1. St. Peter’s Church, April 2011. My one and only visit to the county town of Dorchester in Dorset was a fleeting one! It was my old friend Ad’s wedding weekend and I’d flown over from Amsterdam to join the festivities. Basing myself at The Sydney Arms Pub on St. Thomas Road, I found myself with just one morning to discover a bit of the town before heading off to the big event. Stop one on my whistle-stop tour was this imposing fifteenth century church located right on the high street. Architecturally there’s a pleasing mix of new and old, from the grotesque gargoyles scowling across the exterior, to the shiny glass sliding doors at the entrance.
2. Thomas Hardy Statue, April 2011. This statue of renowned English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy stands just north of High West Street. Born and bred in Dorchester, Hardy was inspired to draw heavily upon his hometown for the fictional community in his novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. You can also visit Hardy’s childhood home just outside of town. And there’s his gorgeous town house, Max Gate, which is owned by The National Trust and open to the public.
3. Borough Gardens, April 2011. A leisurely wander around Borough Gardens is also a must, a perfectly kept public park dating back to 1896. In 2007 the park was extensively restored to the tune of a whopping £1.4 million. The project was overseen by Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes; creator of the TV drama Downton Abbey. The gardens’ focal point is its handsome cast-iron clock tower painted in red, green and gold.
4. Athelhampton House, April 2011. The remainder of my Dorchester experience played out at this spectacular manor house just five miles from the town centre. Built in 1485, you can tour the immaculate interior with its Tudor architecture and wander the grounds with its pyramid-shaped Yew trees. Take the time to walk all the way around the house and you’ll find a tiny private, walled garden, an octagonal pond and a narrow canal flanked by benches and rosebushes.
5. Athelhampton House, April 2011. The wedding itself played out as weddings always do. It was great to reunite with the old gang again. People sang, danced and got very, very drunk. There were inappropriate in-jokes, cheesy speeches and awkward small talk mingling with people I had nothing in common with. In any case it was great to see my old mate get hitched and to have a quick peek at a little corner of England I might have otherwise missed.
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