Cheered by the onset of brighter weather we are looking forward to summer and getting excited about all the fabulous things to do. So here are our ten favourites, all within easy reach of Launceston Farm:
1. Explore the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. By far the easiest, most rewarding and greenest option is to ditch the car and set out from the farm gate by foot or by bike on one of our explorer trails. All our trails vary in length and difficulty but all of them incorporate a visit to at least one watering hole along the way. We have bikes you can borrow and stabling for horses. Our new dog house means the most important member of your family can also come along.
2. Dorset Arts Week. 24th May – 8th June. The largest open studio event in the country brings together hundreds of artists from all over Dorset to showcase their work at galleries and museums but mostly in their own homes so you can meet the artists in person. Over 80 exhibitors are within 10 miles of Launceston Farm.
3. Chalke Valley History Festival 23 – 29 June. Talks from over 100 eminent historians, 4 acres of Living History encampments with music and food from through the ages and a stunning air show. Grab tickets to ssee Damian Lewis talking about the making of the highly acclaimed World War II drama series, Band of Brothers. Make sure you book tickets ahead to avoid disappointment…
4. Larmer Tree Festival and Gardens. Various throughout the summer. Sir Tom Jones – yes, the living legend himself – is part of this year’s line up at Larmer Tree Festival (16th-20th July). These enchanting Victorian gardens also set the scene for open air theatre, craft fairs and plenty of live music this summer. If none of that sounds appealing, the gardens themselves are open Sunday to Thursday and are a beautiful place to while away a day.
5. Blandford Forum, our nearest market town, is the best example of preserved Georgian architecture in the country which actually makes it very beautiful. The River Stour and surrounding Stour Meadows nature reserve present plenty of opportunities for a stroll. There are a few boutiques worth a visit and a couple of nice spots for lunch. Blandford Town Museum and the Cavalcade of Costume Museum complete with Dorset cream tea – wonderfully random – are our favourites. On your way back to the farm stop in at Blandford Camp to visit the Royal Signals Museum.
6. The North Dorset Trailway runs for 12 miles along the route of the old Somerset and Dorset Railway line, slicing beautifully through the Blackmore Vale from Spetisbury to Sturminster Newton. The trail runs along a flat surface so its perfect for cycling and an easy walk and there are handily placed watering holes at regular intervals. A firm favourite and still relatively undiscovered – brilliant!
7. Kingston Lacy and Barford Ice Cream. We have grouped these two together as you simply can’t do one without the other. If you – like me – can’t resist a lavish, country mansion complete with ornamental Japanese gardens then Kingston Lacey is a must. Take your bike and head out the 8500 acre estate from Iron Age forts, to colourful heathland, water meadows, a Roman road and an ancient beech tree avenue. Barford Ice Cream garden is handily on the estate and provides a very welcome and very delicious pit stop. Farmers Wendy and Chris Pope make all their ice cream by hand using milk from the local dairy. Take a rug and a newspaper.
8. Wimborne Minster and The Tickled Pig. Another beautiful, nicely laid out Georgian market town to explore. More interesting shops than Blandford – it has a Waitrose darling – but the real highlight is lunch or dinner at The Tickled Pig. This is passion for food taken to a whole new level. Ingredients are so fresh and so very local they pretty much walk themselves to the door. Coordinate your visit with the full frolicking frenzy of the Wimborne Folk Festival 13-15 June.
9. Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival 13-14 September. Well if you love cheese…? Thomas Hardy fondly referred to Sturminster Newton and the surrounding Blackmore Vale as the ‘vale of little dairies’. This annual cheese fest celebrates 100 years of dairying history in Dorset and attracts cheesey (and non cheesy) exhibitors from all over the country. Simple, rustic and delicious.
10. The Great Dorset Steam Fair 27-31 August. This one is as much of a “warning to avoid” as a “must see”. If you have passion for steam engines, or even just a general appreciation for them, there is no better place on earth – literally – to be. The farm will be taken over for this five day long festival celebrating everything steamy; from steam tractors to an old time steam funfair, threshing, woodsawing and lots and lots of heavy hauling. Jimi loves the tractor pulling. If you do decide to take the plunge, you will have a truly unforgettable time!