Category Archives: News/Blog

The best full English breakfasts in Shaftesbury

The full English at the John Peel on Shaftesbury High Street

THE TOP FIVE FULL ENGLISH SPOTS IN SHAFTESBURY (as voted for by members of the Shaftesbury, Dorset Facebook group).

Last Saturday morning, at 8.30am, Paula Whitworth posed a question on the Shaftesbury Facebook group: “Best place to go for a full English breakfast?” Some 80+ comments and dozens of likes later, members of the 6,700-strong group had voted. And the results were:

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20 glamping hotspots near Shaftesbury, North Dorset

 

SHAFTESBURY has a very good collection of hotels, cottages and B&Bs. But as the town sits on a hilltop, there isn’t a great deal of room to innovate with glamping options. Happily, there is a great deal of space in The Blackmore Vale and Cranborne Chase surrounding Shaftesbury – and there has been a considerable amount of innovation in recent years.

From a list of 12 in summer 2017, we now have 20 sites close to Shaftesbury which offer glamping options, from luxury safari tents and yurts to a converted double decker bus, eco pod and shepherd huts with hot pools. 

Many have spectacular views and settings, in oak woodlands, deer parks, kitchen gardens, equestrian centres and working farms. And they all add to the wealth of accommodation choices in North Dorset, alongside a number of AirBnB options. Come and stay in north Dorset for a short break, or a full family holiday: we’re halfway between London and Cornwall, just off the A303, and within easy reach of Dorset’s world famous Jurassic Coast.

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2020: The 20 best festivals in North Dorset

NOBODY does festivals and events like North Dorset does. And here we’ve selected what we consider to be the 20 best in 2020, chosen to reflect the sheer diversity and class of festivals in the region. The best music festivals? Larmer Tree has been voted the best family festival in the UK, while it’s sister event – The End of the Road Festival – has been awarded for Best Line-Up of the Year, also at Larmer Tree.

More music? TeddyRocks marks its 10th anniversary this year with headliners The Amazons and Fratellis and will again be looking to raise more than £100k for a children’s charity; there is the very family-friendly Dorset Midsummer Music Festival and, of course, we host the UK Boogie Woogie Festival too! Music, food and cider is just the ticket at the annual Cranborne Chase Cider company party, a combination you will also find at the Shaftesbury Food & Drink Festival and the Sturminster Newton Cheese festival.

Fitness? We’ve got it covered, with separate festivals for wellness, running and walking. Outdoors? Come along to our specialist trio of agricultural, steam and oak fairs. Literary? Of course, with a new festival launching in Shaftesbury in November celebrating our connection with the land in #thehighpointofdorset.

Enjoy your summer of festivals – we’ll see you on the circuit!

MAY

May 1-3: TEDDYROCKS FESTIVAL, nr BLANDFORD

The festival takes place at Charisworth Farm, near Blandford, and has grown steadily since it started in 2011, raising money for children’s cancer charity Teddy 20. It has attracted some huge names: 2018 headliners were Feeder and Ash and, in 2019, The Darkness and The Zutons. This year’s headliners are The Amazons and Fratellis.

The Saturday night sold out in 2019 and the weekend raised £107k for the charity, in addition to the £250k raised in previous years. The festival is named after Ted Newton, who died aged just 10 from a rare bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma. Tickets cost £70 for the weekend (or from £92 including a tent pitch). Campervans welcome, and glamping available. Shuttle buses available from Blandford.

Watch the video of the 2019 festival

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Where to buy the best of Shaftesbury and North Dorset online

Pic: Coconut and Cotton

WE STRONGLY support shopping in Shaftesbury for the Christmas tree and table (Nb: Dec 15 – Shaftesbury Christmas Street Fair, 100 craft and food/drink stalls, 10am-4pm.)

But if you can’t get into town, or have moved away and would like a seasonal reminder of home, shop online to browse magnificent North Dorset gifts and produce. Many retailers now have an online shop, and many more will follow – perfect for North Dorset ‘expats,’ and for those living here who’d like to send a gift to friends and family further afield.

