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credit Mark Wall
credit Mark Wall
credit Mark Wall
credit Mark Wall
Clock House B&B
Clock House offers newly refurbished bed and breakfast accommodation and is a hidden gem with rural aspects in the centre of Marnhull village in the heart of the Blackmoor Vale and Thomas Hardy Dorset countryside. Offering four ensuite bedrooms with terrace and garden access on the ground floor and a shared living room with woodburning stove for all guests, where you can relax and enjoy a welcome cup of tea and cake on arrival, or chat with your travel companions or other guests. The emphasis is on homely comfort with modern fixtures and bathroom fittings, including underfloor heating throughout and free WiFi, wheelchair access and free private parking. We are dog friendly although there is a minimum charge of £10 per dog per week. Dog beds can be provided and complimentary dog biscuits are available in the Dog Treats tub. There is also a dog shower available in the guest car park for any four-legged friend (or owner) that needs a hose down after a muddy walk - please ask for a towel if you need one to dry off your hound. You are welcome to exercise your dog in the paddock adjacent to the car park but please be aware that it is not secure and there are cattle and sheep in the next field.
SEE A FULL REVIEW FROM ISSUE 58 OF THE DOGFRIENDLY MAGAZINE BY MARK WALL BELOW
HERE IS A REVIEW FROM ISSUE 58 OF THE DOGFRIENDLY MAGAZINE BY MARK WALL
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Driving through a wet and windy Dorset, through a confusing series of villages with increasingly obscure and weird names (Piddletrenthide anyone? Tincleton? Belchawell? Knacker’s Hole?) is not necessarily the best start to a midweek mini break.
But there are positives to my trip.
My five year old lurcher Daisy is very calm in the car and ignores my frequent helpful but perhaps less than polite advice to other drivers. She simply snuggles down on her bed in the back or watches wisely out of the window, taking it all in.
And it is always good to arrive. So, after foolishly ignoring my sat nav and driving straight past my destination, we arrive a little late to a very warm welcome from Christine, one of the three owners of Clock House B&B, and her two spaniels, Tizzie an 8 year old black working cocker and Ben a 9 year old springer spaniel. The team is completed by joint owners Mella and Julie.
Daisy is instantly inquisitive and wants to explore everywhere in the lounge, bedrooms and kitchen (especially the kitchen). I try to restrict her as we are brought a wonderful pot of tea (nothing as tacky as tea made in a cup here) and a piece of reviving cake. We settle into the guest lounge with Christine and Mella who tell us more about the house, the village and the area.
Clock House was built around 1830 by Mr Edmund Hann as a gentleman’s residence, almost certainly on the site of an earlier building. The big house quickly became a recognised feature of the village with its clock on the south elevation of the house becoming widely used as a timepiece to check the punctuality of the workers in the village and surrounding fields and this is where the name derives. Sadly, the clock no longer exists, replaced no doubt by chip and pin and satellite technology ensuring the workers do a decent shift.
From 1981 the site was run as a Rest Home. The single storey extension, which is now the B&B, was added in the 80’s to provide seven self-contained bed/sitting rooms with ensuite bathrooms for use by the residents.
After extensive renovation and remodelling of the houses and grounds, Clock House has been open as a B&B now for about 2 years. It has four bedrooms (two double, two twin), all en suite and one with easy access for anyone with restricted mobility. There is also a large lounge with sofas, dining table, radio and fridge – all purely for the use of guests.
Our room – number three – is clean and spacious, with a door into the garden, which is also helpful if Daisy needs to pop out late or early to avail herself of nature’s facilities. All rooms have french doors leading to the garden, and in summer a table and chairs on the terrace.
There is a dog welcome pack which is a nice and very thoughtful touch. With a dog bed, dog bowls, a towel and some treats, it makes us both feel as if we are in a place that understands us.
There is also a three bed cottage which is available for rent, with dogs welcomed.
The B&B is in the Dorset village of Marnhull. There are royal connections - the local manor house was home to Katherine Parr, wife of Henry VIII. Hardy mentions it in “The Mayor of Casterbridge” as Marlot. My extensive research (well a quick look at Wikipedia) tells me that Marnhull actually consists of several conjoined hamlets, connected by a network of minor roads, and that it has “a mix of architectural styles, with post-war developments existing alongside properties dating back to Tudor times and earlier”. It is also, apparently one of the largest villages in England. How that differs from it being one of the smallest towns I’m not quite sure.
More typically for an English village it has three churches, two primary schools, two pubs, a GP surgery, a village hall and a recreation ground, as well as various small shops and services. There is clearly a thriving community evidenced by adverts for events and groups on most lampposts and in shop windows.
After tea and cake Daisy demanded a run so we took advantage of the excellent paddock at the back of the property. Big enough to chase a ball without getting lost, the field is perfect for a ten minute run round – which all helps to ensure the dog is relaxed enough for the evening. There are also seating areas for when the Dorset climate allows. We then retired to our room – very neat, well designed and equipped and with a lovely bathroom and huge shower – to relax and do some work (Daisy doing the relaxing bit; me the work bit).
