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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Gower

Gower, WalesLook across from Devon on a clear day and you will see Swansea. Beyond Swansea is the peninsula of Gower - a peninsula that was deemed of such beauty and value that it became the first designated area of natural beauty in the UK.

Much of Gower is protected by the natural trust, and there are huge number of walks in pristine and protected country side. Head off at the right time, and you could see badgers, foxes and maybe even an otter. Birdwatchers are also often entranced by the huge range ofbirdlife that can be seen here. Buzzards, herons and kingfishers are all resident throughout the year but the diverse environment - marsh, woodlands, beaches, dunes, woods, bog - attracts a huge range of visitors throughout the year.

Gower is also a great place for a beach holiday. While a few places get busy, if you are prepared to walk for a few minutes it is always easy to avoid the crowds. One superb beach that never gets overcrowded, despite being awarded the best beach in Britain title by the BBC, is Three Cliffs. Head through a small, green wood along a burbling stream and you will break out into a little valley, where marsh ponies graze on short grass between two hills - one topped by an old castle. In front of you lies Three Cliffs beach, opposite the cliffs of Oxwich, and overlooked by the three great rocks that give the bay its name.

Gower is also visited by thrill seekers. Surfers have been visitors to the area for years, and more recently kite boarders have taken to the Gower Seas, but braver souls take to the cliffs at Rhossili and para glide up into the thermal currents. Others prefer throwing themselves off the cliffs, taking a long deep plunge into the foaming sea, or abseiling down into one of Gower's many caves.

In the summer Gower can get busy, and accommodation gets filled up fast, so it best to book in advance. The Gower Accommodation site, Gower Holiday Home, offers what is probably the best self catering accommodation available in Gower, as well as a guide to other accommodation in the area. Things get cheaper in the low season, and it is well worth signing up for the Gower Holiday Home newsletter for discounts and cheap holidays in the autumn, winter and spring.


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Gower Wales

Friday, June 19, 2009

Devon Slideshow

See a slideshow of images of Devon and the South West.




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Monday, June 8, 2009

Thomas Hardy's Grave

Novelist Thomas Hardy's heart is buried at Stinsford Churchyard, north of Dorchester along with his first wife (Emma nee Gifford) and second wife (Florence Emily nee Dugdale).

Hardy's ashes after his cremation in Woking are placed at Poets' Corner in Westminter Abbey in London.

Thomas Hardy's Grave

It was not unusual for bodies to be thus divided in this manner (Lord Byron's heart is said to remain in Greece while his body was brought back to England), though Hardy's own wishes before his death were to be buried with his other family members in St Michael's in Stinsford.

However, Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell, Hardy's executor, insisted that Hardy be buried in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner. Thus the rather bizarre compromise of removing the writer's heart (rumours, probably false, sprung up that it was prompty eaten by the surgeon's cat) and burying it in the grave of his first wife Emma.

Thomas Hardy's Grave

St Michael's Church, Stinsford, dates back to the 13th century - the tower is original 14th century and the churchyard is also the burial place of the poet and former poet laureate Cecil Day Lewis (1904-1972).

The church was Hardy's family church and both his father and grandfather had played in the choir. Hardy himself had taught at the Sunday school.

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Thomas Hardy Dorchester

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Max Gate

Once Thomas Hardy's fame and fortune as a novelist and poet was confirmed, he designed and had built Max Gate, his residence from 1885 until his death in 1928, just outside Dorchester.

Max Gate


As a trained architect Hardy designed the villa to his own specifications and it ws built by his father and brother - very much a Hardy family affair. The house was extended later.

Hardy's classic Wessex novels: Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure and the Mayor of Casterbridge were all written at Max Gate.

Max Gate, Dorchester

Several pieces of Hardy's original furniture and personal effects are on display.

The house at Max Gate is still inhabited and only the hall, the dining room, drawing room and garden are open to visitors.

Famous guests included Robert Louis Stevenson, H G Wells, Sir James Barrie, Robert Graves, Rudyard Kipling, Mrs Patrick Campbell, A E Housman, Siegfried Sassoon, Edmund Blunden, George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf, Gustav Holst and Marie Stopes.

From his birth to the age of 34, Hardy lived in a small cottage in Higher Bockhampton.

Max Gate is 1 mile east of Dorchester town. From Dorchester follow the A352 Wareham road to Max Gate roundabout at the junction of the A35 Dorchester bypass. Turn left and left again into cul-de-sac outside the house.


Max Gate
Alington Avenue
Dorchester
Dorset DT1 2AB
Telephone: 01305 262538

Hours: 2-5pm; 5 Apr–30 Sep 09
Admission: 3 GBP

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Hardy's Cottage Higher Bockhampton

Hardy's Cottage (Tel: 01305 262366) is in Higher Bockhampton, just outside Dorchester. Hardy was born in 1840 in this small thatched house with a pleasant English garden and lived here until the age of 34.

Hardy's Cottage Higher Bockhampton

The cramped interior gives some idea of Hardy's far from wealthy upbringing as the son of a stonemason, in comparison to the grandeur of Max Gate - the house he had built after his success as a novelist and poet was assured.

Dorchester & Thomas Hardy

Hardy's Cottage
Higher Bockhampton
Dorchester
Dorset DT2 8QJ
Tel: 01305 262366

Hours: 15 Mar–29 Oct 09; 11am-5pm
Admission 3.50 GBP

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Dorset Thomas Hardy