Dorset delights

Apr 25th, 2019, 01:50 PM
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Dorset delights

(Annoyed note I have had to reregister due to the site not recognising my password and not sending me the reset - I tried multiple times and eventually gave up.

Dorset is, imo, one of the prettiest parts of England, but tends to be overlooked by overseas visitors. So here is a report on a recent visit. This trip was a short one, but sweet. The occasion was to celebrate the birthdays of my parents, who are both 80 this year, and rather than a party (or two!) they invited my brother, his partner, and me to have, at their expense, a lovely weekend away at Yalbury Cottage, a restaurant with rooms where they have stayed a number of times themselves. We travelled the weekend before Easter, which was clear but chilly, with a nasty nippy wind especially on the coast; we missed out on gorgeous summerlike temperatures a week later, but c’est la vie. At least it didn't rain.

We drove down from locations in Hampshire and Wiltshire on the Friday, meeting at Kingston Lacy, a grand country house dating from the late 17th century. My parents usually stop there on their way to Yalbury, but had only ever gone in the grounds. I was keen to see the interior, and they were glad to indulge me. I was incredibly impressed by the interior – lots of rooms to see, filled with beautiful antique furniture and paintings. The house was owned by a single family, the Bankes, formerly of Corfe Castle, from the time it was built until the last Bankes gave it to the National Trust. It was the most expensive NT property to visit I’ve ever been to, but one of the best - £16 per adult without Gift Aid, so we were glad we were NT members, but I think it would be worth the price anyway. There are also some Egyptian artefacts collected in the 19th century by a Bankes who travelled there in the 1810s, including an obelisk in the gardens which helped with the deciphering of hieroglyphic images. Particularly memorable was the stonking great organ in the dining room. The grounds are lovely too, although I did manage to trip on a walkway in the charming woods and fall face first into a laurel bush. Lucky it wasn’t over the pond. We spent about five hours there, and I would really recommend it as an example of an English country house. It was really busy when we were there, partly because there was an Easter egg hunt in the gardens for children. Admission to the house is by timed ticket but there was no wait needed.

We drove on to Yalbury Cottage, which is in the village of Lower Bockhampton close to Dorchester. It has a small restaurant and eight bedrooms, and is owned and run by chef Jamie Jones and his German wife Ariane. It was billed to me by parents as amazing food, but "just OK" accommodation, and at first I thought they had been unfair, but on reflection that is a fair judgment. My room was large and pleasant, and perfectly clean, but the bed wasn’t the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in, and the floor was a sort of raffia which was quite hard on the feet. But one plus was very effective heaters (as I mentioned earlier, it was rather cold while we were there). We also had complimentary chocolate brownies made by the chef’s apprentices left in the rooms. (DB hoped they might get replenished nightly, but was disappointed - it was a one per stay deal.)

The food really was superb. The menu is quite limited, with only a few choices each evening (and over three nights it was a bit repetitive as well), but it was perfectly cooked, and they were very willing to adjust things as well. I particularly loved the apple fritters I had for pudding on Saturday night. The restaurant is open to non-residents as well, except for Sunday and Monday evenings, when it is very quite indeed. Breakfast was great too, with lots of choice – smoked salmon and scrambled eggs were particularly lavish, and croissants made from scratch on request were fab. The only thing I would have liked was more pastries. The service was excellent as well, helpful and friendly, and the whole experience was lovely. I could see why my parents keep going back.

Last edited by nonconformist2; Apr 25th, 2019 at 01:53 PM.
nonconformist2 is offline  
Apr 26th, 2019, 06:42 AM
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nice report, nonconformist2, though I am sad about your re-registering glitch. You could perhaps email the mods now you are back on and ask them to resurrect your previous incarnation.

