Well, where else could we start but with Boris in his Christmas hat….
To be strictly honest, these are not Christmas but post Christmas Dorset/Wiltshire ramblings, kicking off with most amazing 14th century barn – the longest thatched barn in England according to Wikipedia, now restored to glory and and turned into an art gallery.
This extraordinary bit of restoration (rumoured to have cost over three million) has been undertaken by Messum’s, who already run a very successful art gallery, specialising in British art, in Cork Street – and decided to go rural. This seems to be a bit of a trend in this part of the world as only a few miles away in Bruton in Somerset, internationally known art dealers, Hauser and Wirth also run a gallery created from a collection of derelict barns. Since that one also cost many millions to create one can only assume that selling art works is a seriously lucrative business!
Anyhow, the barn was extremely splendid as were the art works – unless you find these lifelike figures by Sean Henry rather spooky….
However, should you go there, wrap up well and ask for your coffee super hot as it was arctic!!!
However, we thawed very nicely at our next stop which was the Pyth House Kitchen Garden, just round the corner from Messums in Tisbury. Pyth House Kitchen is situated in the walled kitchen garden in the grounds of Pyth House. The time I last went there around three years ago it was just a little café but they have now expanded into a an orangerie and out onto the terrace. It was such a magnificent day that we really could have sat out but since we still needed to thaw out from the barn we had a lovely lunch in the orangerie. My lunch companions did not have any dietary problems but I did have a long chat with front of house when I was paying and they appeared to be very on the ball. They are not gf/df but are happy to accommodate any dietary requests – with 24 hours notice.
Before moving on to Lyme Regis – have any of you met a Dottato fig before? I was given these as a super treat by my host, my ex catering partner – and if anyone knows about food, it is she!!
If you have not come cross them, you really should do your best to do so….. According to the Fine Cheese Company they come from Calabria and are oven baked for 12 hours then wrapped in fig leaves. The result is incredibly rich and delicious – and surprisingly, scarcely sweet at all. The theory is that you eat them with cheese but, being a terrible purist these days, I was not sure that they were not better by themselves. Anyhow, very MUCH to be recommended.
So, to Lyme Regis, where I was staying with coeliac diarist and gf beer expert Sue Cane. We did have an excellent dinner in the River Cottage Canteen in Axminster but, mainly, we walked – and walked! First up Golden Cap and then, next day, all the way along the coast west of Lyme Regis and back along the beach at low tide. The second treck was a good 16 kilometres but worth every minute of it. The weather on both days was gorgeous so here is a small a selection of beaches and gates and sunsets to whet your appetite for a visit to West Dorset.
And finally……. How about this for a good way to give a crane a job over Christmas!!