It would be very remiss of me to write a blog about Dorset without extolling the virtues of my home town.
Shaftesbury, memorable to many by the Hovis advert of the 1970’s created by the iconic producer and director, Sir Ridley Scott, better known for Thelma & Louise, Bladerunner and Gladiator. This advert forever earned Gold Hill the nickname ‘Hovis Hill’.
Today Gold Hill is still as beautiful, with far reaching views over the Blackmore Vale. Apart from the great photo opportunity that this cobbled hill provides, a short but steep walk down Gold Hill will lead you to Ye Olde Two Brewers pub, which happens to be our local. Having moved to this area from the North, the people here are friendly and accommodating and we have made good friends in a short while. At the Brewers, run by Sally and Andy, you are sure to have a warm welcome from the lovely bar staff, why not grab a bite to eat whilst you’re there? Besides, walking back uphill after a few beers is always a lot easier.
Walking up the hill you can’t fail but notice the Grade I listed Abbey walls to your left, the huge buttresses holding back the pretty gardens on the other side. Once at the top of the hill if you turn left you will come to the level landscaped parade above those gardens with more stunning views and more photo opportunities. This is where you will find Shaftesbury Abbey which was founded in 888 by King Alfred the Great. As with most religious buildings the Abbey was dissolved during the English Reformation of 1539, as a result there is not much left to see other than a few stone remnants.
The towns recorded history, much like many of the places we have visited in the area, starts in Anglo-Saxon times. Besides the Abbey the towns most enduring architectural elements are the Grade II listed town hall built in the early 1800’s and St Peters, the 15th century church next door, which still actively holds Sunday services, the ringing bells calling the congregation to church are a lovely sound early Sunday morning.
The little town of Shaftesbury has quintessential British charm with a number of lovely little independent shops from a small bakers to a traditional butchers where you can buy some delicious rump steak for the bbq. A pretty underwear shop at one end of the high street and a distinctive boutique at the other, together with a shop selling local artists painting and pottery and a multitude of gift shops in between, I would say that there is enough to keep you occupied for half a day at least.
Visit on the weekend of 30 June – 2 July and you will come across the Shaftesbury Fringe with a positive multitude of events from the Gold Hill Cheese Race Challenge to comedy shows. Or if that isn’t your thing, come a little earlier, Sunday 14th May is the food & drink festival, much more my cup of tea (if you pardon the pun) and a little later is the Gold Hill fair on 2nd July which is always a popular event, try some local cider and mingle with the townsfolk.
I would encourage you to take a little detour from the popular tourist locations and give this little town a visit, I’m sure you will not be disappointed, and if you do get to meet Sally and Andy, tell them you heard about them here first.