DOWNTON Abbey creator Julian Fellowes spoke of his love for Dorset at the meeting of a historic county group.

Acclaimed writer Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, whose successful Downton Abbey series returns to ITV this year for a fifth season, spoke at the County Dinner of The Society of Dorset Men of which he is president.

A total of 220 members and their wives attended the event at the George Albert Hotel on Wardon Hill near Dorchester.

Presiding at his third County Dinner, Lord Fellowes said: “Lady Fellowes and I always enjoy being here in Dorset, we are glad to call this great county our home.

“I’m really delighted to see so many members at this annual highlight and thank your officers for the excellent job they do to keep The Society of Dorset Men so successful.”

Founded in 1904, the Society has a long and rich history, beginning as a group to bring fellow ‘Dorsets’ together in London. Since the 1950s, the main activities of the organisation have been centred on Dorset. Today, there are around 1,200 members.

The Queen honoured the organisation with a message to those attending the County Dinner.

Chairman Stuart Adam welcomed the guests, notably Lord Lieutenant of Dorset Valerie Pitt-Rivers, High Sheriff Catriona Payne and Commander of the Blandford garrison Colonel Matt Fensom.

Mr Adam paid tribute to the service of Mrs Pitt-Rivers, who is stepping down from the role on January 22.

Guest speaker, the explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell, talked of Operations Drake and Raleigh, particularly how he had trained and selected the young people involved.

He said: “We need many more caring leaders in the troubled world in which we live.”

Later, members stood and applauded the colourful ceremony of welcoming the Dorset Blue Vinny cheese.

As tradition demands, the president declared it delicious and invited the chef to share a drink with him.

The cheese – made near Sturminster Newton – is the traditional fourth course of the dinner, served with Dorset Knobs and Dorset watercress.