Wessex Attractions: Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton-on-the-Water is known as "the Venice of the Cotswolds" due to the five bridges, made from the local Cotswold stone, spanning the River Windrush which flows through the village, most of which is a designated conservation area. It is home to a number of attractions including Birdland (which will get its own article in due course), the Cotswold Motor Museum, and a model village, making it a popular destination for tourists and school trips.

The model village is built from Cotswold stone to a 1/9th scale. It has recently undergone a major refurbishment, as some of the buildings were starting to fall into disrepair. A highlight is the model village within the model village, leading to a potentially infinite regression.

The Cotswold Motor Museum features a large collection of classic cars and motorbikes, each with a display giving lots of information about the vehicle concerned. Star of the show is the title character from the BBC children's programme Brum.

As a tourism-oriented Cotswold town (is there any other kind?), Bourton contains plenty of artisanal small businesses, including the Cotswold Perfumery and the Hawkstone Brewery. Meanwhile, for those whose tastes veer towards the macabre, the Bloody Bourton walking tour offers a look at the more gruesome episodes in the village's history.

Last but not least, the River Windrush itself is an unsung attraction. Rising near Winchcombe, it flows for 40 miles (65 km) before reaching the Thames at Newbridge in Oxfordshire. Bourton has plenty of benches and picnic tables where visitors can sit and enjoy the river.

Wessex Attractions: Saxon Church of St Laurence

The church of St Laurence in Bradford on Avon is one of England's best-preserved Saxon churches. A charter dating from 1001 documents it as having been granted by King Æthelred to the nuns of Shaftesbury Abbey. It is believed to have been founded by St Ealdhelm, though the current building probably dates back to the aformentioned charter, as the architecture is more characteristic of the 11th century than the 7th.

The church is maintained by the Saxon Church Trust, and still used a place of worship by several religious communities. It is well signposted within the town of Bradford on Avon, and a short walk from the railway station.

Wessex Attractions: St Catherine’s Chapel

St Catherine's is a 14th century chapel in Abbotsbury, Dorset. It was popularly believed up until the late 19th century that invoking St Catherine in prayer would help young women to find a husband. The south doorway contains three "wishing holes". Local women in the area would place a knee in one and a hand in each of the other two, and offer up a prayer to the saint. One can only assume that Dorset's isolated nature kept it safe from Protestant strictures against "popish superstition" so long after the English reformation.

The chapel is now managed by English Heritage, though church services are still held there a few times a year. It is free to visit. The satnav postcode is DT3 4JH, and it is served by buses 253, X53 and (on Wednesdays) 61.

Wessex Attractions: Ebbor Gorge

Ebbor Gorge is a 157-acre carboniferous limestone gorge in Somerset owned by the National Trust, managed by English Nature and close to Wookey Hole. The gorge is part of the Clifton Down limestone formation, a unit of the Pembroke limestone group. There is evidence of human habitation dating back to paleolithic times, along with animal remains of lemmings, steppe pika, reindeer and red deer. The latter exist in small numbers in the gorge to this day.

Ebbor gorge was declared a site of special scientific interest in 1952 and a national nature reserve in 1968. As well as the aforementioned red deer, it is home to horseshoe bats (greater and lesser), and several threatened species of butterfly. The humid environment makes it an ideal habitat for fungi and ferns, while bluebells and wood anemones are also abundant.

The postcode, for satnav purposes is BA5 1AY, and there is a free car park, open from dawn till dusk. First Bus 126 from Weston-super-Mare to Wells passes through Easton, about a mile and a half from Ebbor Gorge.

Wessex Attractions: Basildon Park

Basildon Park is a Georgian house in Berkshire, built in the Palladian style from Bath stone, and made famous by its use as a filming location for the Netflix series Bridgerton. At the time of writing, it is closed for filming, but is expected to reopen on Friday (20th May 2022).

The estate was purchased in 1771 by Francis Sykes, a merchant of the notorious East India Company (the villains in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, chosen because the filmmakers needed someone who could make pirates look like the good guys in comparison), who required a country house close to London. He had the previous house demolished, and the current house, designed by architect John Carr, built in its place. In 1838, the house was bought by haberdasher James Morrison, whose family owned it for the next 90 years. It became home to Morrison's large art collection, which included works by Constable and Turner.

During both world wars, the house was requisitioned by the armed forces, for use as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers during the First World War, and as a prisoner of war camp during the Second. After the wars, it was bought by Lord and Lady Iliff, who restored it before gifting it to the National Trust in 1978.

The house is normally open from 11am to 5pm, and the grounds from 10am. Check the website for opening hours on the date you plan to visit. The postcode is RG8 9NR, and the nearest station is Pangbourne. On Tuesdays only, Going Forward Buses runs a minibus service from Goring to Reading, with buses numbered 142 to 148. This is the only bus service that serves the estate, so if you don't have access to a car, Tuesday is the best day to visit (public holidays excepted).