When I awoke it was nearly seven. Normally I try not to be about in daylight, when sleeping out on other people's land. It was Sunday, though, and I was well concealed in a deep bed of vegetation. So I lay there for a quarter of an hour, then got up and packed. As I left the wood I scattered a small herd of deer feeding at the margin of a field.
There was a chill in the morning air. Soon the sun would burn through the mist, but for the first couple of miles I had to move briskly to keep warm. During the night the body's metabolism slows in the warmth of a sleeping bag, and it takes a while for it to kick in.
From Dole's Hill Plantation it's an easy walk to Dorchester. A track leads over the downs to the valley of the Piddle. Beyond the stream lies a broad ridge, an airy corridor to the river Frome and the town which rises above it.
The sky that morning was an intense blue, filled with the radiance which speaks of the sea. Through the scent of warm earth and new growth came faintly the smell of salt breezes. Seagulls drifted over the wide fields, crying plaintively
Crossing the Piddle I turned south. The track wandered for a while, but soon set a more resolute course. It brought me to the top of a hill; and there, far ahead, I saw rooftops and spires, and windows glinting in the sunshine; and further still the sweep of the coastal uplands. As I left the hilltop the vision faded to hedges and fields and dry valleys.
The last pleasant miles soon passed. Approaching the valley of the Frome the arid downs give way to a rich landscape watered by many streams. I followed a footpath through verdant meadows bordered by stately timber, past channels of sparkling water, until at last I reached the edge of the town.
Dorchester was a Roman settlement, the line of the walls still marked by the shaded walks which enclose the centre. When Thomas Hardy was a boy it had hardly spread beyond its ancient boundaries, and he remarked that to enter it was to step from fields into the heart of a town.
It has grown since then, but the approach from the river is much as Hardy would have known it. From the meadows you cross a foot bridge and pass a row of red-brick cottages. At the top of a short slope you reach the angle of St. Peter's church, and suddenly you are in the High Street. For those accustomed to suburban approaches it's an abrupt transition.
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This part of the walk - spanning Kent, Surrey and Hampshire - ended here at Dorchester. Further exploration would lie in another direction.