March 2006 www.classic.co.uk
classic news | Somerset and Dorset In this Newsletter, we explore the eastern boundaries of our territory. Philippa and Penny, Property Managers for the areas, ask you not to succumb to the temptation to keep following the dotted, white lines west, but to turn off and explore the counties of Somerset and Dorset. Each has its own unique character, but they are both just that bit closer to home and are perfect for a short, revitalising escape. We also wave the flag for the burgeoning fleet of low cost airlines which are bringing our whole area within â€˜short breakâ€™ range.
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When we set Penny, the Property Manager for Somerset and Philippa, who covers Dorset, the task of writing about their territories in the same Newsletter, we were afraid that pens would be taken up like swords and ‘fur would fly’. But it has been a great team effort and they have done their counties proud.
A fine literary pedigree, a bit of history round every corner, stress-busting countryside and villages just like they used to be in Grandma’s day. Years ago, travelling down for my family’s annual sojourn in Cornwall, I remember signposts bearing curiously enticing names flashing by – Cheddar Gorge, Glastonbury Tor, Wookey Hole. But we motored on across the Somerset Levels without stopping, on past the sign for Exmoor, with only a vague intention to explore further…one day. So until I joined Classic Cottages, I was unaware of the myriad reasons to stop; to take time out to explore this incredibly diverse county. Nowadays I come here often, lucky enough to discover firsthand Somerset’s welcoming hospitality, its astonishing variety of staggeringly beautiful scenery, things to do and places to see. Crossing into Somerset on the A303 you are close to Yeovil, where the Museum of South Somerset tells the intriguing story of the town’s glove-making history. Criss-crossed with footpaths and bridleways, the mellow countryside beyond is scattered with picturesque villages, and if historic buildings and beautiful gardens are your cup of tea, you will be spoilt for choice: Forde Abbey, the National Trust’s Tintinhull, classic news | Somerset and Dorset page 2
Barrington Court, Montacute House (and its nostalgic TV and Radio Memorabilia Museum) and English Heritage’s Muchelney Abbey. Take in Muchelney Pottery and the John Leach Gallery at the same time, but keep a whole day free for the Fleet Air Arm Museum. Then there’s the Wildlife Park at Cricket St Thomas – and on sunny days, the golden beaches of Dorset are not so very far away. Arriving from the north, leave the motorway behind and head for the rolling Quantock Hills, England’s earliest designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Stop off at delightful Nether Stowey for a pint at the Ancient Mariner – appositely opposite Coleridge’s cottage – or hike up into the hills to Wills Neck, witnessing the rich bird and wildlife just as Wordsworth did. For the more stalwart, the Coleridge Way takes you 36 miles on foot to Porlock through some spectacular scenery – and don’t fret, the route passes several convivial pubs and tea-rooms if you’ve forgotten your own supplies! Up on the coast, let your imagination run wild at the amazing Jurassic rock formations at Kilve and Quantoxhead. Travel on to Washford – Cleeve Abbey
for grownups, Tropiquaria for youngsters, the little railway museum for everyone – or to Watchet, where ancient harbour contrasts with modern marina. Perhaps pick up the West Somerset Railway here, the steam trains having already chuffed their way from Bishops Lydeard, alongside the Quantocks, now to follow the coastline past Blue Anchor Bay and historic Dunster Castle to the terminus at bustling Minehead.
Page 1: The rolling hills of Exmoor. Page 2: Take the bike, you will see so much more. This page: Clockwise from left: Many a traveller has kissed at this gate. A typical morning scene from the charmingly named Stogumber village. Dorset Thatch.
Next, picture-postcard Porlock, and Porlock Weir a little further on. Now the scenery gets seriously interesting. Engage first gear for the notorious 1 in 4 Porlock Hill, and wend your way towards the truly tranquil Doone Valley and Malmsmead ford, where Somerset becomes Devon. Or get even closer to the edge and walk Exmoor’s coast path, taking in Britain’s longest stretch of naturally wooded coastline with its breathtaking, stunningly beautiful views at every turn. Further inland, miles and miles of footpaths and bridleways meander through the woodland combes, heathercovered moors and tumbling rivers that is Exmoor National Park, where we humans are privileged to share the mesmerising scenery with native ponies, red deer and the buzzards wheeling overhead; the view from Dunkery Beacon on a clear day is spellbinding. Historians will want to visit Castle Cow, the Caratacus Stone and Wambarrows; others will be content to wander from Withypool along the babbling river Barle to the ancient clapper bridge at Tarr Steps. Back afterwards for a thirstquencher at the Royal Oak Inn where R D Blackmore wrote part of Lorna Doone, or maybe for a cream tea indulgence at Simonsbath. Coffee and classic news | Somerset and Dorset page 3
cake in the thriving town of Dulverton might provide the stamina to tackle the angling and watersports at Wimbleball Lake – but you’ll need something more fortifying if you’re there for the Iron Man contest in June! So, one whistlestop tour later, and perhaps you too will be persuaded to linger next time, rather than just ‘passing through’ on your way to somewhere else. Why not spend a week, or even just a few days, exploring Somerset’s intriguing secrets for yourself – quietly, at your own pace?
