Thursday 25th May 2017
Visit to West Green Garden (NT) and the Watercress Line
The weather was perfect for a garden visit. We last visited West Green 4 years ago, when the spring flowers were in bloom. This time the visit was a month later, and there was a wonderful display of early summer blooms – roses, peonies, perennial poppies, lupins, alliums, etc. As well as the main gardens there is an informal winding walk beside a stream, planted with hostas without any slug holes. (How do they manage that?!).
After lunch at the café at West Green we proceeded to Alresford to catch the steam train to Alton where it stopped for 15 minutes before returning us back to Alresford – a pretty journey through the Hampshire countryside accompanied by the evocative sounds and smells of steam travel.
We left Alresford at 5pm, arriving back at Dorchester soon after 7pm.
Meg Rolfe, Organiser.
‘Our’ steam engine
Spring flowers at Selborne – Brian Tait
Forty five members were on the coach to Selborne, Hants, to visit the home of Gilbert White. He was an 18th century naturalist who was the first to study the natural world in depth and carefully record it. He wrote “The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne”. Also in the house is a comprehensive exhibition of artifacts and old film about the ill-fated expedition to the South Pole on which Captain Lawrence Oates accompanied Captain Scott, and perished in the attempt.
Springtime at Selborne
Selborne – Gilbert White’s House
It was a very interesting day, and as the weather was fine we were able to also explore the garden, and the church opposite where Gilbert White is buried.
Anemone Blanda at Gilbert White’s House.
Spring at Knightshayes
House and terrace
Peter Heeler organised this visit. Fursdon House has been occupied by the same family since 1259, and members had a guided tour by a well-informed guide. Then to Knightshayes (NT) for the afternoon. The kitchen area is open to visitors now, as well as the rest of the house and extensive gardens.
In the past few years the Association has contributed £15000 for the recently opened joint National Trust and Dorset County Council Visitor Centre at Thomas Hardy’s birthplace in Higher Bockhampton near Stinsford, Dorchester..
Visitor Centre at Thomas Hardy’s Birthplace
Representatives, including our president Rosemary Hunter. of the Dorset NT Associations that contributed to the funding of the centre
The centre is open every day and includes a National Trust shop, cafeteria and toilet facilities together with a new base for Dorset County Council Countryside Rangers.
At the Association’s Annual General Meeting on 15th November 2014 a donation of £1,400 was presented to Alex Shaw, Garden Guide Volunteer at Kingston Lacy at our 2014 AGM. This will be used to help fund the restoration of Granny Bankes’ Garden which is hoped to be completed in Spring 2015. The balance of this year’s donation will go towards the NT Neptune Coastal Campaign which celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2015. The Association will be presenting a cheque for £6100 towards the Campaign at Bella Crawford’s talk on Coast 2015 on 15th January at St George’s Church Hallin Dorchester
Presentation of a donation of £1,400 to Alex Shaw, Garden Guide Volunteer at Kingston Lacy
Lanhydrock, church and gardens
Members enjoyed a scenic drive to the property, arriving about mid-day. There have recently been substantial changes to the parking areas, necessitating a longish walk to the house. There are buggies for 4-6 people, but that day there were ten coachloads of visitors plus the general public, so long waits for the buggy, and many people inside the house which made viewing the 50 rooms slow progress. However, the weather was fine, and the gardens full of colour, so overall a pleasant day in spite of the crowds.
Two of the timber-framed reconstructed buildings
The weather was perfect for the members’ visit to the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum near Chichester. It is a large open site with many historic buildings from the southern counties which have been rescued and reconstructed on site. The structures vary from domestic to agricultural to places of work, and cover a period of several centuries. There were old crafts being demonstrated in some buildings, and medieval cooking (and tasting) in a farmhouse kitchen.
There are also six examples of historic gardens linked to some properties, with people on hand to explain about the various uses of the plants. A very interesting and informative day!
A village schoolroom
Geoff Wrench in one of the cottages
Side view of construction of visitor centre
On 11 June 2014 members of the Association’s Committee went to Thorncombe Woods to view the progress of the new centre. Association members have donated a total of £10,000 towards this new joint development by National Trust and Dorset County Council.
The building is mainly clad in wood with a timber shingle-covered roof and fits neatly into the existing woodlands and therefore has very small visual impact on the area.
There will be an interpretation display area and a learning space together with a shop and facilities for food & drink. There will also be a much-needed toilet facility, improvements to the existing car park, new signage and up-grades to the access through the woods. It is hoped that this will be open late-September.
Main front view of Hardy visitor centre at Hardy’s Cottage
We had a very scenic coach journey to the north-western tip of Devon in good weather to visit Hartland Abbey and gardens. The Abbey’s history dates back to 1160, but as a monastery was dissolved in 1539. After that it descended through a series of marriages, without sale, until the present day. Lord and Lady Stucley are the present owners, and the house has elements from the medieval, Queen Anne and Georgian periods, with the décor mainly Victorian. It retains documents dating from 1160. The gardens are particularly attractive, and there is a path leading to sea views from the cliffs.
- Hartland Abbey
Lady Stucley came onto the coach before we left to thank us for visiting her home, although the pleasure was ours!
- Winchester Town Mill
A group of 51 members visited Winchester in the morning where members were free to explore the city. The Town Mill was open, although the River Itchen was still in full spate and the force of the race too powerful for the wheel to be in operation. The lower wheel floor was accessible, but partly flooded, and it was possible to see the force of the water at close quarters. Some members visited the Cathedral where there was a Jane Austen exhibition.
- Whitchurch Silk Mill
In the afternoon we continued 9 miles north to Whitchurch Silk Mill, where we had an interesting guided tour, and saw the weaving looms where specialist silk fabrics are woven for garments such as barristers’ gowns, and costumes for period TV and film productions. The many subtle shades of the silk skeins were much admired. After tea and cakes at the mill we had a pleasant journey home, the driver kindly fetching the coach to pick us up at the entrance.
Heelis House – NT Headquarters
Just as we were leaving a rainbow appeared over the end of the Heelis building.
On Friday 25th October a group of 40 members visited Heelis, the NT headquarters at Swindon ( Heelis was Beatrix Potter’s married name – she donated much of the land in the Lake district now owned and managed by the NT). We were treated to a delightful drive up the Salisbury Avon valley, stopping on the way for an enjoyable coffee break at The Ship at Upavon where we were made very welcome, before then proceeding to Swindon and Heelis House.
We split into 4 groups, each with a guide, and were shown round the building which was designed to incorporate the latest environmental technology, including computer controlled lighting, ventilation and heating systems to save energy. More than 440 people work at Heelis House and much of the office space is open plan, with staff from different departments and all levels including the Director General sharing the same space. After lunch in the café there members were free to visit the Steam Museum and/or the nearby shopping outlet, both housed in the former GWR workshop buildings.
We were fortunate with the weather, which was changeable, with showers and rainbows, but mainly fine and sunny. The return was as picturesque as the outward journey, passing though the beautiful Savernake Forest on the way to Salisbury and home.