We recently visited cousins in Wareham, Dorset, for the first time – we’ve visited them many times before, but this is the first time we’ve visited this ancient walled town. The walls of this interesting and lovely town are earth walls, not stone, and on the afternoon of the day we arrived we walked along the footpath round the top of them which was fascinating. I had forgotten that my cousins had told me that the old part of the town, within the walls lies between the River Frome and the River Piddle. We’re familiar with another River Frome which runs through the town of Frome – the name alludes to the water in the river and means bright and briskly flowing. Apparently, I’ve since learned that the Dorset River Frome is the longest English chalkstream in the southwest. On our walk we saw an amusing incident – although no doubt not amusing at all to those involved; a small launch/cruiser was trying to negotiate the bridge over the Frome on an incoming tide, and got wedged! They were very foolish to have tried to get under the bridge, and fortunately for them, up chugged another boat which was able to tow them out otherwise disaster, their boat would have been sunk. All the spectators on the bank gave a cheer and round of applauses they were pulled clear. The River Piddle’s hilarious name originates from before the Conquest in various forms, and attempts by various disapproving people to call it Puddle or Peddle have not succeeded.
Looking from the town walls across the Piddle… or is it the Frome?
Wareham has now spread beyond the walls and across the other side of the rivers, but we stayed in a tiny cottage in the old part. Actually the old part isn’t as old as it one was because a devastating fire in 1762 pretty much destroyed the old medieval town within the walls. There have been people living in this lovely place for thousands of years, way back almost eleven thousand years ago! There were definitely some Roman feet tramping around the area but what might be called the founding of the town was during Saxon times and Werham is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon chronical. The walls were constructed by the Saxons, probably by Alfred the Great in response to threats from the Danes. As you can imagine with a place which has been inhabited for so long, it has a mighty busy history, but today it has a vibrant, busy feel with lots and varied activities for the townsfolk.
We loved our visit and look forward to returning and finding out more about Wareham… oh and there’s a fascinating memorial to T.E. Lawrence, otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia in one of the delightful old churches, St Martin-on-the-Walls, although he is actually buried in Moreton, not far away.