A literary walk, a GPS with a bad attitude, and more!

No, I didn’t read a book as I walked ;)!  I did a long walk around Thomas Hardy country – although in reality the whole of Dorset is Hardy country because in many ways it was he who popularised Dorset through his writings, both poetry and prose.  A lot of people don’t realize that our Thomas was first and foremost a poet before he ever got into novels.  And if there is anyone reading this who hasn’t yet experienced a Thomas Hardy novel, I can recommend it – but don’t read it quickly as it will be very descriptive of Dorset and Dorset life.  I think my personal favourites are the book ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, and the poem ‘The Darkling Thrush’!

Back to the walk!  It took in Hardy’s Cottage in Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester (or should I say Casterbridge!) – this is where he was born and where he wrote his first literary gems.  The cottage, now owned by the National Trust, is in Puddletown Forest and is open to the public.  Nearby is Stinsford Church where Hardy’s heart is buried (his ashes are interred at Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey), and alongside him are other members of the Hardy family.  Also in the same churchyard are the graves of Cecil Day Lewis, the poet laureate, and his wife.  He did not live in the area but was a great admirer of Hardy and wanted to be buried as near to him as possible.

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Stinsford Church

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The Hardy graves

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Cecil Day Lewis was a big admirer of Thomas Hardy

The early part of this walk is really lovely, taking in not only Hardy’s Cottage and Stinsford Church but also the causeway that runs beside one of the River Frome tributaries.  It is a very picturesque area.

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The walk along the causeway

Sadly, not all of the walk is quite so easy to negotiate!  There was one footpath that I had planned to walk that crossed the River Frome itself but when I got there, both the footpath and the bridge were conspicuous by their absence and the gate leading to the footpath was locked.  This meant a detour back onto the road in order to get round the obstacle.  I am not sure why the land owner has ‘closed’ the footpath (which is still shown as a right of way on the OS map) although, to give him the benefit of doubt, I guess it is possible that the bridge might have just collapsed!

Because of poor signage and moved footpaths I had some problems route finding.  Now I have always been a map and compass kind of man but recently I have acquired a GPS which I thought would answer all my needs.  Unfortunately however, I managed to get one with a bad attitude!!  It bleeps at me beautifully when I am on the right path (and when I don’t need it to) but when I go wrong for any reason it just seems to go to sleep!!  At the time that I think it should be waving at me and shouting, ‘Excuse me pal, you are going the wrong way’, it just seems to say to itself, ‘Oh dear the old codger’s gone wrong again – he’ll realise it sooner or later and in the meantime I’ll have a little doze’!

I passed another delightful little church on this route, one that I’ve not visited before, and while I was there the previous Rector came in and he had some interesting stories to tell.  He told me about the couples who lived on either side of the church.  The wife on one side died and the husband on the other side died and later the widow and the widower became friendly and ultimately were married in the church that separated their two houses!  I thought that was lovely!  He pointed out the rectory which is a very substantial property which was turned into a school but is now in private ownership.  It seems hard to imagine a church minister living in such opulent surroundings!

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A lovely Dorset church

The other thing he told me about was the thatched cottage behind the church which has recently been sold by the elderly villager who owned it.  She was a villager in every sense of the word, very much involved in the local community, but the new owners as so often tends to be the case, are from London and will be using it as a second home.  The cost of this second home was apparently one million pounds!  It highlights yet again the modern trend whereby the heart goes out of village life as villages become more and more just ghost villages!

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A million pounds holiday home

Often when I walk, I come across strange signs!  Like the one below – who was Dick I wonder?  He sounds like a highwayman who robs banks ;)!

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Even more bizarre are the signs below!  These six different, and rather graphic, signs were all within the space of just a quarter of a mile or so.  Clearly they didn’t want people to become bored with seeing the same sign!  Ever feel unwanted!!

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Ever feel unwanted??

At the end of this walk, I had another interesting conversation, this time with a farmer!  I was walking across his field when he opened his tractor door and called me over – I must have a guilty conscience because my first thought was, ‘What have I done wrong?’ ;)!  But he said to me, ‘Can I shake your hand?  You are the first person today who has known where they were going!  I’ve been in the field all day and have had walkers wandering all over the place, the deer stalker is upset because they’ve scared the deer away, and I’ve been asked numerous times where the footpath is!’  So I shook his hand!  You see, bad attitude GPS or not, I do usually know where I am going :)!

Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler!

The Dorset Rambler

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85 Comments

  1. Love these photos and the Thomas Hardy info. I didn’t know Cecil Day Lewis liked Hardy so much — interesting to learn that. My GPS is old and tends to boss me around, but I don’t mind — it gets me to where I need to be!

      1. It’s such a coincidence that you wrote about Thomas Hardy. I did a post yesterday on another book, another blogger replied in the comments section and we ended up getting into a discussion of Thomas Hardy.

