Hardy's Wessex

If you have been inspired by the work of Thomas Hardy then it is most likely that you have been inquisitively drawn, like so many before you, to seek and experience the locations described in his novels, short stories and poems.

Thomas Hardy chose to set most of his work in an area he called 'Wessex', the name of one of the ancient Saxon kingdoms of England. The area covers mainly the South and West of the country. Here you can visit Hardy's fictional settings such as 'Christminster', the Oxford of today, or 'Melchester', which is Salisbury, with its famous cathedral spire.

'South Wessex' has been closely identified with the county of Dorset and it is here that you find the very heart of Hardy Country. You can follow in the family's footsteps to the place of his birth at Bockhampton, or visit Max Gate where he wrote some of his greatest works. You can stroll, cycle or drive along highways and byways, footpaths and river walks, tracing the route of the 'Mellstock Quire' as in the novel Under the Greenwood Tree, climbing up to 'Rainbarrow' as Eustacia Vye did in The Return of the Native, or visiting 'Shaston', overlooking the Vale of Blackmoor, where Sue and Phillotson lived at Old-Grove Place in Jude the Obscure.

There are so many places that feature in Hardy's works that you could spend a week or more reading poems or passages from novels in exactly the places Hardy describes, and in fact many people do. Some of these sites are open to conjecture, but you can decide for yourself which spot Hardy is describing.

As many people come from all over the world to experience the literature of Thomas Hardy and the landscape he describes, and few have as much time as they would perhaps wish, the Society has published tours and trails of the individual novels and poems with biographical detail. We hope these will assist your study or visit and help you to enjoy the Hardy experience to the full.

Whilst visiting you will find the heart of Hardy Country is itself very beautiful. A large part has been designated an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The 95-mile stretch of coastline from Studland in Dorset to Exmouth in East Devon forms England's first Natural World Heritage Site. Along this coast is Hardy's 'Knollsea', 'Lulwind or Lulstead Cove', 'Budmouth','Gibraltar of Wessex' or ' The Isle of Slingers', 'Abbotsea' and 'Port Bredy'.

We hope you enjoy your visit and please let us know if we can do anything to help make your exploration of Hardy's Wessex a memorable one.

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