Tag Archives: shaftesbury

When will the Shaftesbury area attractions re-open?

This article was updated on July 2

The long, slow return to a form of tourism normality has begun, with plans to re-open attractions such as Stonehenge and Wardour Castle shortly.

Both are operated by English Heritage, which opened the first of its 400 properties on June 13. Stonehenge will open on July 4, with timed tickets needed to be booked in advance.

Deer now nibble the grass around the stones, and a family of hares are nesting in the ring, says a report in The Guardian, in which EH chief executive Kate Mavor says people should expect a markedly different experience, much of which will become the “new normal” for visits to historic sites.

Visitors will be directed via one-way systems, outdoor catering stalls will replace cafes and trestle tables will sell momentos in the open air. Guests will also need to pre-book tickets with a specific time slot.

The narrow corridors and close quarters of Wardour Castle, a 14th castle very close to Shaftesbury, present more challenges and its re-opening is taking a little longer. It will open in early August, with limited numbers.

Elsewhere, National Trust has yet to announce any plans for Stourhead although the NT began a rolling programme of re-opening gardens and parklands on June 3. All of its houses remain closed for now.

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Where to buy the best of Shaftesbury and North Dorset online

Pic: Coconut and Cotton

THE disruptive impact of the coronavirus is considerable, and will continue to be so for months to come. The independent shops in Shaftesbury are a strong feature of the town, and will need a lot of support to stay afloat.

Many food outlets have adapted, providing takeaway or delivery services. Some, including Coconut and Cotton, will deliver locally. Shaftesbury Wines will also deliver locally. But most shops will remain closed to visitors until it is deemed safe to re-open – an updated list of retailer status is available at This is Alfred website.

In the meantime, many retailers have an online shop where you can browse magnificent North Dorset gifts and produce, perfect for North Dorset ‘expats,’ and for those living here who’d like to send a gift to friends and family further afield.

So do take a look at their sites. Many will still be able to dispatch products immediately, some may take a while longer, some have closed operations for the duration. But all will need huge support in 2020 to ensure long-term health, and keep Shaftesbury thriving as a must-visit destination.

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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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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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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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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Shaftesbury in December: Christmas shopping and stargazing

REASON NUMBER ONE
IT’S CHRISTMAS!

The second-highest market town in England, has the biggest Christmas Street Fair in Dorset (on December 16) and is the epicentre of so many seasonal events. And sister town Gillingham – just down the hill and on the mainline train line between London and Exeter – is also laying on seasonal treats.

Base yourself in Shaftesbury for a night or three, soak in the atmosphere and sing your heart out at a carol service, followed by a mince pie and mulled wine, naturally. As a bonus, there is free car parking in Shaftesbury on Saturdays in December!

NOV 30: Gillingham Christmas Parade and Lights Switch-on, 5pm. A Christmas Market will be held, with gift and food/drink stalls, rides and music before the procession starts from the Town Hall to Town Meadow at 6pm. The Mayor will switch on the lights and there will be carols with the Gillingham Community Choir and Gillingham Imperial Silver Band at the tree.

DEC 1: Shaftesbury Farmers’ Market, Town Hall, 9am-1pm
3: Shaftesbury Christmas Spectacular and the turning on of the Christmas Lights. The evening starts at 6pm: there will be carol singing with Shaftesbury Town Band and a countdown to the lights. Father Christmas will be in the grotto in the Town Hall with free presents for every child street. An added attraction this year is a pantomime twist – a giant beanstalk on the Town Hall made up of leaves designed by schoolchildren. There will also be late night shopping until 8.30pm.
7: The Shaftesbury Christmas Art Fair, Town Hall 10am-4pm. At the monthly fair in November, some 345 visitors popped in. Come buy an original piece of art as a brilliant Christmas present.
7: Bell Street Christmas Special, Shaftesbury Arts Centre. Following last year’s success, the Bell Street Christmas Special is back for another year of yuletide fun! Come along for a night of songs, dances and comedy with a side of delicious nibbles. £8, 7.30pm
8-9: Craft Fair, The Mitre Inn. Inaugural small stall event on the pub decking – jewellery, Christmas prints, cards, tea cosies, glass painting, baubles, cushions, felt art, sweets cart, lamps. Plus Sants on Saturday at 2pm, hog roast, mulled wine and cider, 11am-5pm.
9: Christmas Craft Fair, Rivers Meet, Gillingham, with a German bar and food + Oompah band
16: Shaftesbury Christmas Street Fair, 100 craft and food/drink stalls – the biggest Christmas street market in Dorset. 10am-4pm. The Churches Together group will be performing their annual nativity play at 1pm.

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The Hovis Loaf is restored to Gold Hill, Shaftesbury

Photos: James Thrift

THE Hovis loaf that has sat atop Gold Hill for 38 years has finally been returned with a fresh look, ready to butter up tourists looking for a photo opportunity on their visit to Shaftesbury’s iconic attraction.

The loaf was created in 1980, seven years after director Ridley Scott put Gold Hill on the map with his Hovis advert – and two years after The Two Ronnies version.

The advert has been voted Britain’s favourite television advert, and has resulted in tens of thousands of visitors to the hilltop town. It was built as a donations box and information point, the idea being that money collected be used for the ongoing upkeep of Gold Hill.

But it has suffered badly from wear and tear, vandalism and attempted break-ins. Health and safety saw the stale loaf moved to a siding outside the Town Hall in case it slid down the hill (unconfirmed reports say ‘joyriders’ once rode it down the hill in the snow.)

It stood there until 15 months ago, with few realising it still welcomed donations. “There was hardly any money put in,” said Anne Giberson, chairman of Shaftesbury Tourism and owner of The Chalet B&B.

The Loaf was taken away for restoration but its sudden disappearance concerned many: “Hardly a week went by without somebody asking after the loaf,” said Elaine Barrett, chair of Gold Hill Museum.

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Shaftesbury: walk ancient trees with glorious views

AN EASY and LEVEL-ish walk around the hill top through trees and views. Most, except cobbles and steep parts (in italics) which can be avoided, is suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs. Much of the walk is away from cars and you will meet dog walkers. You could easily walk it in 30 minutes.

Read a review of the walk, and listen to audio interviews from This is Alfred.com

Further reading: A longer walk among our trees, taking in the outskirts of Shaftesbury. (https://www.shaftesburytourism.co.uk/shaftesbury-a-longer-walk-among-our-ancient-trees/3003377).

1 START AT THE GUILD HALL at the bend in the High Street.

2 Taking care on the cobbles, you can go around the Guild Hall to gaze down Gold Hill, the view framed by receding cottages and the high, buttressed greensand wall. Then go along Park Lane, or direct from the High Street west into PARK WALK, a broad promenade with wide views over the Blackmore Vale to the south and Melbury Hill to the south-east. Nuns walked here from the 9th to the 16th century, around the Abbey founded by King Alfred for his daughter Aethelgifu. The under-town (sub-urb) of St James lies beneath the slopes.

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Shaftesbury, Dorset: these are a few of our favourite things

Johnnie and Tiggy Walker presented with a cheque for Carers UK by Giles Maling, general manager of The Grosvenor Arms, after a fundraising event at the hotel. Pic: Gillingham News


FIVE people who love Shaftesbury reveal the places they recommend to friends and family visiting the town and surrounds. Read their tips and check out the locations on our Google map

JOHNNIE AND TIGGY WALKER, DJ and producer

We consider ourselves very lucky to live in this beautiful part of the world and be part of this lovely little town. Here are the five things we would recommend:

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