Bridport & West Dorset News, Views, Videos & Curiosities

West Dorset: Roman road re-opened to walkers

AN UNCOVERED stretch of Roman road through Thorncombe Woods outside Dorchester has been officially re-opened by Dorset County Council.

To celebrate, there was a guided walk along the well-preserved Roman road in Thorncombe Woods to the Rain Barrows on Duddle Heath. Walkers were accompanied by Lawrence Weston, area ranger with the county council’s Dorset Countryside service, and Steve Wallis, county council senior archaeologist.

Dorset Countryside’s inland team worked through the winter to clear the Roman Road, a Scheduled Ancient Monument that runs through the woods and heathland made famous by Thomas Hardy as ‘Egdon Heath’.

The section of road was completely cleared of trees and scrub, allowing visitors to walk a section of the ancient route that once linked Dorchester to the Iron Age hill fort of Badbury Rings.

Lawrence Weston said: “Thanks must go to all of our volunteers as well as students from Kingston Maurward College, who spent many hours helping us complete this project.”

There are fantastic views towards Dorchester and Black Down as well as over Duddle Heath and beyond.

To find out more about Thorncombe Woods and the work of Dorset Countryside in West Dorset, contact Lawrence Weston on (01305) 228251 or l.weston@dorsetcc.gov.uk, or go to www.dorsetforyou.com/inlandteamwest

Editor’s Note: From a press release issued by Dorset County Council. Apart from celebrating the county council’s scrub-clearing labours, there’s another reason to be interested in this particular section of re-opened Roman road.

The last six pages of Horatio Morpurgo’s book How Thomas Hardy Expressed His Doubt (Some Reflections on Weymouth’s ‘Olympic Road’ & The Resulting Destruction of Bincombe Down) detail his efforts to walk from Poole to Dorchester along ancient Roman roads.

“As Vespasian’s legions over-ran the area during the 50’s AD, they did not, as you might expect, simply travel west from their power-base in the South East. Instead they sailed troops and supplies into Poole Harbour, landing at Hamworthy.

“They then cut a road directly north. setting up an inland depot as they did so which was found in a field in the 1960s, before connecting to the already existing road network.

“The whole network  was then expanded westward.”

As Mr Morpurgo says, this is “the route by which Latin civilisation first reached into the West Country.”

How Thomas Hardy Expressed His Doubt is published by Erewhon Books, and costs £3.50. It was written as an explicitly political book, ahead of the General Election, but it’s still a fascinating read, with some very acute points made about life in the west of Dorset.