Let's move to Blandford Forum in Dorset

PUBLISHED: 14:30 21 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:51 20 February 2013

Let's move to Blandford Forum in Dorset

Let's move to Blandford Forum in Dorset

Edward Griffiths explores this Georgian gem, which continues to thrive as a market town

Lets move to... Blandford Forum

Edward Griffiths explores this Georgian gem, which continues to thrive as a market town

Blandford Forum advertises itself as A Unique Georgian Town, an aspect that attracts visitors from far and wide to enjoy this elegant market town surrounded by wooded hills and green fields and populated by harmonious red-brick and grey-glazed-brick houses. As you stroll along its roads you will see fine three-storey buildings with stone colonnades, arches and stucco designs on brick, and houses with classical porticos and elegant doorways. But this is not a town stuck in the past; on Thursdays and Saturdays its streets are filled with market stalls.

Could you live here?
If you are looking for a cottage with roses around the door, then the Grade II Listed Old Timbers in the pretty village of Tarrant Keyneston, 3 1/2 miles south-west of Blandford, ticks all the boxes, with cob walls, thatched roof, lattice windows and a glorious garden. Originally two cottages, it simply oozes character, with an inglenook fireplace with bread oven, thatched porches and stable-style doors. Outside, the beautiful south-facing garden has secret rooms created from pergolas and trelliswork festooned with scented wisteria, clematis and honeysuckle. There is also a timber summerhouse which is currently used as a home office, Old Timbers is on the market with Chesterton Humberts at 595,000. For details call 01258 452343.

Blandford Forum has a wide variety of schools to suit all abilities and aspirations. These include Archbishop Wake Church of England Primary School in Black Lane (01258 453120); Blandford St Mary C of E First School in Birch Avenue (01258 453331); and Milldown First School (01258 452456), which recently became a primary school and is extending into new buildings across the road close to its sister establishment, Blandford School (01258 451121), a mixed school for 11-18-year-olds. OFSTED recently rated the school as Good with the capacity and ambition to become Outstanding.
The independent sector is served by the prestigious Bryanston School, just outside Blandford. It occupies a magnificent 400-acre estate, with 56 acres of playing fields. Most pupils join this mixed school at 13+, having taken their Common Entrance exam (01258 484633 or bryanston.co.uk). Situated in 30 acres of beautiful countryside in Durweston, Knighton House School is a day and boarding school for girls between 7 and 13, and also has the Orchard Pre-Prep for girls and boys from 3-7 (01258 452065).

Blandford has an impressive array of shops selling anything from sporting guns to locally made sausages. The Dorset Bookshop, established 60 years ago, in East Street, opposite the church of St Peter and St Paul, is lined with tempting shelves of new and second-hand books, and owners Kevin and Denny Cook can order current and out-of-print books for you (01258 452266). In the walled kitchen garden of old Langton House, Caleb William Abbott set up Langton Nurseries 70 years ago, and his grand-daughter Caroline Frew stocks perennials, bedding, trees, roses, clematis and everything for the garden, and also sells seasonal fruit and vegetables alongside free-range eggs and Dorset produce (01258 452513). Another local produce hot spot is the Tourist Information in Riverside House, Marsh and Ham car park, where youll find local crafts and food items alongside community leaflets, guides, maps and events. Open April to September, 10am-5pm, and October to March, 10am-3pm, closed Sundays (01258 454770).

Out and About
Walking and riding

For walkers, mountain-bikers, horse-riders, bird-watchers and nature lovers Blandford makes an ideal base. The Blandford Arches Heritage Trail is planned as an extension to the existing footpath and cycleway route along the old railway line east of the town centre. There are some lovely walks and rides in the Stour Valley and over the chalk hills surrounding Blandford, including Hod Hill and Hambledon Hill starting from Stourpaine or Shroton, Okeford Hill and the deserted Ringmoor settlement starting from Okeford Fitzpaine, and circular walks from Shillingstone and Durweston.

Historic houses
The vast majority of Blandfords town centre dates from the period after the Great Fire of 1731 when most of Blandford was destroyed. The Old House in The Close, a magnificent brick structure built around 1660, is a rare survivor.

For curious minds

Blandford Town Museum in Beres Yard, signposted from the Market Place has a scale model of Blandford Station, part of the Somerset and Dorset Railway (S&D), depicting the station and goods yard in the early 19th century. Open April to September, 10am-4.30pm. Call: 01258 450388, blandfordtownmuseum.org.

For steam buffs
Described as the most remarkable show on earth, the Great Dorset Steam Fair brings thousands of visitors to Blandford each September. This year this typically British event is being held between Wednesday 1 and Sunday 5 September. More details: 01258 860361.

For followers of fashion
The Blandford Fashion Museum in The Plocks currently has an exhibition on The 1970s Flower Power, featuring maxi and mini dresses and other funky clobber. The Dorset Crafts Room exhibits include Dorset smocks, a glove-making machine and locally made lace. Open Thursday to Monday, 11am-5pm. Information: 01258 453006 and theblandfordfashionmuseum.com.

For real ale lovers
Hall & Woodhouse Brewery produces the local ale in Blandford; you can take a guided tour of the brewery where you can taste the malt, smell the hops and work the machinery, before sampling the beer. Brewery tours run all year, Monday to Saturday, starting at 11am. To check availability and booking: 01258 486004.

Local Information
The Market Place constantly buzzes with visitors and people from surrounding villages arriving by bus or setting off home again. Bus companies include Damory Coaches, Wilts & Dorset, Shaftesbury & District and First. Routes include 329 to Bournemouth and Poole, 330 from Yeovil and continuing to Charlton Marshall and Poole, and 309 from Shaftesbury and Sturminster Newton.

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