Having studied away for three years at university, returning to stay in Shaftesbury gave me a much better appreciation of my hometown. The unassuming Saxon hilltop market town may at first appear to be nothing special but this north Dorset spot, for me anyway, has a treasure trove of appeal.
There is something really traditional and friendly about Shaftesbury, whether I am feeling in a historical mood and fancy a walk amongst the stones of the Abbey ruins or a mosey around the recently refurbished museum, or whether I am feeling a bit more extravagant and abusing my credit card in the multitude of individual shops.
Whilst the town stands proudly looking out over the beautiful scenery of the Blackmore Vale, it is the stories that the town is built upon, which to me makes it such a special place.
One particular story that I enjoy thinking about whilst I take in the breathtaking view from park walk, spans back to the days of King Henry VIII, when he began the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1500s. At this time, Shaftesbury Abbey was unfortunately on the list to be destroyed. The serving Abbess commissioned a monk to take the wealth of the Abbey and bury it somewhere so that it would be hidden when the King’s men came to loot their property. The monk took two men with him to dig, blindfolded, so that they wouldn’t be able to tell anyone where the secret treasure was buried. On his way back to tell the Abbess where the treasure had been placed, the monk had a severe heart attack and died, taking the treasure’s location to the grave with him. It is said that his ghost wanders Park Walk at night, searching for the Abbess to unburden himself with his secret. I like to think that somewhere in Shaftesbury, that treasure still lies waiting to be discovered. I really ought to get around to purchasing that metal detector…
Something which I undoubtedly take for granted as a local, is the famous and iconic Gold Hill, where the Hovis boy pushed his bike up the steep cobbles all those years ago. One of my favourite places to eat, the Salt Cellar, sits tucked away under the Town Hall right at the top of this famous picture postcard location and I have to admit that even I can trick myself into feeling like I am on holiday whilst sitting drinking tea and eating a naughty slice of cake.
The other thing that I really love about Shaftesbury is that whilst it is relatively small, it is the perfect base for exploration around the rest of Dorset and beyond. I am rather a country bumpkin and not much of a city goer, but living in Shaftesbury means that I can enjoy a day in Winchester or Salisbury, without taking more than an hour’s commute out of my day of shopping.