Sturminster Newton is an historic market town in the heart of Blackmore Vale in north Dorset. It was once home to Dorset poets and authors William Barnes and Thomas Hardy. It is situated in a picturesque riverside location, excellent for walks, fishing and exploring north Dorset's towns and villages.
The town comes alive with the annual Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival which has been known to attract local celebrity chefs like River Cottage based Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Sturminster Newton, or Stur as it's called locally, is another of the historic market towns of North Dorset; set at a fording point on the River Stour. Although its cattle market, which was one of the largest in England, has bitten the dust, the Monday Market continues the tradition that started in the thirteenth century. A monthly Farmers Market is also held on Saturdays, check the link right to find out the dates. Both markets are held in Station Road.
The picturesque watermill that sits on the south bank of the river has been restored and now houses Sturminster Newton Museum and Mill. The museum shows what life was like in the Dorset market town. The mill was restored to working order and you can see how the flour was milled on special event days throughout the year. The Museum is open from Easter to end of September on Sundays and Thursdays. The Mill is open at weekends, Mondays and Thursdays from 11am-5pm. Admission to the museum is free. There is a small fee to enter the mill. Tel: 01258 473760.
The heart of the town is now The Exchange which houses various local services and supermarket but also and Arts and Learning Centre. Films and theatre productions are staged in The Stour Hall within The Exchange and can seat three hundred. There are also regular art exhibitions held in the gallery. Check the link right for up-to-date events listings.
Tourist Information, Sturminster Farmers' Market. Tel: 01258 454510. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas Hardy was born and spent most of his life in Dorset. He took inspiration for his novels and poems from real life incidents and the towns and villages that he was most familiar. He crafted his books around the county of Wessex and would often change placenames for the fictional stories but enough of the landscape and architecture was alluded to to give us clues as to where the stories were really set. Blackmore Vale over which Sturminster Newton overlooks was called the "Vale of the little dairies" by Hardy and "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" was set here.
Thomas Hardy lived in Sturminster Newton when he and his first wife set up home here. He wrote "The Return of the Native" while living in Riverside Villa, a cottage overlooking the River Stour. The Outer Trail of the Hardy Trail includes Sturminster Newton. Check the link right for more information.
There are also several publications available from Tourist Information Centres with suggested themed walks such as "Thomas Hardy Wessex Series An Insight to Hardy", "Walk around Dorchester with Hardy", "10 Hardy Novel Tours".
The prolific poet and author William Barnes also hailed from Sturminster Newton.
He wrote hundreds of poems throughout the nineteenth century and was noted as making a significant contribution to publishing in Dorset dialect; most notably in the "Poems of Rural Life" series. He also published philosophical works and called for the purification of the English language by removing Greek, Latin and foreign influences so it could be better understood by those without a classical education.
Barnes was a friend of Hardy who was greatly influenced by him. Hardy published a selection of Barnes' poetry in 1908.
The Cheese Festival is a main annual event in Sturminster Newton's event calendar. It runs over two days and aims to bring a whole host of cheese producers together from all over the South West as well as raise money for local charities.
You can sample, and buy, cheeses as well as other locally produced foods and get involved in a series of cheese related events. Local crafts are also showcased and you might spot some more well known Dorset food producers like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who's made an appearance in the past.
Around the main Cheese & Food Marquee are all sorts of displays, stalls, music and events for all the family. It's held at Sturminster Newton's recreation ground just off the A357.
Check the link right for more information on the current year's Cheese Festival
The Stour Valley Way is a sixty four mile long distance walking route that runs through Sturminster Newton. It starts at the Dorset Coast at Christchurch where the river flows into the sea and ends at its source in Stourhead in Wiltshire.
The route wends its way through the Dorset countryside via Christchurch, Wimborne Minster, Blandford Forum and Sturminster Newton. It is waymarked with a distinctive kingfisher logo.
Being on the River Stour Sturminster Newton makes an excellent base for a spot of fishing. The River Stour is well known for coarse fishing including barbel, bream and chub in the lower stretches, pike dace and perch are also common.
A Rod Licence is required by all those aged twelve years and over. Check the links right for more information on walks and fishing on the River Stour.