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A visitor's guide to Wareham

PUBLISHED: 12:06 19 August 2019

Wareham in high summer, photo credit: Matt Hardy Photography

Wareham in high summer, photo credit: Matt Hardy Photography

Archant

This town is one for the history lovers, but today it also has a thriving arts and crafts scene as well as a fantastic foodie offering

Wareham is one of the few remaining Saxon walled towns in England, and during the 9th and 10th century this riverside town was either occupied by Vikings, or fighting them off. The Saxon churches of Lady St Mary and St Martin-on-the-Walls still remain, though a large part of the town was destroyed by fire in 1762. The town has a good selection of independent shops, mainly around the town cross roads; butchers, bakers and hardware shops jostle with boutiques, galleries and antique emporiums. Well worth a browse is The Purbeck Artisan Yard in Church Street where local artists, upcyclers, creators and makers sell their pieces.

MOST NOTED FOR...

Wareham Quay is a focal point for town events held here including the weekly market. Hire a boat, paddleboard or kayak and either paddle up the Frome to Wool or venture downstream to Poole Harbour. The terrace at the Old Granary on the quay has one of the best river views for a leisurely lunch or supper.

WHILE YOU'RE HERE...

swing over to Monkey World in Wool to meet the relatives. The residents of this primate rescue centre feature in the TV series Monkey Life.

BUT TRY NOT TO...

miss the flicks at The Rex, the independent cinema is on West Street. It's also a key venue for the Purbeck Film Festival in October.

WHO'S WHO

T. E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, lived at Clouds Hill, a simple forester's cottage near Wareham while stationed at Bovington Camp. He was killed in a motorbike accident close to the cottage in May 1935, just a few weeks after moving to the cottage permanently. Clouds Hill is now looked after by the National Trust and it is dedicated to Lawrence and his life story. A circular Lawrence of Arabia Trail starts at the Tank Museum, taking in Clouds Hill and St Nicholas Church in Moreton where Lawrence is buried. There's also a recumbent sculpted effigy of him at St Martin-on-the-Walls in Wareham.

TOTALLY TANKFEST

Bovington is the British Army's military tank training centre, and home to the Tank Museum which brings the history of tanks and tank crews to life with over 300 vehicles and live displays. Tankfest, held here in June, is the world's biggest display of historic moving armour.

THE BLUE POOL

This former clay pit on Furzebrook Road is famous for its ever changing colours. This is due to the very fine clay in suspension in the water which diffracts light producing a spectrum of colour from green through to turquoise. The Blue Pool Tea Rooms here date from 1935.

PURBECK ART WEEKS

Running from the end of May into June, this arts festival offers a superb programme of concerts and talks plus artists' Open Studios and exhibitions across Purbeck, including Wareham.

Eat at:

The Salt Pig

01929 550673

Why? This fabulous farm shop-cum-cafe on North Street celebrates some of the best food and drink produced in Purbeck on its shelves. It also makes the best bacon sandwich in Dorset!

Stay at:

The Priory Hotel

01929 551666

Why? The Priory's garden, adjacent to the River Frome, is one of Wareham's best-kept secrets. Imagine waking up to that river view or enjoying dinner by the waterside at sunset.

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