The attractive small market town of Wimborne Minster lies ten miles north west of the seaside resort of Bournemouth in Dorset. Before setting off we’d consulted the Parkopedia website for suggestions on where to park. We find Parkopedia really useful as it offers up-to-date advice and prices. For Wimborne it had recommended the Westfield Close car park, conveniently situated and a bargain at only 80p for a three hour stay.
First in our list of places to visit was the Saxon church from which Wimborne Minster takes its name, located in the town centre and built from local Dorset limestone. Unfortunately, a sign attached to the main door indicated that due to COVID-19 only the side chapel of the Minster was open. This meant that we were unable to view the interior with its medieval artefacts and famous chained library dating back to 1686. Chained libraries came into existence when the monks chained books to the shelves preventing visitors taking them away. The oldest book in its collection dates from the 1300’s and is handwritten. The library is normally open to the public and is one of only four remaining chained libraries in England and the second largest.
The Minster also contains a 14th century Astronomical clock displaying both the sun and moon. circling the earth. At that time people thought the earth was in the centre of the solar system and that is why it shows the sun moving around the earth.
Surrounding the Minster are numerous historic buildings many of which are now shops and cafes and as these are in a conservation area they cannot be altered without consent, preserving them for future generations.
Overlooking Minster Green are several cafes, most with outdoor seating enabling diners to make the most of the warm weather and also to comply with social distancing. An art exhibition was taking place on the edge of the Green and as strong winds had been forecast for later in the day, I hoped that their paintings had been firmly secured.
Facing the Minster on the High Street stands the Priest’s House Museum dedicated to rural life in the Dorset market town. This would also have been interesting to visit but was closed, surprisingly not because of the pandemic but for major refurbishment work to take place. It’s planned to re-open later in the year, meanwhile the shop and tourist information centre remain open as usual.
Our stroll continued along the High Street where we found several courtyards and pedestrianised walkways tucked away which were definitely worth exploring with their mix of independent shops and cafes alongside the everyday names.
Even during a pandemic, the town was full of colour with its array of planters, tubs and hanging baskets adorning the town centre. Wimborne Minster has been a regular winner in both the regional and national ‘Britain in Bloom’ awards and it’s easy to see why. The Market Square holds regular farmer’s markets which I’m pleased to report have now resumed and it is an ideal spot to enjoy a morning cup of coffee or perhaps a light lunch. Dominating one end of the Square is the King’s Head Hotel which owes its name to the 8th century monastery paid for by the King’s sisters.
Just off the market square is a pedestrian walkway leading to the waterside footpath along the River Stour where we found some small inviting cafes bathed in sunshine.
Taking a right turn onto West Borough, two more buildings caught my attention, the first of which was the art-deco Tivoli Theatre with its geometric designed exterior. It opened in 1936 as a combined cinema and theatre and its tradition of showing both films and live productions continues to this day. Apart from the current interruption caused by the pandemic, let’s hope that small theatres such as The Tivoli are able to survive and entertain audiences for years to come.
A few doors further along and we had reached the town hall. A handsome Georgian building which is now also a popular wedding venue with its Jubilee Gardens being a more recently added feature.
After continuing on foot a little further we arrived at Walford Mill on Knobcrook Road. There’s actually a pay and display car park attached to the site if you’d rather not walk along from the town centre.
This contemporary craft centre is definitely worth a visit as it comprises galleries, workshops, studios and the attractive Happyccino Cafe with its courtyard terrace seating.
We were able to watch artisans at work in their studios, admire hand crafted jewellery and select several greetings cards to take back home.
That rounded off a pleasant few hours for us in Wimborne Minster. Located nearby is Kingston Lacy, a National Trust property set in exquisite gardens. It’s famous for its early spring snowdrops but delightful at any time of the year. At the moment it’s necessary to pre-book a time slot at National Trust properties to prevent over-crowding, so I’d recommend doing that if you plan to visit so as not to be disappointed,
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