The landscape north of the A35, one of the main roads in Dorset, is totally unique and always leaves me vaguely breathless with awe. I feel a very strong, almost visceral affinity to it, and I am hopelessly attracted to its ancestral and eerie beauty. Strangely for a writer, I really find it quite difficult to come up with the right words to describe what exactly it is about the place that arises such powerful feelings in me. I hope that it is something I can somehow explore and express in my next two novels, The Right Place and Hell Lane which will address the mystery, history, beauty, wilderness and perhaps the mythical quality of this special landscape.
Eggardon Hill, an Iron Age hill fort with a 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside, is a place imbued with history and myth - and a favourite wandering place for many ghostly apparitions.
According to the writer Louise Hodgson in her Secret Places of West Dorset:
Before Eggardon was transformed into a fort there was earlier activity of a strange and intriguing nature [...] Henges denote a sacred area, a temple, a pace devoted to worship and/or regarded as a dwelling place of a god or gods [...] This area was a place of ritual and continuation for a long time [...] Strange occurrences have happened here [...]
I do believe that the ancestral nature of the fort and the surrounding area (Powerstock woodland area, Marshwood Vale...) is what gives the landscape its uncanny power. You feel very far away from today's (crumbling) civilisation and you can let your mind wander through the ages and open up to so many possibilities...
I have pinpointed about four walks to do in the area already, and this will become one of our refuges this summer when the hordes of tourists invade our coast (which we will reclaim of course this autumn).
Interestingly, Isaac Gulliver, the smuggler whom I am using as a reference for Algernon Sinclar in The Right Place, owned the nearby Eggardon Hill Farm and used it as a landmark for his ships approaching the coast.
On the way back towards Dorchester, we stopped off at the superbly named Compton Valence. This could easily be used as the name of an outlaw in the wild west or that of a music hall star... I will no doubt allocate it to one of my characters in the detective novel Hell Lane: A Barton Stacey mystery...
The lovely church is dedicated to Thomas a Beckett and was refurbished in the 19th century, only leaving intact the 15th century tower.
Also from the original 15th-century building is the brass on the floor, depicting the parish priest Thomas Waldon who died in 1437. The latin inscription apparently explains that he had rebuilt the church, and was responsible for constructing the tower.
I also took some pictures of lovely wooden doors - I love old doors!
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