DESPITE the bitterly cold grey day, there’s more than a splash of the pre-Raphaelite in Dorchester’s palette.
At Blue Bridge, an obsolete lock gate’s lost under sprawling ivy. Watercress prettily chokes the Frome. Dreamily, a woman with copper hair pushes a pram. Benches bear brass plaques in memoriam to those who loved here. We muse over Hangman’s Cottage, surely a throwback to the Bloody Assizes.
Silver catkins bend to lap up chalk river eddies. Emerald-headed mallards paddle handsomely past clumps of daffodils.
This being ‘the county town’, garden accessories tend to the ambitious. We spot a miniature shepherd’s hut, a beehive and a dovecote. These waterside homes are gracious, stately.
The shabbier front doors of Frome Terrace make me smile. I’m remembering being a Dorset Echo reporter, chronicling local worthies’ indignance over Allotment Wars and Travellers’ Filth.
The Riverside Reserve path loops unspectacularly past eccentric wetlands and floodplain meadows.
In Dorchester, you’re never far from the countryside. The thought spirits me back to teenage trysts of twenty years ago. You’re never far from the madding crowd, either – I’m joined by a newspaper girl, elderly couples and fellow dog walkers all ambling down this Roman Town Walk. It’s good to be back.