Visitor Centre 

Our award winning, fully accessible Visitor Centre has informative displays and an interactive interpretation screen with a nest box cam as well as a café and toilet facilities.


We have the following facilities on site:

  • mobility scooter hire available (to book call 01305 224620)
  • toilets (including disabled toilet and nappy change facilities)
  • hearing loop
  • accessible building with automatic doors
  • disabled parking
  • Self service dog wash

Self service dog wash

Discover the Polygon Pets Self Service Dog Wash conveniently located in our courtyard entrance.

The Dog Wash machine provides warm water, a range of shampoos and a two speed dryer.
No more muddy paws - leaving your car and home clean and everyone ready to relax after your walkies.

The Dog Wash is owned and operated by Polygon Pets.

Hardy's Cottage

Leaflet downloads

Hardy Trail leaflet: Enjoy a walk around Thorncombe Wood and Black Heath to explore Hardy's childhood 'playground'.​
Discovery Trail leaflet: Go on a scavenger hunt and try to find the objects we've listed on the leaves.
​Thorncombe Wood Walkabouts: A selection of routes to explore around the landscape that Thomas Hardy grew up in and was inspired by.

How to get there

Get directions

Located 5 kilometres to the north-east of Dorchester (postcode DT2 8QH)

By bike:

From Dorchester, follow the B3150 east towards Poole and Blandford. Just after Greys Bridge and before the B3143 towards Piddlehinton, take the way marked bridleway to Lower Bockhampton. At the end of the bridleway, turn left over the river and through the village to the crossroads. Cross straight over following the sign to Hardy's Cottage and up the small hill to Higher Bockhampton. This route follows just over 2 miles of beautiful bridleway and quite rural lanes. Other cycle links from Dorchester and Puddletown using the local bridleway network and quiet roads are also available.

By foot:

There are local public footpath links from Dorchester (a series of ROW and permissive paths can be seen on the OS Map OL 15). Why not enjoy a ' Park and Stride' from Kingston Maurward College?

By road:

From the east, turn off the A35 east of Dorchester at the Higher Bockhampton junction. From the west/Dorchester town centre, use Kingston Maurward College roundabout on A35 and first left after the College entrance.


Parking charges apply.

There is an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system in place.

Please pay at the end of your visit. If you have left our car park without payment please complete your payment online.


The car park cannot accommodate motorhomes.

Car parking charges
Time  Charges 
1 hour £1.50
2 hours £2.50
3 hours £4
4 hours £7
8 hours (maximum stay) £9

Blue badge holders pay standard car charges if their vehicle is not tax-exempt for disability, unless parked in the single Blue Badge bay by the visitors centre.

Those with disability tax exempt vehicles please bring documentation to the centre.

Friends of Thorncombe Wood annual membership and parking permit available via the Rangers' Office, please contact us.

Visitors must be aware that:

  • the small car park beyond the Visitor Centre and is for cars and motorcycles only. Please park in the marked bays
  • a disabled parking bay is available near the Visitor Centre (please display Blue Badge) and by Hardy's Cottage (with advance notice)
  • you must not park in passing places along Cuckoo Lane


Coach parking and drop off are not allowed in the car park.

Information for coach drivers

Coach drivers must be aware that:

  • the site is drop off only - please access Hardy's Cottage and Birthplace via Cuckoo Lane at the Lower/Higher Bockhampton junction off A35. The junction at the end/start of dual carriage way east of Dorchester. The Highway 'Cuckoo Lane' is restricted to allow drop off only. No coaches are allowed to wait/park on Cuckoo Lane. Highway restriction signs are in place at both ends of Cuckoo Lane.
  • coach parking is available for £20 for 3 hours at at Hampton Farm Business Park opposite the track to Hardy's Birthplace Cottage and Visitor Centre. Please book in advance by contacting Mike Jones on 07798 500120. Alternatively there is a lay by with coach spaces on the A35 between the Kingston Maurward roundabout and the Lower/Higher Bockhampton Junction but these are on a first come first served basis.

Contact us

For more information about the Hardy's Birthplace Visitor Centre and Thorncombe Wood Local Nature Reserve, contact the Hardy's Birthplace team.

Hardy's Birthplace Team

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