Camping: Corfe Castle Day 3 – Cloud’s Hill & Mill House Cider & Clock Museums, July/August 2016

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Cloud’s HIll (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

When T E Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) was stationed at Bovington Camp in Dorset, he first rented Cloud’s Hill as an “escape” and somewhere to write.

He didn’t need to sleep or take meals there, as he did that at the barracks. So the property didn’t need to act as a domestic residence.

I first visited Cloud’s Hill around 30 years ago and fell in love with the little place. It’s really no more than a glorified summer house, boasting 2 storeys and 4 rooms. There’s even a garage opposite that Lawrence had built to house his motorbike.

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Cloud’s Hill (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Since I was last there the National Trust have cleared much of the surrounding invasive rhododendrons and added a little walk. There’s a much larger car park than was there before (although it’s not that big now), and there’s a new visitor centre.

Dogs are welcome in the grounds but not in the house, so we took it in turns to have a look around.

Not long before he was killed in a motorbike accident, on the road between Bovington Camp and Cloud’s Hill, he bought the house with the intention of extending it. A tree with a plaque close to where he died commemorates the military leader – and, again, the tree was a LOT smaller the last time I was there.

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Mill House Garden Nursery ((Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

As were were fairly close to Dorchester, and Mill House Nurseries were on the way back to the campsite (-ish), we dropped into what I remembered as a cider museum

… however, it’s now a full-blown nursery (for plants), the cider museum seems to have grown smaller, and there’s a clock museum there that I don’t remember from before. This could just be my memory or maybe I just didn’t visit at the time.

Unfortunately, there are no dogs allowed here at all, so we didn’t intend to stay very long. fortunately the very hot weather had given way to cooler, windy weather, with cloud overhead, so he was okay in the car for a few minutes, with the windows open and parked in the shade.

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Mill House Cider Museum (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We visited the clock museum first – well, we visited the toilets first, and the poet snapped a rather unflattering picture of me emerging from the door that I won’t be sharing here. The custodian estimated that we might need around 20 minutes to visit the clock museum … but we had the dog in the car so we had a very quick whizz around instead.

There were some very old grandfather clocks here but also some mechanisms, one of which may be incorporated into the time machine for my NaNoWriMo novel MARDI GRAS. We had to share the picture below, though, as the mechanism was made in Leeds. We’d travelled all the way to Dorset to see a clock part made in Yorkshire! (The “time machine” might make it onto the cover of the book if we publish it ourselves.)

By the time we wandered into the cider museum, the custodian had started a film off for us, which documented the history of this particular method of making cider. The museum was particularly interesting as they have some fine specimens of cider presses and other equipment they use for their cider-making. My “Corliss Chronicles” series begins with (working title) CIDER & SYMPATHY, so again the photographs and the information might turn out to be very useful one day.

So, although we were actually on holiday, it’s true that a writer is always working, either subconsciously or consciously, by thinking or by actually writing or by researching stuff like this.

We bought our gifts here – cider for my sister for looking after the cats, fudge and shortcake for the parents – and we bought a gallon of cider for the tent. When we’d arrived, there was no one else there. By the time we left, the car park was full.

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Mill House Clock Museum – Made in Leeds (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
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