Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Chalk Man, Thomas Hardy and Minterne Gardens

I left in high spirits on the morning of Thursday 24 March ... putting the only Daffodil and Tulip flowering at the time in the garden, in a glass of water on the dashboard. I always like to take a little bit of home with me when I can.

Milly the Motorhome and I tootled along happily, enjoying the scenery and listening to "African Dawn" by Tony Parks, one of my precious audio books, sadly read by an Australian trying to do South African (both Black and White) accents. He read it well but pronounced it soooooo badly! I'm afraid only South Africans can do a South African accent. No-one else should really try if they don't want the world to reverberate with painful vibrations. I forgave him because I enjoyed the book, but my ears rang throughout with all the clangers.

I stopped off half-way at the St Malo Aire for a quick sandwich and chocolate milk, parked amongst the towering and intimidating trucks, before the final leg to the Cherbourg ferry terminal, joining the ferry queue with time spare to enjoy a cup of coffee before boarding. Milly was parked right up front on the ferry deck, out in the open, which didn't excite me at all, thinking of all the salt water which would collect on her. And yes, there was a big wet patch on the floor inside when I got back, thanks to spray being blown in through the fridge and oven vents. Hmmm, lesson learned. Don't be in a hurry to be first in the queue to get on the "Barfleur" from Cherbourg to Poole. Hang back so some other poor soul gets the full blast of the sea spray!

Arrival in Poole was late. I seem to remember it was 9.30 pm or so, so I spent the night, with a handful of other motorhomers, parked in the ferry check-in lanes, very safely and quietly. They ask you to pay £5 at the cafe for overnighting there, but each time I've stayed there the cafe hasn't been open at either my arrival or departure.

 Parked up at Poole harbour in the ferry check-in lanes

Good Friday morning set the scene for a few days of time confusion. France is an hour ahead of the UK in time, which, of course, not being a clock-watcher, I forgot about, so got up an hour earlier than I need have. Never mind, I lived by my hunger patterns for the next 48 hours, also forgetting that the Winter / Spring clock rewind took place on the Saturday night. Or is it that the clocks go foward? Aaargh! So confusing! Regardless, the hour difference and the clock adjustment blew my little mind and I had to keep asking folk I saw if they could tell me the correct time. I thought it more important to concentrate on driving on the left hand side of the road again because I've got so used to be a French driver now.

I loved the 45 minute drive to Cerne to see the rather proud man brandishing his weapon etched in chalk on the hillside. No really, I mean it, the weapon in his right hand!

The Chalk Man

The Chalk Man is quite impressive but once you've looked and taken photos, there's nothing more to do but go! I'm sure there must be a hike to get to him ... but then again, I think he's on private land, so maybe not.

English countryside is so breathtakingly beautiful, especially in Spring sunlight, and the English ability to name towns and places with almost fictional assurance never ceases to charm me. I almost went off the road when I passed an establishment called "Casterbridge Home" and remembered that this was Thomas Hardy country. I love most English literature and "The Mayor of Casterbridge" was the first serious work we were given to read at school. I absolutely loved it and was lucky enough to have an excellent English teacher throughout most of my high school years who, along with her stern demeanour to keep us all on our toes, managed to instill in me a love for the English language. I have since developed an interest in how words are used within a language by different nationalities, and thoroughly enjoyed using this twist when I wrote the profiles of more than 120 Irish artists. Another story, another time.

Later, after winding through country roads and villages, ooohing and aaaahing at their beauty and quaintness as I went, I arrived at one of Winston Churchill's family's former residences, Minterne, where their Himalayan Gardens are open to the public. In the ticket cabin I discovered from a brochure that there is a monument to Thomas Hardy in Dorchester … a must for me for a later visit to this area.

Three peaceful hours were spent wandering amongst plants and trees in the Himalayan garden, threatening Spring but not quite exhibiting the strength for it yet. It wasn't the best time of year for flowers, and the trees were waving leafless branches and twigs still, but loads of Daffodils and lots of peaceful time spent sitting next to waterfalls kept me more than happy and refreshed. The following gallery of pics are just a few glimpses of my time there. They speak for themselves, so I've only labelled a few of them.

 Reflections in the water

  Reflections in the water

  Reflections in the water

 This little fella just wouldn't play the game and
keep still for me so this is the best pic I can offer.
He's really beautiful though!

 The bench where I sat for ages just
listening to the waterfall and birds.

And so on to my first Britstop overnight at The Hunters Moon.

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