Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Wimborne St Giles

The almshouses and the church

I decided to detour via Wimborne St Giles on the way back from a trip to Poole and found this walk on the Dorset Life magazine website, where the village is described as one of the prettiest in Dorset. You start by the large village green, dominated by St Giles church and Sir Anthony Ashley's Almshouses.

The church dates appears Georgian and dates from 1732 - Pevsner finds it similar to the church of St Peter and St Paul in Blandford Forum, built at almost the same time after the great fire there. The intriguing Dorset Online Parish Clerks website in fact says that it was the work of the same architects - the wonderfully named Bastard brothers.

The interior is something of a shock as the church was heavily restored by Sir Ninian Comper after a fire in 1908. The most startling aspect is the impressive gothic screen separating the nave from the altar.

Comper added a north aisle tucked awkwardly in behind the almshouses and added the round columns and a gallery. He also redid the roof and added the rather sweet angels which act as corbels for some of the arches. There is also a dramatic font with a lively cover and memorials of some of the Earls of Shaftesbury.

The almshouses are older than the church - they date from 1624 and were the gift of Sir Anthony Ashley. His grandson became the first Earl of Shaftesbury in 1660 and the title is still in the Ashley-Cooper family.

I headed northwest and followed a field path towards the hamlet of Monkton Up Wimborne. There were lots of Small Tortoiseshells in the field edge and I was pleased to get a few photos. It was interesting to note how different the orange colours can be.

I also saw a lone and rather splendid Brimstone, with a greenish hue as the sun shone through its wings.

At the end of the field I joined a lane leading to Monkton Up Wimborne and this soon converged with the river Allen: very clear and fast flowing but still swollen by the recent heavy rain.

At Manor Farm I realised I would not have time to complete the full circuit, so I headed off left up a bridleway and then across Tenantry Down to reach a road which led to Wimborne St Giles - the one I came in on earlier.

Conditions: bright and sunny, quite warm.

Distance: about 4 miles.

Map: Explorer 118 (Shaftesbury and Cranbourne Chase).

Rating: four stars.


Approaching Wimborne St Giles from the B3078 (Wimborne to Cranborne road) you pass the ruins of Knowlton church: Norman, but with 14th century alterations. It is surrounded by - or more correctly, was built inside - a neolithic henge monument of a circular mound with a ditch inside.

The English Heritage plaque says the henge was probably meant for ceremonial use, but is silent on how the church became a ruin.

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