Anyway I agree with you about Dorset where I haven't spent anything like enough time; we always seem to have been passing through rather than staying put. As I result I have missed Kingston Lacy which looks like a mistake. DH had friends living there but we haven't been there to stay for years. My fault I am sure and now I am regretting it, for purely selfish reasons. And I will be making a note of the "restaurant with rooms".
annhig is offline  
Apr 26th, 2019, 06:52 AM
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I, too, had not visited Dorset, just driving through on the way to Cornwall, until 2015. I especially enjoyed Lyme Regis (click on my name for my TR).
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 26th, 2019, 07:32 AM
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Very nice report. I'd love to visit the area. Thanks.
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
Apr 26th, 2019, 07:54 AM
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Nice report. I visited the Bankes family there many many years ago as a young boy with my elder sister who went to the same finishing school as a daughter of the family. I was walked around the place on a pony by the girls. Happy sunny days.
bilboburgler is offline  
Apr 26th, 2019, 08:59 AM
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Saturday our group of five all went out together (in my brother’s Range Rover so plenty of room). We headed to the coast, to the swannery at Abbotsbury. I’d been there before, but it was a first for DB and DBP. We had a pretty drive across the green rolling hills of Dorset, ending up at what turned out to be the wrong place – DB had plugged in the postcode into his satnav. On arrival I realised what had happened, and helpfully pointed out that the leaflet which I had given him earlier said not to use the postcode as it took you to their admin centre a mile away �� This was obviously well received. However, the slight detour did mean we had the benefit of the scenery on the way.Abbotsbury Swannery is a unique place where over 1000 swans nest close together. It dates back to the medieval period, when it was basically a swan farm for the local abbey. There is also a historic (though much replaced) duck decoy. It was quite early in the season, but we saw quite a few nests and some eggs. On a previous visit later in April we saw a swan actually laying an egg. In May you will see all the fluffy cygnets as well. We were there for feeding time, when most of them waddle or swim with varying degrees of urgency to the headland where barrel loads of seed is dished out to supplement the natural food also available. Some particularly canny swans had figured out that if they went right up to the wheelbarrow they could tuck in as much as they pleased. Child visitors are invited to help at feeding time. Nesting swans, and those who preferred to stay away from the hubbub, were given helpings where they were. The only drawback was that it was freezing cold, with a nasty biting wind, so we didn’t stay as long as we might have done. One black swan was also resident this time; and some years a flamingo joined the herd for a few years.After a snack at the on-site café, we walked up into Abbotsbury village. There are a few ruined walls from the long gone abbey, and you can also see the outside of the largest tithe barn in England, now used as a children’s soft play area. Our destination in the village was the Dansel gallery, a wood craft/art specialist which my DP like. DBP does some wood turning so was interested in this.We then drove back to Bockhampton to visit Hardy’s cottage. This is the birthplace of Thomas Hardy, and belongs to the National Trust. It is a charming little place, and was atmospherically presented with a fairly good biographical video. It is actually within walking distance of our accommodation, but we were getting towards the end of the afternoon so didn't have time to do this.
nonconformist2 is offline  
Apr 26th, 2019, 09:00 AM
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>>Annoyed note I have had to reregister due to the site not recognising my password and not sending me the reset - I tried multiple times and eventually gave up<<

Perhaps post on the Tech Support forum -- they've been able to help a couple of people in you situation (but not everyone )

I Love Dorset - thanks for the report. I've stayed in Corfe Castle twice and once or twice near Dorchester - and climbed up to the Cerne Abbas Giant a couple of times Tried to visit Kingston Lacy once ages ago but could only do the grounds because there was a special event of some sort. Sounds lovely.
janisj is online now  
Apr 26th, 2019, 09:17 AM
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Thanks for the report. It brings back really fond memories of a short trip to Dorset, where we had a really nice time and the only meal I've ever walked out on (in Lyme Regis).
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Apr 26th, 2019, 09:28 AM
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<<We had a pretty drive across the green rolling hills of Dorset, ending up at what turned out to be the wrong place – DB had plugged in the postcode into his satnav. On arrival I realised what had happened, and helpfully pointed out that the leaflet which I had given him earlier said not to use the postcode as it took you to their admin centre a mile away �� This was obviously well received>>

