When I was a teenager all the cool girls at my school lived in Wimborne. They wore the chicest clothes, shopped at Chelsea Girl in Bournemouth on Saturdays (the height of sophistication) and unlike the rest of us knew enough boys to invite a whole load of them to parties. So it was a bit of a surprise when I moved back to Dorset to find that Wimborne is actually a rather sedate market town – and not cool at all.
But suddenly all that has changed and it’s turned into my new favourite place. For a start it boasts a wonderful emporium called The Squash Court. This eclectic shop is housed in a converted 1930s squash court on the Dean’s Court estate and sells a quirky collection of new and vintage items – everything from stunning cards, china and Marseille soap to antique metal tables and chairs. The ethos is on giving old objects a new lease of life and when I walked in I could quite happily have bought virtually everything in the shop (I restrained myself). I’d known it would be good from the moment I spotted it, especially when I realised it’s owned and run by the antique dealer and stylist Ali Sharland, whose work has featured in scores of interiors magazines over the years.
I first visited The Squash Court with my 21-year-old son who has a great eye for design but would rather spend two minutes in a shop than twenty-two. So after we’d browsed in the shop we popped into The Squash Court’s café for a coffee. Everything looked so enticing that my son immediately decided that coffee wasn’t enough and he needed brunch. The café is based in a 1930s garage, with stylish tables and benches, a sunny courtyard and a walled kitchen garden that provides fresh, seasonal ingredients.
My son tucked into homemade falafels and declared they were the most delicious he’d ever eaten. He didn’t say this lightly because he’d recently tried making his own falafels, only to find that his were rather bland. “A bit like sawdust,” was his description of his own efforts.
If my excitement at discovering The Squash Court wasn’t enough my favourite Dorset café, Le Petit Prince, has just opened a branch in Wimborne too. The owner, Michael Russell, has replicated all the aspects that makes his first Le Petit Prince café so brilliant – freshly cooked bread, cakes and croissants, fantastic coffee and friendly staff – and brought them to his new place in Wimborne.
The first Le Petit Prince in Westbourne, an up-market suburb of Bournemouth (where I spotted a slim but healthy looking Gazza shopping in Tesco the other day), goes from strength to strength and I’m sure this new outpost will too.