We had a great week down in Dorset. The first couple of days we stayed in a B&B near Dorchester so that we could visit Thomas Hardy’s cottage at Higher Bockhampton. As you will see, paying homage to various authors was part of Jenny’s plan for the trip and Hardy is clearly the greatest of Dorset’s novelists, not to mention his poetry too, which Jenny says was neglected for too long. The National Trust now looks after the property which has a lovely cottage garden. We were fortunate in that on the day that we visited the sun was shining with a refreshing breeze in the air. We also visited the church in Stinsford where Hardy’s heart was buried (the rest of his body being in Westminster Abbey).
The next day we went into Dorchester itself for a bit of shopping and to get some food for a picnic. It was my choice for what to do and we started with a visit to Tolpuddle and the Martyrs’ Museum. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of nineteenth century agricultural workers who formed a Friendly Society which can be seen as a precursor of today’s Trade Unions. They were arrested and convicted of swearing a secret oath and transported to Australia as punishment. Their crime was really in resisting cuts in agricultural wages which didn’t go down well with the powerful landlords of the time. However their treatment generated quite a bit of public support and they eventually were brought back to England. So the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum is a place of pilgrimage for anyone with an interest in Trade Unions.
Before we moved further west we looked in on Poundbury, the new development on the edge of Dorchester that Prince Charles is behind. The town had a better feel to it than I expected and we had a very nice lunch in the Poet Laureate pub.
Next we moved on to Bridport and the Jurassic Coast. The area has recently been high in public consciousness due to the crumbling of some of the coastal paths, and the highly regarded TV series “Broadchurch”. The locals are clearly trying to cash in on the success of the series as you can now get a special leaflet showing you where to find the locations used in the series. By the way I have often wondered what the word Jurassic means. A web search shows that it comes from a French root Jurassique meaning “of the mountains”.
We went down to West Bay (there is a very nice fish and chip shop there). We walked along the beach under the huge towering cliffs. Stunning scenery. We also visited the Bridport museum which has some interesting exhibits from Roman times and on the more recent history of rope making in the town.
Our final port of call was Lyme Regis, associated of course with John Fowles and his novel “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (which was made into a very successful movie starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons). We had a walk along The Cobb imagining ourselves to be back in the nineteenth century. Jenny told me that Lyme Regis has links to many other authors, including Jane Austen (who set part of her novel Persuasion there). Other literary visitors have included Henry Fielding, G K Chesterton, J R R Tolkien, P G Wodehouse and Beatrix Potter.
On the beach there was a Punch and Judy show which was going down well with a large group of young children and their parents. That’s the way to do it!
So, all in all we had a very nice week down in Dorset. Then back home for the weekend before our second week away, this time in Kent. But that is another story.