Have You Ever Been To Dorset, England? It’s A Very Special Place
I guess a lifechanging event like losing a parent, makes you put things in perspective. My Dad is originally from Dorset, England and has become very nostalgic about his homeland. Even before losing our Mom, Dad kept mentioning that he wants to go back one last time. I think I need to make this happen, as Dad is not getting any younger. He will be 90 years old when we make this trip in June.
A little over a year ago, I took Dad to trace his roots in Dorset. He was born and raised in the south of England in Bournemouth. This is a lovely town by the sea and known for its beaches and has always been a popular getaway for the Brits. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bournemouth
Both of my parents grew up in this area and when my brother and I were growing up, we visited our grandparents and other relatives there. At the time, we were young and did not appreciate the beauty of the architecture, charming villages and historical relevance of the area. Nor, were we interested in finding out more about our family heritage.
Dad’s father’s side of the family is from a very small and charming village about 30 minutes from Bournemouth called Okeford Fitzpaine. It is like something out of a fairytale. The village consists of a small grocery, a post office that does not even have personnel, a church and a pub. The Royal Oak Pub is just so charming and was built in the 19thcentury. It is listed at a Grade II building, which categorizes the building as historically relevant and is to be preserved. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okeford_Fitzpaine
The pub has been totally renovated, keeping its original charm and is just a great place for a cider or pint.
One year, we stayed with my cousin in Broadstone. She and her hubby offered to take us to Okeford Fitzpaine to see if any of Dad’s relatives were still living there.
Dad insisted that the pub owners would know everyone in town and could assist us in finding our relatives. He had an old picture of his family and told the barmaid that our last name is Trowbridge. She happened to be new to the area, but referred us to Don, the local pub “regular”. He said “oh yes, the village is full of Trowbridge’s”. He directed us across the street to Bernard Trowbridge’s farmhouse. It is called Darknoll Farmhouse, and is quintessential British cottage style. The gardens were just beautiful and there was wisteria growing up the front of the house. Just like a picture!
Well, we decided that even though it was pretty rude, we would knock on the door and let them know who we were. A lady opened the Dutch door and we showed her the picture. She then invited us in for a cup of tea and to meet her husband Bernard.
Christine was her name, and she directed us to a small sitting room in the back of the house. On the wall behind where we were sitting were photographs of Dad’s grandfather and all of his cousins and other family members. I get goose bumps just thinking about how thrilled my Dad was to see all of this.
We had a great conversation and learned a lot about my great grandfather’s side of the family. In fact, he is buried in the church grounds across from Bernard’s home. He lived to be 93 years old. The Trowbridge family is definitely blessed with longevity.
The next year, we decided to stay in the village of Okeford Fitzpaine to experience life there. We rented Netherway Farmhouse holiday cottage. This structure dates back to the 17thcentury and has a thatched roof, and all of the charm that you could imagine in a historic farmhouse. We found this property on VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) and it was just perfect for our stay. There are 3 bedrooms upstairs and a full bath with a half bath downstairs. Since we stayed there, the owner has added a third floor with an additional large bedroom with en suite shower. https://www.vrbo.com/1663750ha
We got to know The Royal Oak Pub quite well, as it was only 3 doors down from Netherway Farmhouse. The pub owners were so friendly and we got to know many of the locals.
One of the locals told us about a country festival that was taking place on the weekend in the soccer grounds. They said there would be a flea market and other activities. It was a short walk from where we were staying and we thought it would be fun to see this local fest firsthand. Our favorite event was the best dog contest. The locals brought out their pets and paraded around and were scored for their behavior and basically their “cute factor”. The winner was a Dalmatian and the owner had a matching spotted coat to match the dog. Very fun!
It’s interesting that we have traveled around the world and are just now realizing how much this quaint and beautiful area has to offer. Each country village throughout Dorset has its own personality and traits.
You should definitely consider a trip to visit Dorset, and take a few days to enjoy London on the way back. It is about a 2 – 2 ½ hour bus trip (or coach as the locals call it) to get to Dorset and this is the best way to travel down there from London Heathrow Airport. On the way back, we like to take the train in to Waterloo Station in the middle of London and stay a couple of days prior to heading back to the states. We love the Grosvenor House and its location. Also, The Kensington Hotel is another favorite. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/hotel-photos/longh-jw-marriott-grosvenor-house-london/,https://www.doylecollection.com/hotels/the-kensington-hotel
Have you traced your roots? It’s fun to learn more about your heritage, even if there is a scandal or two that you discover.