Monday, 30 November -0001

Thomas Hardy country

Looking to get far from the madding crowd? Enjoy the scenic beauty of Thomas Hardy country

Written by Wendy Gomersall
We all love a costume drama, particularly one that features stunning British countryside. Now, after Cornwall’s appearance in Poldark, the spotlight moves to beautiful Dorset thanks to a new, big-screen version of the Thomas Hardy classic, Far From The Madding Crowd.

Carey Mulligan stars as the headstrong, independent Bathsheba Everdene in Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s take on the story, in cinemas from 1 May.

Having inherited an estate, Bathsheba needs no husband to survive, but nevertheless has three suitors: exciting Sergeant Francis Troy (played by Tom Sturridge), mature and wealthy William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) and reliable Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts). So who will she choose?

The Šfifth star of the show is Dorset itself. ‘Shooting on location was a necessity,’ says Vinterberg. ‘The landscapes are so important to these characters and to the whole feeling of the story. We had to come here and get the real thing.’

Travel-May01-02-590Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene

And, of course, it was the real thing – the dramatic countryside and coastline, sheep farms, elegant towns, pretty villages of Wessex – that inspired the story in the Šfirst place. Indeed, there was even a ‘real’ Bathsheba upon whom Hardy based the wild and impulsive female character.

Visitor attractions with direct links to Thomas Hardy include Dorset County Museum, where you can see three of the costumes worn by Carey Mulligan in the new Šfilm. There is also a reconstruction of the author’s study and personal artefacts – manuscripts, notebooks, a watch – most of which were bequeathed to the museum by his wife, Florence Hardy.

While you are here, pick up a copy of the Thomas Hardy Society’s excellent Far From The Madding Crowd tour map and guide, only 50p, which takes in Puddletown (fictional Weatherby) and Dorchester (Casterbridge). The society also runs special events and walks: 01305-251501,

There are two sites not to be missed. Hardy’s Cottage in Higher Bockhampton is where the author was born 175 years ago this June. And there’s a visitor centre and cafe a short walk from the cottage. 

Travel-May01-03-590Hardy’s cottage near Dorchester

Max Gate in Alington Avenue, Dorchester, is the home Hardy himself designed in 1885. Both are National Trust properties:

You’ll need at least five days to take in the major Hardy sites, so why not find a holiday home in the heart of the Wessex countryside in which to stay? Premier Cottages’ collection includes four- and five-star selfcatering cottages, some pet-friendly and some with onsite facilities such as swimming pool, gym, spa, games room and children’s play area.

Now the company has teamed up with Fox Searchlight Pictures to offer a range of properties situated close to the filming locations.

These include Durdle Door, Sydling St Nicholas church, Sherborne Abbey Close (aka Casterbridge Square) and Mapperton, where the sets of Bathsheba Everdene’s farm and Gabriel’s cottage were created.

In Hampton, West Dorset, for example, you’ll find Swallows, a wonderfully comfortable converted barn in a idyllic location, with two double bedrooms with ensuite bathroom or shower room. Sleeping four adults, one small, well-behaved dog can be brought along too at an extra charge.

There is a cosy beamed central living/dining area with a wood-burning stove, a fully equipped kitchen and French doors that open onto a large secure garden, with a patio with table and chairs for al fresco dining.

Travel-May01-04-590Gemma Arterton as Tess of the D’Urbervilles in the TV mini-series

You’ll find the property tucked away far from the madding crowd at the end of a mile-long, tree-lined drive in a delightful secluded rural location just five miles from Dorchester, 10 miles from Weymouth and close to many of the coves and beaches of the beautiful Jurassic Coast.

Swallows can be booked with neighbouring Dove House, which sleeps 13 people in seven en-suite bedrooms and has a fabulous indoor heated swimming pool and separate games room.

Both properties are surrounded by mile upon mile of the wonderful Wessex countryside that Thomas Hardy adored.

Getting there
A week’s stay at Swallows in Dorset for up to four people costs from £475 or short breaks from £350. or
Contact Wendy at
Prices are correct at the time of going to press.

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