To promote a new routine of compulsory rustic recharging, in 2015 So It Goes will be reviewing the best options for weekends away in the UK that won't cost the earth. The only pre-requisites being countryside to roam and fireplace at home. To kickstart the series, for New Year's Eve So It Goes spent a delightful three-night break in the Gatehouse of the historical estate of Deans Court in Wimborne Minster. The seven-bedroom house is a little smaller than grand and a little bigger than cottage and has more than enough room and facilities for a party of 10–14 to make themselves comfortable, with several en-suites including one freestanding bath.
Fusing a traditional country house style with something of the seaside (the stunning Jurassic Coast is only 10 miles south) the public spaces of the house boast white-painted boards and pastel tones, alongside stuffed martens and high-backed antique sofas. The drawing room, with its thick Morris-inspired curtains and venerable oil painting hanging over an open log fire, has character and charm. Inevitably this is the room in the colder months where guests will find themselves for 80 per cent of their stay. An excellent array of board games helped the group return to simpler pleasures.
The Gatehouse, as the name suggests, is merely the handsome under-butler to Deans Court manor house, an impressive red-brick Georgian home set in 13 acres of splendid gardens. The site has been continuously inhabited by the great and the godly since being home to the Abbess of Wimbourne (the Minster's towers in the centre of town are visible from the gardens) and the current inhabitants, the Hanhams, have lived here since 1548. The Saxon fishpond that fed Wimborne's monastery in the 8th–11th centuries is still there, the swans on it a sight to behold at dusk. In 1607 Thomas Hanham, on his return from the New World, planted a couple of incredible species of tree: the American Tulip tree and the Mexican Swamp Cypress which stand like exotic giants by a still pond as deep as England.
Elsewhere the river Allen murmurs at the estate's limits and the lush scene is completed by a kitchen garden whose serpentine wall was built in 1790. The site was the first organic garden in the country to be accredited by the Soil Association and its produce is still sold at the estate shop, the Squash Court. If the Gatehouse's seven bedrooms are beyond your needs, there are two charming 18th century farmhand cottages on the grounds that sleep 4 and 6.
If the excellent pubs in town don't succeed in holding you up, there are wonderful walks into the surrounding countryside. Dorset is an ancient country of rolling, secretive valleys, thatched houses and huge stone-gabled churches towering over flint-bed streams and atmospheric graveyards. A magical weekend away, book now.