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New Thomas Hardy Centre to Showcase Influences and Work

217 Hardy Visitor Centre 2

7:48am 3rd December 2013

Works' due to start this week on a new Thomas Hardy Visitor Centre.

The facility on the edge of Thorncombe Woods near Hardy's Cottage is expected to be open next summer.

The new centre will create a welcome for visitors wanting to find out more about the writer and his love of the Dorset Countryside.

They'll be guided on a new route through Thorncombe Woods to Hardy's Cottage.

As well as interactive activities they'll also be space for schools and community groups.

The whole project has cost nearly £950,000  and nearly £500,000 has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It's a joint project between Dorset County Council and the National Trust.

Cllr Hilary Cox, Dorset County Council's Cabinet member for environment, said: 'The county council, by working together with the National Trust, can achieve an approach that will improve the access and experience both for tourists and local residents. It will improve the way that our countryside service manages the ancient woodland at Thorncombe Wood and the associated heathland.'

Visitors arriving at the centre will now find an introduction to Thomas Hardy in the visitor centre, showing the author's connections with the cottage and the nearby landscape and showing how it influenced his work. The new access route will take visitors through Thorncombe wood where some new tree planting is taking place.

The project will also involve setting up more interactive activities and events to help visitors learn about Thomas Hardy's life and work, as well as the conservation operations needed to look after the area.

'The new centre will provide the quality that visitors expect when coming to see where Hardy lived and the landscape that gave him such inspiration. The new building will provide a warm welcome and some basic facilities which could not be provided at the cottage but still on a scale appropriate to the area' said Jen Davis, Visitor Services Manager for the National Trust.

The new building is being constructed by the Poole office of construction and infrastructure company Morgan Sindall.

Jon Daines, special works manager at Morgan Sindall, said: 'Attractions in leafy, semi-rural sites such as this are best suited to enjoy an unimposing visitor centre which naturally blends in to its surroundings. The beautiful natural cedar cladding and its dynamic use of natural light makes the new centre prefect for this location. Our team has delivered many similar projects across the South West, and are looking forward to completing this exciting building.'

As well as funding from the HLF, the project has also received donations from the Garfield Weston Trust, the Fine Family Foundation, the Kinsurdy Trust, National Trust Centres & Associations and the Hardy Society.

The work is due to be complete by summer next year when the visitor centre will open.

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