So fill your stockings with orders for this Christmas and support your excellent Shaftesbury and surrounding area retailers. Happy Christmas!

If you are a producer selling North Dorset-related Christmas gifts or food and drink, and have an online shop – do let us know! Leave a comment with a brief description of your product and the website.

More reading:

Six brilliant reasons to visit Shaftesbury this winter
Eight surprising places to lunch near Shaftesbury
Take a winter tour behind the scenes at Stourhead

WHERE TO BUY NORTH DORSET ONLINE:
FOOD AND DRINK

Green + Grainy

This gluten-free and vegan plant-based food company in East Orchard, Shaftesbury, was created in 2018 by Jasmin Giles, who is passionate about promoting healthy eating, and the positive affects this can have on our bodies, the environment and our general well being.  The range of ‘no-bake’ bars and ‘bliss balls’ are made using nuts, seeds, dried fruits and nutrient dense ingredients. It’s health-conscious eating, and G&G works with a yoga retreat and nutritionist locally. Jasmin also runs a catering business as well as selling her treats online.

The four bars (Raw Snickers, Orange & Almond, Berry Bounty and Salted Maca Millionaire)  can be bought online (eight bars for £16.50).

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Six brilliant reasons to visit Shaftesbury this winter

 

  • January-March: Shaftesbury Snowdrop Season
  • January-March: Go behind closed doors at Stourhead
  • January: The 92nd anniversary of Thomas Hardy’s death this month (and June 2020 marks the 180th anniversary of his birth)
  • January: Celebrate cider with a wassail in January!
  • February: Dark sky stargazing on Cranborne Chase
  • Bonus event: Have Gold Hill to yourself!!

REASON NUMBER ONE

THE SHAFTESBURY SNOWDROP SEASON
Late January – mid-March

Are you perhaps a galanthophile (a lover of snowdrops)? You’ve come to the right place – Shaftesbury’s snowdrop season is the biggest event of its type in the country.

Shaftesbury Snowdrops is a project that aspired to create Britain’s first ‘Snowdrop Town’ – and it has succeeded. The project began in 2012, since when more than 200,000 snowdrops have been planted. A further 20,000 were bought to sell on, at cost, to help build links with neighbouring festivals. The unique community-owned Shaftesbury heritage collection has also grown during the past year to more than 100 varieties.

The study day at Shaftesbury Arts Centre (alongside the Gallery’s snowdrop art exhibition and a pop-up shop) will be held on February 8 and comprises lectures, lunch, Q&A with an expert panel and horticultural talks. Tickets cost between £35-£40: you can book here.

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Cranborne Chase wins official Dark Skies Reserve status – the largest area in the UK

Cranborne Chase Dark Skies

Photo: King Alfred’s Tower by Paul Howell of Pictori Images

IT’S OFFICIAL! Shaftesbury has one of the best stargazing spots in the world on its doorstep.

The Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AoNB) has been recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve, an area that restricts light pollution and promotes astronomy.

The AoNB has the largest central area of darkness of any International Dark Sky Reserve in the UK. It’s also the first AoNB in the country to receive the recognition, and only the 14th reserve across the globe to join an exclusive club of International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Protected Areas to gain international recognition for our dark skies.

“Some people are lucky enough to recognise ‘the Plough’, but for others, seeing stars and their constellations is often impossible because of light pollution. Here in Cranborne Chase we can see the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy, if the clouds allow!” said Linda Nunn, Director of Cranborne Chase AONB.

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8 surprising places to lunch near Shaftesbury, Dorset

THERE are an awful lot of very good places to lunch in Shaftesbury when it comes to hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants. The surrounding countryside of The Blackmore Vale and Cranborne Chase also has some seriously good pubs serving top class food.

The Fontmell in Fontmell Magna; The Crown Inn at Marnhull; The Ship at West Stour; The White Lion at Bourton; The Coppleridge at Motcombe; The Benett Arms at Semley; The Beckford Arms at Fonthill Gifford and The Forester in Donhead St Andrew are just some we can recommend.

But what we also have close to town is a number of eclectic places which offer an extraordinary lunch experience, from a baguette in a prison cafe, light lunch in a motorbike dealership or village shop, food on the farm to amazing spreads in a brush factory, walled garden and airfield cafe.

