Let's move to Sturminster Newton in Dorset

Edward Griffiths considers the benefits of a move to the 'Capital of the Blackmore Vale'

Let’s move to... Sturminster Newton

Edward Griffiths considers the benefits of a move to the ‘Capital of the Blackmore Vale’

This ancient market town in the middle of the glorious Blackmore Vale boasts a brand-new entertainments centre, lots of lovely new houses where the old cattle market used to be, a huge network of footpaths criss-crossing the beautiful countryside around the Stour Valley and a vibrant town centre with a good selection of independent shops. As the Town Council succinctly puts it: ‘Sturminster Newton is a small friendly town, which is a very popular place to live whatever your age.’

What can I get for my money?The seven-acre site of the former cattle market, in the heart of town, has been transformed into a stylish development of desirable properties, with commercial spaces and a brand-new multi-purpose community building. As well as housing the 300-seat Stour Hall theatre (01258 475137, stur-exchange.co.uk), exhibitions in the Bibbern Gallery and rehearsal space in the foyer, The Exchange is also home to the medical centre and dentist and the Town Council Offices. The property market in Sturminster Newton is still brisk, especially if properties are realistically priced, says Gary Revell of Roy Barrett Estate Agents. “We have a few modern developments which are popular because of their proximity to the town centre; two-bed apartments are in the region of �135,000, three-bed properties from �180,000 to �200,000 and four-bed houses between �220,000 and �275,000.”

EducationCentrally located in the Blackmore Vale, Sturminster Newton has a wide range of schools, drawing students of all ages from the town and around the local area. These include Sturminster Newton High School in Bath Road, a specialist school in mathematics and computing for 11-16-year-old boys and girls, with around 685 pupils (01258 472642). William Barnes Primary School in Bridge Street is a mixed primary with 190 pupils (01258 472257) and St Gregory’s C of E Primary School in New Street, Marnhull has approx 151 pupils (01258 820206). For pre-schoolers there is Sturminster Nursery at Caddle House in Station Road (01258 473753), Stepping Stones Nursery in the Scout Hall, Ricketts Lane (01258 473860) and Jungle Hut Pre-School, attached to St Gregory’s C of E School (01258 820634). There are several other private pre-school groups in the area: check with the Town Council (01258 475136) for details.

ShoppingSturminster Newton has a great selection of thriving independent businesses, including Harts of Stur on Station Road. This renowned family-run country store, established four generations ago, stocks a wide range of clothing, garden, DIY, hardware and camping equipment, as well as being one of the UK’s largest retailers of cookware and kitchenware. On the same street is Hanson’s Fabrics and Crafts with its huge range of fabrics and haberdashery.Stur is also rightly famous for Olives Et Al on the Stalbridge road. Launched by Giles and Annie Henschel in 1992 when they began producing marinated olives using their own recipes, the range has now expanded to include oils, vinegars, antipasti, dressings, sauces, marinades and kiln-roasted nuts. They also stock Blue Vinny, a delicious unpasteurised Dorset cheese with distinctive blue veins, produced at Woodbridge Farm on the Bishops Caundle road. Scattered along the streets around the Market Place area there is everything you could need: an old-established fruit-and-veg shop; a ‘Taste of Dorset’ award-winning butcher’s; an in-house bakery, and EB Marsh & Son who are celebrating their 80th year selling electricals, from white goods to flat-screen televisions. Also along Station Road is Scribes, which stocks art materials and stationery, as does The Curiosity Shop.Stur Monday Market, established by Royal Charter in 1219, has survived the closure of the cattle market in 1997. Historically based in the Market Square, the stalls have spread into Station Road and draw visitors from all around the area.

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Eating OutSturminster Newton has a good supply of pubs as well as several tea shops. Poets Corner at Innes Court in Station Road serves a delicious teacake and coffee if you just want a quick snack, or full breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas. In Market Place, the Swan Inn, which dates back to medieval times but was rebuilt after the great fire of 1721, serves ‘big’ breakfasts and lunchtime and evening meals. In Market Cross, The White Hart, dating from 1708, is popular with locals and has daily specials and Badger beer. On the other side of the town bridge, in Newton, the 15th-century Bull Tavern has log fires, fine foods and wines, Hall & Woodhouse real ales and its own ghost. For a special occasion, Plumber Manor, just out of town, is a Jacobean country house hotel owned and run by the same family that built it in the early 1600s, where its Michelin-recommended restaurant specialises in local produce.

For the sporty…Sturminster Newton Community Sports Centre has excellent facilities, including fitness suite, sports hall, dance studio and a wide variety of exercise classes from circuit training to Nifty 50s and Fitball.

For walkers and riders…Sturminster Newton makes an ideal base for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders. The Stour Valley Path passes through the town on its way from Christchurch to Stourhead. The Town Council has collaborated in the publication of six ‘Walkabouts’ leaflets centred on Sturminster, the River Stour Nature Trail, which leads to Twinwood Coppice, and the Piddles Wood Nature Trail, a short distance from the town.

For history lovers…Fiddleford Manor is only � mile along the Trailway from Sturminster Newton car park. The principal part of the manor house was built around 1370 for William Latimer, Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset, and is nationally important for the spectacularly ornate 14th-century roof trusses and braces. Open daily all year, admission free, 10am-4pm in winter.Sturminster Newton Museum is housed in a 16th-century building in Bridge Street. Its exhibits chart the history of the livestock market and dairy industry, plus a working model of the old Railway Station. Open Monday, Thursday, Friday 10am-3pm, Saturday 10am-12.30pm. 01258 817116Sturminster Newton Mill is a 17th-century watermill in full working order, with regular demonstrations of the milling process and guided tours. Open Easter to September. 01747 854355

Local TransportBuses include Wilts and Dorset X30 to Blandford and Poole, 309/310 to Blandford and Shaftesbury, 330 between Poole and Yeovil, 329 Shaftesbury and Bournemouth, and 368 Blandford and Yeovil. Also, South West Coaches 109 goes to Wincanton. In Gillingham, 8 miles away, South West Trains run between Waterloo, Salisbury and Exeter.