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.
The Hardy graves
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.
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!
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!
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 ;)!
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!!
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