Archive | April, 2012

And where are the souls?

30 Apr

Just a single picture today, taken on a recent walk.  This is the church of unknown dedication in the lovely Dorset hamlet of Whitcombe.  The famous Dorset poet William Barnes preached his first sermon here in 1847 and his last in 1885, and in between that he went on to become rector of Winterborne Came just a few miles away.  William Barnes is known mostly for writing his poetry in the Dorset dialect – I must say, it makes it difficult to read even for a Dorset man!

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And where are the souls?

As I was processing this picture, I was listening to an album by the Celtic Christian rock band Iona – I love their music.  One of the songs that came on was called Beachy Head (there is a link to the song below) and is about all the people who over the years have committed suicide by jumping or driving off the high cliffs onto the rocks below.  It basically asks the question ‘Where are the souls?’ of all those who have died.  It just seemed a perfect title for this picture since I couldn’t help but question ‘Where are the souls’ of all those who have worshipped in this church over the 500 or so years since it was built?  There would have been people of all ages, races, occupations, personalities etc from the Lord of the Manor to the farm labourer – but now the church is empty and redundant, partly because the village has shrunk to the tiny hamlet it now is!  I can’t help but ask as I always do in these places, ‘Where are the souls?’  The song answers the question – only God knows!

Thanks for reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler!

The Dorset Rambler

Of transport, of trees, and of waterproofs that are not!!

28 Apr

This was a walk of ‘wonderful’ ;) weather, wonderful Dorset scenery, and some really interesting people along the way!

You know, the more I walk, the more I look forward to meeting people on the path.  There is something about being in the countryside – everyone you pass has a nod and a ‘hello’, and often they will stop for a chat as well, whether it be a farmer, the local vicar, the postman, or just another walker.  Isn’t that really what life is all about!  There is a lovely camaraderie in the country that you don’t find much in the towns, and people are just so interesting.  One of the tings all the people I meet have a view on is the weather – well we’re English aren’t we!

On this walk, it was a truck driver.  He was parked up at a country crossroads in a somewhat difficult position and I thought he had broken down.  We fell naturally into a conversation.  Apparently he had come from Poole, picked up a load at Corfe Mullen, driven 100 miles to deliver it, picked up another load near his drop off point, driven 70 miles to where I saw him dropping off half the load.  He was then going to drive another 50 miles to drop off the other half, picking up another load, and was then going to drive 500 miles to the Scottish border to drop that off!  What a crazy life!

The crossroads he was parked at is called ‘Four Ashes’, because there are four ash trees, one on each corner.  He was trying to deliver 12 bags of fertiliser to the local farm, but articulated lorries and country lanes don’t go together!  The only way to deliver it was to park up at the crossroads and for the farmer to bring his tractor and trailer up to collect it – which he finally did, and I moved on.

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Four Ashes crossroads

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Delivering, or is it collecting, the load

The scenery on this walk was simply stunning, that typical Dorset rolling countryside.  It was a walk that took in a number of hill forts and the picture below shows one hill fort as viewed from another.  In fact on top of one of the hill forts was a bull!  He was on his own except for the hill sheep and I was a bit surprised because the land is owned by the National Trust and is open access land popular with walkers.  As I have blogged before, that is technically not legal!  I had my red cape with me but he didn’t seem very interested ;)!!

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One hill fort to another

Part of this walk took me through the most fantastic area of woodlands and at this time of the year with the sunlight slanting through a gap in the trees, the colours and tones of the Spring foliage really come alive.  New life, and new growth, is everywhere!  Don’t you just love the fabulous greens of the moss and lichen that cover these trees and bank!  It is an interesting area and and as you walk through it, you just wonder about the millions of people who have passed that way before over the centuries since the line of trees and the bank are clearly an ancient boundary of some sort.  If trees could talk!

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The wonderful Spring greens of Dorset

And speaking of trees, don’t you just love them!  You could almost hug them…….and some people do!  I love that well known poem by Alfred Joyce Kilmer called ‘Trees':

I think that I shall never see,

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest,

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree!

