Wessex Attractions: Totnes Castle

Totnes is best-known as the landing site of Brutus of Troy in Geoffrey of Monmouth's origin myth for Britain. But it also houses one of the best-preserved Norman castles in England. After William the Bastard invaded in 1066, he ordered a string of castles built in order to subjugate the native English population. Saxon Totnes was a thriving market town on the River Dart, with a mint. The castle was thought to have been built by one Juhel de Totnes, a Breton commander in the Bastard's army, later passing to the De La Zouche family.

Today, the castle is owned by English Heritage. It is currently closed due to lockdown.

The postcode, for satnav purposes, is  TQ9 5NU.

Wessex Attractions: Sudeley Castle

Sudeley Castle, near Winchcombe, is one of the Cotswolds' premier attractions. It is known to have been the site of a manor since Saxon times, when Ethelred Unrede gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter Goda. It was fortified during the Anarchy, when its then-owner, John de Sudeley, sided with the Empress Matilda (or Maud). However, it was seized by King Stephen and turned into a royal garrison.

The oldest parts of the present building date back to 1442, built by Ralph Boteler and funded by spoils obtained from the Hundred Years' War. It is the only private residence in England to house the grave of a queen, Katherine Parr. After Henry VIII's death, Parr married Thomas Seymour, the owner of the castle, with whom she had been having a long-running affair,

Today, set in a magnificent 1200-acre estate, Sudeley Castle is home to 10 different gardens, each with its own unique character. It also contains a collection of rare and exotic pheasants, an adventure playground, and its own cafeteria.

The postcode, for satnav purposes, is GL54 5LP. Stagecoach West service W (Cheltenham to Winchcombe) stops at the War Memorial, about ¾ of a mile from the castle.

Wessex Attractions: Sandham Memorial Chapel

Sandham Memorial Chapel was constructed in the town of Burghclere in order to house the paintings of Stanley Spencer, whose work we have covered here previously. It was built between 1926 and 1932 from a design by Spencer himself, with work being delayed by the 1926 general strike.

The chapel was largely funded by Spencer's patrons Louis and Mary Behrend, who also purchased the meadow to the south in order to preserve the view of nearby Watership Down from the chapel.

The chapel was gifted to the National Trust in 1947, and the meadow in 1960. The chapel was awarded listed building status in 1984.

The chapel is currently closed due to the national lockdown. The postcode, for when it reopens, is RG20 9JT. The nearest station is Newbury, approximately 4 miles away, Buses are infrequent.

Wessex Attractions: Portland House

Portland House is a National Trust-owned hotel in Dorset. Built in the 1930s in California Mission Revival style. Its original decor has been preserved where possible.

Overlooking Portland harbour, it makes a great base for exploring the Jurassic Coast, and nearby attractions such as Hardy's Cottage.

The full address is: 24 Belle Vue Rd, Weymouth DT4 8RZ, Please note that booking is currently limited due to lockdown restrictions.

Wessex Attractions: Ballard Down

Ballard Down is an area of chalk downland in Purbeck, owned by the National Trust. It is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

Visible from the downs are Old Harry's Rocks which, like The Needles, were once part of a range of chalk hills that became partially submerged as sea levels rose. Legend has it that they got their name because The Devil once took a nap on the rocks.

An obelisk on the downs commemorates the provision of a supply of drinking water to Swanage in 1883. It was taken down during World War 2 to prevent the Luftwaffe from using it to navigate, but re-erected in 1952.

The downs are home to several are butterfly species, including the Blue Adonis. The 2017 BBC adaptation of Howard's End by EM Forster was partly filmed there.

The postcode for satnav purposes is BH19 3DG, and the 50 Breezer Morebus service between Bournemouth and Swanage stops half a mile from the site.