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Around Beaminster


The countryside here on the border with Somerset tumbles down from the heights of the Dorchester to Crewkerne road in a jumbled welter of valleys and hillsides; it really is glorious countryside, with some excellent walking to be had. Tourists rarely visit this part of Dorset, which is wonderful for those of us who do not consider ourselves to be such.


Virtually straddling the border between the two counties, a sublime treasure awaits the visitor. From 1141 to the present day, Forde Abbey is a stunning example of history preserved but not petrified. Early Cistercian monks would have farmed the land growing seasonal fruit and vegetables in accordance with a strict vegetarian diet. Today, the only monastic structure that remains in the garden is the Great Pond, used for a practical rather than aesthetic purpose to power a mill on the site of the present day Forge.


Reaching a height of 160 feet, the Centenary Fountain is the highest powered fountain in England and a highlight for many in 30 acres of award-winning gardens which include topiary-lined vistas, colourful herbaceous borders, a giant-sized labyrinth in the arboretum and swathes of early spring bulbs and camellias to provide all year round interest. It has slowly evolved over 900 years to reflect the lifestyle and taste of each generation living here.


Running in and out of the spray is a great sport for younger visitors to the garden, and if you stand at the top end of the fountain, you’ll often see a rainbow. Wide open lawns and the space and freedom to explore makes Forde Abbey a great day out for all the family. Watch the wildlife on the lake and don’t forget to pick up a children’s pack in the extensive Gift Shop for activities to do around the house and gardens. During the season indulge in delicious ‘Pick Your Own’ strawberries, and when finally exhausted, The Tea Room will surely satisfy all those appetites.


Forde Abbey


Pronounce it ‘Beminster’ and you’ll not be pounced upon by the locals; Beaminster is a beautiful small town in a sublime setting built on these same undulating hills; before the war a local road sign on one of the approaches to the town used to say ‘Drive slowly or break your neck’. Much of the original history of the town dates from the 13th century but there are references going back to the 7th century.


By the end of medieval times, the original agricultural settlement had grown into a small town, with a stepped cross in the centre of its market place. Three devastating fires in the 17th and 18th century changed the appearance of the town and the centre today shows largely late 18th and early 19th century architecture.


The first week of July each year brings the Beaminster Festival when the town is alive with exhibitions, street entertainment, shows and concerts by musicians of both local and national renown.


As part of a wonderful day out in the area, The Craft and Design Centre at Broadwindsor, three miles west of Beaminster, is again set in beautiful rolling countryside and renowned for its excellence, variety and quality. A number of interesting workshops and studios are occupied by local Artists and Craftspeople, offering their work for sale. The fabulous gift store has a select range of merchandise, including jewellery, fine foods, gifts for the home, toys, clothingand more.


The restaurant serves lunch, homemade soups, hot dishes and salads using fresh local produce. Fine coffees and teas, with a choice of pastries and cakes, are available every morning and afternoon, with Dorset Cream Teas a speciality. The Centre offers free admission and parking and is open 7 days a week all year round.


Just a few minutes drive north-east of Beaminster is The Fox Inn at Corscombe, a charming 17th century thatched pub amongst a web of narrow lanes in the unspoilt countryside of west Dorset. The bars exude old world character with beamed ceilings, inglenook fireplaces, stone flagged floors and slate bar tops. The food is country pub cooking at its very best with well judged traditional dishes prepared from quality produce sourced from local suppliers, farms and estates.


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