How true that is!  (Just as an aside, as I am writing this, I am listening to the duet from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers – what a spine tingling piece of music that is!)

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I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree

In that poem, Kilmer speaks of trees ‘living intimately with rain’ – well at the moment, The Dorset Rambler does too!!  The weather for much of this walk was beautiful, but it was interspersed with really heavy bouts of rain and hail – it’s what I call ‘interesting’ weather ;)!  Now I had my waterproofs, but I have discovered that they are not…….waterproof that is!  The consequence was that I got literally wet through!  So at the end of the walk I decided to reproof my walking gear, and I’m sure it won’t be long before I check to see if it has had the desired effect!!

One of the side effects of all this rain is BIG boots!  They start off a normal size 9 but some of the fields on this walk were MUDDY, and it was that thick clingy mud so that by the time you get to the other side your feet are size 30 and you have a job to lift them off the ground!  Picture the scene – this silver haired man, soggy and wet through, unable any more to lift his heavy feet, on his hands and knees dragging himself across the field to reach the sanctuary of drier land on the other side ;)!  Once there, there is usually a handy gate post ‘scraper’ nearby so they are soon back to normal size.  Note to self – in future if it is wet, head for the chalky well drained hills ;)!

And talking of hills, there were a few of them on this walk too….steep ones!  I climbed up this near vertical slope to reach the top of one ridge and just as I got there, a fighter plane on a training mission went over.  He was clearly practising low level flying and I reckon he must have been only 10 feet above my head (well, that might be a slight  exaggeration ;) ) – it was deafening!

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Some good waterproof testing weather coming!!

Ah, but the sun always shines again – and you can’t fully enjoy the sun unless you get the rain!

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The sun shines on the Dorset landscape

Thanks again for visiting and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler!

The Dorset Rambler

Some interesting weather, a new friend, and a mass trespass remembered!

25 Apr

This was a great walk made all the better by having a companion as my son Paul joined me.  Because I usually walk during the week, I mostly walk alone which I am fine with because I am happy with my own company and I don’t think you are ever really alone in the countryside anyway – I certainly don’t feel alone amongst this wonderful creation.  But I love to walk with Paul as he is the perfect companion and friend and we are totally kindred spirits.  So this was a great together walk!

The conditions were not great.  Having had lots of rain recently, there is a lot of mud around but the early part of the walk took in an old railway track which closed many years ago and which has been turned into a trailway.  They always provide a good surface to walk on!  I do think it is a shame that when our railway network was cut so drastically in the 1960’s under Beeching’s axe, no-one had the forethought to preserve the old track beds for recreation.  Had they done so, there would be a whole network of long distance footpaths weaving throughout England instead of just the occasional stretch such as this.

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The Trailway

Interestingly there were a couple of old huts along the trailway and one had been ‘restored’ although I am not sure for what purpose unless just for people to shelter in.  Anyway, a photographic opportunity presented itself and I asked Paul to stand in the doorway for me – the resulting picture is below.  I don’t normally put this type of picture on here but I thought I would today – I called it ‘Home from the War’ because that’s just what it looked like!

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Home from the War!

I have said before in my blog that I like rivers because if the footpath follows the course of a river it makes route finding so much easier.  This walk went even further than that because the footpath for a time was the river!  Well, I guess more of a stream that a river but we had to walk along the stream bed.  It was a really interesting part of the walk and certainly added variety to the walk.

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Follow the river!

If there is no river to follow, then you just follow the arrows – yellow for footpaths, blue for bridleways (we don’t like blue because the way has usually been chewed up by the horses hooves making it more difficult to walk ;) )!  Well, if there are any arrows!  Often they seem to be absent and you have to rely on the map which sometimes poses problems.  In the picture below, the way is clearly marked but if it wasn’t, you might doubt yourself because as you can see the path goes virtually through the cottage garden!  This was actually a really lovely place – a farm with a lovely cluster of cottages and converted outbuildings, all set in the most beautiful valley.  We got chatting to the owner of it all who told us that the cottages were all tenanted – in that position, I should think they are!

