Article - Forces of Nature

I normally write this column in, or on my way to, Dorset after a week spent in Parliament

However, I am currently writing this column staring out of the windows of my office in Parliament which looks onto an embankment and a river both of which are showing only mild signs of the snows that were quite thickly piled earlier in the week. Alas, the conditions on the A303 and A35 have made it impossible to travel as normal to the south west at present.

I am always very reluctant to let unusual weather conditions interrupt the normal pattern of life – on the grounds that it is important to deal with nature rather than being defeated by it at every turn. But I learnt from my sailing days that there are times when the wiser course is to admit that the forces of nature have got the better of us and wait a little before venturing out. This, alas has been one of those times.

I have been struck, however, when speaking to people in West Dorset on the telephone, by the general cheerfulness and resilience that almost everyone has once again displayed in the face of what are really quite inconvenient circumstances.

And it is heartening, also, to have heard a number of tales of community spirit coming to the fore in order to assist those who have faced the greatest difficulties.

Whenever one is inclined to be pessimistic about the prospects for humanity, ones faith is restored by the way that people come together to deal with difficulties of this sort.

One of the events that I was going to have been attending on Friday was my first visit to the newly refurbished Shire Hall in Dorchester. I am very much looking forward to doing this as soon as it can be re-arranged, as I have been wanting to see for some time the results of the very significant efforts that have been put into bringing this splendid old building back to life and turning it into the tourist attraction that it could and should be, given its extraordinary history.

Alongside the renovation and expansion of the museum in Dorchester this project is certainly contributing significantly to the “cultural and historical offer” that Dorchester can make at a time when cultural tourism is big business and a massive creator of jobs for our rural economy.

But of course it isn’t just Dorchester that is moving forward in this respect. Bridport, too, is taking a leap forward with the restoration of the Literary and Scientific Institute (otherwise known as the Old Library). I am looking forward with eager anticipation to the formal re-opening of this landmark – which will now be as much a part of Bridport’s future as its past.

I see that, after many trials and tribulations, a similar landmark in Sherborne - Sherborne House - is now up for sale.

I very much hope that, as the memories of this very cold winter fade and we are greeted by the sunshine and the leaves and flowers of spring, this great and sorely neglected house, too, will be given the new life it so much deserves.