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Gallery of images of Dorset, Thomas Hardy's 'Wessex' in the south-west of England

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Through the photographs of Mike Morton

Follow the links to explore specific regions of Cumbria, and galleries of other images by Mike Morton

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In many respects the county of Dorset encapsulates everything we imagine when we think of England: sleepy villages with thatched cottages, duck ponds and ancient churches, rolling countryside criss-crossed with flower-filled hedgerows and quiet lanes, market towns steeped in history, mighty castles, country gardens, days at the seaside, cream teas and sunshine. It is the Wessex of Thomas Hardy, the backdrop for Enid Blyton's adventures, the prehistoric wonderland of Mary Anning and the birthplace of the English seaside resort. made popular by George III when he took to the waters of Weymouth.

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Click on the links to the left to explore each o these regions through the lens and with additional notes and tips for visitors. These pages contain galleries and may take a moment to load.

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UPDATED: 12/2013


New Galleries Added

West Cumbria:
Ehen / Esk / Irt

North Cumbria: Solway
South Lakes: Leven

Skye, Dorset

Dorset is a county of old stone bridges spanning rivers and water-meadows. Many of them still have cast iron signs like this one warning of deportation to the colonies for acts of wilful damage, or restrctions on 'steam traction locomotives.'

Quintessentially Hardy's Wessex - these images illustrate the backdrop to 'Tess of the D'Urrbevilles'. Top left is Gold Hill, Shaftesbury - the lights of the hill top town of 'Shaston' could be seen from the village of 'Marlott' (Marnhull) where Tess grew up in the 'Valley of the Little Dairies' (Blackmore Vale), still bathed in the evening sunshine in this view. To the left is Woolbridge Manor at Wool, the 'Wellbridge Manor' where Tess and Angel passed their ill-fated honeymoon. According to legend, on Christmas Eve, the spectral Turberville ghost rides over the Elizabethan arched bridge (see page header) that crosses the Frome in front of the manor. Bottom left is sunset over the Blackmore Vale from Melbury Hi;ll. To the right. a view of the River Frome meandering between water meadows near West Stafford. Again, this setting was much used by Hardy - he called the lush Frome Valley the 'Valley o the Great Dairies,' and summed it up with Angel Clare's return to the farm of Talbothays (located beyond the trees in the background):

"Immediately he began to descend from the upland to the fat alluvial soil below, the atmosphere grew heavier;
the languid perfume of the summer fruits, the mists, the hay, the flowers, formed therein a vast pool of odour
which at this hour seemed to make the animals, the very bees and butterflies drowsy."

Further views from Hardy's Valleys of the Great and Little Dairies: Top left is the Frome as it flows past Little Bockhampton through the water meadows towards West Stafford. Left is Newton Mill on the River Stour (Blackmore Vale) at Sturminster Newton ('Stourcastle'). The mill is now a fascinating museum, and the waterwheel here is horizontal rather than vertcal. Bottom right is the steeply cobbled, Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, familiar from the Hovis adverts. The last picture is of long shadows at the parish chuch of St Laurence in Affpuddle. Local place names round here seem to dwell on theme of rain or water, or how should I put it ... drainage! River Piddle, Puddletown, Piddletrenthide, Tolpuddle and so on!

The Jurassic Coast - World Heritage Site: this part of Dorset is perhaps the best known to most people. These pictures are all taken near Lulworth Cove, a spectacular part of the coastline which stretches from the Purbeck Hills, past Kimmeridge Bay to Weymouth. Top left is the familiar sea arch known as Durdle Door. Left, with a wild sea, are the high sea cliffs to the west of Durdle Door, rising up from the rather quaintly named Scratchy Bottom! Below left is a 'Stinking Iris' growing on the cliff top above Durdle Door. In the autumn the heads laden with orange seeds are equally eye-catching. To the right is Man of War Bay.

Most recollections of the Jurassic Coast are of warm, sunny days, a blue sky and equally blue, calm sea. It is not always like that as these dramatic photographes, taken in the winter attest. Top left is the view over St Catherine's Chapel at Abbotsbury to Chesil Beach and the Isle of Portland. Chesil Beach is a unique nine-mile long spit of pebbles often referred to as a text book example of longshore drift. Even from this distant vantage point the spray from the huges waves pounding the beach can clearly be discerned. To the left of the spit is the lagoon kbnown as the Fleet. The Abbotsbury end of the Fleet is well known for its extensive swannery. The picture to the right shows St George's Church at Reforne on the Isle of Portland and its rather spooky churchyard, especially when the marble slabs rise through the early morning mist. The church was built from Portland stone by local architect Thomas Gilbert, and inspired by Sir Christopher Wren. Below right waves are breaking over the old stone loading derricks and crane at Portland Bill during a winter storm. Storm clouds are also rolling across the final view of Chesil Beach and the distant Isle of Portland.

Two more views of Chesil Beach at the top. Old tales tell of fisherman and smugglers being able to tell where they had landed on the beach due to the size of the pebbles. They are graded right along the beach from large here at Chiswell, to much smaller at Abbotsbury at the western end of the spit. In the second view the boats are pulled up high above the breakers near the Cove House Inn at Chiswell. The pictures below are of fashionable Lyme Regis at the western end of the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. It ws here that local archaeologist Mary Anning uncovered the first fossilised skeleton of an Icthyosaurus and made fossil collecting popular. The lamp standards on the seafront represent ammonites.

A Doset Miscellany: Top left is the River Frome flowing from Dorchester in the background. The county town was Casterbridge to Hardy who lived nearby at Max House. His heart is burried in the family grave in Stinsford churchyard, just downstream of this view. fertile land of the Frome Valley. Top right is a statue in the graveyard of St George's Church on the Isle of Portland. Bottom left a stormy sea is breaking over 'The Cobb' at Lyme Regis. This old breakwater was made famous by Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant's Woman, though Lyme Regis and the Cobb were also featured in Jane Austen's 'Persuasion'. The peak in the background is Golden Cap, the highst point on the Jurassic Coast. Right is the current lighthouse at Portland Bill.


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