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Follow the arrows!

So when is a church not a church?  Well, we passed the one in the picture below but all is not as it seems!  The church is actually not there, just the tower and the end wall of the nave although from this angle you wouldn’t know it.  The owner of the nearby cottage (who also owns and maintains this ‘church’) told us that the church itself was taken down long ago so that the stone could be re-used in the building of the local school.  The owner was very friendly, as were her 4 dogs and what a great view she had from her cottage with the church in the garden!

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When is a church not a church?

This walk took in another hill fort which always makes for an interesting detour.  When we walked out across the top with amazing views all round, the sun was shining but as you can see in the picture below, it wouldn’t be for much longer!  We stood watching the massive storm heading our way – it was an awesome sight, quite spectacular….and we felt very exposed!  We managed to grab some pictures before hastily packing everything away and togging up in preparation…….and boy, did we get rained (and hailed) on!!  The weather is rarely dull in Dorset!

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Oh dear, look what’s coming!

There were a number of delightful churches on this route and two of them are below.  Both churches are part of two separate tiny hamlets, and so picturesque.  I would like to have explored inside but we were so muddy that it didn’t seem appropriate.  Each church had just a farm and a few small cottages for company.  Oh the stories they could tell!

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In the hamlet

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And another hamlet

My title said ‘Some interesting weather’, well it was certainly that!  Sunshine one minute and pouring rain the next – real April downpours.  We walked across this beautiful valley with a lovely stream running through it and suddenly the sun disappeared again.  Mind you, that sort of weather does make for good photography!

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Oh dear, more of that wet stuff coming!

Oh yes, and what about that ‘new friend’?  No, I don’t mean Paul, he’s an old friend (well comparatively ;) ), I mean a really new friend.  We were crossing a field of sheep with their lambs and suddenly this almost newborn lamb came bouncing up to us like he’d known us for years.  He wouldn’t leave us alone but kept getting under our feet as we walked across the field.  It was bizarre as they usually run a mile.  The only thing we could think of is that maybe he was being hand reared and was therefore used to people.  He was really friendly and I would love to have put him into my rucksack and brought him home :)!  Paul took the picture below.

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The Dorset Rambler finds a new friend!

In fact it was a funny day for animals – on the drive down, we had to go through Dorchester and as we drove up the busy High Street, we had to give way to………a duck!!

So to finish with, what of the mass trespass?  Well this momentous event happened 80 years ago yesterday.  On 24th April 1932 over 400 ramblers and walkers descended on, or rather ascended on, Kinder Scout in Derbyshire as a mass protest against landowners.  Previously, most moorlands and mountains had been common land open to all, but Kinder Scout and other places like it had become private property open only to the ‘shooting classes’.  Whenever anyone tried to walk those areas, they were turned back by the landowners and their gamekeepers but with the numbers out in 1932, there was no possibility of turning all of them back, and they succeeded in reaching the top.  Ultimately this mass trespass led to the opening up again of large areas of countryside with the formation of the National Parks and the passing of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.  It is partly thanks to those 400 people that The Dorset Rambler, and you, can ramble!

Thanks for visiting and for reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler!

The Dorset Rambler

One house, two views; two churches, one name; and a Bates Motel!!!!!!

23 Apr

This was another interesting walk with some lovely sights and some scary sights, some great weather and some rough weather, some good paths and some not so good paths, and it’s all in a day’s walking in Dorset!

It started off well enough with some lovely sunshine and some lovely villages, with buildings constructed in the beautiful warm coloured stone that typifies the area.  Two of the villages had churches that shared the same name – St Mary’s.  The first was at a lovely unspoilt and fairly unknown village, unspoilt that is apart from the cars which had to be parked in the country lane as few houses had any parking spaces – when this village grew up along the valley, cars didn’t exist!  The whole place had a feeling of unity about it because of the similarity in the way the buildings were constructed and it was a really pleasant and easy stroll along the village streets.

