We started the day looking out the breakfast room window at the rain. As predicted by the BBC weatherman it was raining and quite heavily. Our plans had allowed for this development. In the morning we would visit T. E. Lawrence’s home Cloud Hill, and Thomas Hardy’s birthplace and home with a visit to Durdle Door in the afternoon when it stops raining.
Once behind the wheel of Thistle, Kerry drove east out of Weymouth with me in the co-pilot’s chair. We had been travelling for about 5 minutes when I noticed a large horse drawn on the hill opposite. Just last night Kerry had asked me to find the white horse on the hill and there it was. Well not the one she wanted but it is a horse drawn on a hill. The Osmington White Horse is a hill figure sculpted in 1808 into the hill just north of Weymouth. The figure is of King George III who regularly visited Weymouth and made it the first resort riding on his horse. It is 280 feet long and 323 feet.
We moved on. Kerry really wanted to follow the coast line and it appeared there just is not a coast road. I spotted a road running off toward the coast and Kerry wanted to follow it to see where it went. The road led us to a private road and a sign stating that there was a £5 charge to use the road. One irritating thing we have encountered down here is that you have to pay for parking everywhere. Now having to pay for the use of the road was just the end. So we proceeded in another direction to the top of the hill and a view to Portland and the bay in front of Weymouth.
The rain was once again falling consistently as we approached Cloud Hill. We were quite surprised that the car park was full and the cottage was next door to the Tank Museum and down the road from the Tank training grounds. It turned out that this was Lawrence week commemorating 80 years since his death. There was a special set of lectures on the man and we sat in on one before viewing the cottage. Of course we are talking about Lawrence of Arabia who ended up trying to find obscurity as a private in the tank corps hence he bought Cloud Hill just down the road from the tank training grounds. The cottage was quite eccentric. No toilet and one room lined in aluminium.
One of his mates was Thomas Hardy author of many books and poems notably “Far from the Madding Crowd”. Hardy was born in a cottage built by his great grandfather on land loaned to him by his master and there the family stayed until the Hardy’s were no more. It is a simple house and was acquired by his sister Kate who donated it and Max Gate to the National Trust. Recently the trust has incorporated a new visitors centre and woodland walk to the house.
Hardy qualified as an architect and worked in that profession until he could become a full time author. He designed Max Gate just outside Dorcester and also designed three extensions. Here he wrote most of his books and poems and his first wife Emma died. He then married his secretary Florence 39 years younger than him but he was preoccupied with the death of Emma for most of his second marriage until he died in 1928. When Florence died twelve years later Kate bought Max Gate at auction and along with the Hardy’s home gifted both to the trust.
The rain had largely stopped and the sun made a tentative appearance. So we headed for the coast and Durdle Door. On arriving it was quite cold with the wind off the English Channel. Kerry made the lunch whilst I made the tea and we sat in the car out of the cold to eat lunch. Following lunch we changed shoes to walk the trek to Durdle Door. Although only 15 minutes walk it is down a very steep and well trodden path which today was very muddy with the rain, covered in puddles and the churned up chalky soil from the traffic of human feet. Stunning coast line. Chalky cliffs lookout to the sea and the more solid stone of Durdle Door braces against the buffering sea. The stumps of a fallen coastline surface above the waves to remind us of the past. As we stood dreaming looking at this coast, I noticed a squall moving from Weymouth towards us so we hightailed it up the hill back to the car. The steepness of the hill meant that we were caught and not only did we drag mud back to the car but we had very damp jackets to dry out.
We then moved on to Lulworth Castle. I had noticed signs about this place and as it was nearby we decided to investigate. Unfortunately time was against us and the castle had closed by the time we drove in the gate. As though knowing that we were turning for home the rain stopped. So we had one more shot at visiting another site – Jordan Hill Roman Temple. We punched in the site into Tommy and headed in the direction of home. The site turned out to be within 5 minutes of our B&B at Weymouth. Not much to look at and as usual with Roman ruins in a curious spot between houses.
Another big day comes to an end.