Stories that take you into nature - and into your heart

The woods are full of stories. Walk with us and listen.
ScreenPLAY invites you on a wellbeing journey through the woods at Thomas Hardy’s Birthplace. Plug in your headphones, point your phone camera at the QR code to launch and click on Mr Hardy, Mrs Hardy or any icon to listen.
Rites of Way with Mr Hardy has been developed in partnership with the Thomas Hardy Society and Dorset Council, with funding from the Heritage Lottery, Dorset Council and the Gulbenkian Rural Fund.

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Zap the QR code or click for a link

Rites of Way with Mr Hardy is a guided walk on time trodden paths. It is a journey into nature and into ourselves.
Listen to the woods, to the birds, to the wind in the trees, and the crunch of the leaves. When you have found that still place inside you, listen to stories we have curated.
Let Thomas Hardy’s words and the Celtic tree tales heighten your feelings about this place. Let yourself feel each character’s feelings, and have a deeper connection with the ancient stories of the trees.

Connect with feelings of joy, sadness and remembering, to take you deeper inside yourself. Doing so in the ancient woodland anchors those feelings in a special place, allowing you to return and experience them again in a safe way.
Listen again and find deeper meanings and connections, even at home in your armchair.
We are the creators of our journey.
We decide which path to take.

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Podcasts from the wood through the seasons

Spring: A new beginning

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With a pathway out of lockdown and isolation we can feel the promise of Spring but Winter still comes back to bite us. Lie or sit by an ash tree or imagine a huge straight ash above you. Close your eyes and take a deep breath…
Green spaces: helping reduce stress

A blue haze covers the woodland floor - bluebells, hundreds of them dotted with a few white specks of greater stichwort. Spring is in full flow - breathe, relax, and take it all in.

Winter Meditation

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Winter: As life retreats into the Earth, we too are drawn back into our bodies. Take some deep meditative breaths as Sharon talks you through ways of relaxing and letting go of stress. Rod Drew reads Hardy's poem The Darkling Thrush. Music: Bonnie Schwarz and Pete Shaw. Coming up: Spring: A new beginning
Green spaces: helping reduce stress

Autumn in the wood

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October. It is time to look inwards. The leaves are falling, days are darkening and the rain just will not stop raining. Perwina Whitmore reads the Farm Womans Winter by Thomas Hardy, and Ian Higginworth talks about the significance of the tree known by the Celts as the witches’ tree, the Elder. Original music by Bonnie Schwarz and Pete Shaw. Coming up: A Winter Meditation
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At Hardy's Cottage

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Poems and extracts of writing by Thomas Hardy recorded in and around his birthplace, the cottage between heath and forest built by his grandfather at Higher Bockhampton near Dorchester.
Actors Rod Drew and Perweena Whitmore are the voices of Thomas Hardy and his second wife Florence.
Original music by Bonnie Schwarz and Pete Shaw. Next: Autumn in the wood

A wild and remote spot

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Dorset Countryside Ranger Claire Platten talk to Alastair about the history of Thorncombe Woods and what they would have looked like when Thomas Hardy was a child. Rod Drew reads from Under the Greenwood Tree in which Hardy describes Yalbury Wood, his name for nearby Yellowham Wood. Next: In Hardy’s cottage

Art, health and lockdown

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When you have an illness that is going to affect your life, it makes you appreciate the beauty around us…
Artist Maggie Curtis talks to Sharon Hayden about her art, her health and living in lockdown in rural Dorset.
Ian Higginworth reads The Tree of Life, from his book Environmental Arts Therapy. Music: Bonnie Schwarz and Pete Shaw. Next: We meet Countryside Ranger Claire Platten
Artist Maggie Curtis with Sharon Hayden at Thorncombe Woods
Tools of the trade
Dragon fly with greens and reds
Central dragonfly
At Rushy Pond

The Hazel coppice

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Woodman Alan Brown, pictured here at Thorncombe Woods in 2006 was the sixth generation of his family to make wattle hurdles out of split rods from a hazel coppice. The family tradition now continues with his son Steve. In this podcast, Alastair Nisbet discusses the ancient craft whose roots go back to the days of the flint axe. Click the audio to play and the images below to enlarge.
Next: When you have an illness that’s going to affect your life it makes you appreciate the beauty around you… artist Maggie Curtis.
Tools of the trade: billhooks
Hurdle maker Alan Brown at work in 2006
Weaving the split rods in and out of the sails
another piece of split rod
beat it down firmly
another hurdle done

Why green is good

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Dramatherapist and ScreenPLAY artist Sharon Hayden discusses why green spaces make us feel relaxed, help us reduce our stress and anxiety and generally make us feel better about ourselves. Click the audio to play and the images below to enlarge. Original music by Bonnie Schwarz and Pete Shaw. Next: The Hazel Coppice
Sharon Hayden: your woodland guide
The Roman Road
June: every shade of green in the wood
Sit by the pond in June and watch the grass snakes in the water
A twisted tangle of vines
Be still for a while and some friends may pass by

Every Shade of Green

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Come for a walk in the woods where Thomas Hardy spent his youth with ScreenPLAY artists Sharon Hayden and Alastair Nisbet. Reflect, relax and enjoy the green space. They will guide you through the ancient woodland of Thorncombe Woods with readings from Thomas Hardy and Environmental Arts Therapy by Ian Heginworth.
In this episode Sharon and Alastair spot grass snakes in Rushy Pond. Mr Hardy - voiced by actor Rod Drew - reads the poem Weathers while a curious blackbird looks on. Hardy once said he would come back as a blackbird - perhaps it was him. Original music by Bonnie Schwarz and Pete Shaw. Next: Why Green is Good
Green spaces: helping reduce stress
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