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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Friday, 24 October 2014

Dorset walks - A stroll between Poundbury and Maiden Castle

Here is a small exercise in compare and contrast. 
A footpath conveniently meanders across the fields joining the brand spanking new settlement of Poundbury to the the rather more ancient one of Maiden Castle.

Its a good little hike especially if you have visitors that need entertaining. It's just a paltry forty minutes each way with loads to interest at both ends, and a plethora of cafes at Poundbury.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Dorchester arise!

Dorchester, once a sleepy market town, is undergoing a radical transformation.
At one end lies Poundbury, Prince Charles' venture into the vernacular,  while at the other end, and in complete contrast, stands Dorchester Moderne otherwise known as Brewery Square. 
The centrepiece of this radical development is a group of beautiful Victorian brewery buildings. These have been transformed into contemporary apartments while around them have been created a variety of contemporary buildings and spaces.
 At a stroke Dorchester has been thrust into the 21st century with the creation of a plethora of restaurants, a cinema, a theatre, a large square and a new station. It's definitely something that the town needed.
The quality of the whole development is superb though the modern stuff is your typical mall architecture. It has its use though in creating a striking counterpoint to the Victorian buildings, which, needless to say, win hands down.
The restaurants, are the usual suspects, no local establishments are in evidence, but then places such as Carluccio's do what they do well and for a reasonable price...which is more than can be said for many of Dorset's native eateries.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Poundbury Pt. 1

Once upon a time there was a prince who dreamed an impossible dream, to build a magical town; a town where harmony, proportion and humanity reigned for ever and ever. 
The Arts and Crafts Brownsword Hall

That prince was named Charles; the town, Poundbury. As to whether it is a fairytale or a nightmare, the jury remains firmly divided down the middle.
The mere mention of the place transforms normally sane people into po-faced armchair architects...while architects...well they simply turn purple and expire in a puff off self righteous hot air.
Bread and coffee

Attitudes are invariable coloured by the man rather than the vision; but given that his dream is so benign, it is a mystery as to why people become so hot under the collar.
The development on the edge of Dorchester is now in its twenty first year and when completed in 2023 will contain 2,500 new homes and a population of 5000; increasing the population of Dorchester by a quarter.
Superdoopermarket - the Waitrose building

The  master plan never had any pretence to be architecturally cutting edge. The novel element to the scheme was far more subtle, to create a development where factories, private dwellings, social housing and retail were carefully integrated with the consequence that car dependency was to be dramatically reduced. Given Charles green credentials there is even an anaerobic digester chugging away somewhere producing gas for up to 25,000 homes.
Wandering Poundbury's streets makes you appreciate just how ambitious the scheme is in fact you can quite easily get lost in its expanse, while the deft use of proportion and detail lends the place wit, style and humanity which most (all?) new domestic developments lack. 
Stubby columns of the Brownsword Hall
Nothing is perfect though; the shops are of a niche variety; the interiors are often cramped and lacking the style and quality of the exteriors while there still seems to be an over-reliance on gas guzzlers. 
...Buts that's enough of my take a saunter around the development, partake of latte (or royaltea) at Olives Et Al then lay aside vain prejudice then form your own right royal opinion.
The influence of Burns - the fire station

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Off the beaten track - Sandsfoot Castle

Just a mile or so from the Gor Blimey that is Weymouth is an enchanted spot that remains forever peaceful. 
Sandsfoot Castle and Gardens is the preserve of the locals and has wide and airy views over the waters of Portland Harbour to Portland itself.

The castle ruins, though artily perched on a low cliff next to the water's edge, can't by any stretch of the imagination be called picturesque, though the setting makes up for this.
It is one of two fortifications built by well known fatty Henry VIII in 1547 on either side of Portland Harbour in response to the threat from Catholic Spain. It was constructed with stone taken from the newly dissolved abbeys at a cost of going on £4,000.00 (around 1.5 million today) never actually saw action (don't tell the kids) and by the end of the 17c it was already a ruin, its stone robbed in turn to build Weymouth Bridge. By 1930 was closed to the public.

Recently the Heritage Lottery stepped in to help restore it so that once more it is possible to wander amongst the remaining stone work and peer though gun ports checking out the Spaniards as the defenders once did.

The gardens, landscaped Torquay municipal style, are a pleasant place to sit and, guess what?...the last part in the heavenly jigsaw... lattes are on hand in the ubiquitous tearoom.

A short wander downhill brings you to a humble little beach,
 again the preserve of a few locals and the odd dog walker or kayaker.
Those pesky Spaniards shall not pass...

