When I’m feel­ing blue

Dorset’s Blue Pool, which was pur­chased af­ter be­ing ad­ver­tised in a 1935 edi­tion of COUN­TRY LIFE, is a sight to be­hold, re­ports Ali Wood

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Dorset’s Blue Pool, bought af­ter be­ing ad­ver­tised in Coun­try Life, is a sight to be­hold, re­ports Ali Wood

THIS is go­ing to be one of my best years yet,’ de­clares Jen­nifer Barnard, owner of a hid­den turquoise lake with a tea house in Dorset. ‘If you look in the pa­pers, they’re all talk­ing about tea houses—they’re very much the in thing for 2017.’ If the pa­pers are right, Miss Barnard’s in luck, be­cause the Blue Pool Tea House near Furze­brook vil­lage is one of the most beau­ti­ful you’ll ever see and its 87-year-old owner is a dab hand at bak­ing scones. ‘Peo­ple start eat­ing cream teas at 10.30 in the morn­ing,’ she ex­plains. ‘I make quite a lot—on a good day, that can be a cou­ple of hun­dred. Peo­ple love them.’

It was Miss Barnard’s fa­ther, Capt T. T. Barnard, a pro­fes­sor of so­cial an­thro­pol­ogy and a keen botanist, who first saw the po­ten­tial of the lake and its grounds. Tea houses were spring­ing up ev­ery­where in the 1930s and he fig­ured that, if he could find some­where pretty enough to draw in vis­i­tors, he could build one for his wife to run while he pur­sued his pas­sion for plants and an­i­mals.

Capt Barnard came across an ad­vert for Blue Pool in a 1935 edi­tion of COUN­TRY LIFE and took his fam­ily to see it. De­serted for six years, the es­tate con­tained a for­mer open­cast clay quarry that had filled with rain­wa­ter to be­come a lake. Pop­u­lar with artists, the colour dif­fered from one day to the next as clay par­ti­cles sus­pended in the wa­ter diffracted light in dif­fer­ent ways, ac­cord­ing to the tem­per­a­ture and colour of the sky. ‘I was quite fright­ened when I first saw it,’ re­calls Miss Barnard, who was six years old at the time. ‘There was noth­ing here at all—just this pool. It was ex­tra­or­di­nary.’

The tea house was an in­stant suc­cess; the quarry that had once pro­duced ball clay for fa­mous Bri­tish pot­ter­ies was now draw­ing vis­i­tors to the spot where their Wedg­wood teacups had started out. It’s easy to see why, with steps leading down to the wa­ter’s edge and 25 acres of heath, wood­land and gorse in­ter­laced with sandy paths and fairy doors on trees. Miss Barnard’s fa­ther spent hours metic­u­lously log­ging species such as the Dart­ford war­bler—the na­tional pop­u­la­tion of which crashed to only a few pairs in the 1960s —and the sand lizard, one of Bri­tain’s rarest rep­tiles. Both can be found there to­day and, in 1985, Blue Pool was made an SSSI.

The Blue Pool’s suc­cess had looked as if it might be short-lived when war broke out in 1939 and the es­tate, in­clud­ing the tea house, was req­ui­si­tioned by the Army and turned into a hos­pi­tal. Capt Barnard en­listed in the Cold­stream Guards and the fam­ily moved to a cot­tage in the vil­lage.

In 1944, in the weeks leading up to D-day, a se­ries of camps was set up across Dorset to house Amer­i­can troops, in­clud­ing one at Blue Pool. Miss Barnard can re­mem­ber sneak­ing back, with her brother and sis­ter, to watch the sol­diers prac­tise build­ing bridges across the lake. ‘Al­though it was strictly for­bid­den, we used to wan­der in and out all the time,’ she con­fesses.

Blue Pool was re­turned to the Barnards in 1946: the grounds needed a lit­tle re­pair but it was open again by sum­mer. Then aged 17, Miss Barnard started work in the tea house and has been bak­ing scones ever since. ‘This place doesn’t change,’ she prom­ises. ‘Peo­ple come back with their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren and say: “We were wor­ried you’d do some­thing dread­ful”, but we never will. We like to keep it tra­di­tional.’ The Blue Pool, Ware­ham, Dorset (01929 551408; www.blue­pooltea­rooms.co.uk)

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