Martin Clunes shares his favourite local places in Dorset
PUBLISHED: 11:37 27 July 2018 | UPDATED: 11:46 27 July 2018
Martin Clunes and his family have called West Dorset home for over two decades. Here he shares some of their favourite local places
My Dorset Days
We have a lot of animals and our farm is on a hill so we really don’t need to go to the gym to keep fit and there’s no need for a personal trainer to bark commands at us - they all make their demands pretty clear. Once they’ve had breakfast the dogs leave no doubt that they’d like a walk. The horses will bang their stable doors until they’ve had their morning feed, then the chickens will cluck at us for mash and a bit of last nights spaghetti if they’re lucky and even the cats will throw in a meow for that weird stuff that they eat.
Here’s the cast list: Philippa’s horse Aldo, Emily’s new boy Dennis and her mare Swift, our home bred Alice who is eight now (and whilst being really spoilt is actually very talented but we don’t tell her because she’d be a nightmare if she knew), and then there’s my pride and joy Ronnie and Bruce the Clydesdales who are the best ones we’ve got (no bias there).
We have five miniature Shetland ponies Hector, Timothy, Oliver, Hamish and Jemima though the last two are staying with a friend as companions for her horse. Last but not least is Connor aka Sausage Boy who with the help of the RSPCA we rescued along with Oliver, he spends term times at Kingston Maurwood but is coming home for the summer holidays which will be lovely.
Our four dogs in order of age Jim (James Henry) the Jack Russell, Penelope Jennifer our Jackahuahua, Heidi May and her idiot son Bob Jackson the Cocker Spaniels and two cats Lenny Marcel and Max Peter.
We have a small herd of 50 Dexter cattle, an historic breed of extra small cows so probably the equivalent of about 25 proper ones. We are gradually getting rid of our flock of Pole Dorset sheep, we did have around 300 but we haven’t lambed this year and are down to around 30 lambs that will soon be appearing at Frampton’s the butchers in Bridport. Having had a visit from a nasty fox we are back up to 10 hens, Philippa having recently bought some lovely Legbars at the Royal Bath & West Show where our gifted groom Chloe Day was riding and showing my boy Bruce, who I might add took second place in the Best Ridden Heavy Horse class.
When I’m not out with the horses, dogs or stock what I really like to do is to cut the grass, I absolutely love it and I’m a complete big head about my prowess. It takes a couple of hours to cut it all, I like to think I’m sculpting with grass rather than merely mowing.
Local vets Girling & Bowditch keep the four-legged members of the Clunes family happy and healthy. Their waiting room is a community hub. I remember Emily sitting with an injured lamb on her lap once and without really looking people thought she had a Bedlington terrier until it went baa! Terry Girling is a brilliant vet and a good friend, we pulled him in to help us with a storyline on Doc Martin once about a prolapsed pig and also about the self-edicating vet played by our old friend Caroline Quentin. He is also a long term supporter of Buckham Fair, every year he or a member of his team is there helping to judge the Best Rescue Dog of the Year and provide any veterinary support need on the day.
All this animal stuff has rubbed off on Emily. As a youngster she was very active in the local pony club, and she has just finished her A-levels at The Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester. In September she starts her Equine Science degree with her horse Dennis in tow. They are both going on to further education together ... how dreamy is that?
I should mention, at this point, the weekly delivery of a sack of pony carrots (£3) from Washingpool Farm – an award-winning family-run farm shop nearby – our horses make short work of those carrots in seven days and it’s another great place to buy lovely local produce.
Favourite West Dorset Rides & Walks
One of our favourite rides is over to Hooke Woods, which in spring is a carpet of bluebells. But we are finding that riding on the roads is getting increasingly dangerous as people drive faster and faster; no one is taught what to do around horses when they learn to drive which seems odd when you think who the roads were first made for. I love riding around Beaminster on one of my big boys, you get a fantastic nosey view of everyone’s gardens over their hedges.