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The first St Mary’s Church

Not long after the first village, the second one came along – or at least, I came along to it!  Still the same lovely stone, and another St Mary’s Church, except this one had a community attached to it.  A Christian community was set up here some 50 years ago in what was once the local manor house next door to the church.  The community is open to anyone but particularly those who have hit some crisis in their lives and who need a bit of time out from the emotional pressures of life.  Their days are based around working the 12 acres of land, prayer times, meal times and leisure times and the various residents and guests spend weeks, months or even years here finding healing and restoration.  It is truly a lovely place where many have been blessed.

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The second St Mary’s Church

As I was passing this community, I got talking to the postman who told me that he always tries to time his deliveries so that he arrives here around lunch time.  Apparently the people regularly eat their home grown lunch sat outside in the garden and the postman often gets invited to join them!  I think I would do the same :)!

There were some ‘interesting’ parts to this walk!!  The picture below shows one of them – my route was to take me through a field which had a notice on the gate saying ‘Bull , Keep Out’!  Virtually right beside that notice were three waymark arrows indicating that a public footpath passed through the field.  I was just about to ignore the notice and cross the field anyway (well nothing was going to get in the way and spoil my walk) when I noticed that the farmer had provided a diversion via another field.  I guess that is to his credit although I am still not sure how legal it is!

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Hmmm, is that legal??

One of the other ‘interesting’ things on this walk was the very old and semi derelict cottage in the picture below.  It had something sinister about it in the fading light and I quite expected to see Norman Bates mother in her rocking chair and to hear the tearing of a shower curtain ;)!

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The Bates Motel??

And then virtually next to that was the barn below.  Now I blogged last time about how I like old barns but I don’t think I have ever seen such an old higgldy piggldy barn as this one!  It has certainly seen better days!!  I’m sure you can appreciate why The Bates Motel came into my mind as I hurried through this part ;)!

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A higgldy piggldy barn!

This walk included several hill forts (which I crossed in pouring freezing rain :( !) and some fine ridge walking too with great views all around.  None was better than the evening stretch which took in some wonderful woodlands as the path climbed up to the highest point in Dorset. The woodlands were particularly lovely in the evening light as the sun set.

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The lovely evening light

Further along this ridge I came across the house with two views!  It stands right on the top of the ridge in the middle of nowhere with the most amazing views down both sides of the ridge.  The owner was out exercising his dogs and I got chatting to him about his dogs, and about a red kite that had just flown over.  He was a country gent and his dogs were gun dogs.  Now I’m not in favour of shooting, and I’m not given to jealousy, but I did envy him the position of his house!

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The house with two views!

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The view to the front

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The view to the rear

It was beautiful walking along that ridge as the sun set and the light faded.  The pouring rain of earlier in the day had long gone and it had turned into a lovely balmy evening and I was serenaded by the birds as I walked.  What better music could there be to end the day!

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The stroll into the evening

Well, I had to finish up with a picture of a gate didn’t I :)!

Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler!

The Dorset Rambler

Inspiring Dorset, a deserted hamlet, a destroyed coast path…..and a sore head!!!!

20 Apr

This is a walk that took me through the wonderfully picturesque valleys of inland west Dorset, along river meadows and over the highest heights along the coast.  Some of the most peaceful, pleasant, picturesque parts of Dorset.  And on route a deserted hamlet and a destroyed coast path.

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Wonderfully picturesque Dorset

The first part took in the beautiful rolling countryside that typifies Dorset with vibrant spring greens as the fields and foliage spring back to life.  As you walk these parts, you really can understand why novelists and poets like Thomas Hardy waxed lyrical – although in reality much of Hardy’s writings were about life rather than landscape.  The farming community may have shrunk considerably since Hardy’s time with a labour force a fraction of what it was but nevertheless with the lambs, calves, and the busy-ness of the farms and woodlands, you can’t help but think about a Hardy novel.

