The thing about Dorset...
Driving along the A35 in the early morning by a long wall where there's a something-or-other estate with two gigantic arches one of which has a stag on top and the other a lion (Dorset dwellers will probably know where I mean) several thoughts came to me.
The first was that the Spring-new copper beech leaves are stunningly beautiful, rendered to glowing peach sparks by morning sunlight shining through their semi-transparency.
The second was about Dorset and its Tardis like quality. Maybe it's because there are no motorways through the county or maybe because the few large connurbations are clustered around the edge, leaving what seems like a vast empty interior. And when you think of vast empty interiors you think of vast continents and perhaps the 19th century European explorers who ventured into these interiors and often did not return.
The continents of America, Africa and Australia, though vastwith wild and majestic landscapes, were of course not empty but inhabited by indigenous peoples and civilisations who had lived and thrived minding their own business for aeons; there were rich natural resources and there were wondrously strange (to European outsiders anyway) creatures and plants in almost infinite and fantastically coloured variety. The concept of 'darkest Africa' - Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' is not so much the non-Christian/European (and therefore- to those 19th century explorers - unenlightened) wild interiors of continents, so much as the darkness in our own hearts. We may think we know some answers but the sum of our knowledge is like a brief and tiny candle - a nightlight - flickering weakly in that great darkness of our vast unknowing.
Anyway - forgetting Livingstone, Stanley et al, it's pretty much similar with Dorset. As an explorer from outside, you think you know that it's a big empty thinly populated county with not much happening and probably not much culture to speak of. But then when you start to explore, you realise the county's natural resources are not only the beauty of the landscape but also the creativity of people among other things. It's thickly populated with tiny villages - Piddles and Puddles and Bournes and Churches - and miniature towns - Bridport, Sherborne, Blandford etc full of dedicated and enthusiastic people making Music and Art as well as Jam and Cakes.
Of course some natives are hostile. Perhaps one can't blame them. And sometimes the jungle drums beat and what they are saying is a mystery but one suspects it's nothing good. Moreover, the Tardis-like quality extends past Space and into Time Travel - sometimes Dorset feels like the Land that Time Forgot. Yet there's enough beauty here in people and landscapes to encourage and surprise the intrepid explorer.