The Hardy Way explores the Wessex of author Thomas Hardy, visiting many Hardy locations beginning at his birthplace near Dorchester. It takes in the Piddle and Frome valleys, an outstanding stretch of coast between Lulworth Cove and the Encombe Valley, to Corfe Castle and Dorchester, ending in Stinsford churchyard where his heart lies buried. The Hardy Way leads through beautiful Dorset and Wiltshire countryside: woodland, high ridgeways, sleepy villages, a variety of farmland, river valleys and dramatic coastal scenery along Dorset’s famous Jurassic coast, now a World Heritage Site inscribed by UNESCO for the outstanding universal value of its rocks, fossils and landforms and England’s only natural World Heritage Site The route parallels the remarkable eighteen mile pebble Chesil Bank from near Bridport to the Isle of Portland, a gigantic limestone mass near Weymouth.
The creator of the route, Margaret Marande, has updated the guidebook with a new edition in 2015. The book includes details of Hardy’s references to the landscapes upon which his books were based. In 1998, at an opening ceremony at Max Gate, the Way became a county footpath and, with the help of the Ramblers Association, was waymarked with distinctive green and white discs. Since that time many walking groups have enjoyed it. Over time one or two route problems made revision necessary and the result is a new and improved edition of the book which retains the essence of the original, but with innovations – Hardy friendly maps and many route amendments. Time, wear and tear and changes to the route made it necessary to re-waymark it in summer 2015. The path website has a listing of accommodation.
The Hardy Way is mainly on footpaths, tracks and bridleways with occasional unavoidable sections on lanes and roads. The Blackmore Vale farmland area in north Dorset can be very muddy in wet weather. Between Beaminster and West Bay through Bridport, the Way is mainly coincident with the waymarked Brit Valley Way (8 miles).