I lived in an idyllic village 15 miles from the sea – it’s pretty but has a chequered past

The pretty village of Wimborne St Giles is quintessentially English with a thriving community, a traditional pub, cream teas in the village hall and an old post office and village shop.

The idyllic village, which was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, is situated in Dorset on Cranborne Chase and is just 16 miles away from the seaside town of Poole.

However, having lived there for a few years when I was a child, you never felt just half an hour away from the coast. In fact, it felt like the middle of nowhere.

Some of my favourite days there as a child were spent exploring woodland, running through fields and climbing trees.

While visiting a small village might not sound like much of a day out, there was always something to do.

Wimborne St Giles has a beautiful church which is part of the Knowlton Circle Group of Parishes. The historic building, which is Grade I-listed, is located in the centre of the village and opposite a picturesque green.

Adjoining the church are the pretty 17th-century Almshouses. The church, which was constructed in 1732 on the site of the old church, is open every day to visitors. The original church dates back to 1291.

When I lived there, there was an annual church fete in Wimborne St Giles which included a dog show, cakes and bakes, music, games and other stalls.

Wimborne St Giles also holds a themed Church Flower Festival every year with all the proceeds being given to the church to keep up with its maintenance.

One of my favourite events in the village was the traditional cream tea. Every Sunday, the village hall would host a charity tea which became extremely popular. The cream tea would include sandwiches, scones, cakes, meringues and, of course, tea and coffee. While busy, the atmosphere was always welcoming, with a variety of homemade bakes on offer.

As well as the village hall, the local pub, The Bull Inn, was at the heart of the village community and was a great place to enjoy a hearty pub meal.

Currently, the pub is closed for refurbishment but claims to offer “delicious food, local produce, fine wines and beautifully-appointed rooms”, according to the website.

The village is also home to St Giles House, a Grade I-listed Manor House that dates back to the 17th century.

The property is the ancestral seat of the Ashley-Cooper family, which is headed by the Earl of Shaftesbury, and covers a whopping 5,500 acres of land including a seven-acre lake.

Those who wish to visit the village have the opportunity to stay in a Bell Tent in the midst of the St Giles estate. There is also a plethora of accommodations available such as cottages, lodges and even an eight-bedroom house.

Wimborne St Giles is indeed a picture-perfect village with an abundance of charm and character, however, just down the road from the village lies Knowlton Church which has repeatedly been described as “one of the most haunted locations in Dorset”.

Built in the 12th century, and used up until the 17th century, the Norman church is surrounded by a Neolithic earthwork and is located in the centre of a pagan circle.

The ruins, which are isolated and completely separate from any nearby villages or hamlets, have a haunting quality about them which becomes more eerie when you learn about the history of the surrounding area.

Knowlton used to be a village but unfortunately in the late 15th century, the majority of the population was wiped out by the Black Death. The few survivors abandoned the village and moved elsewhere leaving the homes to fall into complete disrepair.

The church continued to be used as a place of worship for many years up until the 18th century when the roof collapsed.

Many people claim to have seen ghosts at the site which include a phantom horse and rider, a ghostly face at the top of the tower window and a woman crying.

Wimborne St Giles is definitely worth a visit, especially if you love the Dorset countryside. A trip to Knowlton Church shouldn’t be avoided – but it isn’t for the faint-hearted.

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