A Visit to Bathsheba Everdene's House
Cassam Jany visits Waterston Manor
I have been visiting Dorset and the surrounding areas on an annual basis since the 1980's to follow the Hardy Trail and explore the Wessex Countryside.My love for Hardy began at school in Mauritius at the age of 16 when I was introduced to 'Far From The Madding Crowd'. The fascination with FFMC has not only been because of the dramatic storyline, but also due to the humour, pathos and the wonderful rural setting. So you can imagine my obsession with visiting Weatherbury ( Puddletown) year after year to call in the Church to imagine the gurgoyles, see the bench in the porch where Troy spent the night and look at the carving of the name HENERY in the old pew box !
A quick trip to Waterston Manor to catch a glimpse of Bathsheba's homestead from the road has also been part of my schedule.I often wondered what it would be like to wander around the grounds of the Manor and get a feel of the place. So I plucked the courage and wrote to the owner Katharine Butler requesting her permission to visit the gardens. To my great delight, she gave me her approval and on a lovely September morning I arrived at the Manor. I was greeted by remarkable friendliness by Ms Butler and one of her dogs.She gave me a brief history of the 17th century building which was extensively rebuilt after a fire in 1863. Hardy has incorporated the fire in the plot at the beginning of the novel.
I spent a memorable time walking around the grounds. What a delightful spot ! The gardens and orchards are so well manicured and maintained.I could just picture the shearing supper on the lawn in Chapter XXIII. There's even a fir plantation ! Remember where Bathsheba's skirt gets tangled up with Troy's boot in the darkness ?
It was a great experience.A fusion of fantasy with reality. Such is the effect Hardy has on his readers.
Cassam Jany 24th September 2019