Shaftesbury is as quintessential a British village as I have ever seen. It sits in a quiet corner of Dorset, which itself is a leafy, green, hilly little county. I have previously written about the amazing countryside pubs in Dorset as well as my favourite beach here, Lulworth Cove. Shaftesbury is peaceful, relaxed and utterly charming. It's very close to the historical city of Salisbury and not far from Dorchester either. There has been a town on this site since the 9th Century, and walking around the wide streets and old buildings will give anyone a sense of village life in the past.
The village itself is well worth visiting, but there are several particular spots that I love. I went to school very close to Shaftesbury, and so it's a place that I have spent a lot of time, and is one of the strongest reminders of my childhood that I have!
The most famous part of the town, Gold Hill is a long winding hill with beautifully preserved old buildings on one side and the walls of the ancient Shaftesbury Abbey on the other. At the top of the street there is also the 14th Century St Peter's Church. Shaftesbury Abbey was build by King Alfred the Great in 888, and so is the oldest part of the town. Aside from the undeniable beauty of this historical hill, the main reason for its fame is due to being the star of an advert in 1973 (as well as in a version of a Thomas Hardy 'Far From the Maddening Crowd' movie). This advert for Hovis (a bread company) is nationally known, and really highlights the charm and gentle loveliness of the area. There is also a museum that educated visitors about the history and events on this little but significant hill.
A major part of the attraction of Dorset and the South of England in general is the constant presence of green open spaces and glorious views. There are very few cities, towns and villages in Dorset that do not have plenty of open spaces where the inhabitants can really enjoy life in the countryside. Shaftesbury Park is one such space, with one of my favourite benches in the world. It may sound a bit odd to have a favourite bench, but this one is oriented towards the West and the hills that lie in that direction. The views from this spot spread out beneath you, like a green and dark green and light green carpet. From this bench, you can see the clearly marked field edges and the pretty square patterns made by the forests and tree lines. It really is an absolutely typical 'English countryside' view, and there are not that many to compete. Maiden Hill in Dorchester has something similar to compete as well.
The museum is not a miniaturised version of the Science Museum in London or anything similar, and you should not visit expecting the most modern exhibits. However, what you can find at the Gold Hill Museum (and enjoy immensely) is a peaceful and beautiful representation of the development and progress this little but important town has been making. It's free to enter and also has a touching World War II exhibit through the eyes of the people of the town who fought there. You can also, entirely strangely, find a mummified cat alongside handmade Dorset buttons and Dorset's oldest fire engine. A bit weird admittedly, but for the most part the museum absolutely compliments a visit to this pretty little village in the middle of the green southern countryside.
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