ruined.
What this blog entry will consist of is my memories of the place. Its enchantment, and its rich list of myths, one or two of them I may or may not have started! I have told a tall tale to a tourist once or twice you know. Just as note of caution. If you are American, and you have met me in Michigan, and you told me that you were going to England, and that I told you that single yellow lines mean free parking for an hour, and double lines mean two hours? That’s a lie, sorry!
Lets start with some easy stuff, why would a six-year-old love going to a park? The playground of course! Swings, Slides, See-Saws (teeter-totters), Roundabouts, and not a rubber safety mat to be seen. Back in those days us six-year olds were tough, you fell over, got up and fell over again! and again! No one worried about a few cuts and scrapes, as long as you didn’t miss your turn on the slide it was all good. And if you were silly enough to walk up the slide and got knocked down, that was your fault and you still laughed. The roundabouts were death traps that you would try to spin as fast as you could until someone fell off. All great things. Well except when the big kids came along and stole the swings you were on.
The other thing a six-year-old loves is Ice Cream! The Abbey Gardens Drinks and Ice Cream window is still there. You can go see it! And on a warm day you can pay for an over-priced iced treat. Sitting and eating your Ice Cream there is an experience all on its own. Now you are surrounded by aviaries with all sorts of fluttery birds. Back in my youth though there were of course the birds, but there was also all kinds of other furry things. Including monkeys! What kid doesn’t love monkeys? Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?
There is also a huge fish pond there with big goldfish in it. Though after some kid fell in it in the 70s it was closed off and no one could go in there anymore.
I’ll come back to the last thing that I loved as a kid at the end, now I’d like to grow up a bit (yeah right) and talk about some other things. Lets start with the sports. You can play tennis if so inclined, there is putt-putt (or try to whack the squirels as the kids call it) and crazy golf, though the bowling green is of the highest standard. I never played myself, though I was always amused by the legend that there is buried gold under the middle of the immaculately laid turf. Now I don’t remember if it was my Father who told me this, or if it is one of the rumours that I started. But there is gold there and you should go dig it up right away! Honest.
Then there is the Grey Lady. A ghost who haunts the Abbey Gardens. Some claim to have seen her, others terrified by her! And then there’s some people like my Father and his friends who camped the night in the gardens just to win a bet. Scared of ghosts my Father was not. He never saw the Grey Lady on his over night stay, though legend has it that the spirits he did see made him see pink elephants. Nuff Said.
As I grew older I grew to appreciate peace and quiet. When I lived on the south coast for a while I’d enjoy sitting on the beach reading my newspaper. Well in Bury St.Edmunds there isn’t a beach. There is however a place that is just as relaxing and serene. The Rose Garden is tucked neatly into the Abbey Gardens, hidden by tall hedges and a stone wall, the moment you enter you feel the outside world just disappear. There is a motorway (freeway) close by and in the Rose Garden you can’t hear the noise from it. The Rose Garden is also a link to America, with a plaques and benches dedicated to those servicemen who were stationed near Bury St.Edmunds during the Second World War. In the peace and quiet there you get to see the world go by, and see all types of Bury’s people. Including the occasional harmless nutcase.
The Gardens now plays host to Fireworks displays on November 5th each year and the occasional pop concert and fun fair. At one event the Karate Club I belonged too put on a demo there, yes I did Karate, but that is a different blog entry! But when it is not being used for public events, it is a great place to chill out, just as it has been for 1000 years, ever since the monks first walked there among the same walkways that you can still wander.
I want to thank my friend Lisa Jean for letting me use the photos she took while she was in Bury. Lisa Jean is one of my soccer buddies who in passing mentioned she was off to England and I said half jokingly that she should visit my home town. Well to my surprise she did and I’m really glad she posted these pics on her Facebook page because even though I love living in Michigan, there is no place like home.
Now to end, one of the things that you have to do in the Gardens and I loved doing as a child. Each time my Mother or Father would take me on the bus, into Town, and off to the Abbey Gardens, we would always go through the bread box to find all the loose or stale bits of bread. We would take these to the Gardens to feed the ducks. The Gardens has lots of ducks, and the occasional angry swan. As soon as the ducks hear the rustling of a paper bag they know that the bread can’t be far away. They are not scared of the humans, though some of the humans I’ve seen are quite often scared of the ducks!
My goal was to feed a duck so much bread that it sank!
This never happened.
Though it does give me some happy memories.