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).

Wessex Attractions: The Grange, Northington

The Grange at Northington in Hampshire is one of the finest examples of Greek revival architecture in England. Originally built in the Palladian style, it was radically transformed in the early part of the 19th century by architect William Wilkins at the behest of its owner, Henry Drummond, who had it rebuilt in the Doric style to resemble a Greek temple. Drummond disliked the result, however, and in 1817 sold the house to Alexander Baring, of the well-known Anglo-German banking family.

In 1964, the Baring family obtained planning permission to demolish the house, but it was saved by a public outcry, and taken into state ownership in 1975. Today, it is owned by English Heritage and used as a venue for opera performances. The Grange Festival takes place in June and July each year, and the house is open for exterior viewing the rest of the year.

Wessex Attractions: Prinknash Abbey

Prinknash Abbey is a Benedictine abbey near Cranham in Gloucestershire, which is the largest manufacturer of incense in Europe. The land was donated to the Abbot of Gloucester in 1096 by Robert Giffard, who had come over with the Bastard. It was closed during the dissolution of the monasteries, but reopened in 1928 after the Earl of Rothes, a Catholic convert, donated the land to the Benedictine monks of Caldey Island, of Tenby.

Prinknash Abbey welcomes visitors on dedicated footpaths, and its cafe and shop are open from 10am to 4pm every day. The chapel is open for quiet prayer daily from 8am to 7.45pm, with mass being celebrated at 8.30am. There are two meeting rooms, holding 35 and 50 people. The postcode is GL4 8EX and Stagecoach Gold service 66 from Cheltenham to Stonehouse stops at a stop deceptively named Prinknash Abbey, which implies that it is right outside, but is actually almost a mile away.

Wessex Attractions: Coleton Fishacre

Coleton Fishacre is a 1920s country house in Devon, owned by the National Trust. The house was originally the retreat of the D'Oyly Carte family, of Gilbert and Sullivan fame. It has been preserved much as it was nearly a century ago, and serves as a living museum of the Roaring Twenties.

Originally built in 1926, Coleton Fishacre preserves many curious artifacts from the era, such as a tidal clock to show tide times for nearby Pudcombe Cove, and a marmalade slicer for finely peeling oranges.

The house and gardens are open from 10.30am until 5pm daily, and entry is free to National Trust members. Non-members should check the website for prices. The postcode is TQ6 0EQ. Sadly, access by public transport is limited.