The THS 'Return of the Native' Walk Experienced by an Overseas Visitor to Dorset

The Egdon Heath Walk by Elizabeth Manus

The THS 'Return of the Native' Walk Experienced by an Overseas Visitor to Dorset

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A month after taking “the Egdon Heath walk” with members of the Thomas Hardy Society, bits and pieces of that blessedly damp Dorset day are still on my mind. Oh, the heathcropper sighting? you might ask. Yes, but other memories stand out as vividly. 

The white sand and the stones (with toffee-colored centers) lying about in it as we stood taking in a grand vista. 

The contours of tranquil, intact landscapes unmarred by urban sprawl. 

The close-up view of an eave of the thatched roof of Hardy’s birthplace cottage. I continue to marvel.

An enlightening moment: after Alban told the cottage-visiting group that the bread oven didn’t produce smoke because the furze was smokeless, Sharon remarked that that must be why the furze was valued so.

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What I wish for now: that at the cottage I’d traded my examination of the sock darner for a better look at the floors. While I was inside the cottage, the low ceilings commanded most of my attention, in part because it seemed such a neat trick for a structure with confined spaces to appear so roomy from the outside.

Joys of gathering: it was a thrill to meet Hardy people who had come from so many parts of Britain—Dorset, Warwickshire, Yorkshire, Cardiff. I felt as though I were attending a family get-together honoring a best-loved uncle. When one conversation would leave off, another would begin.

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A pleasant memory: along the road after the frog-jumping pond, a woman declared to her companions: “It’s about people making bad choices! And those choices are determined by circumstances and character.”

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A bout of pleurisy: I returned to the United States with pleurisy. I’d like to think it’s provided me some insight into Hardy’s final days. 

And a realization: I told a friend how I’d bent my cheek to a certain lichened gravestone in Stinson churchyard and almost began to cry. He joked, “And you thought to yourself ‘But I’m not one of those people.’” So, I had to ask myself Am I one of those people? I did plan an entire vacation to Britain around a walk with the Thomas Hardy Society in Dorset. Hmm...


Elizabeth Manus, Boulder, Colorado

All photographs © Elizabeth Manus

April 2023

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