Hardy’s Haunts

Earlier this year, GTO Jean McGarry set up Group – Garden Holidays. She reports back from a four-day trip to Dorset and Somerset with 38 members, organised with the help of Motts/Crusader Holidays.

‘The holiday, based in Weymouth at the Crown Hotel, which overlooks the fishing harbour,
took in visits to Thomas Hardy’s birthplace in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset and to the
nearby home he designed at Max Gate in 1885. At Hardy’s birthplace we enjoyed a
lovely poetry and discovery guided walk through the adjoining woodland and the garden at Max Gate was very much as it was in his day.

Saturday’s highlight was Forde Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery in Chard and now privately owned. There, our tour around the house was guided with lots of insights into its art and architecture, but we explored the magnificent gardens, with the tallest powered fountain in England, at our leisure. On Sunday we started at the Tudor era Athelhampton House in Dorchester – Hardy was a frequent visitor – and where the Gardens were a complete contrast to those at the Abbey before going to the village of Moreton and to St Nicholas Church, which is famous for a window by Lawrence Whistler and as the burial place of Lawrence of Arabia.

During the journey home to Oxfordshire on Monday we called at Abbotsbury subtropical gardens and much enjoyed seeing the rare and exotic plants as well as views of the Jurassic Coast from the top of a steep magnolia lined walk. It was a great break and we enjoyed several delicious afternoon teas!’