Our friends Dave and Chris, who are currently visiting, are Thomas Hardy fans and so this Hardy walk seemed to be the ideal entertainment. We started from the National Trust car park near Hardy's Cottage and walked through some pleasant woodland to find the cottage itself. Hardy was born in 1840 in the cottage, which was built by his grandfather.
Just behind the cottage is a memorial to Hardy erected by a group of American admirers in 1931.
We then walked along a track to reach Rushey Pond, the subject of Hardy's poem At Rushey Pond.
The route then takes us uphill to suddenly emerge onto Duddle Heath, with a lovely view ahead. This was Egdon Heath in Hardy's Wessex.
We continue through woodland and fields to cross a road at Norris Mill Farm and then across more fields to reach Bridge Cottage. This was a pretty cottage, with a lightly false looking quasi-Georgian porch. We crossed the delightful bridge over Dorset's other river, the Frome (we have been walking the valley of the Stour).
Now we walked along a really lovely riverside path for over half a mile before forking right to reach Stinsford and the 13th century St Michael's church.
The churchyard is the site of the Hardy graves: Thomas Hardy's heart is buried here (his body is in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey) alongside those of parents and two wives. Nearby is the grave of another Poet Lauriate, Cecil Day Lewis.
Inside, there is some nice stained glass and a beautiful Saxon relief of St Michael, a bit decayed, which once was on the exterior of the church.
It remained only to walk through the Kingston Maurwood Agricultural College and along the road to find a path across open country back to Higher Bockhampton.
Conditions: dull, cool, some rain.
Distance: said to be 5 miles, but seemed less.
Map: Explorer 117 (Cerne Abbas and Bere Regis).
From: 50 walks in Dorset (AA books).
Rating: four stars.