Back in the 1930s, as the Depression was drawing to a close, Captain TT Barnard returned from South Africa looking for a project to pursue his love of zoology.
He discovered an estate for sale in Dorset, with a lake that changed colour from turquoise to emerald. Anxious to impress his family, he took them to the rhododendron-fringed path by the shore, and while six-year-old Jennifer chased damsel dragonflies, he laid out his vision for a magnificent teahouse.
It would be made of sand and lime bricks with a cedarwood roof to blend in with the surroundings. People could come, sit by the log fire, and sip tea whilst enjoying the tranquillity of this little lake.
Eighty years later, people are still visiting Captain Barnard’s beloved Blue Pool, which is now run by his daughter, Jennifer Barnard. As we have coffee and cake at the original glass-top tables, she tells me about their birthday celebration in June. Over 2,000 visitors took advantage of the 20p entrance fee and cup of tea.
“It was really gratifying to see so many people enjoy Blue Pool,” says Miss Barnard, who’s now 86. “Some of our visitors came here as children, and now return with their grandchildren. They tell me they were terrified of coming back in case it had all changed, but we’ve worked hard to preserve its original character.”
Declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1986, the 25 acres of woodland, heath and gorse are interlaced with accessible, colour-coded trails. The trees are adorned with fairy doors and model creatures to excite young explorers, and there’s a play area and benches to enjoy the view. If you’re lucky, you might spot a Dartford warbler or green sand lizard.
But Blue Pool has not always been so tranquil. During the Second World War, the estate was requisitioned by the army for training, and in preparation for D-Day, the American troops moved in. Miss Barnard’s family was relocated to another village, but she used to sneak back with her friends.
“We watched the soldiers making bridges and thought they were fantastic because they gave us sweets,” she recalls. “They had the whole place with cinemas and parties going on!”
Blue Pool was returned to the family in 1946. The grounds were in disrepair and overgrown with bracken, but they managed to reopen it the same year, and Miss Barnard has worked there every summer since.
See Visit Dorset for more information: www.visit-dorset.com/things-to-do/attractions/the-blue-pool-p127283
Ali Wood spent her childhood walking in the Peak District, later moving to Dorset.