One of our family’s favourite walks is on Eggardon Hill, Philippa describes it as a truly magical place and I have to agree. It’s a significant Iron Age hill fort next to Powerstock Common, and the steep climb rewards you with amazing views out to sea and over the Marshwood Vale, its even hosted kite flying festivals in the past. When we first moved to Powerstock we would chuck the dogs and young Emily in the car and go for a walk (or in Emily’s case a carry) to the top. It will always hold a very special place in our hearts.
Our menagerie and busy work schedules, Philippa and I run our own production company Buffalo Pictures (which produces Doc Martin, the other dramas and all our documentaries), means that dining out isn’t as frequent as we would like, but we are always keen to visit Summer Lodge at Evershot for a spot of fine dining. The Stable in Bridport do really nice pizzas with local toppings and offer an amazing range of West Country ciders, and we also enjoy dining at the Riverside restaurant at West Bay.
Talking of West Bay a new favourite is the Station Kitchen. This is situated in a converted railway carriage at the platform of the old West Bay Station, they have the loveliest staff there and after a drink in the former waiting room you are shown to your table in the carriage. Last year we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on board and there was standing room only!
Our favourite Dorset pubs
The Fox at Corscombe is a proper Dorset pub with lovely food that we’ve been going to since we first moved to Dorset twenty something years ago; we keep meaning to ride over there for lunch one day but haven’t managed it yet. Another favourite is The Acorn at Evershot which is part of a Clunes family Christmas tradition. On Boxing Day around 15 of us pitch up to play skittles and then they shut us in a room where we scream and laugh our way through a fabulous lunch.
Our lovely local shops
What else keeps the Clunes clan on the road? The fantastic range of independent shops in Beaminster and Bridport, we are so lucky to have two really vibrant local places to shop and eat. We’ve recently had some great meals at the Bridge House in Beaminster (now renamed The Ollerod), which with its new owners is rising phoenix-like from the ashes of a bit of a doldrum. We also regularly go for lunch at Café Ann Day on Hogshill not to mention the award-winning Brassica on the square.
Also on the square are our friend and local butcher Nick Tett, Beaminster Flowers, Fruit N Two Veg the greengrocers and our post office which is a bit of a community hub and the best place to buy a bag of rubber bands. Annoyingly the local bank is now shut, so we have to go to Bridport but that gives me the chance to pop into Framptons of Bridport the butchers under the Clock Tower on East Street. This is run by ‘the Duke of Bridport’ as I like to call Phil Frampton, who has been a family friend since we first moved here. I swing by for a coffee and a natter with his lordship in his office. Phil takes all the lamb and beef that we produce and when he announces on his website the imminent arrival of Buckham Beef from one of our Dexters it gets snapped up by local chefs and foodies. Also on East Street is Leakers Bakery which produces a wide variety of delicious breads and baked goods; it’s really hard to leave there without a cheese straw to share with Jim in the car on the way home.
Browsing in Bridport Market
When our daughter Emily was little I used to take her in her pushchair, with Mary our golden cocker spaniel, to Bridport Market every Saturday morning. It was a lovely little ritual that I’ll never forget. We would slowly work our way down South Street saying hello to the stall holders’ dogs that became friends, we can still remember their names Sally and Ringo. And I would browse the stalls for second hand tools and what I call ‘old ladies watercolours’; we had a lot of walls to fill with paintings in our first house in Powerstock, we’ve still got most of them on the walls at the farm. I really miss these visits to the market and fully intend to go again as soon as I can wrestle Emily back into her pushchair.
Bracing Beach Walks
There are some lovely beaches in West Dorset. We tend to do our beach stuff in the winter months, when it’s less busy and also when you can take the dogs. Philippa prefers it when it’s a bit more bracing and stormy. West Bexington and Eype are favourites, or for a treat it’s hard to beat a winter walk on Burton Bradstock beach followed by a crab sandwich at the dog-friendly Hive Beach Café.
Philippa and I enjoy finding great pieces by Dorset-based artists. We have a number of Richard Pikesley paintings on our walls, as well as Jeremy Hammick, and David Risk Kennard who is based at Powerstock, where we used to live.