After a couple of hours we headed out on to the dark streets of Marnhull (with a torch borrowed from the B&B) and walked about a mile up to The Crown, a 16th century coaching inn featured in another Hardy novel, “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”. It is a dog friendly pub with a range of local ales and an extensive menu. We sat in the corner out of the way – although tempted by the roaring fire – and ate what turned out to be a shockingly large portion of a turkey and ham pie. Only after ordering did I realise that the “LB” on the menu referred to a “lighter bite”. An LB is a good portion – what I ordered was enough to feed me, Daisy and a few of her mates. All high quality and homemade – but not contributing positively towards the obesity crisis.
Again navigating the dark pavementless streets we got back to the Clock House in time for Love Island….. (Daisy is a fan). The door is locked at 7pm but all guests have their own key. All the rooms have tea and coffee making facilities (and some classy biscuits) and there is milk in the fridge in the lounge.
Tuesday dawned very windy and with the prospect of that rare sighting – the sun. Breakfast at the Clock House is continental rather than full English but certainly extensive. A choice of cereal, yoghurt and lots of fruit is followed by eggs done whichever way you like, as much toast as you want and some croissants. The tea – a litmus test of quality for me – was excellent. When I asked what it was, expecting to hear about some obscure local tea making cottage industry, I found out it was PG tips!
After breakfast Daisy and I headed out for a walk. As the weather had been biblical and so the mud was taking over in some parts we went to Duncliffe Woods at Stour Row as there was at least some gravel paths we could choose. The car park is easy to find and after a short walk you are completely engulfed in the forest. There are a range of paths you can choose – from a short 1 mile to a hillier 3 mile – although to be honest the signs were not obvious and the map not that easy to follow. But we wandered around sweating up hills and then sliding down again. No matter how many guessed turnings we took we always seemed to end up somewhere we knew. Daisy had no problem negotiating the muddier bits and looked at me with disdain as I slipped and swore and only just managed to avoid ending up humiliated, wet, muddy and prone. I think she doesn’t really understand why I’ve restricted myself to only two legs. Four, as Orwell pointed out, is far better.
We met lots of other dog walkers, all of whom seemed to be managing the conditions better than me.
After an hour or so we wiped off the worst of the mud and headed off to Sturminster Newton, the largest town in the area, to remind ourselves what it was like to walk on surfaces that didn’t try to suck you in.
Sturminster Newton is situated in the beautiful Blackmore Vale, with the river Stour, running through it, flowing south from its source in Somerset. Apparently the river offers high quality fishing (although we saw no anglers on our walk) and continues past Bournemouth, before joining the river Avon at Christchurch to flow into the sea.
There is a beautiful six arched 15th century mediaeval bridge over the river. It still carries the penalty of “Transportation for life” for anyone who damages it, which I would have thought would make a few lorry drivers a little nervous as it is quite tight. This bridge is featured in the poem “On Sturminster Bridge” by Thomas Hardy. Hardy wrote his novel “The Return of the Native” whilst living in Sturminster Newton in Riverside, a stone mansion on the edge of town.
We walked through the town and along the river for a bit, then came back via the 17th century Sturminster Newton Water Mill, right by an impressive weir. It is still working, and can be visited on open days (although a Tuesday in February is not one of them). The original mill was Newstone Castle Mill and is recorded in the Domesday Book, but the present building dates from the 17th and 19th centuries.
Although there were options for refreshment in Sturminster we decided to head back to The Kings Arms Inn near East Stour Common. The original building dates back to the 18th century (is nothing in this area modern?) and provided the starting point for the local hunt.
The pub has been significantly but sympathetically extended and opened up to create a light contemporary environment. Outside there is an enclosed beer garden and a pétanque (French boules) pitch for the adventurous.
The barman recommended a local ale to accompany my warming and traditional ham egg and chips. It was full of locals and I found it hard to stop myself earwigging… It was all very friendly. One of the staff even offered to look after daisy while I went to the toilet.
On the down side I ordered a pudding which never arrived but by the time I realised this I wasn’t very hungry anyway!
After an afternoon of strolling, working and napping, we headed out to the other pub in Marnhull, The Blackmore Vale Inn for dinner. This is an attractive 15th Century pub, just 5 minutes walk from Clock House. Again, very dog friendly and welcoming. We perhaps chose a bad night to visit as it was extremely crowded with a group meeting (with powerpoint and speakers) and a darts match. We tried to get out of the way but failed and one of the darts players stepped on daisy’s paw! He was very apologetic and I hope it didn’t put him off his game... Daisy was fine.
Perhaps because of the busy ness my meal was not as warm as I’d like so I sent it back. But the staff were very helpful and apologetic, making a brand new meal from scratch – which was excellent – and giving me a free pint as well! A fine end to an enjoyable brief stay in darkest Dorset.
Costs: The cost of a queen or twin room with ensuite bathroom starts at £90.00 per night, inclusive of continental breakfast. Between April and October there is a minimum two night stay on a Friday and Saturday night.
Tick Tock Cottage is the self-catering, 3-bedroom cottage and enquiries can be made direct to us at Clock House, or via Sykes Cottage website and the price varies according to the time of year.
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