West Purbeck

The western area of Purbeck encompasses a number of small villages from the coast at Lulworth and Durdle Door to Bere Regis inland.

One of the largest of the villages is Wool, which lies at a historic bridging point on the River Frome, half way between Dorchester and Wareham. It has a medieval church and quaint cottages in the old centre and is set upon the South Western Main Line. A fine 15th century bridge spans the Frome with massive cutwaters and deep recesses for walkers, still to this day you can read the sign warning of transportation for anyone found damaging the bridge.

Close by the bridge is Woolbridge Manor, a fine 17th century gabled Manor House which was the old seat of the Turbervilles. With only a slight adjustment to the family and house name, it was mentioned in Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ as Wellbridge House where Tess and Angel Clare had their unfortunate honeymoon.

Not far away are the remains of Bindon Abbey, which was founded in the 12th century by the Cistercians. The Abbey closed with the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 and most of the building was destroyed by fire just over a century later. Lulworth Castle was built from much of the stone of the Abbey.

Visitors may be interested in the empty, open coffin of Abbot Richard de Maners, which lies amongst the low ruins. It was here that sleepwalking Angel Clare carried Tess in Hardy’s novel.

Apart from its association with Thomas Hardy the area is also strongly linked to T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence had played an extraordinary and heroic role in the Arab Revolt in 1916, but opted for relative anonymity later, joining the RAF and the Tank Corps

under assumed names. Preferring to be remembered as a writer, he published ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ and ‘The Mint’. Since his death in a motorcycle accident in 1935, he has become an intriguing myth and still inspires huge interest.

Lawrence enlisted in the Tank Corps in March 1923 and served at Bovington Camp close to Wool, until he was transferred to the R.A.F. in August 1925. It was during this period that he first rented the cottage at Clouds Hill near the camp, which he later purchased in 1925.

He wrote “Nothing in Clouds Hill is to be a care upon the world. While I have it there shall be nothing exquisite or unique in it. Nothing to anchor me.” In 1935, he left the RAF and returned to live at Clouds Hill. At the age of 46, a few weeks after leaving the service, Lawrence suffered severe head injuries in a motorcycle accident close to the cottage and died in the Bovington Camp hospital. The following year, his heir, his brother Prof. A.W. Lawrence gave Clouds Hill to the National Trust.

Now, a museum dedicated to Lawrence, the cottage remains largely as Lawrence left it at his death. It features an exhibition detailing Lawrence’s extraordinary life, and most of his original furniture and possessions. The cottage reflects his complex personality and links to the Middle East.

The Tank Museum brings history to life, with the world’s best collection of tanks and explosive live displays.

Eight powerful exhibitions, almost 300 armoured vehicles and the story of armoured warfare spanning 100 years, this unique collection is regarded as the finest in the world - and includes the world’s first ever tank, the feared German Tiger and the modern Challenger 2.

‘The Tank Story’ details tank history from its birth in 1915 to the present. ‘Battlegroup Afghanistan’ transports you to today’s front line as combat veterans give their accounts alongside the vehicles used on operations today. In ‘The Discovery Centre’, as well as in the Vehicle Conservation Centre, you’ll see the breadth of the museum’s vehicle collections.

‘The Trench Experience’ takes you back in time to the trenches in 1916, whilst “Warhorse to Horsepower” examines the rise of the tank and the demise of the cavalry in the mud of the Western Front, and ‘Tank Men: The Story of the First Crews’, tells the stories of the first men who fought bravely in these revolutionary machines while ‘Tank Factory’ explores the making and makers of tanks.

Special events go on throughout the year including Tankfest, Tiger Day and special activity programmes during School Holidays. Don’t miss

14 The Tourist Handbook Wessex 2018-19

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