Our campaign, opposing plans to build 4,000 houses in Stinsford parish is staging protest march through Dorchester on Saturday, April 2.

It will feature a recreation of one of Thomas Hardy’s most memorable scenes – the Skimmity Ride from The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Sometimes referred to as a Skimmington Ride, this rural tradition was intended to heap shame on adulterers or other miscreants.  Effigies of the offending couple would be strapped to a donkey and paraded through the village.  

When the protestors march through the town centre, they will recreate the ride to draw attention to Dorset Council’s plans to “desecrate” the countryside which inspired so much of Hardy’s writing.

Photo courtesy of Mark North at Dark Dorset.

The draft County Plan envisages a massive new development in open countryside between Charminster and Stinsford. STAND (Save the Area North of Dorchester) says the houses will blight the environment and change the character of the county town for good. Jane Ashdown, who chairs the group, said: “These fields are the green lungs of Dorchester. The landscape is of huge historical and cultural significance. Dorset Council needs to halt work on their local plan until the government comes up with a new housing strategy.”

When the council invited views on the draft plan last year, there were 60,000 mostly negative comments. The plan proposes building a total of 39,000 houses across Dorset over the next 17 years. It’s opposed by Dorchester Town Council, Dorchester Civic Society, CPRE and a network of 38 campaign groups including STAND.

To draw attention to the plan, STAND is inviting the public to meet at Maumbury Rings at 10am on Saturday, April 2 and march through the town centre. “All are welcome,” says Jane. “Anyone who cares about the environment  and the future of Stinsford and Charminster should think seriously about making their voices heard.” There’ll be music, speeches and, of course, that Skimmity ride – don’t miss it!