Ali makes bittersweet return to 12th century Cistercian Abbey near Brinklow where she was born

Coombe Abbey was her home in 1955

Ali with her older sister and dad at Coombe Pool.
Ali with her older sister and dad at Coombe Pool.

A visit to a 12th century Cistercian Abbey near Brinklow stirred sweet childhood memories for a grandmother.

Memories came flooding back for Ali Carter, 66, who returned to Coombe Abbey Hotel and park to show two of her grandchildren the place where she spent her formative years.

Ali was born at Coombe Abbey in 1955, and is believed to have been the first baby to have been born there for over 100 years.

Ali back at the park.

Her dad, Len Grice, was a manager at General Electric Company (GEC) at a time that Coombe Abbey was leased by them for apprentice accommodation. Part of Mr Grice’s role was to ‘mentor’ the apprentices - hence why the family lived on site.

Ali made sure that her 8-year-old granddaughter got to try her hand at the Go Ape experience in the grounds.

Ali said: “Bringing my granddaughters to Coombe Abbey for the first time was incredibly nostalgic and reminded me of the great times I had at the Abbey as a resident over half a century ago.

“Our links to Coombe Abbey go back a long way, and my cousin got married at the hotel in part due to his memories of visiting us at Coombe when he was a child.

“In our flat on the first floor of what is now the hotel, I remember being entranced by the big staircase up to our home and the enormous Christmas tree that stood proudly upon entering the building.

“I remember the parties for children with special needs, summer garden events and the apprentices ‘miller and sweep’ competitions in the moat with great fondness. On one occasion, I recall, a cow falling in the moat and the fire brigade attending. You had to be there!

Len and his family moved from the Abbey to Kenilworth in 1960, after five happy years in Binley. Ali has since returned in a visitor capacity, firstly with her own children and now in the next stage of her life as a grandparent.

On the day of her visit, Ali shared some nostalgic photography from the five years they spent living in the Abbey between 1955 and 1960. The family collection included photographs of the opening of ‘Coombe Bar’ – a now defunct facility that her dad Len helped create with his apprentices back in December 1959.

“My family’s relationship with the Abbey, through my dad’s role with GEC, whose telecommunications headquarters were in Coventry, has been unique.

“Since my dad died, it’s taken on extra special meaning, and it was wonderful bringing the next generation of my family to see the place where everything started for me and where our family has such strong roots.

“I’ve monitored the changes at Coombe Abbey Hotel and park from afar over a number of years, and have been very impressed by the way they’ve stayed true to the authenticity, history and traditions of the place but also modernised the attractions to ensure its relevance for years to come.”