At Easter 2023 I spent a few days cycling in Dorset, exploring a few of my favourite places in the south of the county. Here is the first of a short series of articles on the each of the rides.
On Good Friday I headed out east to explore some of the county’s literary and artistic associations.
Click here to view the route on Komoot
I was staying in Weymouth almost in the centre of the Dorset coast. Heading east also meant that the ride was mostly flat once I have climbed out of the seaside resort.
Once I had climbed out of the town and cycled past ancient burial mounds that mark the horizon including the mysterious Culliford Tree, I descended to the village of Broadmayne. After that I bowled along undulating country lanes past water meadows alongside the River Frome until I reached Moreton.
The church at Moreton is renowned for the glass in its windows. The original stained glass windows were destroyed by a bomb during the Second World War. The glass engraver, Lawrence Whistler, was commisssioned to create a series of new windows. They were all installed over a thirty year period from the 1950s, bar one. Whistler created an extra window called “Forgiveness” which features Judas Iscariot hanging from a tree, the gold coins he was given falling from his hands. It was only in 2014 that this window was installed.
Moreton is also known as the last resting place of T.E. Lawrence or Lawrence of Arabia who, at the time of his death was stationed at the nearby army camp at Bovington. Lawrence was also an author, his most famous work was “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”.
After Moreton I took another route back across the water meadows. On the way I paused at a roadside farm building. In Hardy’s novel, “Return of the Native” it stood in as The Quiet Woman, Damon Wildeve’s inn. Across the road in Hardy’s imagination stretched Egdon Heath and upon it the Rainbarrow where Eustacia Vye spied on him until she went off him for Clym Yeobright, the returning native.
After West Stafford I passed another literary landmark; Whitcombe Church. Everyone knows Thomas Hardy as the Dorset poet but there was another poet writing at almost the same time who could also claim that title. His name was William Barnes and much of his poetry was written in the Dorset dialect. As well as a poet he was also a Church of England and he used to preach at this tiny church.
Here are a few lines from one of his poems (his last poem written in Dorset dialect a few days before he died):
An’ oft do come a saddened hour
When there must goo away
One well-beloved to our heart’s core,
Vor long, perhaps vor aye:
An’ oh! it is a touchen thing
The loven heart must rue,
To hear behind his last farewell
The geate a-vallen to.William Barnes “The Geate A Vallen to”
And if you would like to hear it read, click here