Corfe Castle from the South seen through dawn mist. This is one of Britain’s most magnificent ruins and can be seen here with a graveyard in the foreground.

Chairman’s Chat – February 2021

A quick update on the NTSDA and the National Trust in general.

I thought contact from your team was well overdue and in this up-date I include news from different aspects of NT locally.

As you can imagine Covid has changed all our lives including our local NT properties where they have had to face staff being on furlough and the lack of footfall and income to properties.  We are all hoping that with spring and vaccinations, we can move forward into the next chapter.

Sad News of our NTSDA Family who have died in recent months:

Brian Tait

Brian, together with Marjorie, started volunteering when Max Gate first opened just after the Leahs left in late 2010.

Marjorie recalls “At first it was empty with only posters and volunteers who could tell a story.  The following year James Grassby started to “dress” the property, so every time we came in there was something new to see or talk about.  Volunteers and staff all worked together for the good of Max Gate, we could turn our hand to almost anything when needed.  This extended to helping the Rangers with a stand at the Dorchester Agricultural show (The NT gained first prize), and assisting on Weymouth beach at the Coastal Festival in 2015 one summer weekend wearing a garish yellow straw hat.  We also helped out at the literary event where Andrew Motion visited Max Gate, as well as assisting with several New Hardy Players summer evening plays, often wearing florescent jackets to guide traffic car or people.

Brian’s favourite room was the “Poetry study” where he enjoyed the view over the garden, just as Hardy would have done.”

John Maton

John & Lilian joined as joint life members in 1996 and joined NTSDA a year or two later so over the years got to know many members as they usually tried to attend talks and go on the holidays organised by Peter Heeler.

Lilian and John spent other holidays each year touring and visiting numerous N.T. sites, at each place Lilian bought a card to keep a record of those visited making what seemed like a very large initial subscription well worth having as they visited 201 different properties.

 Frederick Penhaligon

Fred was born at Gnaton, near Newton Ferrers, Devon his parents both came from Portscatho in Cornwall.  Fred’s father was a head gardener, an expert plantsman, who wrote articles for the Gardeners’ Chronicle about old varieties of apples and pears.  He managed various gardens in Cornwall and Devon and went into food production during the war.

After he retired from Education Fred looked forward to a peaceful time of travel, reading and gardening. After moving to Stratton Fred and Janet enjoyed many years of attending outings with NTSDA.

Shirley Heeler

Shirley and Peter used to live in Weymouth and for many years Peter arranged several holidays for NTSDA.  When Shirley was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s they moved to Taunton to be nearer their family.  Peter passed away in 2019 and Shirley moved into a Care Home where she died earlier this month.

News from North & West Dorset National Trust from Hannah Jefferson General Manager

“Work is underway to prepare for the reopening of our small houses, with the aim of opening Clouds Hill first, followed a couple of months later by Max Gate and Hardy’s Cottage which we plan to rebrand as Thomas Hardy’s homes. The idea behind this rebranding is to strengthen the story of both houses and show the connection between them from his birthplace to his forever home. It is very rare to have two homes of one writer within a few miles of each other so we really want to celebrate this by tying the houses more closely together. Both houses will still retain their own unique names, Max Gate and Hardy’s Cottage, but we will talk about them collectively as ‘Thomas Hardy’s Homes’.

It has to be said, we were initially aiming for an 1st April reopening for Clouds Hill, however sadly this will no longer be possible. We have been instructed centrally that no Small Properties will be reopening before the start of May at the earliest. To re-open houses in May we would need to be in Tier 2 (if the government tiers remain the same), and given that the government are planning to give us an update on the Tiers and new arrangements on the 22nd February we will hopefully have more of an idea of opening dates after then. If I have learnt one thing during this Pandemic, it’s not to second guess what may happen next – anything is possible. We will continue to plan and prepare for re-opening so whenever it is we will be ready to go.”

News from Rachael Raine NT Visitor Operations Manager

“I hope you are all well and keeping your spirits up during these challenging times. I was at the three properties this week and noticed the first signs of spring.  At Clouds Hill there is more birdsong to accompany the rumble of tanks, and I’ve spotted tiny snowdrops pushing their way through the earth at the top of the garden at Hardy’s Cottage and by the front door at Max Gate. A sign that warmer and brighter times are ahead.

I will leave you once again with a favourite Hardy poem (sorry Clouds volunteers, I can’t resist sharing Hardy poems). This is ‘A Backward Spring’, which seems to sum up how I’m feeling this month. I’m thinking of the little snowdrops though, and they’re giving me hope…

‘A Backward Spring’ by Thomas HardyThe trees are afraid to put forth buds,
And there is timidity in the grass;
The plots lie gray where gouged by spuds,
And whether next week will pass
Free of sly sour winds is the fret of each bush
Of barberry waiting to bloom.

Yet the snowdrop’s face betrays no gloom,
And the primrose pants in its heedless push,
Though the myrtle asks if it’s worth the fight
This year with frost and rime
To venture one more time
On delicate leaves and buttons of white
From the selfsame bough as at last year’s prime,
And never to ruminate on or remember
What happened to it in mid-December’.”

