More Thomas Hardy

I went for a walk last week on the ridge above Abbotsbury. This Dorset village lies a few miles south-west of Dorchester (Hardy’s Casterbridge). From the ridgetop one can see for miles – west over Lyme Bay, north over the fertile fields of the Marshwood Vale, and south-east to the long strand of Chesil Beach (Pebble Bank), with the sea on one side and the swan-laden water of the Fleet on the other. Beyond it, the hump of Portland (the Isle of Slingers) and the town of Weymouth (Budmouth). It was a fine autumn day, and the views were splendid.

Surprisingly, I don’t think Hardy had a special name for Abbotsbury. It’s an interesting and picturesque village, with its ruined abbey, magnificent tithe barn and, just down the road, the swannery founded by the monks and still thriving today.

BBC TV did a new serialised version of “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” recently. I have to say I didn’t like it. The opening sequence, with a group of uniformly-pretty young ladies performing a sedate dance on a grassy hilltop seemed a million miles from Hardy’s description of a rustic village ritual, with as many old women as girls among the dancers. For me, it set the tone of the whole production: rather sanitised, lacking in Dorset earthiness – and with an unnecessarily lush musical background. Not one of the BBC’s best.

The picture shows the view of Abbotsbury we had as we climbed back up from the beach.

Abbotsbury village, Dorset

Abbotsbury village, Dorset

3 Responses to “More Thomas Hardy”

  1. 1 Charlie October 29, 2008 at 1:56 am

    As a high school English teacher in rural Maine USA, I’ve been exploring cyberspace for resources to support our study of Far From the Madding Crowd. I came upon your site in search of photography of “Wessex.” I’m sure I’ll return as I find it intriguing.

  2. 2 johnchap October 29, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Thanks for your comment, Charlie. I live near Sherborne (Hardy’s Sherton Abbas), and if there are any other Wessex locations you would like me to photograph and post I would be happy to do so. We were lunching the other day in Marnhull (Marlot – Tess’s birthplace). I’ll do some research on places associated with “Far from the Madding Crowd”.


  3. 3 Charlie October 31, 2008 at 11:50 pm


    Thanks for your response! We’ve just had a start on the study of the novel and welcome your interest. I’ve established a wiki which is in its early stages–

    I’m not sure where we’ll go with this, but I have a creative group of 12 that seems motivated at this point.

    I’ll keep you ‘posted.’



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