Safeguarding Hardy's Heritage
Dorset is a very special county, not least because of its association with the life and times of Thomas Hardy, who took his inspiration from the towns and villages and open country around Dorchester and beyond, and whose story is still there to be seen by the interested visitor.
But how much longer will the area around his birthplace, where he is buried and around all those places featured in his writings – including Egdon Heath - remain if we do not take steps to ensure their survival? As our President Lord Fellowes has said “How much longer will the villages of Hardy's early years, or the views that greeted him as a world-famous author, how much longer will any of this survive, if the area does not wake up to the great responsibility of protecting these sites so that they may be enjoyed by future generations? Hardy would surely want us to conserve and enhance these very special places and the cultural heritage that is entwined in our landscapes and communities, and so should we all….We have a duty to protect his story and look after and pass on to future generations what we should all hold so dear.”
Currently much of this heritage is unprotected. That is a major reason why The Thomas Hardy Society fully supports the proposal for a Dorset National Park. We are particularly interested in preserving Hardy’s landscape, raising awareness and encouraging heritage and cultural tourism and appreciation of Hardy’s landscapes and the town of Dorchester, as well as what remains of ‘Egdon Heath. The towns of Portland and Sturminster Newton, which are currently outside the current AONB protected area but have strong Hardy links, also wish to be included in the National Park. A Dorset National Park will have a very positive effect in better conserving and enhancing the areas that are so special to us all, promoting greater awareness and understanding and safeguarding the social and economic wellbeing of the local communities that feature in his writings. National Parks work in partnership with societies like ours and bring planning expertise to their responsibility to safeguard the cultural heritage, and they have a good record in securing funding for this work. A National Park would be an asset to Dorset’s heritage.
The Government has initiated a review of AONBs and National Parks chaired by Julian Glover. This is considering whether new National Parks should be designated. The Hardy Society has submitted evidence to this review and hopes that our views along with those of so many national and local organisations and communities will lead to a positive recommendation when the review reports in the autumn of 2019.
For more information see: https://www.dorsetnationalpark.com