Recent Events

Tuesday 17th October 2017: Visit to Breamore House,


Breamore House

Breamore House, near Fordingbridge
Acknowledgements to Jennie Harrison for images

Thirty eight members travelled to Breamore House near Fordingbridge. As we arrived early the café opened and in spite of a large group descending all at once, they accommodated us very well. The house tour was not due until 2pm, so some members visited the nearby Saxon chapel which was beautifully decorated for the Harvest Festival, and others went to the Countryside Museum either before or after the tour.


The Elizabethan manor was built in 1583 for the Dodington family, and in the 18th century was purchased by Sir Edward Hulse, who was physician to Queen Anne, and both George the First and Second. The same family still live there. The guide was excellent – among the many items she pointed out was a wall carpet dated 1614, still in perfect condition!

An interesting and informative visit enjoyed by all.

Meg Rolfe, Organiser.

Saxon Church, Breamore

Saxon Church, Breamore
Photo – Jennie Harrison

Cottage scene in Countryside Museum.
Photo – Jennie Harrison



Tuesday 11th July 2017: Visit to Buckland Abbey & The Garden House

Fifty two members travelled to Devon, and in the morning we went to Buckland Abbey, the home of Sir Francis Drake. There are many artifacts on display relating to that period, including Drake’s Drum. Also, a bonus was a temporary sculpture exhibition by Andrew Logan, one of which was a metal installation of golden wheat in the Great Barn – magnificent!
In the afternoon we moved on to the nearby Garden House – not a house, but an extensive and very beautiful garden with views over the Devon countryside. Unfortunately it was a very wet day, so the garden not seen at its best, but intrepid members still explored in their waterproofs with umbrellas! The café there is excellent, and a welcome retreat from the rain.
Meg Rolfe, Organiser. Photos by Meg.

The Garden House in the rain, unfortunately!

Art installation at Buckland Abbey

The kitchen at Buckland Abbey

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?!).

May17UHS,WGG 020After 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.May17UHS,WGG 028


Visit to Gilbert White’s House and the Oates Collection at Selborne, Hants – 28th March 2017

Spring flowers at Selborne

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

Springtime at Selborne

Selborne - Gilbert White's House

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 GW's House.

Anemone Blanda at Gilbert White’s House.

Association raises money for the National Trust

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

Visit to Lanhydrock House, Cornwall – Tues 23rd Sept 2014

Lanhydrock, church and gardens

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.

Weald and Downland Museum 4th July 2014

Two of the timber-framed reconstructed buildings

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!

Meg Rolfe


A village schoolroom

A village schoolroom

Geoff Wrench in one of the cottages

Geoff Wrench in one of the cottages


Committee Tour of the New Hardy Birthplace Visitor Centre

Side view of construction of visitor centre

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

Main front view of Hardy visitor centre at Hardy’s Cottage

Geoff Wrench

Visit to Stanstead Park, W. Sussex, 10th June 2014

On arrival we were given a short introductory talk by Michael Olding – the Chairman of the Friends of Stanstead Park. We were then free to wander through the gardens and the impressive arboretum, which contains trees of every variety including redwoods with unusual shaped trunks. There were plenty of seats to admire the views and enjoy the tranquillity and glorious sunshine.Members could visit the Chapel of St Paul in the grounds, with its star-studded nave roof and unusual painted window above the altar depicting some Jewish symbolism. Michael Olding was in the chapel and his knowledge and enthusiasm about the chapel greatly enhanced our enjoyment of the visit.The house itself was interesting, but particularly so were the unique servants’ quarters. They were vast – a snapshot of life ‘below stairs’ between the wars. Fortunately modern Health & Safety regulations didn’t exist then, as the lethal gas heated iron would never have been allowed! Every room opened a treasure trove of memories for those of us who can still remember Ewbanks and dolly tubs! It was a lovely day, good weather, and we couldn’t have asked for more! The garden centre and café were both excellent too.

Betty Dickinson


Garden view

Visit to Hartland Abbey, N. Devon, 13th May 2014

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
Hartland Abbey

Lady Stucley came onto the coach before we left to thank us for visiting her home, although the pleasure was ours!

Meg Rolfe

Visit to Winchester and Whitchurch Silk Mill on Tuesday 25th March 2014

Winchester Town Mill
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
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.

Day visit to NT HQ Heelis, Swindon

Heelis House - NT Headquarters

Heelis House – NT Headquarters

Just as we were leaving a rainbow appeared over the end of the Heelis building.

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.