Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Writer's block – 3 July 2011

It's impossible to sleep in, in a tent. So we were up at 7, and ready with our boots on at 7.45, for a walk along the Heritage Coast. But sadly, as we threw the loose items in the car boot, this included the car keys. Owning an MG sports car, we have been very aware of the problems this would cause, as there is no internal release, and an engine between the car and the boot, so no way of breaking through. Fortunately the AA have a trick up their sleeves for this situation, the sad part was they took three hours to turn up. So Murray had to wait patiently for them to arrive, where there was cell phone coverage, while Christine had a mini walk along the coastal path, returning a full hour before the AA turned up.

It was a quick ten minute job once he arrived, and we were on our way in the sunshine just after 10 o'clock. The morning seemed to feature Thomas Hardy. We started in Dorchester, which he knew well and featured (renamed) in novels. Nearby is the tiny hamlet of Stinsford, where his heart is buried in the churchyard. A short distance north is the cottage, in isolated woodland, where Hardy was born and grew up; surrounded by a lovely cottage garden, the small cottage was a real step into the past.

Driving north from here, we visited a very different style of house. Athlehampton House was built in 1485, by a Lord Mayor of London. It is still a private house today, and open to the public. The gardens are Grade 1 listed, and really wonderful to enjoy on a summer's day. They are obviously really old too, with wonky fountains and great formal clipped yews. The house is equally impressive, starting in a great hall, it all oozes history.

We passed many picturesque country towns, and visited a number of interesting churches. The best would have to be Bere Regis, with it's box pews, balcony for the church band, old tombs and texts on the walls.

Continuing south, we planned to walk around Lulworth Cove, but called into Clouds Hill on the way to visit the tiny country home of TE Lawrence. Famous as 'Lawrence of Arabia' and author of the 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom', Lawrence suffered a breakdown and came to live here and work at the Army Tank Corps nearby. The house had few amenities, but Lawrence found it a haven and set about making it liveable in the style which suited him. We found it very interesting. It was very close by that he had his fatal motorbike accident in 1933.

Lulworth Castle is very near the Cove, and a very different castle to visit, as it was totally gutted by fire in 1929. The stark interior is now a wedding venue, and available to visit. A circular staircase has been installed in a tower, and leads to the roof, with great views. Near the castle is a chapel which is the first free-standing Catholic chapel built after the reformation.

Lulworth Cove is said to have been formed by glacial runoff in the Ice Age. It is a perfectly circular bay, which appears to be a natural harbour, but never seems to have been exploited as a fishing harbour.

From here, there was just one last stop at Whitcombe Church to see medieval wall paintings. We found these, but also were fascinated that they genuinely had 'bats in their belfry'!

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