When I was asked to write a piece about Dorset for the Newsletter, my heart sank. When I took over as Property Manager for the Dorset area, I was convinced that I still didn’t know this county, once dominated by large reptiles, amphibians and dinosaurs: a world class venue for palaeontology. Now, the things I love most about Dorset are the gentle rolling hills and sleepy villages, where charming cottages sit under cosy thatch. Cerne Abbas springs to mind, the lovely houses nestled along quaint streets, overlooked by the famous Cerne Giant carved into the hill and once worshipped as a god of fertility (rumour has it that if a couple wish to conceive they should make love on the hill at the time of a full moon – that’s something I didn’t test for the Newsletter). Another beautiful village is Abbotsbury, home for over 600 years to the Swannery, a friendly colony of Mute Swans, and a beautiful sub-tropical garden open to the public. Slightly schizophrenic is the seaside town of Weymouth, being in two halves; the ‘new’ town sits to the east of the River Wey, begun in the 18th Century when the future George III descended upon the town to take in the benefits of sea bathing. Elegant buildings line the
This page: Clockwise from left: A good old fish and chips sundowner on Dorset’s Seatown beach. Sleepy villages nestled between the valleys in this typical Dorset vista. The umpteen idle pleasures of Lyme Regis harbour.
seafront, providing a colourful backdrop to the golden sands which come complete with deck chairs and donkeys in the summer or kite-fliers and dog-walkers in the winter. The old town around the harbour is bordered by higgledy-piggledy cottages, fish restaurants and chandlers. A hive of activity, the port is home to lobster boats, fishing trawlers and yachts. Every hour during the summer the town bridge lifts to allow craft of all sizes to pass into and out of the inner marina. Further up the coast is Studland Bay, famous not just for its naturist beach but also for its nature reserve, home to rare birds and other native wildlife. The heart of this region is the market town of Corfe and the imposing ruins of Corfe Castle, towering dramatically over the village, with its views of the Purbeck countryside. A leisurely steam train trip on the famed Swanage Steam Railway is a perfect opportunity to step back in time. For gentle rambling, the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site runs along the entire Dorset coast, promising unrivalled walks and perhaps a fossil or two to take home. Lyme Regis, famous for the discovery of the first dinosaur skeleton in the early 19th Century, continues to attract both amateur and professional classic news | Somerset and Dorset page 4
fossil-hunters. The Cobb, a man-made pier dating from Edward II’s reign, was immortalised by local author John Fowles in his novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman. The image of Meryl Streep, the sad heroine, standing here amidst storm-tossed waves must be one of the most romantic fictional film moments of all time. Literary connections cannot be discussed without paying homage to author Thomas Hardy, a true son of Dorset. His evocative books are as popular now as ever; it is intriguing to visit the places where his stories are set. The County Town of Dorchester (Hardy’s Casterbridge) holds a famous outdoor market, a haven for bric-á-brac and local produce, every Wednesday. After perusing the stalls, why not revive yourself with lunch and a pint of Royal Oak? The stunning scenery at Lulworth Cove and the heart stopping splendour of Durdle Door will offer a challenge for walkers, but you will have a sense of satisfaction as you look over the sheer cliffs to the sea below. For simply spending an hour or two picnicking or soaking up the historical atmosphere, I suggest a trip to Sturminster Newton with its mill set on the edge of the River
Stour, the Bull Tavern with its good food or to Plumber Manor where you can indulge in gastronomic delights. Open countryside, lovely beaches and good food – Dorset offers it all and I can do no greater justice to this beautiful county than urge you to visit soon. Yes, my heart did sink at the thought of writing this Newsletter, but I have had great pleasure in describing to you a fabulous county far from the madding crowd!
