Thorncombe Woods and Hardy's Cottage Walk
This walk visits Thorncombe Woods, Duddle Heath and Thomas Hardy's cottage, near Dorchester. It's a lovely area for a stroll with miles of woodland trails, a pretty pond and decent views from the elevated heathland area. There's also lots of wildlife to look out for including Dartmoor ponies, deer and various woodland birds.
Start the walk from the car park at the National Trust Hardy's Birthplace Visitor Centre in Higher Brockampton. Take time to explore the centre before you start the walk. It contains interesting displays about the life and works of Thomas Hardy and his connection to the local landscape.
From the centre it is a short walk to Hardy's Cottage where the author was born in 1840. The delightful cob and thatch cottage is where he wrote some of his classic novels including 'Under the Greenwood Tree' and 'Far from the Madding Crowd'. The house is surrounded by lovely gardens where you can enjoy a pleasant stroll before a longer walk in the adjacent woods.
The paths head south east from the cottage onto Duddle Heath, passing the pretty Rushy Pond on the way. There is an undulating path on the heath with splendid views over the landscapes which would have inspired much of Hardy's writing.
After exploring the heath the route then returns to the car park on more peaceful woodland trails.
The woods form part of the expansive Puddletown Forest. You can extend your walking on miles of trails here.
Athelhampton House is not far from the woods. Here you can explore the beautiful parkland and gardens surrounding the 15th century Athelhampton House