A walk in Hardy's footsteps

Thorncombe Woods in its autumnal beauty

Hardy loved nature, and when walking through Thorncombe Woods, it is easy to imagine a young Thomas walking through the trees, stick in hand, navigating the area he knew so well.

" To dwellers in a wood almost every tree has its voice as well as its feature"
- 'Under the Greenwood Tree', Thomas Hardy

Nature Child

Not everyone was able to traverse the woodland like Hardy did.  He knew the area inside out, due to constant adventures in “his playground” as he rcalled it, taking time to observe as many animals as he could - he was a real nature lover. Those who did not know the area like he did would frequently end up lost!

Enjoy a walk in Hardy's footsteps 

Thorncombe Woods are managed by Dorset County Council. There are several trails and walks for you to enjoyDownload your 'Walking Hardy's Landscape' trail or our child-friendly 'Discovery' trail.

For a quick dose of nature

The pink path is a short route, taking approximately 15 minutes to walk. It goes through the heart of the woodland, and up to the gate of the orchard, which descends to the entrance of the gardens to the cottage.

For a bit more adventure

The blue path is a longer route, taking approximately 35 minutes to complete. This path has a larger variation in the journey, covering different terrains. It starts in the woodlands, where it proceeds over the original roman road, before going past Rushy Pond, which is a small watering hole that is home to a host of different wildlife, such as birds, mammals and dragonflies, which may make an appearance. It also has a view of the surrounding heathlands. This path then joins at the top of the orchard, where the descent begins to the gate of the gardens, and the entrance to the property.

Look out for...

Look out for the group of Dartmoor ponies that frequent the woods and heathlands, as well as the deer. Whilst descending the orchard, take a moment to stop at the bench half way down and take in the view of the cottage and the garden. It is a lovely view point, perfect for a rest for weary legs, or a point for contemplation or inspiration.

Woodland poetry walks

Explore the landscape of Thomas Hardy's imagination by booking onto a guided walk through Thorncombe Woods. The walk includes poetry and novel extracts along the way linked to Hardy’s landscape. This walk is led by our knowledgeable National Trust volunteers and can vary in length from 40 minutes to 1 hour depending on your preference. Available to book by appointment only by emailing hardyscottage@nationaltrust.org.uk

There is no minimum number of people required to make a booking. We can arrange walks for one person or for groups of up to 40 people.

There is no charge for the walk but donations are welcomed.

For the walking connoisseur

Hardy attended school first in Lower Bockhampton and then in Dorchester. His daily walk went across the Kingston Maurward estate and then followed the Frome river. On this long walk, the young Hardy would imagine characters from his favourite books chasing behind him and once even came across some smugglers attempting to look nonchalant. In later life, Hardy walked weekly from Max Gate to Hardy's Cottage.

Retrace his steps with our two 'Walkabouts' routes, visiting either his later home, Max Gate, or visiting Dorset County Museum to see many of his original manuscripts and belongings.

Download the route from Kingston Maurward to Hardy's Cottage, and Kingston Maurward to Max Gate/Dorset County Museum.

Enjoy your walk in Hardy’s footsteps.