Monday, 13 October 2014

Over the border - Barrington Court

As summer fades to autumn here are some sunny memories of Barrington Court, just a hop across the border into Somerset.
Barrington is an Elizathen pile constructed in the 1550s of glorious yellow hamstone. As the years passed it gradually fell into decay until purchased by the National Trust in the 1900s who then leased it to Colonel Lyle of the Tate and Lyle sugar family. 

The colonel then spent many years restoring the house to its former glory lining the walls with his huge collection of Elizabethan panelling.

Barrington reverted to the Trust in 1986 but was partially used as a showroom  for repro furniture until 2008. 

Now at last visitors have complete run of the house, which, unusually for a country 
house is empty of all the overstuffed sofas and fading paraphernalia that usually fills a stately home making it far easier to appreciate the spaces and Colonel Lyle's panelled interiors.

The gardens, designed by Gertrude Jekyll are also something special; even I, who thinks that a philistine is related to a columbine  was impressed by the colourful abundance and variety.

Study them at leisure sitting on the terrace enjoying coffee and cake (that's something I do know about...)

Tea on the terrace

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Holy Well

Here is a Dorset hole, but no ordinary Dorset hole. Though  unprepossessing, this humble spot has been venerated for centuries as a holy well. 
It can be found in a field close to the busy A35 in Morcombelake and has been  considered holy since Medieval times. It was probably associated with St Candida (see here) whose nearby church was also a place of pilgrimage and veneration.
The clear waters were reputed (...good word that...) to cure eye complaints including blindness... sounds a bit like Medieval eyewash to me...

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Hills and Views - Maiden Castle

Maiden Castle, the largest Iron Age hill fort in Europe, occupies a low hill just a mile or so from the town of Dorchester, yet  it still manages to retain an atmosphere of airy isolation. The still-lofty defensive banks and ditches rise up like frozen waves and are a charmed place to lie back and listen to the atmospheric cry of the invisible skylark.

To really appreciate the earthwork requires wings, as only then can you appreciate the sophisticated layout of this ancient structure.
Here, 2000 years ago, the Roman army, led by Vespasian faced the local lot, the Durnovaria, in a battle that was probably a forgone conclusion; British slingshots would have been no match for Rome's state-of-the-art ballistas.
The story of their last stand was painted in chilling detail when archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler conducted an extensive dig here some seventy years ago. A mass grave of the defenders was uncovered, the skeletons clearly exhibiting battle wounds; while huge reserves of slingstones brought from nearby Chesil Bank lay unused .
Today life here is much more peaceful, the occupation force is mainly sheep, lambs and dog walkers; the hill's occupants having  long ago forsaken their ancestral home for the bright lights of Dorchester town.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Dorset cycling- Hardy Monument-Upwey loop

I've cycled this route many, many times in all weathers and I never tire of it.
Beginning at a lay-by below Hardys monument you fairly whizz along the first part, a chalk ridge lined with the barrows of our Iron Age forebears who picked a pretty neat spot with far views over the whole of Weymouth Bay.
This where I usually partake of coffee and cake perched atop one of their barrows, the occupants never complain.
Reaching the road a right turn carries you on an exhilarating ride downhill to the outskirts of Upwey and its wishing well. Should more cake be required a tearoom is a little further on in the actual village; otherwise a gentle lane carries you past the premises of the renowned Baking Birds, two friends who have established an award winning bakery should you require even more cake...

Eventually a bridleway leads you through open fields past a lonely abandoned farmhouse with the the Hardy monument once again on the horizon. Then a gentle but (to me) exhausting uphill cycle brings you back once again to the lay-by...more cake, anyone? 

Distance 8 miles (but seems more!) 

Friday, 3 October 2014

Food with views - The Jailhouse Cafe

Ok, admit it!...I've done stretch in prison...about and hour and a half all told, including remission for a good appetite.

A winding switchback road climbs higher and higher up the side of the Isle of Portland until finally the forbidding stone gates of the Verne prison rise up in front of you.

Passing through the grim stone portal you emerge onto a plateau at the Island's very highest point; here is journey's end. The Jailhouse Cafe is an enlightened venture which gives risk-assessed prison inmates a feel for worthwhile work in the community.
Though the cafe is no gourmet experience the food is adequate and staff are helpful to a T. Each and every one seems built like a brick s**t house, pumped up to bursting, presumably as a result of long hours heaving weights in the prison gym.

On a fine day the views from the lawn are breathtaking, stretching all the way to the Purbecks shimmering in the blue distance, while below massive granite breakwaters girdle Portland harbour; another communal convict effort but of an earlier age.
What on earth would those Victorians lags breaking the granite for the breakwaters far below have thought of their present day heirs mincing around balancing a cappuccino in each paw?...
The Verne was originally built as a citadel to protect Portland Harbour