The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Wool: a photo essay

Ken Ayres wanders the backstreets of a village which – unusually for Dorset – has not only two pubs but a railway station too

The old bridge and Woolbridge Manor are as 'familiar to the tourist' now as they were in Sir Frederick Treves's time

Sir Frederick Treves was not, it is fair to say, a fan of the village of Wool. The entirety of his entry on the village in his Highways and Byways of Dorset reads: ‘Near to Bindon Abbey is Wool, known to thousands as the railway station for Lulworth. It was once a pretty village enough, but the railway has contaminated it. Here by the river’s brink and by an ancient stone bridge is the well-preserved Jacobean manor house of the Turbervilles, familiar to the tourist by reason of the place it holds in the story of Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

Cherry Cottage is one of a fair number of low-built, but still elegant, thatched cottages in the village

Strip out the references to other places and his verdict of ‘once a pretty village enough’ is damning with the faintest of praise. It is certainly true that if one passes through it on the main road one does not see it to its best advantage, so better to leave the car behind and to direct one’s feet to the backstreets.

Colour and charm along Spring Street

Although the village and surrounding area contain ecclesiastical buildings of great antiquity (the original monastery of which only ruins remain dating from 1172), Wool only became a parish in its own right in 1844. Whilst the parish’s population is 5310 – a thousand more than Sturminster Newton, for example, and a colossal figure for a village – this number includes over 2000 based at the Bovington army camp. Wool is, perhaps because of this, one of the ‘youngest’ villages in Dorset with a quarter of the parish population aged under 18 and 40 per cent under 30 year of age.

The original and the Victorian parts of the church of the Holy Rood (the church's third dedication) can clearly be distinguished in this shot

The station which Sir Frederick Treves thought had 'contaminated' Wool

A glimpse of Wool's more ancient ecclesiastical past at the Bindon chapel

A far cry (if not a great distance) from the urbanisation of Wool wrought by the building of housing estates over the years, ducks relax by the water in one of the village's backwaters

Away from the main roads, Wool is a characteristically charming Purbeck village

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