Cycling deep into Thomas Hardy country to uncover the story of an ancestral home that vanished (almost) without a trace
My bike has mostly been unused this winter. In me at least, lockdown inspired a need to walk rather than cycle, but today I took a short ride through the lanes of north Dorset to the village of Fifehead Magdalen.
The early April sun was weak, the trees budding later than I would like, but it was time to be out. This is the Blackmore Vale – thousands of acres of farmland devoted mostly to cattle, bounded by hills on three sides. It’s also Thomas Hardy’s Vale of the Little Dairies: Tess of the d’Urbervilles opens in the village of Marnhull (Marlott, he renamed it) and Shaftesbury, perched on a nearby hill, became Shaston, home to the doomed and obscure Jude.