Now, where else could you say that?!

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Shaftesbury: a long walk among our landmark trees

IN June, 2018, the Shaftesbury Tree Group published a walking map taking in the best examples of old and important trees in the centre of our hilltop town (see link below). Now the group has created a second walk, based on a circular amble around the town’s perimeter. Both maps are brilliantly illustrated by landscape artist Gary Cook, who lives just outside Shaftesbury.

View and read the first map: Shaftesbury: walk landmark trees with glorious views
The story of the second map: Read (and listen to) an interview with Gary Cook, plus Sue Clifford and Angela King from the Tree Group

A LONGER WALK AMONG OUR ANCIENT TREES

This walk may take one and a half to two hours: it depends on how many gates you lean upon and muse. It begins and ends with steep hills and in part follows roads, some without pavements. We circuit the base of the greensand spur on which Shaftesbury’s medieval centre stands, more than 100ft/30m above.

Even at the bottom of the hill there are long views outwards to Melbury Hill, Duncliffe Woods and across the hedged fields to the rim of chalk hills that contain the Blackmore Vale. Glimpses up the slopes reveal steep woodland cover, some planted – the pines and beech, some spontaneous growth – birch, ash, sycamore, field maple and more.

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Drink in the Gillingham Walking Festival. Food too

THE festival will be held this year from September 4-8 with a theme of Exploring Local Food & Drink. There are 12 organised walks of varying lengths, from a one-mile potter to a 9.5 mile circular walk from Templecombe to Gillingham.

One walk starts at Melbury Vale winery, followed by a climb up to Shaftesbury, through Motcombe and back to Gillingham – fortunately, the organisers will collect any wine purchases for you! Other walks take in Mere Fish Farm, a beekeeper and a community orchard.

A particularly interesting walk is a visit to a County Farm visit in West Stour, five miles west of Shaftesbury. County Farms are farms owned by Local Authorities and let out to young and first-time farmers, sometimes at below-market rents. They’re a vital ‘first rung on the farming ladder’ for newcomers to a sector.

There are 46 ‘starter’ farms in Dorset – the first was acquired in 1911 in the parish of Marnhull. The estate is managed by Coast and Countryside, who provide advice on agricultural and estate management issues to local councils. The five-mile walk to the farm, home to 350 dairy cattle, from Gillingham is partly along The Stour Way.

On the Friday night (Sep 6), there will also be a Walking Festival Supper Quiz at The Olive Bowl in Gillingham. Tickets cost £10 from Sheila (01747 821269).

  • The Festival comes a week after the final leg of the 50-mile White Hart Link is walked, the 6.5 mile stretch from Fontmell Magna to Shaftesbury. The trail links the five market towns of North Dorset and villages in between via existing footpaths: many stiles and bridges have been restored to make access easier.
  • Kate Ashbrook will be joining the walk: Kate is General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society, and Vice-President and Chair of the Ramblers Association, Patron of the Walkers are Welcome Towns network, and a tireless campaigner for many causes. All are welcome to join the walk, leaving Fontmell Magna Village Hall on Monday August 26 at 10.30am. More details here.

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It’s the biggest agricultural show in Dorset

THE annual migration of 24,000 people to the Motcombe Turnpike Showground takes place on Wednesday August 14 this year, such is the pulling power of Dorset’s premier agricultural show.

The Gillingham and Shaftesbury Agricultural Show is the one that the farming community takes the day off for, with highly competitive sections for cattle, sheep, horses, dogs, poultry, rabbits, homecrafts, handicrafts, art and a huge range of classes for younger exhibitors, all need to be entered in advance.

The Education Area, introduced in 2018, is back: it’s called Farm, Food & Fun, which aims to show how milk, meat and grain are produced on local farms and how it eventually reaches the table, with lots of hands-on activities.

“The 2019 Show looks all set to be one of the best events ever, with a record number of trade exhibitors, a great range of attractions for all the family and entries for the competitive classes being received at a record rate,” says show secretary Sam Braddick.

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