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The rolling Dorset countryside

Now when I was younger, I used to have visions of becoming a farmer, although I have to say my idea was a kind of ‘rose coloured spectacles’ farming whereby I would spend my days leaning on a gate much as the one in the picture below (I can’t resist a lovely wooden gate) smoking a pipe in the ever present sunshine whilst watching the grass grow and the sheep producing their offspring.  I would also dream of becoming a shepherd, but again it was a rosy spectacles view where I would sit on a sunny hillside watching the sheep whilst I composed poetry and strummed a tune or two on my guitar.  In my farming there would be no rising at 4 am to milk the cows or muck out the pigs ;)!  Well one can dream!!

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Don’t you just love an old wooden gate

Now I have an affinity with wood!  I am convinced that one of my ancestors must have been a character from The Woodlanders.  I can never resist a wooden gate, a stile or a signpost and every walk I go on, will result in a number of pictures of these things!  Well they do seem to typify the Dorset countryside somehow.  Sadly these days wooden gates are often replaced by metal ones which definitely do not have the same effect!  I have to say that I can never resist an old barn either and frequently as I walk I come across these tumble down, broken up, rusting buildings which have long since passed their sell by date!  Oh I am so glad they don’t pull them down though!  If barns could speak, they would have many a colourful tale to tell about a lifestyle that once was.  Far from being a blot on the landscape I think they really add to it.

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A blot on the landscape? Or part of a rich heritage?

The other thing I regularly come across is…….mud!  Lots of it, good old Dorset mud and all because of a heavy downpour the previous day.  It is great, but it does make walking hard work as you slip slide all over the path!  Here’s an interesting fact I once read – apparently on a muddy field a cow can run faster than a horse!  Now I never knew that!  It seems that because they are cloven hoofed, their hooves spread whereas a horse’s don’t and this helps them move faster.  Well you always learn something new from The Dorset Rambler’s blog ;)!

On this walk yet again I came across the inevitable missing footpath!  There always seems to be one!  It was absolutely nowhere to be seen although I knew where I needed to get to so I was able simply to hop a few fences and take a different route to reach it and get back onto my correct path.  Now I don’t normally trespass but if a farmer chooses to not observe the ‘public footpath code’, then I see nothing wrong with crossing somewhere near where I think the public footpath should be.   Incidentally, here’s another interesting fact – those notices that you often see that say ‘Trespassers will be Prosecuted’ are factually incorrect.  You prosecute someone for breaking the law but in fact trespass is not illegal unless you create criminal damage which you could then be sued for.

Having got back on track, the next part of the walk took me alongside a river.  Now I like rivers!  Apart from the rather pleasing babbling sound that running water makes, rivers are also a great aid to route finding.  On this walk, my footpath followed the route of a river for several miles which rather took away the headache of trying to work out where I was at any given moment as so long as the river was beside me, I knew I was on the right track!  And of course river valleys are also very picturesque!  This one took me right down to the coast at Charmouth.

Sadly this is where the route goes slightly wrong!  The route should take me from the sea up the coast path beside the cliffs to reach the top of Cain’s Folly but unfortunately because of coastal erosion the coast path at this point closed many years ago and so the route takes you inland and up the roadway.  In one of my earlier blog entries I commented on how the government has recently announced the ‘opening’ of the coast path all the way from Lulworth to Weymouth, a path that has for the most part been open for as long as I can remember.  I do think it is a shame that their efforts could not be put into opening a part of the coast path which has in fact definitely been closed for years and really needs to be reopened again!

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The coast path above Charmouth – no way down!

Coastal erosion is a serious problem and every year it wipes out more of our coastline and footpaths.  It’s interesting though how, even here, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’.  In the picture below, you can see how a previous massive collapse of the cliffs at Cain’s Folly has been re-colonised by nature and has become effectively a nature reserve since few feet human ever disturb that part.  This is something that has been repeated all along the Dorset coast!  When I walked through this part, I saw a beautiful country fox.  Now I don’t know if it is just me but I think the town foxes that you normally see are quite thin and mangy whereas country foxes, and this one in particular, are beautifully rounded and healthy looking with wonderful coats and bushy tails.  I guess this is because of the plentiful supply of food that the country provides and which dustbins do not.  In the same field a short distance away were a cluster of deer and they were happy to just stand there watching me as I passed by.

