Shaftesbury:think Hovis,think Dvorak's New World Symphony, the largo movement.

gold hill

Yes in Shaftesbury you will find that really steep cobbled street featured in a TV commercial for Hovis Bread,and you though it was some place up in the North of England.

Perched on a hill above Blackmore Glen Shaftesbury has one of the most commanding settings of any market town in England.It is Thomas Hardy's Shaston and is mentioned in Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure.It was for Hardy "the city of a dream"...with..."limitless landscape..."

The town's street scape is alluring with lots of narrow alleyways behind which sit courtyards now used for parking.

Sitting at the junction of trade routes now less romantically the A350 and the A30,it was founded as the site for King Alfred's Benedictine Abbey,and in terms of architecture, has changed little since the 18th century.

But back to Gold Hill the street in the Hovis ad. It is actually very short but it makes up for that by being very steep.Probably why it was picked by the director Ridley Scott the man who made Gladiator.

How they came up with using Dvorak's New World Symphony I don't know given that it was written in the US and is about the new continent.But anyway it was a stroke of genius and fitted the mood of the ad perfectly.

It was voted the best British TV commercial ever in a recent pole.

The effect is spoilt somewhat when you reach the bottom of the hill where it becomes a normal sealed road again with cars, but turn round and look back up the hill and ,well ,half close your eyes and ponder...

After heaving yourself back the hill catch your breath and turn left onto Park Walk which has some great views over Blackmore Glen.The walk was given to the town in 1816 by landowner Robert Dyneley.

Turn 180 degrees and you will face Shaftesbury Abbey built by Alfred the Great in 888 who placed his daughter Aethelgifu as the first Abbess.

shaftesbury abbey

It was the first religious house built just for women,as before then those who wanted to live a spiritual life joined a house of both monks and nuns.

Shaftesbury Abbey became very wealthy owning large tracks of land in Dorset and Wiltshire.It attracted thousands of visitors many who came to pay homage to Edward the Martyr whose remains were brought here after his murder at Corfe an act it is said masterminded by his stepmother,who wanted her own son on the throne.

So Abbey life continued here until in 1539 on the orders of Henry VIII the Abbey was dissolved and the precinct destroyed.Only the ramparts on Gold Hill remain today.

These remains you can still see by paying a £2.50 entrance fee which also gives you access to a small but well laid our museum.The museum is open from 10am to 5pm between April to October.

You will also be given an audio commentary player with your entrance fee.

The grounds also feature a larger than life statue of King Arthur by Andrew DuMont .The statue had belonged to King Alfred Middle School but was given to the Abbey when the school closed in 2004.

To take in the rest of the Shaftesbury,after leaving the the Abbey, turn right along Park Walk then right again through a gate onto Love Lane.Walk westwards on this road then first right into Landfords Lane.

At the end of this street you will reach Bimport.Turn left here and you will pass some beautiful terraced houses. Part of one predates the Dissolution and is said to be the oldest building in Shaftesbury.

Go past these house to a sharp left hand bend,here turn right into Castle Hill an area of open land offering views across three counties.

Take some time here then make your way back to Bimport.Turn right down Abbey Walk first left and you will arrive at Holy Trinity Church now deconsecrated and used as a day centre and offices.

You can walk through the grounds of the church back to your starting point at the top of Gold Hill.

king Arthur

To get to the town there is a direct rail link from London Waterloo Station to Gillingham operated by South West Trains From there it is a short bus ride to the town of about 20 minutes.

Or National Express run coaches from central London,journey time is 3 hours 40 mins.Coaches also run from Heathrow and Gatwick airports the journey time is 2 hours 40 mins from Heathrow,4 hours 30 mins from Gatwick as there is a 40 minute wait at Heathrow.

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