This is one of my favourite dog walks and I especially appreciate it in the school holidays when I need to entertain both my kids and the dog. While my children enjoy building dens and making bows with arrows, the dog enjoys sniffing and following the different woodland scents.
By road: from the east, there turn off the A35 east of Dorchester at the Higher Bockhampton junction. From the west/Dorchester town centre, use Kingston Maurward College roundabout on A35 and first left after the College entrance.
There is a small car park beyond the Visitor Centre. Please park in the marked bays. Disabled parking bays are available near the centre.
This is a beautiful walk in the heart of novelist Thomas Hardy countryside. The site is adjacent to Hardy’s Cottage – Thomas Hardy’s birthplace. It has several paths, most of which are signposted.
The 26 hectare mixed ancient woodland and open heath site is home to a great diversity of trees including mature Oaks, Sweet Chestnut and Beech. The woodland gives way to Black Heath – made famous as Hardy’s Egdon Heath in his novel The Return of the Native. It is an area of birch, bracken and heath with its own herd of Dartmoor ponies.
In an idyllic spot, only a few hundred yards from Hardy’s Cottage is Rushy Pond, which is mentioned in The Weathered Arm. This is an area the young Thomas Hardy would have explored as a child.. In The Early Life, Hardy describes taking the family ‘big brass telescope’ to a hill on the heath behind the house to watch an execution nearly 3 miles distance; the roofs of the prison being then clearly visible: ‘The whole thing was so sudden that the glass nearly fell from Hardy’s hands. He seemed alone on the heath with the hanged man, and crept homeward wishing he had not been so curious’. The spot from which he watched the execution was here beside the pond; when there was an uninterrupted view towards Dorchester.
Near the pond is the Roman Road – this is an overgrown but well-preserved raised section of the road which ran from Dorchester (Durnovaria) to Salisbury and ultimately onto London.
The Roman Road is no longer a public right of way but rather a permissive route across the privately owned Duddle Heath. Nearby are bronze age Rainbarrows (burial spot).The Rainbarrows are three bowl barrows at the top of Duddle Heath on the edge of Puddletown Forest. They were partly excavated by Edward Cunnington in 1887 and the discovered urns containing cremations are now in the Dorset County Museum. Rainbarrows feature as locations in Hardy’s 1878 novel The Return of the Native and his poem The Sheep Boy.
The cottage is open between late March and October and is well worth a visit but please note that dogs will not be allowed.
This “cob and thatch” cottage, was built in 1800 by Hardy’s great-grandfather. Forty years later Thomas Hardy was born in the middle bedroom.
Despite training as an architect, writing was Hardy’s first love, and it was from his bedroom that he wrote ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ and ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’.
Inside the cottage you will discover a house that hasn’t changed much since it was built. It still has open hearths, small windows and stone floors. Hardy’s grandfather was involved in a small way with brandy smuggling and added a narrow opening in the porch to keep his eye open for the excisemen.
In September 2014 Hardy’ Visitor Centre opened which provides information, displays, family activities, a ranger workshop, café, shop and toilet facilities.