DORSET: Wootton Fitzpaine

The Barn at Champernhayes Dorset lr


By Tim Saunders

The Dorset countryside will always have a special place in my heart for no other reason than the fact that I spent many happy years of my childhood living in the county.
I am able to revisit this spectacular area for a long weekend to savour, reminisce and ponder during a stay at The Barn at Champernhayes in the quaintly named village of Wootton Fitzpaine not that far from the towns of Charmouth, Lyme Regis and Bridport.
Times change – I now have my wife and three children (five years and under) so it isn’t possible to go on long cross-country walks. I am therefore thankful for the large windows throughout this magnificent property that afford views across the vast expanse of countryside. The delight of both photographers and artists. No surprise then that Nicola Leader, famed for her countryside and wildlife paintings (counting astronaut Buzz Aldrin as a customer), lives down the road at Waytown near Bridport. During our winter stay we experience cold misty mornings that give way to sunshine just after lunchtime evolving into a red sky at night; a veritable shepherd’s delight. And those shepherds are certainly busy tending their flock of sheep directly outside.
We sit in comfort in this enormous thatched barn conversion with its three bathrooms and enough bedrooms to accommodate up to 12 guests. A glance at the visitors’ book shows that large families have stayed to celebrate milestone birthdays and special family occasions. Harriett immediately notices the wooden dinosaur skull on the floor by the staircase; a good reminder that we are at the Jurassic coast. Our stay allows us to try to relax and recharge our very tired batteries. Caroline and I are actually able to do this a little; Henry (11 months) is teething so is yet to make it through the night without waking every few hours. But Caroline is able to soak in a bath – a luxury she has missed since moving to our new home that currently only has a shower.
Our favourite room at The Barn has to be the farmhouse kitchen with its flagstone floor and large oil fired Aga, which effortlessly continually heats the room; splendid on a cold day. An Aga is also a fantastic cooker which creates an occasion out of the mundane task. It doesn’t take long to become accustomed to lifting the hob lids or opening one of the oven doors. We while away some time sitting at the kitchen table playing board games and reading magazines.
The children enjoy watching a Wallace and Gromit DVD from the onsite library near the indoor pool. The 4ft deep swimming pool provides a great opportunity for our three little rascals to improve their swimming skills. It is divided into a small pool, which is ideal for the children especially baby Henry. The larger pool is large enough for swimming. We purposely do not take any swimming aids and are really pleased to see how Heidi’s confidence grows through just a couple of visits. Caroline and I are each briefly able to do some lengths and discover that pushing a button in the main pool produces a current effect not dissimilar to swimming in the sea. This means that although the pool is not full size, swimmers can very easily enjoy a good workout.
In all there are six self-catering holiday cottages to choose from at Champernhayes, which is well placed for exploring much of the Jurassic Coast.
Dorset artist Nicola Leader exhibits in a Creative Coverage Mixed Exhibition at Upwey Village Hall, Church Street, Upwey, Weymouth on June 24 and 25, 2017.

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