During this time of Lockdown it is good to spend time on the virtual world if you can and look on line at the various properties that are near us.

As NTSDA were unable to hold its AGM last November, it was not possible to announce where our Association’s donations were made.  Following requests from National Trust, the Committee agreed to fund virtual tours of both Max Gate and Clouds Hill in order that visitors who are unable to access the entire property can have a full visitor experience.

I am making a start on updating our website which Brian used to look after with the help of Meg Rolfe.

We are always looking for help in various ways even during Lockdown, so please contact me if you would like to help.

Lesley Cooper would be interested to hear from you in ‘How you got involved with NT’.

 NTSDA will endeavour to resume activities when government guidelines permit.


Take care and keep safe and well

With all good wish

Janet Kennewell


If you have access to the Social Media keep up to date with the NT as follows:

General enquiries and information:

For general enquiries about the National Trust and its properties, please make our website your first point of call: for articles about properties and collections also videos/podcasts and even recipes

For the National Trust’s latest statement on coronavirus (COVID-19), please visit:

For answers to coronavirus FAQs, please visit:

If you are on social media, please stay connected by following us:


Twitter: @nationaltrust

Instagram: nationaltrust

Pintrest: National Trust

YouTube: National Trust

Do please contact me if you have any queries about NTSDA either by email, on our web site or by phone.

Keep well and safe and take care.

Janet Kennewell

Events are the mainstay of our funds which we generate in  Support of National Trust.    We could do with one or more members coming forward to help run events.

National Trust donations

It is always pleasing to see the fruits of our contribution to NT locally and last year was no exception by going to Max Gate and seeing the Tables and Chairs that they purchased for the garden and late last year your committee had a memorable visit to Clouds Hill to undertake the Brass Hill Rubbing Trail.  The sun shone throughout on which was a very enjoyable visit. I have subsequently taken my young grandsons on the trail and they enjoyed rubbing the posts too.  Clouds Hill will be open  in March 2020

NTSDA Committee attending the opening of the Brass Rubbing Trail at NT Cloud’s Hill


Our remit is ‘in support of National Trust’ we do this by running events and any monies raised we donate to the National Trust for specific projects.  This year NTSDA have donated monies for two Virtual Tours one to Cloud’s Hill and the other to Max Gate which will allow the less mobile to view what the cottage and house has within it.  These will be available later in the year.


.I would like a few more members to help with delivery for next time to save so many going in the post.  Areas required are Puddletown, Charminster, Portland and Chickerell.  Let me know if you can help and I can then slot you in to the Deliverers.  . With the price of postage going up it is important to keep our costs down by doing as much as we can ‘in-house’.  Many thanks to our volunteers who have come forward to delivery it is very much appreciated.

If you have any queries on the above please email:

Advance Notice

The National Trust South Dorset Association hopes to celebrate its 25th Anniversary sometime in the next few months with a lunch and a talk

Watch for further details!


have been to:


Garden furniture: 4 wooden garden tables and 16 wooden chairs for entertaining on the lawn: £1,250

New Max Gate garden chairs

New Max Gate garden chairs – by Marjorie Tait

Garden chairs

Garden chairs on a sunny day – by Meg Rolfe

Reminder about changes to Car Parking at National Trust Sites

For more information on car parking, the National Trust provide a useful summary of FAQs here

Portland House Open Days – 2019

Autumn Opening
Portland House, Belle Vue Road, Weymouth DT4 8RZ

Perching on the hillside overlooking Portland Harbour, Portland House is a stunning reminder of a glamorous bygone age. For three days only this Autumn, visitors are invited to walk up the palm-lined path and explore the house with its original Art Deco features. Booking is not required and entrance is free to NT members – remember to take your NT membership card. Please note there are steps both inside and outside the House and some uneven paths within the garden.

View from Portland House

View from Portland House – Photo by Brian Tait

Portland House - The Terace

Portland House – The Terace. Photo by Brian Tait


/one_half_last]In Autumn 2019 Portland House will be open to the public on the afternoon of Friday 4th October (2 pm – 5 pm), Saturday 5th October (from 11 am – 5 pm) and Sunday 6th October (from 11 am – 4 pm).

Please note:

National Trust South Dorset Association has withdrawn its requirement that applicants for membership be National Trust members or volunteers.  

Anyone who supports the aims of the National Trust may now apply for association membership.

Membership News:

Please remember that subscriptions fall due on 1st September.

NT Logo

Please send your cheques payable to NT South Dorset Association (£4.00 single/£7.00 family membership) to the Membership Secretary

 Please email:  for contact details

Why not make a saving by paying by Standing Order (£3.00 single/£5.00 family membership)

We need your help!

We urgently need volunteers to join the Committee.  Our Secretary of many years Elizabeth will be stepping down in November please consider stepping up to join us.  Without new volunteers we will not have enough people to continue running the Association!  Plenty of assistance will be available.

If you are willing to help, please  email:

Thank you

Can we have your e-mail address, please?

From time to time the committee obtains details of Trust events which will be of interest to all members. We can only pass on this information to you quickly by email.

If you are willing for us to contact you in this way please send your e-mail address to

We will not pass on your address to any other organisation.