Rural Matters

The World Becomes Welcoming and Good?

I love walking in the Dorset countryside, especially on the hills and downland. I gain a sense of achievement climbing to the top, which promises wonderful and often surprising views of our beautiful landscape.

Dorset – Shutterstock

In North Dorset, Hambledon, Bulbarrow, Melbury Beacon and Hod Hill are all favourites. All the seasons have their moments, but spring is very special as hedgerows first come alive with blackthorn blossom, and then the trees begin to leaf. The limey translucent colour of early beech leaves is magical, especially in juxtaposition to the vivid cobalt of a bluebell wood. Birdsong is a real pleasure then as migrating males arrive at their nesting grounds first, to be followed soon after by the female. Autumn is wonderful too with leaves turning colour fromdeep butter yellow to russet and copper. We are lucky here with lots of long distance walking trails, such as the Wessex Ridgeway, the Jubilee Trail, the Stour Valley Way and the longest of them all, the Hardy Way, which runs for no less than 220 miles through Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. There is an especially lovely part of it going from Batcombe to Plush along the northern ridge of the downland. A detour from Plush to the Lyscombe Valley to the east, with its restored chapel and ruined farm buildings, is an unforgettable experience.

Far from the madding crowds.

We are also fortunate that most walks in North Dorset are rarely crowded, unlike our Jurassic coast. I have
to agree with Bill Bryson, our former CPRE President, in his book The Road to Little Dribbling: “What a joy walking is. All the cares of life, all the hopeless, inept f**kwits that God has strewn along the Bill Bryson Highway of Life suddenly seem far away and harmless, and the world becomes tranquil and welcoming and good.”

The Covid Lockdown may have encouraged most of us to walk more, but still not enough. It would be great to see walking displace more short car journeys, thus easily reducing our carbon footprint. A generation ago 70% of
British schoolchildren walked to school, now less than half do. It would be wonderful if local planning authorities and housing developers would invest in concepts like the 15-minute neighbourhood, where our workplaces and the services we regularly need can be reached in a short walk from our homes. The recent draft Dorset Council Local Plan was singularly deficient in new ideas here.

Keep walking!

Rupert Hardy, Chairman North Dorset CPRE

The health benefits from walking are legion, and it is not just burning calories:


• 5 minutes aids digestion

• 20 minutes improves heart

• 30 minutes is good for weight loss, blood pressure and reduces the risk of diabetes

• 40 minutes improves blood circulation and reduces stress

• 50 minutes will strengthen muscles and improve productivity

• 60 minutes relaxes your nerves and brain, increasing creativity.

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