This magical pocket of mixed woodland and heath is listed on the Ancient Woodland Inventory.

The 26 hectare mixed woodland and heath site is home to a great diversity of trees including mature Oaks, Sweet Chestnut and Beech. The woodland gives way to Black Heath, an area of heath in restoration with its own herd of Dartmoor ponies. Rushy Pond, famous from Thomas Hardy works, is home to amphibians and dragonflies and a hunting ground for resident grass snakes as well as being a watering hole for the ponies and other wildlife.

Running through the site is a well preserved Roman road. This Scheduled Ancient Monument, would have stretched from Dorchester to Badbury Rings. There are lots of paths to explore both the site and further afield using the local rights of way to Puddletown Forest and Dorchester.

Thomas Hardy's childhood landscape

The site is also adjacent to Hardy's Cottage, birthplace of novelist and poet Thomas Hardy. Black Heath is now a small fragment of the once famous Hardy's Egdon Heath and Rushy Pond is mentioned in 'The Withered Arm'. Visitors, wildlife enthusiasts, families and dog walkers are all encouraged to follow in Hardy's footsteps and explore the land that he portrayed in his novels such as 'The Woodlanders' and 'Return of the Native'.

The  Hardy's Birthplace Visitor Centre provides a gateway to the site and hosts displays, family activities, a ranger workshop, café, shop and toilet facilities. Several recommended routes and fun activities for children are available on leaflets in the visitor centre.

No barbecues or camp fires

Please, strictly no barbecues or camp fires at our country parks and sites. The Fire Service has been really stretched by the recent Wareham Forest fire and other fires. As conditions continue to be dry the fire risk remains high.

Nearest Town


Look out for

Dormice, Smooth Snakes, Adders, Grass Snakes, Spotted Flycatchers, Marsh Tits, Nightjars, Ravens, Silver Studded Blues and Early Purple Orchids.

Habitats Woodland, heath and a pond
Site designations

Ancient Woodland Inventory, Local Nature Reserve, Scheduled Ancient Monument, Site of Nature Conservation Interest

Nearest bus stop A35 near Dorchester or Kingston Maurward College
Nearest train station Dorchester South and West
Grid reference SY 725 921
Size 26 hectares

Up to 1 hour £1.50
Up to 2 hours £2.50
Up to 4 hours  £4.00
Up to 8 hours 7.00
Max 12 hours £9.00

There is an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system in place. Please pay at the end of your visit.

National Trust members are also required to pay for parking.

​Annual permits available via the Rangers' Office. 01305 251228

Accessibility Open Access area. No cycling or horse riding.
Toilets The Hardy's Birthplace Visitor Centre provides toilet facilities
Other activities in area

Hardy's Cottage

Owner Dorset Council
Managed by Dorset Council Ranger Team (Area Greenspace Management Team - West)

How to get there

For specific directions, go to the Visiting Hardy's Birthplace page.  

Or see the following map to Hardy's Birthplace Visitor Centre which sits at the entrance to the car park (postcode DT2 8QH), with routes into Thorncombe Wood. 

Hardy's Birthplace Team

Name: Hardy's Birthplace Visitor Centre
Tel: 01305 251228
Full contact details

Emergency contact for Thorncombe Wood ponies

Name: Hardy's Birthplace Team
Full contact details