The historic town of Sherborne is celebrating Valentine’s Day with the introduction of a very special biscuit and a new “Walking with Walter” Blue Badge Walk to mark its connections with Elizabethan explorer and Queen Elizabeth 1’s beloved courtier, Sir Walter Raleigh.
Steve Oxford, owner of Sherborne’s longest established bakery Oxfords, has used the hidden cypher recently discovered on a portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, to decorate the new biscuit and some sour dough loaves.
The cypher was found in the top left hand corner of a painting of Sir Walter – the sea can be made out just below an emblem of a crescent moon, indicating Raleigh’s willingness to be controlled by the Queen in the same way the moon controls the tides. Elizabeth had been compared to the moon goddess Cynthia, and experts now say the newly-revealed water must refer to the explorer himself (using the pun Walter/water).
Sir Walter Raleigh’s connection with Sherborne comes from the two castles for which the Town is so famous. The 16th century “New” Castle was built by Raleigh after Queen Elizabeth leased him the Old Castle when he’d fallen in love with Sherborne (which he called “Fortune’s Fold”) on his way to Devon where he originally came from. Rather than refurbish the old castle, Raleigh decided to construct a new lodging for temporary visits, and this became known as Sherborne New Castle.
More can be learned on a special walk planned for Sunday, 12 February with Sherborne’s Blue Badge Guide Cindy Chant who will reveal more about Sir Walter Raleigh, his love and subsequent falling out with Queen Elizabeth 1 and how, like many after him, he loved visiting Sherborne.
Cindy Chant commented, “It is so fitting that this time of year, St Valentine’s Day, should be a chance to remind people both of Sir Walter Raleigh’s love affair with Queen Elizabeth 1 and also his love affair with Sherborne.”
Residents and visitors to the Town will also be able to visit Oxfords Bakery where the new ginger biscuits with a hint of cinnamon are on sale. Oxfords has a direct connection to Raleigh as the bakery has been owned by Castle Estates for over 200 years. The New Castle was taken over by the Digby family in 1617 after Sir Walter Raleigh had fallen out of favour with the new King James 1 and was imprisoned in the Tower of London before being beheaded in 1618.
Janet Schofield from Sherborne Tourism Information Centre commented, “There was a large increase in group travel visitors to Sherborne in 2016 and the Raleigh walk and these new “Raleigh” biscuits are a great reminder of the fascinating history of the Town which attracts people from across the UK and beyond. The biscuits would make an unusual and unique Valentine delicacy whether you want to show your love for someone special or celebrate your love for Sherborne.”
The Town gives a warm Dorset welcome for coaches and the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) has a welcome pack which includes vouchers for free tea or coffee for the driver. As well as a coach park and a drop-off point by the TIC the town has a number of convenient car parks. There are public toilets by the coach park and by the TIC drop-off point.
Situated in the northern part of West Dorset Sherborne is conveniently on the A30, near the A303 and, if a group travels by train, it is on the main train line from London Waterloo to Exeter. Bristol, Exeter and Southampton are all within an hour and a half’s drive and it is only thirty miles from the Portland Cruise Terminal. Sherborne can offer a full day out or fits well into a day which may be taking in such sights as The Cerne Giant, Gold Hill in Shaftesbury or Stonehenge.
For more information on the 16th century Castle built by Sir Walter Raleigh, opening times and admission fees go to: www.sherbornecastle.com