Thorncombe Woods at Hardy's Cottage
Thorncombe Woods is a magical pocket of mixed woodland that gives way to Black Heath and Rushy Pond, famed for inspiring the work of Thomas Hardy.
The 26 hectare mixed woodland and heath site has a great diversity of trees including mature oaks, sweet chestnut and beech. It also boasts a small hazel coppice, home to the much loved dormouse.
The central wood is home to giant beech trees that stretch out their limbs casting cool shade in the summer and littering the forest floor with a crunchy carpet of beech nuts in late autumn. The sweet chestnut to the north twist skyward amongst a mass of spiky leaved holly trees whilst the hazel coppice on the southern tip is known by locals to be the first spot in the wood to burst with bluebells in the spring.
A wildlife haven
Amongst the flora creatures great and small go about their secret lives. Dormice, bats, butterflies and a huge variety of song birds and raptors all take up residence in the wood. Although elusive, a walk through the wood comes alive with the noises, sights and smells of all the woodland animals. Wildlife is messy so be sure to look out for evidence of their presence such as a chewed pine cone or hollowed hazel nut.
Steeped in history, a well preserved fragment of the Roman Road that would once have run from Dorchester to Badbury Rings in the East connects Thorncombe wood to Black Heath. Here, through spring and summer, you will discover pink hued heathers and sweetly scented gorse.
An important watering hole for wildlife and the resident Dartmoor ponies, Rushy Pond buzzes with dragonflies and damselflies, whilst the pond’s surface is often disturbed by a newt surfacing for air or a grass snake on the hunt.
Explore further afield
Perfectly situated in rural Dorset, Thorncombe Wood and Black Heath are only a small part of the beautiful landscape that inspired Thomas Hardy. With paths to Puddletown Forest and Dorchester along the local rights of way, it is easy to take your adventure that little bit further.
Thorncombe Wood and Black Heath are managed by Dorset Countryside.