“Found in the old oak copses”

Thanks to Mark, here are a few lines from Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles A Pure Woman’ faithfully presented. Millions have enjoyed the Blackmore Vale, whether lucky enough to live in or around it, or as readers and visitors from around the world, re-rambling the footpaths and bridleways as others have done before them. Drawn along by Hardy’s detailed descriptions of very special places – and which at times can still be just “four hours’ journey from London.”

Angel walks!

“The village of Marlott lay amid the north-eastern undulations of the beautiful

Vale of Blakemore, or Blackmoor, aforesaid, an engirdled and secluded

region, for the most part untrodden as yet by tourist or landscape-painter,

though within a four hours’ journey from London.

It is a vale whose acquaintance is best made by viewing it from the

summits of the hills that surround it—except perhaps during the droughts of

summer. An unguided ramble into its recesses in bad weather is apt to

engender dissatisfaction with its narrow, tortuous, and miry ways.

This fertile and sheltered tract of country, in which the fields are never

brown and the springs never dry, is bounded on the south by the bold chalk

ridge that embraces the prominences of Hambledon Hill, Bulbarrow,

Nettlecombe-Tout, Dogbury, High Stoy, and Bubb Down. The traveller from

the coast, who, after plodding northward for a score of miles over calcareous

downs and corn-lands, suddenly reaches the verge of one of these

escarpments, is surprised and delighted to behold, extended like a map

beneath him, a country differing absolutely from that which he has passed

through. Behind him the hills are open, the sun blazes down upon fields so

large as to give an unenclosed character to the landscape, the lanes are white,

the hedges low and plashed, the atmosphere colourless. Here, in the valley,

the world seems to be constructed upon a smaller and more delicate scale; the

fields are mere paddocks, so reduced that from this height their hedgerows

appear a network of dark green threads overspreading the paler green of the

grass. The atmosphere beneath is languorous, and is so tinged with azure that

what artists call the middle distance partakes also of that hue, while the

horizon beyond is of the deepest ultramarine. Arable lands are few and

limited; with but slight exceptions the prospect is a broad rich mass of grass

and trees, mantling minor hills and dales within the major. Such is the Vale

of Blackmoor.

The district is of historic, no less than of topographical interest. The Vale

was known in former times as the Forest of White Hart, from a curious

legend of King Henry III’s reign, in which the killing by a certain Thomas de

la Lynd of a beautiful white hart which the king had run down and spared,

was made the occasion of a heavy fine. In those days, and till comparatively

recent times, the country was densely wooded. Even now, traces of its earlier

condition are to be found in the old oak copses and irregular belts of timber

that yet survive upon its slopes, and the hollow-trunked trees that shade so

many of its pastures.”

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