Where the wild things are
Country Life UK|August 05, 2020
Where the wild things are
The birds and the bees, and everything in between, are of the utmost importance for these two magnificent estates
Penny Churchill

FIVE thousand years of history lie beneath the gently rolling landscape of the picturesque, 970-acre West Woodyates Manor estate, which sits in peaceful seclusion within the Cranborne Chase AONB, two miles north-east of the East Dorset village of Sixpenny Handley and 11 miles south of the cathedral city of Salisbury, Wiltshire. The sale of the impressively diverse residential, farming, sporting and conservation estate for the first time since 1929, at a guide price of ‘excess £18.5 million’ through Knight Frank (020–7861 1064), is ‘a rich and rare event’ in this timeless part of Dorset, says selling agent Clive Hopkins.

Although the country around West Woodyates has been occupied and farmed since Neolithic times, earlier Mesolithic flint implements, from scrapers to ax-heads and laurel-leaf knives, have been found on the farm. The discovery of coins from the reign of Constantine I (272–337AD) and the ancient well in the Well House, thought to be of Roman origin, suggest that West Woodyates was well established as a farming settlement in Roman times.

In the Middle Ages, the land formed part of the estates of Tarrant Abbey, founded as an independent monastery in 1186. It was refounded in the early 1200s as a Cistercian nunnery that became one of the richest in England. Its links with West Woodyates are commemorated by an area of the estate known as Tarrant’s Hill and a number of mounds and depressions in the lower park point to the remains of an abandoned medieval village, possibly from the time of the Black Death in the mid-1300s.

At the heart of the estate stands West Woodyates Manor, listed Grade II*, the core of which dates from the 17th century or earlier. Historically, the position of the house in a hollow of the landscape, with its front to the open farmland and its back to the oak forests of Cranborne Chase, ensured access to food, fuel and water, together with good communications and excellent security. It still does.

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August 05, 2020