The day had kind of started with promise, an incredibly full ‘Full English Breakfast’ with all the trimmings and we were off out the door – to collect the car. We then encountered the remnants of our French explorations, a deviation. Yesterday afternoon whilst we were still in France we called Hertz to confirm our collection of the car today, that we would be ready by 8am. They informed us that as the car was booked for 10am that they would collect us at 9.30am. So, at 9.15 we arrived back at the ferry terminal ready and waiting. As 9.40am rolls past though we start to wonder what’s happened. A quick call later and it becomes somewhat pointed that the gentleman who answered the phone has a problem with customer service. What he told us was not true, Hertz had sent someone to the ferry terminal at 8am to meet us, but we were a no-show, that is until we called them. A long story short we eventually collected the car and although 1.5hrs behind were at least on the road, now thankfully on the usual side of the road!
Our first stop was Dorchester, not because we wanted to go there, but because the two places we did want were on the way to Dorchester, and without a GPS or a working phone with mapping we were heading for the nearest point that could possibly save this exploration. Whilst driving up and down the streets we spotted an Argos and dived in, located a new Garmin GPS and armed with our new toy were back in the car and headed off to our first intended destination: Hardy’s Cottage.
A lot of people rave about Eliot or Lawrence, even more about the Bronte’s or Austen, but one of my favourite writers is Thomas Hardy, his depictions of West Country life, the all too brutal and unashamedly honest stories of life during the late Regency/early Georgian period are hard to readily passed over in favour of more palatable literature. His characters portray everyday folk and some of the hardships and joys they encountered in their daily lives. Perhaps that’s why he’s overlooked, and that’s a great shame. But today we stopped into the cottage where he was born and grew up, the small cottage nestled in a woodland that shaped and formed so much of his adolescence, it’s hard to imagine anyone not loving the area, or the tiny house whose garden, although modest, is full of life and promise.
From there we traipsed back and forth across the Somerset/Wiltshire area, accidentally and intentionally criss-crossing our paths as we took in Stourhead House and Gardens – a special favourite as I’ve had a jigsaw puzzle of the lake and bridge since childhood – and stopped for a cup of tea and slice of cake in a ‘vintage tea room’ that the Trust was running as part of their current program on Harry Hoare and his life – tragically cut short during the Great War like so many other young service men. From there we took in the sights of Frome, a tiny town full of steep and winding roads and walkways, of Georgian sandstone shopfronts and delightful stalls that were still open late in the afternoon (including an ironmongers that we sourced some cast-iron hooks for several years ago) before heading through Shepton Mallet, Glastonbury – yes, we did see the Tor, but as it was now very later in the afternoon we didn’t stop to climb it, not to mention the very dark clouds overhead – and onto our final destination of Taunton.
Before turning in for the night we popped over to the nearest Sainsbury’s and did a spot of shopping, our first since returning to the UK, so we took great delight in wandering up and down each aisle, of browsing through the treasure trove that is their shelves and made a few selections for our nourishment and general joy – a bright and shiny copper kettle for the wood-fire no less! Dinner was a light affair after such a big breakfast, some pork pie and salad, and finally a decent cup of tea!