Where better to escape the ‘madding crowd’ than virtually the very spot Thomas Hardy wrote the novel in the lush and leafy Dorset countryside. The original farm buildings at Greenwood Grange were even built by Hardy’s father in the 1800’s and have been rebuilt, extended and converted into a fantastic cluster of luxury cottages with onsite pool and leisure facilities.
Greenwood Grange has scooped a whole load of awards for its eco friendly ethos and the sensitive transformation of the brick, stone and slate buildings into 4/5-star cottages. These include a gold award in the 2014 Dorset Tourism Awards and being named their self catering establishment of the year for the second year running. Beamed ceilings, exposed brickwork and wood burning stoves give many of their cottages the authentic charm and character, which is perfectly complemented by fresh decor, period furnishings and all the home comforts and mod cons for families to chill out in style.
Children and ‘big kids’ of all ages are in for a fun packed few days with all the things to do in the 7 acres of garden and grounds at Greenwood Grange. The 32ft x 16ft indoor heated swimming pool is an obvious favourite, whatever the weather, and wide Roman steps mean babies and toddlers can have a paddle and play with mum or dad in the shallows. A well-equipped games room will also keep youngsters entertained, featuring a soft play area, pool table, bar billiards, table tennis, table football, flatscreen TV’s and a Nintendo Wii (open from spring to autumn, and over the festive period). Outside, children can burn off energy in a grassy play area, which includes swings, a giant trampoline and a fab, full-size play yurt filled with toys, or follow nature trails, discover willow dens and maybe meet Tess the cat, free range chickens or one of the resident hedgehogs. The owners also run a kids gardening club throughout the summer holidays for hands-on learning about their home grown fruit and veg, composting wormery and hive of busy bees, kindly making yummy honey. Dog are welcome at several of the cottages and the owners can even provide grazing to bring along a horse!!
Greenwood Grange comprises 17 cottages to suit all sizes of families and friends, from couples with a baby right up to 12 people under one roof, many of which are set around a central courtyard with a fenced pond and fountain in the middle. Each one is named after places and people from Hardy’s novels and all the cottages have their own, individual character and interior style, with free Wi Fi.
Henchard (sleeps 12 + babies) is a real one-off, wow-factor thatched cottage where extended families and friends can holiday together in 5-star luxury, and dogs are welcome as well. The single storey cottage offers a stunning central living space and 4 very big bedrooms plus families can spill out into a large, enclosed lawn garden, with a dining patio that seats 12, designer wicker chairs and recliners, barbecue and glorious views over a lake, woods and rolling countryside. The 12.5 x 5.9 metre sitting room and dining area is the open-plan heart of the house, with lofty raftered ceiling, comfy seating and dining table for everyone, living flame gas fire, a 52” flat screen TV, DVD player and Wii console with games. A gleaming galley kitchen, updated in 2012, is well equipped with all the vital utensils and appliances, including two ovens and a gas hob, microwave, two fridges, a freezer, dishwasher and washing machine. Beyond the kitchen is a utility area with cloakroom WC and washbasin. Bedroom 1 has a king-size bed, space for a cot, a 32" TV and contemporary en-suite shower room. Bedroom 2 is a family bedroom with a king-sized bed, full size bunk beds and 32” TV. Bedroom 3 is a kids’ room with full size bunk beds, twin zip link beds, space for a cot and 32" TV. Bedroom 4 has a king-size bed, space for a cot, a 40" TV and en-suite modern bathroom with separate shower. There is also a spacious, modern family bathroom with shower over the bath.
Literally at the heart of Thomas Hardy Country in Dorset, Greenwood Grange is just a few hundred yards from the cob and thatch cottage where he was born, bordering beautiful Thorncombe Woods and just a few miles from Dorchester.
The 66 acres of Thorncombe’s woods and heath are cross crossed with trails and tracks to head out with a picnic or plan a bike ride and Dorset Forest School runs play schemes for under 7’s and Bushcraft for over 8’s. England’s Jurassic Coast is just a few miles from Greenwood Grange, where families can spend happy hours hunting for fossils and peering into rockpools. Alternatively, there’s all the quintessential seaside fun and sandy beaches of Weymouth.
There are lots of country pubs in the surrounding villages and countryside to indulge in delicious Dorset produce, the nearest to Greenwood Grange being The Wiseman Arms in West Stafford (5 mins drive). The Blue Vinny in the quirky named Puddletown is also close by and has a great beer garden with a climbing frame and serves good food, so booking is recommended.
Dorchester (3 mins by car) is the pretty county town of Dorset and steeped in history, from the Romans to the Tolpuddle Martyrs so naturally there’s a wide range of shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and things to do. A thriving market takes place on Wednesday mornings and there’s Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Tesco for essential provisions. The supermarkets will deliver to Greenwood Grange or families could order a fab food box from www.theruralfarmshopcompany.com, who are based locally and provide ready meals, meat, fruit, veggies and even wines, beers and ciders, all delivered to the door.
Besides its history and heritage, Dorchester boasts a Dinosaur Museum and Teddy Bear Museum that will especially appeal to little ones. Families can also plan a fun day out to the award-winning Farmer Palmers Farm Park in Organford near Poole, with indoor and outdoor play areas, themed woodland trails, deer safari, pig racing and friendly animals. If the weather really isn’t great, Monkey Bizness soft play centre in Poole can also be a godsend.
Nearest medical services: GP/A&E in Dorchester, 3 miles.