lol, I can imagine. I don't have any recollection of going to the swannery, though as my family used to take summer holidays in Bournemouth when I was growing up I'd be surprised if we didn't. There are also some sub-tropical gardens nearby and not that far away is Clouds Hill which was the home of TE Lawrence. That is the only place we ever got to in that area. Not sure why we picked that one out of all the other choices.
annhig is offline  
Apr 26th, 2019, 10:09 AM
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I went to the Swannery as a day trip (by bus) from Weymouth. I discovered that if you go in August the swans don't fly because it's mating season. I also visited the "sub-tropical " gardens, which I enjoyed but didn't think we very sub-tropical. I thought the village quite pretty.
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 27th, 2019, 09:09 AM
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DB and DBP were only staying two nights, so they headed off home on Sunday morning, after a visit to the Tank Museum at Bovington (which I understand they enjoyed but would definitely not be on my shortlist).

My parents and I were staying another night (the trip was mainly a gift but I paid for the extra night). On Sunday we went first to Athelhampton House, a privately owned Tudor country house a few miles away. It is still a family home, but is currently up for sale, so if anyone has a spare £7.5 million check it out. The public rooms are charming, the furniture a bit shabbier than Kingston Lacy, but then some of it was rather older. On the top floor there is a small gallery containing paintings by a Russian artist who lived there in the 50s when her daughter married the owner – not quite my taste, I’m afraid. The gardens were beautiful but felt a little sad and tired; maybe it was the time of year. An advertised riverside walk was locked off for maintenance. However, it was a very pleasant place to wander. We admired the giant dovecote, still with resident doves. We enjoyed our visit here very much.

We then went on to nearby Tolpuddle, home village of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, pioneering trade unionists who were transported to Australia in the 1830s for demanding higher wages at a time of great need. We visited the small but informative museum dedicated to them; the only real artefacts on show were some letters from the contemporary vicar, but it was interesting.

Lastly we travelled to the outskirts of Dorchester to Max Gate, the house designed by Thomas Hardy (a trained architect before he became a writer) for his own home. Parking is very limited here but we just managed to find a space in the street outside the house. The house is run by the NT, and has only been open to the public for a few years, having been let to tenants for many years - in fact the most recent of the graves in the pets' graveyard in the gardens is for a tenant's pet. Most of the contents are items of the period rather than Hardy’s own, but the information is well presented.
nonconformist2 is offline  
Apr 28th, 2019, 03:24 AM
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We're on our way to Dorset tomorrow! It's one of my favorite spots, not only because it's stunningly beautiful but also because my DD, DSIL, and my grandson live there, quite near Abbotsbury. I'm looking forward to seeing the cygnets later in May.
Scooterr is offline  
Apr 28th, 2019, 04:17 AM
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Tolpuddle Martyrs, to be fair webrought them back from Oz as well ;-)
bilboburgler is offline  
Apr 28th, 2019, 05:06 AM
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Lucky you, Scooterr!

Bilboburgler, then we sent most of them off to Canada to make new lives

Monday was a bit disappointing due to inadequate research on my part. We wanted to stop off somewhere halfway home, and I suggested the small market town of Wimborne. My dad went to school nearby and remembered walking into town on Saturdays, but he didn't really recognise much. I had thought the town museum looked worth a stop, but had found it in a guidebook and a leaflet, and foolishly not checked online as well. Unfortunately it turned out to be closed for refurb for the next year.

The church, Wimborne Minster, was quite nice, and we ventured up the tower’s spiral staircase to see the 17th century chained library, a rare survival which was really interesting (and actually the one thing my dad really remembered), and staffed by an entertaining elderly pair of chaps.
nonconformist2 is offline  
Apr 28th, 2019, 06:41 AM
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<<Monday was a bit disappointing due to inadequate research on my part. We wanted to stop off somewhere halfway home, and I suggested the small market town of Wimborne.>>

It happens to us all from time to time, nonconformist.

And if it hadn't, you might not have met your "entertaining elderly pair of chaps"!
annhig is offline  
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