Dorchester-on-Thames is a small village between Oxford and Reading, but it's nearer to Oxford. It has about 3,000 inhabitants, a primary school, a Catholic church, and an Anglican church (the Abbey, of which more later). It's a nice place to visit, if a bit quiet.
The village is called Dorchester-on-Thames but the River Thames doesn't flow through the village itself. It flows past about half a kilometre away. The River Thame flows through the village (note the lack of an 's').
Originally settled in Neolithic times, Dorchester has been, sequentially:
- A Neolithic village fort
- A Roman garrison town
- The centre of an old Archdiocese with a cathedral
- Home of a monastery
- Home of an abbey
- A quiet, out-of-the-way, little village, complete with its own bishop
Places to Spend Money in Dorchester
The Post Office also serves as the village newsagent, stationers and sweet shop. It's very small and very busy. The friendly proprietors are always happy to chat with customers.
The Co-op is the village's food shop. It's larger than the Post Office and just as busy, but is managed in a more business-like fashion. The Co-op is situated right in the middle of the village, just down the road from the Post Office.
The White Hart Hotel is the larger of the two hotels in the village. This former coaching inn has been around since 1691. It incorporates a restaurant and a bar and seems to be fairly popular as a local watering hole.
The George Hotel is slightly smaller than the White Hart but has a larger bar and restaurant. Like the White Hart, it used to be a coaching inn. It too has been around for quite some time.
Hallidays' Antiques Showroom is worth a visit if you are a very rich visitor with serious money to waste. It's supposed to be one of the biggest antiques showrooms in Europe. Not recommended for the casual visitor.
There are a couple of smaller antiques shops in Dorchester. Once again, not really recommended for the casual visitor.
Chester's Tea Rooms are behind Hallidays. It's a pleasant place. The staff are friendly and the coffee is good.
The Pubs - The Plough, The Chequers, The Fleur-de-Ley - and the two hotel bars all sell alcohol. There appears to be some sort of class association about who goes to which one, but it's difficult to fathom. They're all decent places to go to for a meal and a pint. Except for the Chequers. They don't do meals there. Just pints.
Places to Visit in Dorchester
The Hurst Water Meadows is a pleasant nature reserve on the Thame flood plain. It's a really nice place to go for a walk during the summer, but is usually worth avoiding during the winter as the mud gets quite deep. Unfortunately, the noise from the nearby Dorchester bypass tends to spoil the walk somewhat.
The Dyke Hills, just outside the village, are the remains of the Neolithic village's defences. One side of the village was bounded by the two rivers and the other by a double rampart of piled earth, which once would have been surmounted by a wooden stockade. At the time of writing, the site, which is of great archaeological interest, is being severely damaged by rabbits. Whenever someone suggests killing them, other people protest.
The Allotment Site is a very large field near the middle of the village. Here various people have plots where they grow vegetables. As the allotment site is also the site of the Roman village, no one is allowed to build or grow trees on it. A tree's roots might damage the remains below the surface that normal hand-cultivation would not. Go there and see what everyone's growing.
Dorchester Sailing Club, which is quite a long way out of the village, is situated on a gravel pit (a remnant of when the Thames flood plain was mined for gravel). The club holds races every Sunday and on Wednesday evenings during the summer months. They also hold an annual regatta which is very popular. It is usually held on the May bank holiday weekend and people turn up from all over England.
This is Dorchester's most popular attraction. It is several hundred years old. There has been a sequence of churches on the site (including a cathedral) since St Birinus set up a mission there after converting the incumbent King of Wessex, Cynegils, in 6351.
The abbey has a museum and tea rooms. These are open during the summer and are staffed by volunteers. The museum is very informative and the tea rooms pleasant. Both are worth checking out if they're open when you visit.
If you're visiting Oxford, pop over to Dorchester to look around... it's definitely worth an excursion.