Prince Charles Town

Day 139: Yeovil to Dorchester England, Tuesday September 5th

We heard our host leave, and when we went downstairs we found Owen and Woody in front of the TV again. Woody was playing Grand Theft Auto 5 (did I mention that he’s about five years old?). He said, It’s got naughty words.

We loaded the bikes and got out of there.

It was easy to get back onto route 26, but there were several pretty steep climbs. Winded, and with the rain just starting, we took refuge in an Inn, the Helyar Arms, sharing a pot of tea.

When the rain eased, we continued. We stopped at the sign for Halstock when we saw that it had a drawing of a woman cradling her severed head in her arms. Deb bought some stamps at the village post office and when we continued we saw a hotel with the same disturbing image as their logo: the “Quiet Woman House”. I Googled it, and it turns out to be a pretty good ghost story: nasty stepmom is jealous of pretty, pious girl; makes it look like the girl had a baby and fed it to the wolves to horrify her son who then lops of the girl’s head with a sword; girl’s body reanimates, picks up the head and carries it to the church; ghost returns every All-Saints day to repeat the head-carry walk. Juthware, the girl, lived in Halstock in the 7th century, and they made her a saint.

We had a long but gradual climb after Halstock. It was fairly rainy all the rest of the day, but never too bad, but it did mean that some of the rougher tracks were a little rougher than usual.

Dorchester is one of those towns where Sustrans just couldn’t find a good place to put a cycle route, so the 26 ends at one end of town, and starts again on the other side. We walked our bikes up the sidewalk next to the A road into the city, did some food shopping, and then rode into Poundbury, the strange little neighbourhood where we had booked an Airbnb.

Many of Poundbury’s buildings looked old, and it seems like a cottagey community on the edge of the city. We walked around after dropping off our bikes and gear, and we couldn’t help but notice that the place felt a little Disney. There was no rust on the fences, no graffiti, and a weird homogeneity to all the structures.

We discovered later that the whole place is new, and all designed by one Luxembourgian architect, Leon Krier, according to principles set down by Prince Charles. It has no zoning, is carbon-neutral, pedestrian friendly, 40% social housing, and much higher density than typical post-war suburbs. We liked it, despite (or because of ) the weirdness. It’s also working, because it’s growing rapidly, and our host told us the prices had climbed very high.

Distance: 40 km


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