The sleepy market town of Sherborne lies in The Blackmore Vale on the banks of the River Yeo (don’t get excited, it’s a dribble) in northwest Dorset and is 19 miles north of the county capital Dorchester. Situated within a landscape of gently rolling hills, woodland and agricultural pastureland, Sherborne avoids the mass tourism that can spoil some of Dorset’s coastal towns and has a rather laid back feel.
The appeal of Sherborne for photographers is the quiet, quintessentially English feel to the town. You will be spoilt for choice by having an abbey, the 15th-century almshouse and two castles to shoot as well as other numerous architectural details tucked away in the town’s side streets and alleyways. Access and parking is very easy. There are several town-centre car parks. The ‘old’ castle, a 12th-century fortified palace, is now under the care of English Heritage and has its own car park. The ‘new’ castle, a mansion built by Sir Walter Raleigh, is privately owned and there is an entrance charge.
Sherborne Abbey, the centrepiece of the town, survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries as it was purchased for use as a parish church, which it still is. Visitors are more than welcome, even with a camera and a tripod, providing you are not shooting for commercial purposes. Just a stone’s throw from the Abbey, across the neatly manicured lawns is the photogenic St Johns Almshouse.
Sherborne and its castles are great to shoot in the spring. The trees are turning green, bluebells add colour to the woodland floor and the apple and cherry blossom is at its prime. Given blue skies and fluffy white clouds or an early start with mist hanging around the old castle there are landscape shots to be taken, close-up shots galore, and plenty for the architectural photographer. no specialist kit is required, it is a good all-round location that will appeal to a broad cross-section of photographers.
A distant view
Look to the footpaths around Sherborne for a slightly more distant view, perhaps try the small hill to the south, which gives an elevated view of the town. The small meadow in front of this hill tends to trap the mist in the early morning and there is a view through the trees toward the ruins of the old castle.
Sherborne can be shot at any time of day but my preference would be early morning for the old castle and late afternoon or evening for the Abbey.
Food & lodging
The charming eastbury hotel is in the heart of the town. There are plenty of upmarket pubs with rooms in the surrounding villages, and a great b+b in a quiet rural setting is Munden house in the hamlet of Alweston, three miles south. There is also the excellent Mitre Inn at Sandford orcas, three miles north of Sherborne.
The town is overrun with tea rooms and cafes, such as Oliver’s at the top of Cheap Street. For an excellent snack or full meal try Castle Gardens garden centre next to the entrance to the ‘new’ castle.
A wideangle is essential and if you have one, a wide tilt shift lens for shots of the Abbey. A 70-200mm zoom will also be useful for the more distant shots.
If you have one and don’t mind carrying it, a long lens such as a 200-500mm would also be useful if wildlife is your thing. A tripod will also come in handy.
If your intention is to walk around the castles and town centre shooting handheld, a wide-to-medium zoom will be ideal, a 16-35mm or 24-70mm perhaps.
Jeremy is an award-winning photographer and Nikon Ambassador. He has years of experience in landscape and location photography. Visit www.jeremywalker.co.uk.