When I’m traveling, I often get an early start. I’m always so excited to get going and explore, that I hit the road as soon as I’ve eaten breakfast. Often times, though, the problem with this is that I get too early of a start. Being on the road by 9 am is good and all if you have a long drive. But I’ve found that most of the time, most tourist attractions in Britain don’t open until 10 am or 11 am. So, I usually find myself sitting in a car park, reading my phone while I wait for something to open.
I’m always attracted to a good ruin. This one wasn’t on my itinerary, but I needed something to do until a larger tourist attraction opened, and Bayham Abbey was on the way. Of course, I arrived too early. So early, that the gates to the road weren’t even open yet. So, I drove around the area to see what was around. When I returned, the gate was open. But the attraction hadn’t opened. So, I got out of the car and walked around the car park and wandered over to the view of New Bayham Abbey, a privately owned stately home that wasn’t open to the public. Even that didn’t kill enough time.
When the gates finally opened, I entered the tiny little shop and was presented with a very flustered Frenchwoman working the till, who was still doing all the things she needed to do to open the place. When I went to pay for my ticket, I handed her a £50 note. She balked.
Now, this was all I had on hand. In Britain, though, a £50 not is equivalent to a $100 bill (there isn’t a £100 note in England). Most places don’t like to take them and if they do, they might not even have enough change to break one. So, this poor girl, clearly flustered by the large bill, immediately had a meltdown. Muttering in French and English, “I have to open zee safe to break this, my non.” Or something like that.
Eventually, she made the change and I made haste to explore the ruin. It was much calmer in the ruin that it was in the tiny ticket office. The abbey ruin… was mostly unremarkable by ruins standards. Except for a tiny little thing that most people probably wouldn’t even notice. Located by the former high altar was a tree, hundreds of years old whose roots had become part of the wall. It was difficult to tell what was holding up what at this point. The wall had become the tree and the tree had become the wall. It was quietly beautiful. I stood there in the drizzle and admired it for quite some time. Henry VIII struck this place down and stole it’s wealth. But life still found a way to endure in this quiet spot in southeast England.
It had very much been worth the stop. Onward to my next stop after that (searching my memory I believe was Hever Castle).