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Every cloud has a silver lining

I always think that one of the problems with the coast path is that it goes up and it goes down…..rather a lot……and often I think it would be good to have a hang glider in my rucksack so that I could simply glide from one ridge top to the next ;)!  And this part of the coast certainly does go up and down, in fact its ‘up’ reaches the highest point on the south coast of England at Golden Cap.  But before that, there is an interesting detour into an extremely old deserted hamlet called Stanton St Gabriel with its ruined church and its last remaining cottages.  On the information board there is an artists impression of what this hamlet might once have looked like although in reality it goes back much further than this, as far as Saxon times.  I think it is always rewarding to take in these sorts of hamlets and to try to picture in your imagination what life might have been like in those days.  At Stanton St Gabriel, it would have been a tough existence but the position would have more than compensated for that.

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The ruined church at Stanton St Gabriel

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A remote cottage

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What was life like then??

After that it was s steep climb to the top of Golden Cap with the amazing views in all directions from the top.  The picture below simply does not do this justice but hopefully you can grasp something of this place.  You just need to imagine the feeling of the wind in your hair, the sound of the sea and the smell of the wild flowers!

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The highest heights at Golden Cap

The next stopping point on this walk was the beach at Seatown and there can be no better end to a days walking than sitting listening to the waves washing across the shingle whilst watching the fishermen drown their worms.  As you sit there with the fading sun dipping towards the horizon, you can see why Thomas Hardy and those other Dorset authors were so inspired by this wonderful county!

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The day’s end

Oh yes, and about that sore head – no I didn’t go to the pub at the end of the walk!!!  It had been a very sunny day but I hadn’t realised how hot the sun was and I’d walked without a hat.  Now I have hair of a somewhat silvery tone, but clearly not enough of it, hence the sore head!!!

Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler :)!

The Dorset Rambler

A literary walk, a GPS with a bad attitude, and more!

17 Apr

No, I didn’t read a book as I walked ;)!  I did a long walk around Thomas Hardy country – although in reality the whole of Dorset is Hardy country because in many ways it was he who popularised Dorset through his writings, both poetry and prose.  A lot of people don’t realize that our Thomas was first and foremost a poet before he ever got into novels.  And if there is anyone reading this who hasn’t yet experienced a Thomas Hardy novel, I can recommend it – but don’t read it quickly as it will be very descriptive of Dorset and Dorset life.  I think my personal favourites are the book ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, and the poem ‘The Darkling Thrush’!

Back to the walk!  It took in Hardy’s Cottage in Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester (or should I say Casterbridge!) – this is where he was born and where he wrote his first literary gems.  The cottage, now owned by the National Trust, is in Puddletown Forest and is open to the public.  Nearby is Stinsford Church where Hardy’s heart is buried (his ashes are interred at Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey), and alongside him are other members of the Hardy family.  Also in the same churchyard are the graves of Cecil Day Lewis, the poet laureate, and his wife.  He did not live in the area but was a great admirer of Hardy and wanted to be buried as near to him as possible.

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Stinsford Church

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The Hardy graves

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Cecil Day Lewis was a big admirer of Thomas Hardy

The early part of this walk is really lovely, taking in not only Hardy’s Cottage and Stinsford Church but also the causeway that runs beside one of the River Frome tributaries.  It is a very picturesque area.

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The walk along the causeway

Sadly, not all of the walk is quite so easy to negotiate!  There was one footpath that I had planned to walk that crossed the River Frome itself but when I got there, both the footpath and the bridge were conspicuous by their absence and the gate leading to the footpath was locked.  This meant a detour back onto the road in order to get round the obstacle.  I am not sure why the land owner has ‘closed’ the footpath (which is still shown as a right of way on the OS map) although, to give him the benefit of doubt, I guess it is possible that the bridge might have just collapsed!

