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Tom Ball


With the start of a new year, many people make New Year resolutions to realise a personal goal. So, if this is something that appeals to you, how about planning to start a new hobby or learn more about your local history.

The National Trust’s Buscot and Coleshill Estate (Coleshill), which has only recently been fully opened to visitors, is within easy local reach of Faringdon, Highworth, Lechlade and Swindon and, for a delightful day out, not too far from Cheltenham, Gloucester, Marlborough, Oxford or Reading.

One of the biggest draws for visitors to Coleshill is the Heritage and Rural Skills Centre showcasing a number of expert craftspeople who can teach people about the skills that created and restored great houses and estates like Coleshill. This is where you can start off the New Year with a new hobby or learn more about by-gone heritage conservation skills via a beginner’s or hobbyist’s course on blacksmithing, lime plastering or carving (wood or stone).

Tom Ball is one of the Estate’s expert craftspeople and a Lead Woodcarving Lecturer at City and Guilds of London Art School. In November 2023, he won the Heritage Crafts Woodworker of the Year Award 2023 and received his £2,000 prize and trophy at a presentation at St George’s College, Windsor Castle.

There are so many exciting and educational opportunities at Coleshill for all ages including learning about the Estate’s wartime history and even ‘going underground’ into the WWII Operational Base bunker. 

Coleshill village was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, and the manor of Coleshill – a magnificent Palladian house – was built ca. 1660 during the Stuart period. Sadly, it no longer exists, as it was destroyed by fire in 1952 and demolished in 1958. However, the National Trust team at Coleshill has saved many artefacts from the house and are showcasing these in a new exhibition, open to the public, at the heart of the Skills Centre, to display the incredible craftsmanship undertaken in creating such an iconic building.

Coleshill has many other stories to tell and initiatives to show. For over three centuries, the Coleshill area was a source of inspiration to artists and designers who lived and worked on the Estate. From William Morris – the British textile designer; to Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie, a potter who was born and practised her craft on the Coleshill Estate and Michael Wickham, artist and furniture maker who worked with Terence Conran to conjure up a concept that, in 1973, became Habitat.

Coleshill’s Old Carpenters Yard – aptly named for the trade that was historically carried on here – features a second-hand bookshop, café and welcome centre. The bookshop offers a wealth of interesting pre-loved books where book lovers can easily spend a whole day browsing round the well-stocked shelves. The newly renovated café has recently been taken over by Blakes Kitchen well-known for baking their own bread every day and offer a delicious selection of cakes, savouries, sandwiches and hot food to order.

The Buscot and Coleshill Estate, near Swindon SN6 7PT, is somewhere new to go for coffee, breakfast or lunch or to sign up for a new hobby or skill or for an enjoyable family day out.

Fiona Scott Media Consultancy Bath

Scott Media

Scott Media is run by a UK-based journalist with more than 20 years' experience in the media - print, radio and television.

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