News from St Nicholas Priory

I’m back with more news and hope you all had a lovely bank holiday. We made the most of the long weekend by exploring Haldon Forest and its various offers – very impressed with their “fund-a-loo” scheme and partner-latrines in places as far away as Myanmar and the Ivory Coast (makes you realise how lucky we are and how much we take things for granted). Free drinking water to refill our bottles, accessible amenities, and clear signage. Certainly a fine example of a Covid-secure, outdoor fitness park and woodland for children and families.

Next stop for us was Sidmouth – we try to stay local and enjoy as much as we can of our wonderful county. Sidmouth never disappoints – clean and busy without being crowded, many buildings have a fresh coat of paint and glistened in the sun after a short shower. Great ice cream and the independent traders were chatty and welcoming us into their pretty shops. We were particularly impressed by the sensory gardens – already starting to smell of summer – in the Old Boat Park at the end of the Ham. Inspirational especially the global theme of plants from different parts of the world – lots of ideas to take away…

And let’s not forget the Open Gardens scheme – we couldn’t resist finding one within walking distance: at Byes Reach, only just off the serene walking trail along the Sid, we found ¼ acre of amazingly well-planned and diverse garden, Lynette (incidentally the designer of  the sensory gardens, as it turns out) and Peter welcomed us warmly and gave us a thorough tour of their unexpected jewel of a garden. And we recommend their tea and cake in their crow’s nest – what a treat! Have a look on to find out more and to see which gardens near you are open to explore.

And this brings me neatly to our own gardens at St Nicholas Priory. When Exeter Historic Buildings Trust took it on, it was a forgotten bit of green calm in our busy city. It has a footpath through it which the trust keeps open for neighbours and passers-by alike. Residents from the care home around the corner have taken much care over the years to keep the gardens looking pretty, and the raised beds with herbs are the beginnings of a sensory garden, accessible and easy to maintain. And our wisteria arch makes me catch my breath when I see it in bloom…

Then a couple of years ago, Toby Buckland took an interest and came up with the great idea to turn our gardens into a modern medicinal herb garden. This ties in perfectly with the Benedictine monks and the Tudor residents who would all have made use of the gardens in similar ways. ”Physick” gardens were common to monasteries to treat the ailments of the community, while in Tudor times people would have made extensive use of herbs for both culinary and decorative purposes. Our medicinal garden will be one of only two such gardens in Devon and Cornwall and provide lots of new ways to interpret medical, garden and monastic history. Exciting indeed.

To make this happen, we recently approached Devon and Exeter Medical Heritage Trust to help us design and plan the medicinal herb garden, and our volunteers are busy weeding, planting, sowing, and having a marvellous time. Fancy joining us? Just drop me a line on or get in touch on twitter @nixpriory. Or better still, join us for a free outdoors tour on Sundays and see for yourself what we are up to.

Wonder what the Devon and Exeter Medical Heritage Trust is? I’ll be back soon with more info and news about what’s going on at the priory.

Until then, be in touch and stay safe, Judith…

Dr J Morgane, manager St Nicholas Priory, Exeter