Because of poor signage and moved footpaths I had some problems route finding.  Now I have always been a map and compass kind of man but recently I have acquired a GPS which I thought would answer all my needs.  Unfortunately however, I managed to get one with a bad attitude!!  It bleeps at me beautifully when I am on the right path (and when I don’t need it to) but when I go wrong for any reason it just seems to go to sleep!!  At the time that I think it should be waving at me and shouting, ‘Excuse me pal, you are going the wrong way’, it just seems to say to itself, ‘Oh dear the old codger’s gone wrong again – he’ll realise it sooner or later and in the meantime I’ll have a little doze’!

I passed another delightful little church on this route, one that I’ve not visited before, and while I was there the previous Rector came in and he had some interesting stories to tell.  He told me about the couples who lived on either side of the church.  The wife on one side died and the husband on the other side died and later the widow and the widower became friendly and ultimately were married in the church that separated their two houses!  I thought that was lovely!  He pointed out the rectory which is a very substantial property which was turned into a school but is now in private ownership.  It seems hard to imagine a church minister living in such opulent surroundings!

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A lovely Dorset church

The other thing he told me about was the thatched cottage behind the church which has recently been sold by the elderly villager who owned it.  She was a villager in every sense of the word, very much involved in the local community, but the new owners as so often tends to be the case, are from London and will be using it as a second home.  The cost of this second home was apparently one million pounds!  It highlights yet again the modern trend whereby the heart goes out of village life as villages become more and more just ghost villages!

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A million pounds holiday home

Often when I walk, I come across strange signs!  Like the one below – who was Dick I wonder?  He sounds like a highwayman who robs banks ;)!

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Even more bizarre are the signs below!  These six different, and rather graphic, signs were all within the space of just a quarter of a mile or so.  Clearly they didn’t want people to become bored with seeing the same sign!  Ever feel unwanted!!

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Ever feel unwanted??

At the end of this walk, I had another interesting conversation, this time with a farmer!  I was walking across his field when he opened his tractor door and called me over – I must have a guilty conscience because my first thought was, ‘What have I done wrong?’ ;)!  But he said to me, ‘Can I shake your hand?  You are the first person today who has known where they were going!  I’ve been in the field all day and have had walkers wandering all over the place, the deer stalker is upset because they’ve scared the deer away, and I’ve been asked numerous times where the footpath is!’  So I shook his hand!  You see, bad attitude GPS or not, I do usually know where I am going :)!

Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler!

The Dorset Rambler

Another eventful day in the hills – AKA ‘I get to play shepherd’!

14 Apr

On Wednesday this week, I had another great walk on a day of mixed weather and walking conditions, as well as some varied scenery!  It was about 17 miles of wonderful walking!  And not only was the countryside picturesque but so too were the clouds!  The only mistake I made was in choosing to walk this particular route in the school holidays as there are a number of caravan and camping sites on the route and I think every family in England had descended on Dorset ;)!  Not that I mind really, it’s nice to see that people love Dorset – but then, why wouldn’t they :)!

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Even the clouds were picturesque on this day!

The first part took me through the outskirts of quite a large town, but surprisingly there were some very picturesque parts and even the modern developments looked nice.  After that, it was out into the country and onto some bridleways.  Now I love animals, but I have to say that horses and walkers don’t go together very well, especially after rain!  Not that the horses are a problem, it’s more what their hooves do to the paths which very quickly become a quagmire and therefore difficult to walk!  I think the village of Studland has it right – I walked there not long ago and where there is a bridleway, there is a separate footpath for walkers running beside it.  What a great idea!  I am not sure if it is a deliberate policy or whether it has just happened but it certainly makes walking easier :)!  It should be quite easy to do on any bridleway, a bit like having paths round town for cyclists and walkers separated by a white line!  So how about it bridleway designers, can you paint a white line in the mud???