  2. Hi, thanks for an absolutely captivating post. I adore Thomas Hardy’s work and this felt like being brought right into the very heart of his place. I’m more determined than ever now to visit when next over from Ireland. You’ve inspired me!

  3. re signs: I have once seen one about a parking place for woman (3 places;-)
    not politically correct, yet funny – also comfortable, come to think of this..

    I liked the story and the attitude. These are good experiences.

  4. I love poetry, so I’m so happy that you said Thomas Hardy was first and foremost a poet. Gives me encouragement as a poet (:
    It’s ironic this whole post is about a walk in a graveyard though!
    Interesting post (:

  5. I too am a Hardy fan and just recently read Far From the Madding Crowd and loved it – long descriptions and all! I would really like to do this literary walk that you have so nicely documented here.

  6. Wow. Nice place, amazing photos. I’ve tried to take good photos of the grave yard when I took a trip in St. Augustine, FL. but didn’t make it. That’s kinda sad. I’ve enjoyed your post and the wonderful trip. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  7. Reblogged this on Under an Artichoke and commented:
    Someday I’d like to amble along England’s network of walking trails myself. The notion of walking from one end of the isle, from town to village and through rolling beautiful countryside, to the other end is enchanting.

  8. I had no idea Dorchester was the basis for Casterbridge! “The Mayor of Casterbridge” has been one of my favorite stories since high school!

    What a wonderful day trip through the churchyards. It looks like a lovely place to wander and chat with the locals like you did, despite that dratted GPS! I love that Hardy is spoken of as “our Thomas” in Dorset; it makes him seem more personable and real.

    Thanks so much for sharing about your journey! 😀

  9. What a delightful article! I enjoyed your writing and your photos. I guess I’m especially interested in English villages and countrysides because I am such a huge fan of Dora Saint and her Miss Read novels. I read them voraciously — again and again — and again. For me, they are like the English version of “The Andy Griffith Show” here in the states – homey stories of people who live quiet, simple lives in small villages but who love in a very large and encompassing way. Anyway, I enjoyed the ramble with you thoroughly. And although I have been an English teacher most of my life, I have read very little by Thomas Hardy. But you have peaked my interest now, and when I go to the library tomorrow, I will check him out more thoroughly.

    I especially related to the story of the widow and widower who lived on either side of the church and eventually married in that church. I am an ordained minister, and several years ago, my neighbor on one side lost his wife. My neighbor on the other side lost her husband the following year. They began courting, and by the next year, they asked me to perform their marriage ceremony. So although it took place in their own backyard (next door to mine), it was virtually the same kind of experience.

    Thank you for sharing so much, and congratulations of being “Freshly Pressed.” I’ll be back.
    The Lord make His face to shine on you today!
    Sandra

    1. Well, I am Dorset born and bred so I have acquired knowledge along the way but I also have quite a few books on Dorset. And there is a lot on the web too. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  10. Nice page! Hardy is a favourite of mine too. I really like “The Woodlanders” for its evocation of the life of a very rural community. The garden at the Higher Bockhampton cottage will be stunning in a few months.

    Keep strolling and writing. regards Chris

  11. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed and bringing this lovely part of England to New England (Massachusetts to be precise). Although I’m a bit disturbed by the deep excavation and quicksand signs being in such close proximity to each other;)I don’t think the farmers around here would be as gracious if they saw someone walking on their land. Sounds like a lovely place!

  12. I really enjoyed your blog. I too have GPS issues TRUST. It seems to be convient but not always accurate. Stay with your map and compass. Your pictures are really good.

  13. Charming story! I love Thomas Hardy. I recently reread “The Return of the Native,” and it was such a pleasure to sink into his rich descriptions of landscapes and people. You’ve whetted my appetite for more. The walk sounds lovely. Your GPS has a bad attitude, but it seems you don’t!

  14. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. It brought me back to my stay in the Lake District… Paying homage to Wordsworth in Grasmere and walking through Dove Cottage was certainly a memorable experience. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Your photos are just incredible…. why the hell can’t I take photos like these??? hahahah.
    I feel the need to peruse your other posts now… so I can get lost in a daydream about these beautiful surroundings…
    😉

      1. Oh.My.God. The photos just get better and better as I go. Clearly, I need to go back across the “pond” (Altantic) and see this place. Can’t wait for more posts and photos!

  16. Thomas Hardy novels are my all time favorite, but I haven’t read any of his poetry — now I’m getting excited to dig back into his work. Thanks for this — the photos and storytelling are beautifully done.

  17. I find it very funny that excavation is happening on a cliff with quicksand. Oh you protective property-owners you. Absolutely gorgeous pictures by the way! Your descriptions are so vivid I can see myself there! You have a great attitude about happenings that would drive my mum (and most likely me) absolutely bonkers! Thanks for sharing!

  18. I like Thomas Hardy novels too.
    This is really a good work. I appreciate your efforts behind that. Thanks for sharing!

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