Discovering a small corner of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex
The remarkable Horton Tower looms down from the hill opposite as I turn into Drusilla’s Inn car park.
This eye-catching mysterious 18th century red brick folly was thought to be used as an observatory, stargazing in the Dorset night sky.
The Inn, a traditionally thatched Wessex free house, started life as workers’ cottages. It built around the same time as the tower. The pub’s perfect setting, having uninterrupted views of the rolling Dorset countryside, actively invites me to discover more about the area.
Needing an energy boost prior to exploring, I entered the inn by the small cottage door bringing me into a cosy bar leading to an attractive round shaped restaurant.
The food offered everything I was looking for, good healthy portions of home cooked and locally sourced served with a cheerful smile and friendly banter. The menu was varied, old favourites often with a modern twist.
I chose an appetising starter of local smoked mackerel followed by scrumptious honey and soy breast of chicken stir fry, all attractively presented.
Drusilla’s is a great pub with a character – all in keeping with the surrounding Wessex landscape.
It has a local community feel too. It is well known for hosting an August charity event – ‘Steam up’. This lively weekend features steam engines (stopping off on their way to the Great Dorset Steam Fayre) – live music, real ale and hog roasts.
Surrounded by pastures of grazing sheep, it is not surprising that it also offers quirky accommodation in the form of Shepherd’s Huts – one minute walk from the pub. These have altered since the first shepherd huts which appeared in the countryside in 1596 – not sure they would have had recognised the luxury of king sized beds and en-suite facilities. A great idea for a rural experience.
There was a warm soft breeze as I ambled across the adjacent fields and downs to explore the tower. The ancient landscape has changed little since Hardy’s time, so fitting that it appears in the classic 1967 film ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’.
Horton heath has a curious place history as it was here that James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, disguised as a shepherd, was captured in a ditch following his defeat at Battle of Sedgemoor in 1685.
To me great country inn’s such as Drusilla’s are intrinsically linked to the local area as they are intertwined with the history and secrets the landscape has to offer.