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28 October 2014

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You are in: Dorset > History > Local History > Sturminster Newton walk

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy

Sturminster Newton walk

Thomas Hardy is well known for his connections to the South West - but his days living in Sturminster Newton were among his happiest.  Here are details of a walk around a Dorset town that he found truly inspirational.

Sturminster Newton Walk

  • Great car parking and easy access to shops and refreshments.
  • It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to walk the whole loop.
  • In places, the walk covers steep, rough ground. 
  • Be prepared for mud on wet days and don’t try and get a buggy or pushchair through the styles, gate posts and narrow tracks.

Thomas Hardy described the 21 months he lived in Sturminster Newton with his new bride Emma as 'idyllic'.

While he was living here, he wrote Return Of The Native. He and his wife worked very much as a team - he would do the imagining, Emma would do the note taking! 

They'd not long been married and this was their first real home. They spent 100 pounds on furniture - a huge amount in those days - and there's no doubting that the village and Hardy's time here left quite an impression.

Though hardy used made up names when talking about real places, there are many references to the area to be found in his writings. The landscape of Tess Of The D'Urbervilles is meant to be based on the local surroundings, even if it was more as Hardy remembered them than how it really was!

The River Stour

The River Stour

Walk details

The walk is not so well known, but it would have been a route that Hardy himself would have taken many times during his stay in Sturminster Newton. 

It begins at the Recreation Ground.  There's a car park and it's just by the village centre, so shops and refreshments are all nearby.

The old railway bridge Hardy used to use

The old railway bridge Hardy used to use

Set out along the pathway on the right hand side of the playing fields.  As you approach the trees at the end of the field, you'll see two houses to your right.  This is the building that was home to Hardy for almost two years. 

It is a private home today, but as you walk through the swing gate and onto the track that heads down to the river, you'll be able to see the plaque that commemorates Hardy’s stay.

Follow the footpath down the hill - careful, it can get a little slippery here - and turn left at the bottom.  Head over the white footbridge from where you can see the ruins of the railway bridge that kept hardy in touch with the literary world of the capital.

From here you can follow the footpath signs, through the fields and on towards the Manor. Hardy would have had a grand view of the building when he was living here and it’s rumoured that its surroundings may have influenced scenes he visualised in his later writings.

From the Manor area, again follow the footpath signs which take you towards the Mill.  It is documented that hardy and his wife Emma walked up to the mill - so you really have been walking in their footsteps.  From here it's back to the footpath and back to the recreation ground.

last updated: 19/03/2008 at 12:46
created: 24/08/2006

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