Thursday, 4 June 2009

Thomas Hardy Country

I went to the Golden Cap in Dorset back in May, and the views over the Dorset countryside were stunning.

Thursday, 14 May 2009


The first time I went to Stonehenge was when the Tess of the d'Urbervilles TV series finished. At the end of the story, Tess and Angel go on the run and they are finally caught by the police at Stonehenge, where Tess is sleeping. Having read the novel as well I am convinced Tess is supposed to be a nature goddess.

It is the most famous prehistoric monument in Europe, if not the world, and there are always many tourists from all over the world who have come to see it. There has been much controversy over its future and the plans to build a new visitor centre.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Cobb, Lyme Regis

It's a wonky pier!

The Cobb in Lyme Regis has 13th century origins, although it was rebuilt in the 19th century. This is Daphne Du Maurier country and it features in the French Lieutenant's Woman (movie). I loved walking along the Cobb. It also in one of Jane Austen's novels, where one of her characters has an accident by falling off. It must have been built shortly before she was writing so would have been very popular in her day. Walking along it makes you feel like Jane Austen. You can imagine lots of elegant Georgian ladies taking the sea air and trying not to get their dresses splashed by the waves, which constantly come over the top, as is inevitable on such a curious piece of architecture. Lyme Regis itself is peaceful and exceptionally beautiful.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Arabella's Cottage

This week I went to Letcombe Bassett, a village near Wantage which is called Cresscombe in Thomas Hardy's novel Jude the Obscure. It was genuinely old fashioned. I went to the Vale & Downland museum. I also spoke to a villager who pointed me in the direction of Arabella's Cottage by the watercress beds and told me, "it was where he came undone".

I have not yet read this novel but I am now intrigued and I'm going to watch the DVD of Jude this weekend.

The cottage appears to be surrounded by the watercress beds. The AA walking book says, "Arabella's cottage is where Jude, hiking over the downs, stumbles on his future wife washing pigs chitterlings in the local stream.She attracts Jude's attention by lobbing part of the pig at him, signalling the beginning of Jude's downfall."

Apparently Jonathan Swift also visited Letcombe Bassett in 1714 and spent his time writing under a mulberry tree in the Rectory garden.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Barley Mow in Clifton Hampden

"Round Clifton Hampden, itself a wonderfully pretty village, old-fashioned, peaceful, and dainty with flowers, the river scenery is rich and beautiful. If you stay the night on land at Clifton, you cannot do better than put up at the ‘Barley Mow’. It is, without exception, I should say, the quaintest, most old-world inn up the river. It stands on the right of the bridge, quite away from the village. Its low-pitched gables and thatched roof and latticed windows give it quite a story-book appearance, while inside it is even still more once-upon-a-timeyfied…" Jerome K Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (1889)

The Barley Mow is only about 2 miles from where I live, so it is almost my local pub. Yesterday we went there and had a lovely meal. The pub is situated by the river, in some very picturesque scenery so afterwards we went for a walk across the bridge to visit the church. The pub was made famous by Jerome K Jerome in his book Three Men in Boat. Jerome K Jerome is definitely one of my favourite authors, I enjoyed Three Men in a Boat and I am looking forward to reading Three Men on the Brummel, which is about their bicycle journey through the Black Forest. I have also bought the Ash Tree Press anthology of his ghost stories.

Of course we had to visit the church because as Jerome says in the book, it was traditional in Victorian times when you were in a new town to rush to the graveyard and try to find the oldest grave. We couldn't do this as some were oblitered with time and erosion but we found the grave of William Dyke, who fired the first shot in the battle of Waterloo by accident. We spent some time searching for this grave until we found I was standing in front of it (a comedic incident worthy of the book itself?).

Inside the church was very quaint with many interesting features, the best of which was a 12th century sculpture of a boar hunt, which had apparently been found during renovation work of the church and was now built into one of the walls.

Friday, 13 March 2009


This week I visited Stratford and saw the Shakespeare houses. I visited four of them, but I was most impressed with Anne Hathaway's cottage. The cottage is outside of Stratford in a very peaceful area and the gardens are everything you would expect of the perfect cottage garden. I even bought some of the flowers for my mother which had been potted for people to take home.

There is now a woodland walk there new for 2009. I am going back in the summer when the flowers will be in full bloom. The Shakespeare houses in the town were fascinating as well, although there was much traffic and some crowds. I saw Shakespeare's birthplace and did a guided tour of the house, where I saw the glove making which was his father's profession. Most of the Shakespeare houses have interesting gardens with knot gardens and a wide variety of flowers. I also visited Holy Trinity Church and saw Shakespeare's grave. It would appear that Shakespeare has put a "curse" on his own grave, as there is a warning to those who would move his bones. I paid £1.50 to enter the part of the church where the grave is, at first I wasn't sure about paying money in a house of God, although in retrospect I feel reassured that this money is going towards the upkeep of the church in accordance with Shakespeare's wishes. Shakespeare's entire family, his wife and children, are buried inside the church.

Sunday, 8 March 2009


I set off intending to visit the Barley Mow, which was featured in Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat. I was going to walk along the Thames, but it was raining so I sought refuge in Dorchester Abbey. I like this abbey I think the archicture and history of the area is amazing.

I started out by having a pint and lunch in the 15th century coaching inn The George Hotel, which is opposite the abbey lych gate. DH Lawrence has visited this inn. The bar staff were very polite and it was a very cosy pub.
I think the best time to visit Dorchester Abbey is in the summer when the flowers in the cloister gardens are in full bloon. The scent of the roses and other flowers makes it a wonderful place to be and to sit in the gardens for peace and quiet.

I went to visit the grave of Sarah Fletcher, who is said to be our local ghost.

Abbeys and cathedrals are of course more opulent than our local churches although one cannot fail to be impressed by some of the artistry in the stained glass windows and some of the ancient architecture.

There are some ancient mediaeval tombs of knights inside the abbey

My favourite part of the abbey is the colourful wall with what looks like a pre raphaelite mural. I have asked and this is not pre raphaelite however it was painstakingly restored from lots of little pieces which had to be removed and reassembled.

There was a plaque which said one of the windows has been restored by American friends of the abbey.

The Abbey has its own cloister museum which displays artefacts from the archaeology around the abbey. The abbey has origins in Saxon times, and the cloister museum displays pieces of stone work from all the different eras beginning with early English and romanesque.

original mediaeval door

The cloister gardens are to the rear of the abbey and feel quite secluded, with seats and a view over the river where you can see wildfowl.