|The view up the picturesque main street of Dorchester|
It was going to be a walking day. We were going to explore Dorchester, a place we'd managed to miss on previous Thames journeys, and then walk up to the 'Wittenham Clumps', the pair of hills that dominate the otherwise flat local countryside.
|The Abbey and the old River Thame bridge tollhouse|
What a delightful little place it is. Since being by-passed in the 1980s, it has become a picturesque sleepy hollow with a rich variety of houses and inns, from medieval up to modern, from tiny cottages to substantial pads.
Sweep the main street clear of modern cars and it immediately becomes the sort of village beloved of English detective story writers since Agatha Christie and her Miss Marple. Indeed fans of Midsomer Murders will certainly recognise it as it was a regular filming location for the tv series.
Dorchester also has a 12th century Abbey, or rather an Abbey church as the rest of the abbey buildings disappered after Henry VIII's dissolution. It is now an oddly cavernous parish church in this modest village.
|The spectacular tree of Jesse Abbey window|
|Sarah Fletcher died of 'excessive sensibility'|
However there were even older settlements outside the village. One of the Wittenham hilltops was an Iron Age fortress while lines of curious ditches and hillocks by the river below it are evidence of an Iron Age township.
The village remained a busy and prosperous place, serving as a major coaching stop on the main road to London (hence the fine coaching inns), but gradually declined until by the 1950s it was a poor and deprived place, the small houses without even proper drainage. Hard to imagine that, when these days a two bedroomed bungalow here will cost the thick end of half a million quid.
We found out all this in the very informative and friendly little village Museum, housed in what was once the local grammar school next to the Abbey. They also do an excellent tea and cakes by the way!
|The jogging club overtakes us on the hill climb|
|I'm afraid the Harry crew weren't quite as fit as them|
|Worth the effort, though, for the stunning vistas|
This morning we woke up to discover wasps were busy building a nest in a bankside hole beside us so we skidaddled quickly before they decided to remove us themselves!