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Southern England - good base & some other ?

Well I am at the very beginning of planning a U.K. trip for next May/June and I have a couple of questions that I hope people don't mind advising me on.

First a bit about us - so you will know where we are starting from:
1. Middle-aged - him VERY fit, me a lot less fit
2. Interests - chiefly historic architecture and scenery
3. We have been to the U.K. several times before and tend to be happiest a bit off the main North American tourist track. We LOVED Shropshire and Wales.
4. DH would very much prefer NOT to drive - so ANY advice on transportation is VERY welcomed
5. I have pretty much decided on Southern England for this trip.
6. Duration - 2 weeks most likely (no more than 3)
7. Places we really want to see - Sissinghurst, Shaftesbury, Lyme Regis, Knole, Bodiam Castle
Maybe - Stourhead, Dorcester, Tunbridge Wells

Questions:
Especially given that we plan to rely on local buses and trains:
1. What would be a good base of operations (we would like to change accommodations only 2 or 3 times if possible)?
2. Is self-catering accommodation a possibility when relying on local transit or should we stick to B&Bs ?
3. Any places you especially recommend seeing that I have not mentioned?

Thanks for any thoughts.
.

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