Picnic at Kingston Maurward
on Thursday 15 August 2019
We shall hope for good weather and meet at 10.30 at Kingston Maurward Gardens and Animal Park Visitor Centre at 10.30. Coffee can be had in the Park Café next to the visitors centre to sustain us. There is ample parking at the centre itself (not the college).
Address. Kingston Maurward, Dorchester, DT2 8PY. It is clearly posted just off the A35, 3 miles east of Dorchester. Phone 01305 215000, website
I will collect the entrance fees as the time which will be £8 for a tour and entry, no group discount. Without the tour and just entry it will be £6.00 for a concession if you just wish to wander. There are steps in the gardens and some slopes but the gardens are wheelchair friendly with the suitable routes marked on the map provided.
After coffee we shall gather between 11 and 11.30 for the tour of the gardens with the head gardener for about an hour.
Then its picnic time! Bring your own! Picnic tables and chairs are available and I will try to book some with a view!
After lunch we can wonder through the grounds or go around the Animal park as we want.
Brief history of Kingston Maurward
This impressive palladium style house and 750-acre estate was the inspiration of many of Thomas Hardy’s novels. It is now made up of a land-based college, working farm and dairy, commercial equestrian centre and stables, animal park, formal gardens and wedding and conference venue.
It was built in the early 1700s for George Pitt, the cousin of the Prime Minister William Pitt. George’s wife was from the Grey family who were part of the Maurward family, the lords of the area. Originally they lived in the stone manor house in Kingston Maurward grounds until the new red brick house was built. George III was a frequent visitor and disliked red brick houses so Pitt had the whole house encased in Portland stone.
The house was used by the armed forces in WW2 and then bought by Dorset County Council in 1947 to create a farm institute. The gardens were restored and opened to the public in 1991 and it continues to develop its educational facilities and visitor attractions.