6 really good reasons to love Wareham
PUBLISHED: 09:30 17 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:30 17 July 2018
From paddling on the Frome to admiring one of the best vistas in Dorset, Adam Lee-Potter's beloved home town just keeps getting better and better
WAREHAM FROM THE WATER
As a lad, I yearned to join the local boys jumping off the town bridge in the height of summer. Sadly this is no longer advisable, unless you want a broken ankle. Paddleboarding is probably more fun and certainly more sensible. You can hire pretty much everything you need from the watersports kiosk on the pretty quay in Wareham (prices start at £10 for a half-hour of kayaking or paddleboarding warehamboathire.co.uk). The young, female instructor was incredibly sweet with my ever-so-slightly boat-phobic daughter, which obviously made me a huge fan of this place immediately. Then, it’s up to you whether you want to paddle upstream towards Wool (too many anglers for me!) or venture out into Poole Harbour to explore its fascinating nooks and crannies including Arne - a truly magical and wild place.
Then, it’s back to the newly-refurbished Old Granary on the quay for a pint of lime soda or a refreshing pint of Badger. I can certainly vouch for their rib-eye steak. There’s even an outdoor cinema on the roof. For opening times and film schedules
A TASTE OF WAREHAM
Food has undoubtedly improved in Wareham since 1979: it’s no longer mostly about fish and chips. The Salt Pig on North Street offers the best bacon sandwich (£5.95) I have ever tasted; the bacon is made onsite, along with their sausages, from owner James Warren’s rare-breed pigs. They enjoy a splendid free range life at an RSPB heath restoration project at Creech Grange where their enthusiastic porcine foraging is helping to keep the habitat wildlife friendly.
Other Salt Pig delights include their £5 per-person deep-pan quiche – 14 eggs for ten people – and for £3 more you get two dollops of salad. James, who was awarded Dorset Magazine Food, Drink & Farming Hero 2016, is a star for bringing all this wonderful, local produce to Wareham. All the dishes are, as much as possible, conjured up with ingredients sourced from Purbeck and the staff are, simply, all brilliant. James clearly cares deeply about his company, and his people, and that care shines through and through. Understandably it’s a popular place, you can only book tables at Sunday lunchtimes, otherwise you need to be lucky or wait for a table, there are some at the back of the shop too (thesaltpig.co.uk).
With all this glorious sunny weather we’ve been having you may well be looking for a lovely spot for a leisurely summer lunch by the water. The Priory’s garden, adjacent to the River Frome, is one of Wareham’s best-kept secrets, and now you know about it! See their menus at theprioryhotel.co.uk. Double rooms start from £280 per night.
A LOCAL HIGH STREET TO BE PROUD OF
Now, you might not necessarily regard Wareham, with its ever-so sleepy vibe and Saxon walls, as a shopping venue. Certainly the supermarkets are surprisingly average for a vaguely well-heeled town. I recently asked for tahini at the Sainsbury’s (once Gateway, then briefly Morrisons), and was told to man up and buy peanut butter instead. But there are some wonderful nuggets tucked away.
The two hardware stores - Lord Hardware on the high street and W. Pond & Co on the square - have always fascinated me. Lord Hardware is one of Wareham’s oldest shops and has been serving all those useful things from zip ties and rope to fork handles - for well over 80 years. Walking into either, which I try to do as often as possible, immediately takes me back to a bygone era when your dad smelled of sandalwood and tobacco. Happy times!
Breaking news - there is a posh new coffee shop on South Street, The Coffee Saloon (coffeesaloon.com) which, I think, is offering the best coffee in the county. This is, apparently, because their baristas are equipped with a Marzocco PB5 Mazzer E and Mythos One. And no, I have no idea what that all means, either. I can recommend the £3.50 ice coffees, which, unimaginably, are worth that eye-watering price.
Finally, let me share a little hidden gem, Heirlooms, situated near the town bridge. Do not be deceived by its unassuming exterior. My family and I have been shopping here – for gifts – for most of my life. I have Victorian, gold cufflinks from here, given to me by my father 27 years ago, which I absolutely treasure. They are, aside from people, the first things I would take from a burning house.
Find out more at heirloomsofwareham.co.uk.
THE REX ON WEST STREET
The Rex on West Street is a much-loved independent local cinema which we are very lucky to have. As far as I know, you can still take proper drinks in, which I applaud. Despite the fact that this month they are, regrettably, showing Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, they really are the best of British here. The Rex is also an important venue for the wonderful Purbeck Film Festival (12 – 27 October purbeckfilm.com) and often hosts talks with renowned film directors before screenings. There is currently a fundraising campaign for a new projector that is well worth supporting. Donate at therex.co.uk.
THE WALKING AND CYCLING ROUTES
I was born in Poole and moved to Wareham when I was nine. I know this place like the back of my hand, probably better. The walking and cycling is beyond fantastic. Forget those Saxon walls. Cross the bridge instead and look up. Creech Barrow – that bump on your horizon – is a little-known walk but it is one of the highest points of Dorset, not signed as a footpath. The views from there are staggering. It is one of my favourite places, for all sorts of reasons. I used to mountain bike up – or attempt to. Now I just walk.
The drive, to the beginning of the ascent, from Wareham is a matter of moments, and utterly beautiful. You get to see the glory of Creech Grange at the bottom and, if you take my way, you get to a marvellous horseshoe road, a left off Grange Road, then a right. You can park at the bottom of the climb and, since 1979, I have never, ever met anybody else on this hill. Please don’t mob it but it truly is a secret too good not to share!
IT’S SO RELAXING
I’ve shared all my favourite local places with you, so I had to include the Springfield Country Hotel & Spa (thespringfield.co.uk). Though it’s not an architectural beauty, the gym and spa here are truly impressive. They have two squash courts, both in good nick, it’s never busy, the pool is generous and the staff – from the bar people to the receptionists to the manager – are as lovely as the clientele. And I don’t say that lightly or often. Double rooms start from £128 a night. Annual gym membership – which includes a handsome 10 per cent discount off drinks – costs £470. Now that seems a steal to me.