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

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6 Responses to “Inspiring Dorset, a deserted hamlet, a destroyed coast path…..and a sore head!!!!”

  1. Photography by Gisele Morgan April 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Love that cottage!

  2. G.M. Malliet April 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    Love the ruined church. Well, I wish it weren’t ruined, but you know what I mean.

  3. Rustic Recluse April 21, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    Yes I love the wooden gate and I dreamt of becoming a farmer too – but inclusive of the milking of cows and rearing some pigs too! Sounds silly but I’m still looking for some day when I move to the countryside, somewhere amidst the rolling hills just like those you’ve shown in your beautiful pictures above. I have a habit of thinking about what life was in the years back at a particular place – and your photos gave me very much space for imagination. Thanks for sharing, I love coming back to read these! :)

  4. sandraconner April 22, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    Thank you; thank you! Reading your work and absorbing the pictures allows me to spend a lovely, peaceful, happy day in the beauty you share. I know exactly what you mean about wondering how life was for people back then. One of my favorite places in the whole world is the Great Smoky Mountains in the southeastern U. S. (Tennessee, N. Carolina). I don’t know if you are familiar with that area or not, but one whole section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is devoted to the preservation and reconstruction of an entire farming area in a large cove right in the midst of the mountains. It’s called Cade’s Cove, and the cabins, churches, and equipment have been faithfully preserved and/or reconstructed and preserved from the 1800’s. Every time I go, I stand in those small cabins, which often housed large families and I think about how hard their life was then and much they struggled. Then I step out onto the porch and look across their fiends to those majestic, graceful, encompassing mountains, and I think, “All the struggling was worth it to them when they could look at all this beauty and grandeur every morning and every evening and know that they were a part of it — that it was HOME.”

    I noticed today that you have “followed” one of my other blogs, “Hangin’ Out With God.” Thank you. I hope you find it a blessing.
    Sandra

    • thedorsetrambler April 23, 2012 at 7:48 am #

      Hi Sandra
      Thanks for your comment, Cade’s Cove sounds a really great place. We have several places like that over here where buildings have been preserved/re-erected on sites and furnished in a period way to create communities of yesteryear. They are fascinating places to visit! Thanks for following my blog and I look forward to more from ‘Hangin’ Out With God’.
      Every blessing.
      Terry

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