The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a £495,000 grant to the development of a visitor centre and education trails in Thorncombe Wood, which surrounds the writer’s birthplace cottage in Higher Bockhampton, Dorchester.
The project is a joint partnership between Dorset County Council and the National Trust to bring together the cottage and surrounding landscape for the first time.
Built on the edge of Thorncombe Wood, where the Dorset countryside rangers’ building is currently placed, the new visitor centre will be also have improved access to the cottage where Hardy was born.
The timber-built visitor centre will introduce visitors with information about Thomas Hardy and the nearby landscape which influenced his work.
The project will also involve setting up more interactive activities and events to help visitors learn about Thomas Hardy’s life and work, as well as the conservation operations needed to look after the area.
Councillor Robert Gould, cabinet member for the environment at Dorset County Council, said, “We would like to use the project to help people learn more about Thomas Hardy and his writing, and relate it to the surrounding landscape.”
Helen Sharp, the National Trust fund-raising manager, said, “Thomas Hardy is a well respect literary figure around the world and through this we can improve the way visitors to Hardy’s Birthplace understand him, his works and especially how his beloved Dorset influenced him throughout his life.”
Work is planned to start in September 2013 and for the new visitor centre to open by Easter 2014.
The organisations will be increasing the number of volunteer opportunities available at Hardy’s birthplace. For more information, contact either Lawrence Weston, project officer, on 01305 251228 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jennifer Davis by email at email@example.com