We drove down to Wimborne St.Giles (near Verwood, Dorset) taking the scenic route.
A word about “scenic routes” and Tom-Tom satnav. It has a “Winding Route” option. Don’t use it unless you’re a fan of unnamed roads with grass growing down the middle. We felt like the Starship Enterprise, boldly going where no car had gone before! Once corrected to “Shortest Route” we were served up with minor roads that were scenic and pleasant to drive.
First stop, the village of Chew Magna, just outside Bristol. A really pretty place, some lovely old buildings and a beautiful church. Also a little café. Part of untouched England: you could tell that important international issues passed it by. Overheard on the next table: a long discussion about the correct height of a box-privet hedge and whether a new neighbour should “be informed of this”. Priceless.
Next on to Shaftesbury. A long established market town (early middle ages, I think) and most famous for the filming of one of the Hovis adverts. A really pretty place to spend an hour or so.
We arrived in Wimborne St. Giles a little after 3pm. Totally in the middle of nowhere; a small village with an enormous Manor House, home to Lord Something-or-Another, a beautiful Norman(?) Church, and a lot of lovely old buildings.
We’re staying at Home Farm House. More on this later, but it seems an exceptional upscale Guest House. A warm welcome from the 2 (soppy) dogs and their owners (not at all soppy), and a lovely room in totally quiet and peaceful surroundings. Perfect!
Spent this morning in the New Forest.
Some 35 odd years ago, Margaret’s parents used to take holidays in a little cottage in Burley. We used to go to stay with them for long weekends. So began our affection for the area. We last visited the New Forest about 20 years ago, staying in Lymington. We decided to revisit both of these.
Burley hasn’t changed in the slightest.
Most of the shops are exactly as they were. In some of them, we thought that, probably, some of their stock had also been there on our last visit. Still a very pretty little village.
Lymington also was pretty much unchanged as well. It’s a much busier place and, on Saturdays, has a street market. Lively and bustling, and in warm sunny weather, a great place to be (after you manage to find somewhere to park!).
The lane at the end of the High Street leads down to a very pretty harbour. Watching kids fishing for (and catching) crabs from the quayside is great. Such a joy watching kids really engaged and excited by a old-fashioned pastime that doesn’t involve anything electronic.
In the afternoon, Margaret went to a friend’s birthday party (our motivation for coming to Dorset) whilst I stayed at Home Farm relaxing or playing with the house dogs.
We took a stroll around the village to start our day and then set off for some sight-seeing.
Winchester, Capital City of England 1000 years ago.
The Kingdom of Wessex was the part of England that resisted the Vikings and was the last place to fall to the invading Normans following 1066 when “modern” England began. (Wales held out a lot longer, but that’s another story!).
We’ve travelled around Europe quite a lot in recent years, mostly on river cruises with Viking, where the ABC of touring means “Another Bloody Church/Castle/Chateau”, so Winchester was a real surprise. It wasn’t just “Another Bloody …”.
It’s because the history here is really history; dates go back to the first millennium: the Middle Ages seem almost recent.
The Great Hall is (allegedly) where Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table lived and met. The names engraved around the table included names such as Lancelot and Galahad. The space is impressive.
On the opposite wall the entire lineage of English Royalty is displayed.
Outside are pretty medieval gardens that lead you to much more modern British history: the home and museum of the Gurka Rifles.
Just beyond this is a beautiful square of seriously upscale properties, perhaps once the residences of senior army officers, as it's called Peninsula Square (Duke of Wellington, and all that).
We then strolled through narrow streets to the Cathedral. Another blast of serious history.
It claims to hold the remains of the Kings of Wessex: Canute, Ethelred and others who died in the Dark Ages; 1st Millennium Britain. Stones in the floor and on the walls cover the entire 2nd Millennium: dates including the Plague years (1666-1667); pretty well every war in which Britain’s been involved (and there’ve been quite a few!) and the tomb of Jane Austen. A total overdose of history in the most beautiful of buildings.
The rest of the city is dotted with interesting or historic buildings and lovely parks and gardens, as well as being a place well equipped as a 21st Century city in which to live.
Why we’ve never visited Winchester before is a bit of a mystery. Our only excuse is that it’s one of those places you’ve heard of, but not often heard about. Not often somewhere surprises us; Winchester did.
It’s Monday and time to return home.
We’d checked in at Home Farm House on Friday afternoon. By the time we left today, it felt like saying “good-bye” to old friends, such was the welcome and hospitality we’d received.
OK. So we were paying for our stay and, whilst not ridiculously so, it’s not the cheapest place of its type.
However, having spent the last few years staying at 5-Star Hiltons, Intercontinentals, Radissons, etc, which charge a heck of a lot more, I’d take this over all of them.
Replacing trouser presses, business centres, spas, vast buffet breakfasts, concierge services and doormen with genuine kindness and hospitality can’t be beaten. At the same time, the wifi was faster, the bed and bedroom bigger, the bathroom far larger and better equipped, and the breakfasts freshly cooked from local ingredients (eggs laid that morning by chickens in the garden!) much tastier than all of these 5-Star palaces.
Something new for us, worth repeating.