Escape for a Few Days Those of us who are lucky enough to live in the West Country know that escaping to the coast, countryside or open moors for just a few hours can recharge the batteries. Three or four days away can often seem like a week. Somerset and Dorset really are so easy to reach that you can be winding down within two or three hours of jumping into the car. Our Web site shows the cost of any Short Break so why not pop on-line at www.classic.co.uk, select your property, put your holiday dates in and see how reasonable it really is. If you are a bit further up the line, why not fly? Low cost airlines have reached the South West and you can now fly direct to either Newquay, Plymouth or Exeter from Aberdeen, Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Cork, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guernsey, Jersey, Leeds Bradford, London Gatwick, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Stansted.
Visit the Web sites below for more details. Newquay Airport
www.bmibaby.com www.flybecom www.europcar.co.uk www.hertz.co.uk
Activities Watersports: Wimbleball Lake South West Lakes Trust, Dulverton, Somerset, TA22 9NW Tel: 01398 371 460 www.swlakestrust.org.uk Exmoor National Park Exmoor House, Dulverton, Somerset, TA22 9HL Tel: 01398 323 665 www.exmoor-nationalpark. gov.uk The West Somerset Railway The Railway Station, Minehead, Somerset, TA24 5BG Tel: 01643 704 996 www.west-somerset-railway. co.uk Swanage Railway Station House, Swanage, Dorset, BH19 1HB Tel: 01929 425 800 www.swanagerailway.co.uk Moors Valley Country Park Horton Road, Ashley Heath, Ringwood, Dorset, BH24 2ET Tel: 01425 470 721 www.moors-valley.co.uk
Pubs, Cafes and Restaurants The Royal Oak Inn Withypool, Exmoor National Park, Somerset, TA24 7QP Tel: 01643 831 506 www.royaloakwithypool.co.uk The Ancient Mariner 42 Lime Street, Nether Stowey, Somerset, TA5 1NG Tel: 01278 733 544 www.ancientmarinerpub.co.uk Plumber Manor Sturminster Newton, Dorset, DT10 2AF Tel: 01258 472 507 www.plumbermanor.com Le Petit Canard Dorchester Road, Maiden Newton, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 0BE Tel: 01300 320 536 www.le-petit-canard.co.uk Brace of Pheasants Plush, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 7RQ Tel: 01300 348 357 www.pubfoodguide.co.uk/ regions/dorset.htm
The Wildlife Park at Cricket St Thomas Chard, Somerset, TA20 4DD Tel: 01460 30111 www.cstwp.co.uk
The John Leach Gallery and Muchelney Pottery Langport, Somerset, TA10 0DW Tel: 01458 250 324 www.johnleachpottery.co.uk
Forde Abbey and Gardens Chard, Somerset, TA20 4LU Tel: 01460 220 231 www.fordeabbey.co.uk
South West Tourism A variety of useful information from the region’s tourist board – particularly good for local events. Tel: 0870 4420 880 www.visitsouthwest.co.uk
Tropiquaria Washford Cross, Watchet, Somerset, TA23 0QB Tel: 01984 640 688 www.tropiquaria.co.uk Abbotsbury Gardens Bullers Way, Abbotsbury, Dorset, DT3 4LA Tel: 01305 871 387 www.abbotsbury-tourism. co.uk Monkey World Longthorns, Wareham, Dorset, BH2 6HH Tel: 01929 462 537 www.monkeyworld.co.uk Kingston Maurward Animal Park and Gardens Kingston Maurward, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 8PY Tel: 01305 215 003 www.kmc.ac.uk/gardens
Walford Mill Crafts Stone Lane, Wimborne, Dorset, BH21 1NL Tel: 01202 841 400 www.walfordmillcrafts.co.uk Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum East Cliff, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH1 3AA Tel: 01202 451 858 www.russell-cotes. bournemouth.gov.uk
Dunster Castle Dunster, Minehead, Somerset, TA24 6SL Tel: 01643 821 314 www.nationaltrust.org.uk Muchelney Abbey Langport, Somerset, TA10 0DG Tel: 01458 250 664 www.english-heritage.org.uk Corfe Castle The Square, Corfe Castle, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5EZ Tel: 01929 481 294 www.nationaltrust.org.uk Thomas Hardy’s Cottage Higher Bockhampton, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 8QJ Tel: 01297 561 900 www.nationaltrust.org.uk
classic cottages The specialists for coastal and country cottages of distinction throughout the West Country Leslie House, Lady Street, Helston, Cornwall TR13 8NA Telephone 01326 555 555 Facsimile 01326 555 544 Email email@example.com www.classic.co.uk www.classicguide.co.uk
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