Sticking around in Dorchester, we need to make sure that we visit the most quintessential of Dorset locations; Hardy’s Cottage. Where better to feel inspired, or to feel relaxed than at a famous wordsmith’s childhood home.
The cottage is in the care of the National Trust and is therefore free to enter if you are a member and £7 for a single adult. Throughout the cottage, guides are dotted around to give you further information about the various rooms and to answer any questions you might have about Hardy or his childhood house, from the cosy parlour where the family gathered, to the bedroom where Hardy wrote several of his finest works.
The cottage was built by Hardy's great-grandfather in 1800. Thomas was born there in 1840 and lived in the cottage until he was aged 34, during which time he wrote the novels Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) and Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), when he left home to marry Emma Gifford.
Beyond Hardy’s garden gate Spring announces its arrival. A sea of bluebells fills the orchard with a carpet of flowers. The breath-taking floral display can be seen from April onwards and is a seasonal delight not to be missed.
Thorncombe Woods is a magical pocket of mixed woodland that gives way to Black Heath and Rushy Pond, famed for inspiring the work of Thomas Hardy, and possibly the place to inspire you. The property is situated on the northern boundary of Thorncombe Wood. It is only three miles from Max Gate, the house that Hardy designed and lived in with Emma Gifford from 1885 until his death in 1928.
The 26-hectare mixed woodland and heath site has a great diversity of trees including mature oaks, sweet chestnut and beech. It also boasts a small hazel coppice, home to the much-loved dormouse. The central wood is home to giant beech trees that stretch out their limbs casting cool shade in the summer and littering the forest floor with a crunchy carpet of beech nuts in late autumn. The sweet chestnut to the north twist skyward amongst a mass of spiky leaved holly trees while the hazel coppice on the southern tip is known by locals to be the first spot in the wood to burst with bluebells in the spring.
Among the flora, creatures great and small go about their secret lives. Dormice, bats, butterflies and a huge variety of song birds and raptors all take up residence in the wood. Although elusive, a walk through the wood comes alive with the noises, sights and smells of all the woodland animals. Wildlife is messy so be sure to look out for evidence of their presence such as a chewed pine cone or hollowed hazelnut.
A well-preserved fragment of the Roman Road that would once have run from Dorchester to Badbury Rings in the East connects the trees at Thorncombe wood to Black Heath. Here, through spring and summer, you will discover pink hued heathers and sweetly scented gorse. Beyond the heath, Rushy Pond is an important watering hole for wildlife and the resident Dartmoor ponies, buzzing with dragonflies and damselflies. The pond’s surface is often disturbed by a newt surfacing for air or a grass snake on the hunt.
An beautiful woodland walk that shows off Hardy's home and inspiration for his writing throughout his life.