diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The county town of Dorset. A bit north of Weymouth. Quite a trek past Bournemouth. Not quite as far as Broadchurch. 120 miles from London. Dorchester.

Prehistoric settlement and fortress. Important Roman town, Durnovaria. Immortalised by Thomas Hardy as Casterbridge. Annexed by the Prince of Wales. Less than twenty thousand residents. Almost three hours from Waterloo. Twelve quid return. (Sorry, that last thing is only true until Friday)

Portland stone. A rising High Street. One surviving chunk of Roman wall. A giant annular neolithic henge near the skatepark. The courtroom in which the Tolpuddle Martyrs were tried. The River Frome. New posh converted Brewery quarter by the station. Victorian Borough Gardens. Waitrose, Lidl, Iceland.

So many museums. A Dinosaur Museum. A Teddy Bear Museum. A Tutankhamen Museum. Thankfully also a proper decent Dorset County Museum, best of the lot. The Keep Military Museum. Even a preserved Roman Town House round the back of County Hall. Plenty of heritage nectar.

Maiden Castle. A mile and a bit out of town. Largest hill fort in Britain. Over a mile round the perimeter. Dates back 5000 years. Natural twin-peaked plateau transformed by the addition of earthwork ramparts. Several deep concentric ditches for added defence. A short but challenging ascent from the car park. Sheep everywhere to keep the grass in check. Happy hoppity lambs gambolling on the slopes. Site of bloody Roman battle. Foundations of Roman temple remain. Excellent 360° views across rolling fields and narrow valleys.

Hardy's Cottage. National Trust. A couple of miles out of town (in the opposite direction). Village of Higher Bockhampton. Accessed up single track road. Car park fills fast on bank holidays. Ten minute woodland stroll to reach ticket kiosk. Bluebells. Cottage garden in full flower, plus immaculate vegetable patch. Black and white tabby keeping the mice down. Cob and thatch cottage. Thomas Hardy born within, 175 years ago next week. Lived with parents and several sisters. Wrote Far From The Madding Crowd in the small upstairs bedroom. On the edge of Puddletown Forest. Acidic heath with rhododendrons. Heard a strange hoot, saw a tawny owl in a tall tree, watched it flap off into deep woodland. Bank Holiday win.

Long tiring day. Home late. Twelve photos.

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