Abbaye de Hambye (at last!)

In which we finally manage to visit the Abbaye de Hambye after several previous attempts.

On previous visits to Normandy, we’d ridden over to visit Hambye Abbey, only to find it closed on each occasion, most likely due to its lengthy lunchtime closure (12.00-14.00), but maybe also because it’s closed all day Tuesdays. We decided to hold off riding to Hambye until nearer lunchtime, and in the meantime G and I nipped out for a quick training ride round our regular circuit: Garmin trace.

After getting back from training, we put together some baguette sandwiches for a picnic lunch and set off at about mid-day. We chose a circuitous route on minor roads so that we wouldn’t arrive too early! We stopped at a bridge near the Abbey and sat in warm sunshine eating our sandwiches, and watching the dragonflies and damselflies zooming and swooping around. From our picnic spot, we could see the ruins of the abbey and a variety of surrounding buildings. Soon after 2pm,we packed our stuff up and headed down to the Abbey. Lo and behold the abbey was open.

There’s something of the history of the abbey at Wikipedia’s entry for Hambye Abbey. It was apparently founded in the 1145, which most of the construction happening between the late 12th and early 13th centuries. It would seem that following the Revolution, the abbey was sold, and changed hands several times, eventually being used as farm buildings. This fate seems to have befallen several of the sites we visited, and in some ways protected the ruins from further destruction. The main part of the abbey is pretty ruined, but in the inimitable French approach to preservation/restoration, a really nice job has been done in preserving the outbuildings. The formal garden in what presumably was a cloister is particularly attractive, with restored scriptoria and cider apple presses located in buildings around it. Some of the main abbey has been extensively defaced by centuries of graffiti artists, which makes for interesting reading.

After we’d finished looking round the abbey, we decided to head off along some roads we’d not ridden on before. The Abbey lies in a  valley, and all roads out involve a substantial element of climbing. The new tandem’s Rohloff hub gear performed faultlessly in helping us on our way as we made our way back to the house via Hambye and Notre Dame de Cenilly.