On the last day of my birthday pilgrimage J and I stepped out early along the back streets of Dorchester and soon reached the huge multiple ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort Maiden Castle. He did not need to reminded that we had last climbed this together when he was 6 years old and I had dragged him down to Dorset for some Hardy celebrations. To humour him I bought a Mickey Mouse balloon on Dorchester market which subsequently blew away in the wind at the top of the fort. Talk of Terence Stamp impressing Julie Christie with his swordmanship in the film version of Far from the Madding Crowd had not placated him. Today was full of remembrance of old memories and the birthing of new ones.
J is slightly older now and took a photo of the name board “Maiden” and sent it to his friend in recognition of one of their favourite groups. Excavations here have revealed much about Maiden Castle’s history, such as a Neolithic enclosure from about 3500 BC and a Roman temple built in the 4th century AD. The archaeologists also found evidence of a late Iron Age cemetery, where many of those buried had suffered horrific injuries. The views over Dorchester were spectacular and as we journeyed southwards we soon found ourselves again in a stunning rural landscape.
Up hill, down dale, across fields, as so often on this trek we passed no-one.
Plodding on, one foot in front of the other as I had now been doing for almost two weeks.
We spoke of his son, old memories, food, his wonderful new home – all happy, positive, stuff. On and on we went until at the top of a ridge I took a backward glace ………………..The sight of Portland Bill and Weymouth harbour took us both completely by surprise.
From this stage on the sea on our left (still feels strange to me – I usually walk west to east) was our constant companion.
Soon a further target appeared on our horizon – Hardy’s monument. Not dedicated to the “man who used to notice such things” but Admiral Hardy. It was in our sight for a mile or two whilst we fought the urge to detour off to Hell’s Bottom and open our sustenance supply of goodies.Hardy’s Monument is situated on Black Down at 242 m and although we had been gently climbing most of the day it still seemed a long slow trek to the top.
The weather was beautiful but as we gained height it got windier and windier.
I guess that both J and I would say our overriding memory of this monument was the extremely enthusiastic committed National Trust volunteer wrapped in several layers of clothing anxious to pass on to us his tremendous knowledge of the area. Such dedication.
We were both pretty hungry by now but there was no way we were going to picnic at the top as originally planned. We set off again in a south west direction and climbed down into the shelter of a wood to eat and refresh before tackling the last few miles towards “The Wheel” at my destination of Abbotsbury.