Being located in a typical English landscape of hills and dales, meadows, pastures and the Thames meandering through it, Dorchester makes an ideal base for a little hike along the river. Leave the village via Bridge End and Wittenham Lane, passing some beautifully flowering gardens, and you will reach the meadows south of the village. Walk straight on until you have reached the Thames. Turn right and follow the Thames Path upstream towards Days Lock. There is a beautiful little footbridge and a nice place to sit on the grass and watch the ships go through the lock. Cross the meadow behind you and walk along the path between the small dikes. In the distance, you can see an Iron Age fort in the Sinodun Hills. Follow the path until you reach the village again.
Dorchester Abbey is one of the oldest Christian places of worship of England. In 635, King Cynegils of Wessex was baptised by the missionary Birinus who was later given land by the king to build a church on. More than 1300 years ago, there already was a church on this site. It was thriving for a few hundred years, but later sank into oblivion. Only in 1140, a monastery was founded on the same site. In order to make their monastery more important, the monks claimed to have found the bones of Birinus. The clever coup worked and pilgrims travelled to Dorchester in abundance. With the extra income from them, the abbey could be enlarged, but was dissolved later under the reign of Henry VIII. In the 16th century, only a shabby small church was left of the formerly thriving abbey. Nowadays, after several decades of restorations, the church is fine again - and definitely worth a visit when you are around. Make sure to also stop at the little herb garden in the backyard.
Built on the site of two earlier Saxon cathedrals, little remains of this important and once prosperous Augustinian priory. However, the existing abbey church dates from around 1140, and is full of interesting bits and pieces. It is well worth exploring, and has its own little museum.
More details of the abbey's history on my Dorchester page.
The Maumbury Rings is a semi-circular set of earth works located in south Dorchester, Dorset. The original construction was likely completed around 2500 BC. Their original purpose remains unknown. When the Romans occupied the area, they modified the rings to form an amphitheatre. Their handiwork, though slightly changed in the 17th century, is what you see today.
The Rings are publicly accessible at no charge. The locals use the area as a public park, mostly. You can see young couples and dogs out for walkies and teenagers up to no good. Weather permitting, the Maumbury Rings would make a perfect picnic spot.
What stands today may look like a big grassy hill, but 2500 years ago it was the largest hill fort in all of Europe. As you walk along its slopes and bumps, the sheer size of it is mind-boggling, as you must remind yourself that this massive hill was constructed by hand - bucket after bucket!
I spent the balance of a rainy afternoon exploring the place. It's a good hike that can be accomplished by those without much endurance. Mind the sheep dung - they hide among clumps of grass.
Brie and I went together to the Hardy sites in Dorchester. It was wonderful to share with her my "experiences" with the Hardy novels. Our train ride to Dorchester was qually satisfying. I finally saw the "Heath" Hardy constantly wrote about in his novels.
The Dorset County Museum holds many artifacts that belonged to Thomas Hardy. A room was designed exactly how his house in Max Point is furnished with his original desks, chairs, pens, books, etc.. What an exciting moment for me to see the very pens he used to write "Tess" and "Jude, theObscure"...two of my favorite novels that he wrote. My girlfriend and I sat next to Thomas Hardy's bed chair.
My girlfriend and I visited Dorset County, the birthplace of my all time favorite author, Thomas Hardy. His novels are an inspiration to me ever since I saw the film, "Tess of the Durbervilles". I then read his other powerful novels, "Return of the Native" and "The Mayor of Casterbridge." But what influenced my way of thinking most of all is his final novel, "Jude, the Obscure". This book is like a compass for me in how I see the world. In most of his novels, Thomas Hardy's scenic descriptions of the Wessex countryside, the night skies, and the great Egdon Heath, these mysterious place lasts forever in one's imagination.
This monument was erected by American Admirers and is next to the Hardy Birthplace. It is a quiet place and one can reflect on the life and works of this great novelist and poet.