The highs and lows of Dorset

John has covered most of our weekend in Dorset in his blog. So I’m just going to list a few of the best and the worst things.

The Best Things were:-

1. The beautiful and comfortable Georgian bed and breakfast in an idyllic setting by the river at Frampton with the three friendly dogs, the painting of a Breton fishmarket by an unknown French artist, Beaufils, and a beautifully carved, pale wood, almost lifesize swan. And the gate, which miraculously opened by itself.

2. Walking through fields of lush, fresh scented, bluegreen grass in the evening under a big sky, making our way down into the valley where Trill farmhouse welcomed us. It looked like a gypsy festival with all the children and dogs roaming around and everybody dancing to the band. And the wine came in huge, pear shaped carafes, echoing some of the drinkers’ figures – in the best possible taste…..

3. Climbing hills, which I hadn’t done for a very long time and which was rejuvenating. Tramping the length of the ramparts at the Iron Age hill fort of Maiden Castle, meeting some delightful people there and, later on, sitting by the sheep on a low wall, eating pink Discovery apples, Jarlsberg cheese and Waitrose’s very delicious ‘tiffin’ bars.

Old cider mill machinery

Old cider mill machinery

4. Meeting the eccentric and knowledgeable old ‘cider’ man, tending his ramshackle greenhouses next to the ancient mill. The six foot square blue and gold clock which looked as if it should be somewhere like King’s Cross station but is stacked up against a wall and weighs a ton. And here’s a photo of the incredible hewn stone machinery.

5. Buying Mr. Hogben’s Dorset honey, a special bottle of ‘Shipwreck’ cider brandy, gooseberry and fresh coriander chutney (surprisingly delicious), Roman wholegrain mustard, made with honey and red wine, and a sturdy dark green mint plant, as mine at home has become faded and feeble. I am assured that this mint is ‘the very best’. The Cider Museum (near Owermoigne) is highly recommended.

6. Walking up Hambledon Hill in the evening with an almost 360 degree view from the top.
On a fine day you can see five counties and The Needles at the Isle of Wight. The clouds were very dramatic but held on to their rain!

Hambledon Hill

Hambledon Hill

7. The very high hedges and the trees making the roads into green tunnels. Outside the Tolpuddle Martyrs museum there was a very strong smelling wild hyssop looking ravishingly healthy in the hedgerow.

8. The wild flowers on Hod Hill in the sunshine (knapweed, ladies’ bedstraw, melilot) and a beautifully marked brown and black small butterfly with tiny, lustrous golden spots.

Stile on Hod Hill

Stile on Hod Hill

9. Enjoying being able to explore the school in its beautiful grounds at Bryanston and walking along the river Stour which has very pretty arrowhead water lily leaves growing along the edges. And great clumps of mystical hemp agrimony adorning the banks.

10. Placenames:- Blandford Forum, Iwerne Minster, Maiden Newton, Winterbourne Abbas, Okeford Fitzpaine*, Gussage St. Michael, Owermoigne, Toller Porcorum, Child Okeford, Whitchurch Canonicorum, Tolpuddle, Affpuddle, Kingston Lacy to name but a few.

* I learned from Bill Bryson’s book ‘Mother Tongue’, that the local pronunciation of Okeford Fitzpaine is ‘fippeny ockford’. Who would have guessed it ?! Bill Bryson is one of my heroes. And the name Hogben reminded me of an old book I have about the roots of different languages, which is called ‘The Loom of Language’ by Lancelot Hogben.

The Worst Things being:-

1. Motorway driving (tho’ John does this!). However, it’s worth it to be able to leave it and have the time to explore the highways and byways of the deep countryside.

2. Having to find the car in the darkness after the housewarming party. It was parked on top of a hill in a field. We had no torch but used the dim light of our mobile phones. It was tricky and I tripped up a few times. Could have been worse, e.g. spraining an ankle, walking through a cowpat, meeting an enraged bull etc.

3. Red light flashing, running out of petrol, everywhere dark and shut down. (John having not listened to me earlier when I suggested filling up). A typical wifely grizzle(!). However, my sharp eye saved the day in the end – a Somerfield garage just closing but we made it. The young man in charge wasn’t pleased to see us but I didn’t mind… I would have minded having to sleep in the back of the car though.

4. The Cerne Abbas giant wasn’t very visible, either due to the ground being wet or being overgrown.

5. Forgetting to pack my camera! John kindly took a picture or two for me – as you can see…

It turned out to be a successful weekend on every front. Dorset is full of Iron Age hill forts and neolithic barrows and is very hilly. We didn’t make it to the seaside but that will motivate us to go back sooner rather than later. And Bryanston would like to have some of John’s books in their library. So another incentive to brave the motorway again. And choose fabulous bed and breakfast places from the admirable Alastair Sawday guides.


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