The British Landscape Club

Lay-by of the week: Askerswell from the A35

This week I can tie three loose ends and write not only about lay-bys, but also the Dorset landscape and the road trip that triggered me into writing The Lie of the Land in the first place.

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One bright and crisp winters day a short breath after Christmas, we were driving through Dorset as we made our way back from Cornwall. The journey was quite familiar to me and I had never given it much thought. A couple of years before, I had come the closest to thinking deeply about travel when two friends and I covered the same ground as part of an epic, 15 mph journey across England in an electric milk float but, crucially we had picked a different route for this stretch.

I was on the A35, a murderously busy road we had escaped from while on the float - a quick turn-off that happened to land us in Arcadia, an enchanted valley near Little Bredy trapped somewhere between dusk and the early 1950s. It was the encapsulation of pastoral beauty and I will remember the scene for ever.


As so often happens in Britain though, by catching one thing, you miss another and the A35 - for all its homicidal ways - is the scene of something on a par with our Dorset Arcadia but in a different way. The stretch of it we avoided, between Dorchester and Bridport, affords awe-inspiring views of the lumpy, bumpy Dorsetshire hills, the festival of buxom hummocks that made it into the introduction to The Lie of the Land.


As ever, all attempts to capture such grandeur on a soul-less semiconductor fail miserably. I’ve taken my version of the Google Street View, but the best stuff is on the other side of the road when the road reaches its height and the views over the Dorset coast are breathtaking. You really have to see the view for yourself.
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