Making Friends in the Squibb Garden, Cerne Abbas

May 12, 2023

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

When I woke this morning after a restless night, I felt a little jaded, as if the grey, sheet-like sky had wrapped itself around me, making everything a little colourless and faded. We all have such mornings, and as we get older, if we do not take care of ourselves, those grey fuzzy moments might be allowed to seep through our skin, down into our pores and into our hearts. But we can help ourselves to overcome this. Knowing exactly what to do, I fed my furry companions, took Arthur for his constitutional and then, having made my decision, got in the car and aimed for the A352 to Cerne Abbas as the thin sun began to appear.


Apart from seeing my old friend the Giant with his enormous unmentionable appendage (who never fails makes me smile), I have spent many happy hours there. I like to take myself off and write by the Abbey Tower or the wishing well. As well as these obvious little gems in Cerne, I love the village itself. The duck pond with its feathered residents, who I take a small tin of sweet corn for. The meandering walk along the river which takes you behind the houses and cottages like a secret voyeur. And the Architecture, with some of the most beautiful, ancient properties I have ever seen. Everything about Cerne Abbas speaks to me, it’s a mix of ancient and new, its Christianity and paganism comfortably rubbing shoulders with each other and its innate, quiet beauty.


I remember when I first moved to Dorset, knew no one and had only recently lost Orla, my autistic 14st Leonberger. Both grieving and very sad, I popped Arthur into the car, driving I knew not where at the time, just needing to help us both find ourselves again, the house seeming so utterly empty. We pitched up at Cerne, parked and slowly took off around the village on foot, absorbing into ourselves the sublime charm and peace of the village. Seeing an entrance in the wall opposite a row of ancient dwellings alongside St. Mary’s Church, we found ourselves entering the Squibb Garden.

Having already committed myself through the gate, Arthur on a lead ahead of me, I was instantly surprised to find myself confronted by a whole host (is there a collective noun for Monks?)of Benedictine Monks or Friars, I’m not sure which, in their black habits. Believing I was intruding, I called out to Arthur in order to make a hasty retreat. Before I could step backwards, one of the gathered stepped towards me and put his hand on my arm and welcomed me in. “It’s just a gardening day…” he said, smiling and peering at me with bright blue eyes over his dark-rimmed glasses. “Please come in, both of you, you’re more than welcome!” (I loved the fact that this man deliberately extended his invitation to Arthur as well as myself.)

Shyly, weaving between the Habits we went in and going to the end of the garden, found a bench to sit on. Before we had settled ourselves, though, we were surrounded, and there was a host of hands, with and without gardening gloves, all proffered towards Arthur. Now Arthur loves people but is also a consummate performer and, from very small, has known his own power. A consummate professional, he knows how to make friends and win hearts. I watched him out of the corner of my eye as he worked the crowd like a well-practised artist, liberally handing out favours. Confident to leave him to his own devices, I answered questions about his name, his breed and breed history.

We spent a lovely hour chatting amiably with those kind, gentle men who lifted our spirits no end and even blessed us when we left, feeling so much lighter. They reminded both of us that life goes on and that there is so much goodness to be found in simple friendship and conversation.

Today, I went alone, but visiting that beautiful, simple garden reminded me of that visit where together, we were able to shake off our sadness through the kindness of others and sitting on that same bench, I felt it again. Still only spring, there was so much loveliness, so much new life to wonder at and celebrate. I hoped I would see those Benedictines come through that gate to greet me, but alas, it was not to be.

Leaving the garden, I went to the duck pond. I fed them my corn, one being very cheeky and trying to snatch it from my hand, making me laugh, before taking myself off to the old Abbey porch. This ancient tower and its setting never cease to delight and intrigue me. Like something out of a novel, it is both magical and solid. Even its apparent secrecy, hidden out of sight, it is the least well-kept secret that I know of. Strangely though, I have never, in all the times I have visited, met a single other soul there as I touch its carved stones. We did once meet a Collie who barked hysterically at us before running off, but I don’t think that counts.

Tying thin white and green satin ribbons to the low branches of the trees behind the tower, I watched them flutter with the many others that signify a blessing, a blessing to all those past and present. Head clear, heart restored, I made my way back to my car, back home to my furry friends and my computer, where here I sit. Cup of coffee in hand, heart lighter, the grey clouds banished, I share my little jaunt with you and invite you if just for a moment, to share my world.

More beautifully penned stories from The Dog Lady, click HERE.

Becoming more Beautiful.

Why fear the passing of time,

Learn to love it as you would a gift.

Let winters passing lift the soul and accept that,

What is truly fine are things like

Gold and silver, ivory or wine.

Each in their turn improving with age,

Appreciation shown and known and understood by all.

Like old houses which speak of charm and grace,

And gnarled old trees, or silk and lace.

So shall you age with loveliness,

Your beauty and experience valued and appreciated.

Your shadow will grow stronger in the sun,

The child you were, still full of fun

The longer that you live and walk your life.

Each line of your face is treasured,

Each wrinkle adored because it is you,

You who revels in the story of your life told

And so never old, just beautifully seasoned.

by Chrissy Brooks

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