Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Hardy Country

Sunday morning, everybody was up and dressed. Even the washing up had been completed. Obviously it was to be a day to get out somewhere new to us. A quick flick through the National Trust book pointed us in the direction of Hardy country.

I confess to never having read any of Thomas Hardy's books but this doesn't stop me from being interested in where he came from. My young boys had a very different opinion, complete uninterest in going anywhere. But this is always the case so off we went, whinging boys ignored.

Hardy's cottage was our first location, just a little outside of Dorchester. It is an enchanting place with it's exuberant yet slightly wild cottage garden. No photo's but there are plenty of these available on-line. S loved it. From the car park there is a short walk up a lane or a slightly more rambling one through a wood - guess which one we had to do! We eventually made it to the picturesque cottage where S proceeded to race round the garden. Talking to the staff we discovered that the woodland was only planted following the first world war, trying to picture the cottage not surrounded by this was pretty tough. The building itself is thought to have been built around the 1800's which surprised me, I had guessed it to be much older. It was built by Thomas Hardy's grandfather. Whilst it appears to be quite humble I had to remind myself that by the standards of the day it was a generous property.

After a quick pit-stop in Tescos, we proceeded to the second site, Max Gate. This was a home designed by Hardy himself and he lived here until his death. My boys were given the go ahead to touch whatever they did, and they did with gusto. Unlike the cottage that had been simply furnished this property was full of knick-knacks and paraphernalia suitable to the period. My eldest has had a vague interest in typewriters for a little while, it is now a full blown love affair thanks to the two he tried out here. I see that I am going to have to keep my eyes open for a small one for his own use. The gardens were a little disappointing from a design point of view but I enjoyed the echinops, the bees were all over these. And I always appreciate a good vegetable patch.

S's highlight of the day was finding a hedgehog. We had been warned that there were several rescued ones in the garden and very recently three babies that didn't seem to appreciate the difference between night and day. The young one that we came across seemed to have a homing beacon for boys as it kept heading straight for them.

I have to say that the staff at both properties were absolutely wonderful, very happy to engage with us and had no problem at all with clumsy fingers belonging to boys. We have been to quite a few National Trust properties now and I have not always found the staff so generous, indeed some can be quite off-putting.  I appreciate that part of the reason is because neither building is dressed in it's original fittings though they are sensitively arranged with furniture of the correct period/style. But I think that the main reason was simply because they were lovely people.

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