Friday, 14 June 2019

Last Night I Dreamt I Went...

...to Poundbury Again...
We had to go to Dorchester on Tuesday, to see the Registrar [long story, involving change in the law re Church Marriage Registers] and we decided to drive a few miles up the road afterwards to look round Poundbury.
This is the new 'model village' conceived by HRH Prince of Wales 30 years ago, which is on the Western side of Dorchester. There are all sorts of interesting things about this village - it is designed to be sustainable[biomass generator, electric buses etc] and the inhabitants have to sign a strict covenant, ensuring that they only repaint their front doors from a given range of shades, and follow other rules about community life.
The place has the craziest mixture of architectural styles- a Guardian article in 2016 said
From flint-clad cottages and Scottish baronial villas to Palladian mansions and miniature pink gothic castles, Poundbury is a merry riot of porticoes and pilasters, mansards and mouldings, sampling from the rich history of architectural pattern books with promiscuous glee. The Butter Cross bakery is dressed as an early 19th-century brick gazebo, crowned with a gilded orb. It looks on to a little market square, where cast-iron verandahs face off against a creamy rendered terrace, watched over by a neoclassical office block that is raised on an arcaded plinth. It seems grand for a village square.
The first phase, built in the early 90s, was based on a villagey “Dorset vernacular”, the latest piazza has cranked up the dial to full Greco-Roman. A doric colonnade marches along the front of a new Waitrose…Across the square. Strathmore House, a palatial pile that could have been airlifted in from St Petersburg, contains eight luxury apartments beneath its royal-crested pediment. Next door stands the white stone heft of the Duchess of Cornwall, Poundbury’s first hotel, based on Palladio’s Convento della CaritĂ  in Venice.

Yes, exactly - it is truly the stuff of psychedelic fantasy. If you watched Philip K Dick's "Electric Dreams" last year, starring Timothy Spall, you will have seen Poundbury
We parked our car in the rain and walked towards the Buttermarket.
On street parking is free. I was relieved that our car was clean [due to heavy rain] and had a National Trust Sticker. No Delboy Trotter Reliant Robins, or rusty old Fords with Dale&Marlene windscreen stickers here!
We went into a few shops [sorry, emporia - 'shop' is far too mundane a term] but were not tempted to purchase anything.
It was midday so we had a snack in the Cafe - very eco-conscious [bring your own cup/avoid plastic straws/etc] and the menu listed the local sources used for ingredients.
The prices looked OK so we ordered soup & sourdough [Bob] beans on toast [me] when the dishes arrived I thought they were pitifully small portions.  After eating, we wandered around a bit - but it was surreal- a cross between a ghost town and a film set. There was no happy village atmosphere...The rain had stopped, but there was hardly anybody about, and it was all alarmingly silent.
We strolled back past the fountain [erected to celebrate the wedding of Charles & Camilla] and drove back into Central Dorchester.
Here was life, with bustling, happy people - and cheerful orange campervans
[Yes I did ask permission to take the photo] "It's orange to make people happy" said the owner. We went into Oxford's bakery and had the Biggest Belgian Buns I have ever seen - only £1.40 each!
Look at these!

3000 people live in Poundbury - by 2025, they hope to have the final target of 4500. Prices are 30% higher than those in nearby Dorchester. Despite the 'sustainable/eco-friendly' aims, car use in Poundbury is considerably higher than in the surrounding West Dorset. Are the residents just eager to get away, or driving off to earn their living elsewhere?
It just didn't feel real.
OK, I may be an uncultured pleb - but I felt that despite Poundbury's interesting architecture, and colour co-ordinated front doors, I was much more at home with the chatty shoppers and hotchpotch of cheery shop fronts in Dorchester.
Poundbury felt like an upmarket set for a British version of The Truman Show. I felt like an outsider, I understood Mr Spall's anxiety - and could see why the place was picked as the film set for this SciFi piece.
Have you ever visited Poundbury?
What did you think of it?


4 comments:

  1. it reminds me of Portmeirion , very filmset . Or those endless pretty cottage villages designed to please the landowner and hide the grubby serfs back in the good old days

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  2. Angela, I looked at those Belgian Buns and now I am longing to try one, myself!

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  3. I've never been there but some of the photos reminded me of the old TV programme, The Prisoner, which I think was filmed in Portmeirion.

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  4. I didn't mention The Prisoner in my post - but Bob and I both expected to encounter Patrick McGoohan being chased by a large balloon. I've visited Portmeirion and think it is much more attractive than Poundbury.

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