On this route I passed a famous landmark – Colmers Hill (pictured below).  Now, as a photographer I have always felt deprived at not having a picture of this much photographed location but now I have corrected that ;)!  Ok, its not the usual mist filled sunrise shot but it is still Colmers Hill!  In some strange way, Colmers Hill reminds me of Corfe Castle, another much photographer feature atop a hill, which is also often pictured at sunrise poking its head out of the mist!

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The footpath round Colmers Hill

You see some strange sights while walking!  I often come across alpacas which frankly are strange – they look like some freak of nature that was created on a Friday afternoon just for a laugh ;)!  They look like sheep reflected in a fairground distorting mirror!  Actually I think they are rather cute, although it has to be said that the males look a bit effeminate ;)!  Only kidding!  These alpacas did pose rather nicely for me though – shame about the background!  Incidentally they were looking at a dog!

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All in a line!!

Oh yes, and you get to see some funny signs too!  I am really not quite sure what a ‘public route leading to a public path’ is!!

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What does that mean???

Having got past Colmers Hill, I saw one of those sights that you don’t really want to see – heavy clouds chasing me down the valley as if they were just determined they were going to catch me and dump their load right on top of me.  I could see them watching me as they glided swiftly in my direction!!  But I fooled them – I was about to enter a lovely village with a lovely church which had a lovely porch – just right for hiding in whilst eating lunch :)!  And the cloud dumped its load – but not on me :)!  Not this day anyway!!

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Oh no, look what’s coming!

In actual fact I think the cloud had the last laugh because the major downpour certainly made the footpath much more difficult to negotiate as I slipped and slid all over the place.  And there was one particularly difficult part where the path went up a very steep climb and I had real trouble keeping my feet.  By the looks of the tram lines coming down the slope, I’d say a number of people failed completely in that!

Ultimately I reached the coast.  I like the coast because it makes navigating a route so much easier – just keep the water on one side of you and the land on the other and you can’t go wrong!  You do get some spectacular views as well, and some really lovely beaches too, all shingle in this area and with that lovely distinctive ‘waves on shingle’ sound!  Mix in the sound of the gulls, and you have a combination that just transports you back to the holidays of childhood!

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A lovely Dorset shingle beach

It was when I turned inland again that I got to play shepherd!  I had to walk through a field of sheep with their lambs and when I went out through the gate to the next field, there were three lambs in there.  It was a crop field so they clearly weren’t meant to be there, and they were running up and down the substantial wire fence bleating pitifully.  I have no idea how they got from one field to the other, but the shepherd in me came to the fore and I decided I needed to do something about it – but what!  There was only me, and the gate was spring loaded to close which left a bit of a conundrum as I figured they were unlikely to come towards me whilst I held the gate open for them – pretty they might be but intelligent they are not!  So being resourceful, I used my walking pole to prop the gate open whilst I then walked in a large circle to get behind the little lambs.  Now this could have backfired and I could just have ended up with a field full of sheep where there weren’t meant to be any (I had visions of my walking off humming to myself having let all the sheep out and pretending that I had nothing to do with it ;)!).  Fortunately it worked out well and I managed to usher them back into the right field before any others realised to gate was open – and never did you see three happier lambs as they all ran straight up to their mum’s and tucked into a good and much needed meal!

The sun was setting as I walked over the last ridge of the day and the lovely golden glow of a still evening spread itself across the landscape like a blanket.  It was a beautiful end to a great day, and I had a warm feeling that maybe I had saved three of God’s creatures from an untimely death!

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The lengthening shadows of evening.

But the day wasn’t quite done!  Near the end of the walk, I crossed one section which took in a number of fields and in a distance of probably a quarter of a mile, I had to negotiate no less than 10 gates!!  Every hedgerow had a fence on either side, and every fence had its own gate!  Ah well, it made an interesting end to an eventful day :)!

Oh yes, and on the subject of strange things – there is a hill nearby that is called Doghouse Hill!  I wonder if that was where all the husbands got sent after they had come home from the pub!!

Thanks for stopping by and for reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler!

The Dorset Rambler

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