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This new book introduces you to the Dorset of the 21st century

PUBLISHED: 15:50 20 December 2016 | UPDATED: 15:50 20 December 2016

Jyoti and Dadvid with theri Jacob sheep at Five Penny Farm

Jyoti and Dadvid with theri Jacob sheep at Five Penny Farm

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A new book edited by Fanny Charles and Gay Pirrie-Weir introduces us to the Dorset of the 21st century through the people who live and work here

DORSET, says Marzia Colonna, is England’s Tuscany. The Italian-born and internationally acclaimed sculptor and collage artist has lived in the county for many years and compares Dorset to her homeland – a beautiful landscape with historic towns and wonderful food, which only reveals its secrets when you get off the beaten track.

When we conceived the idea of this book, as journalists we wanted to seek out the voices of Dorset in the 21st century. And so we spoke to the people who live and work here, who write, paint, produce food from the land, make nets for Wimbledon, campaign for the rights of smallholders, manage the county’s economic development or teach traditional boat-building skills.

There are interviews with Dorset residents as diverse as Lord Shaftesbury, who with his wife Dinah has restored the long boarded-up St Giles House as a family home, and Andrew Price, the retired Dorset chief planner who oversaw the development of the Wytch Farm oilfield.

There are articles by well-known Dorset residents including Kate Adie, Anna del Conte, Julian Fellowes, Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall and novelist Tracy Chevalier. There are expert contributions by historian David Sekers, poet, cider-maker and shepherd James Crowden, musician and folk historian Tim Laycock and world cheese expert Bob Farrand.

Dorset’s familiar landscape and famous buildings feature alongside remarkable collectors like Steve Etches, a Mary Anning for the 21st century, whose new museum at Kimmeridge reveals under-sea Dorset in the Jurassic era. There are stories of smugglers and wreckers and we pay homage to the films which chose our county for its backdrop.

The book was funded by the Rothermere Foundation, the charitable trust of the Rothermere family, which has long connections with Dorset. In his foreword, Lord Rothermere, writes about the idea of Deepest Dorset as “different things to different people... To a writer it is the stories she finds in the memories and landscape around her. To an oilman it is the deep wells below the Purbecks and Poole Harbour. And to my father it was his much beloved childhood home at Athelhampton.”

So what does Deepest Dorset mean to you? We’d love to find out…


A taste of Deepest Dorset

Launch day at the Lyme Regis Boat Building Academy

It’s a cold June morning. There is a chilly grey mist over Lyme Bay and people gathering at the Boat Building Academy are putting coats on. There is a palpable buzz. By 10am, there is a large crowd of locals, visitors, keen sailors, former students - some there to help and others just keen to follow “like pilgrims” as the first boat begins its short journey to the harbour by the Cobb.

First into the water is a beautiful traditional sailing dinghy, followed by a sleek racing canoe, and last is the elegant ‘Terror’, sharing a name with one of the boats lost during the doomed 19th century Franklin expedition to find the North-West passage.

It is a great community event for Lyme Regis and a hugely emotional one, as summed up by Yvonne Green, Principal of the Academy: “There are cheers, not a few tears, and a lot of bubbly splashing into the sea and down throats.”

Building a food community in West Dorset

Jyoti Fernandes is a leading member of La Via Campesina, an international organisation with 200 million peasant farmer members around the world. She lives off-grid with her husband David and their daughters in the wooden home that David built on their half of a 40-acre smallholding on a West Dorset hillside with views across the Marshwood Vale towards the sea.

It is an idyllic location for a hard but rewarding way of life. Jyoti has 16 Jacob ewes, as well as her Jersey cows, from which she produces milk, cream, yoghurt and hard and soft cheese.

Jyoti and other small farmers’ representatives are campaigning to make governments around the world understand that global corporations are the threat not the answer to the challenges of food security. “We need to reconnect people with their food and culture ... politicians talk about ‘sustainable intensification’ and say you have to intensify to produce food, and to compete in the global market. They say you have to get big or get out ... it’s not true.”

Inspired by the colours of Dorset

Coming from Tuscany, with its famously beautiful light and strong colours, Marzia Colonna might have found Dorset pale by comparison – but the Italian artist is profoundly influenced by the luminous tones of her adopted home.

“I walk in these places and I want to capture the colours as well as the forms. Even on a grey day there is so much colour, whether it’s on the Fleet or West Bay, it’s fabulous.”

Marzia is always alert to the landscape and to the tiny details that catch her artist’s eye. She absorbs scenes, moments, light and shade, capturing the images “like the shutters of a camera” and storing them until she is back at her studio.

Similarly a sculpture may be inspired by a piece of music, a poem by Thomas Hardy or Wordsworth, or a twisted piece of wood. She can switch from working on paper to working in the round – “there is always a fresh challenge,” she says. “For me the sense of privilege never stops.”


Deepest Dorset is priced at £20, and is raising funds for four Dorset-based charities: Dorset Community Foundation, RNLI. Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance and Weldmar Hospicecare Trust. To order a copy call 01963 32525 or at deepestbooks.co.uk.

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