Archive | May, 2012

A mountain ‘sc-ramble’ – aka The Leap of Faith to the Freedom of Tryfan :)

30 May

My name has now changed – I think I am ‘The Dorset Scrambler’ ;)!

This was a great ramble up a mountain – well, not a ramble but more a scramble which I thoroughly enjoyed :)!  And not in Dorset because Dorset has no mountains!  We have just returned from a week in Snowdonia, North Wales, and although it was a family holiday, I managed to escape for a couple of great walks, one around Mount Snowdon itself (blog coming soon) and one up a fabulous peak called Tryfan which I have wanted to climb for a long time.

Tryfan is a fin shaped mountain in the Snowdonia Range and it stands at a little over 3,000 feet.  Its name literally means ‘three peaks’ because………it has three peaks ;)!  It is a popular mountain with many routes up of varying difficulty, and it is one I have wanted to climb for a long time.  I chose to go directly up the North Ridge which is a long and for most parts a difficult scramble, in fact it verges on climbing in places.  It is the ridge running upwards from right to left in the picture below.

Image

Tryfan from the east

The route started in the beautiful Ogwen Valley and initially followed a fairly straight forward rocky path beside a dry stone wall but things quickly became more difficult when the path reached Milestone Buttress and skirted steeply round this (the Buttress itself is for climbers only!).  Even early on, the views on this ‘walk’ are spectacular as you look down on Llyn Ogwen.

Image

Llyn Ogwen seen from the foot of Milestone Buttress

Something that added to the enjoyment of this walk was that I had decided to do it in the evening.  Whilst this meant enjoying the evening sunset from the mountain top, it also meant that I had limited time to complete what is a 4 hour ‘walk’ – to be caught out up a strange mountain after dark with no torchlight would be somewhat difficult to say the least, but it added an extra dimension, a sort of extra level of adventure which I enjoyed.

The route up was a mixture of slightly easier sections and some steep or near vertical sections which verged on climbing.  I think the line between the two is a little blurred but generally scrambles cover ground which is less the vertical and where ropes are not required.  I am blessed with being sure footed and having a good head for heights so was able to make quick progress but if you were someone who suffered from vertigo, you wouldn’t want to attempt this route!

Image

A narrow ledge with near vertical rock faces

Part way up stands the Canon Rock, so called because it resembles a canon.  It is of course traditional to have your photo taken standing at the end of the rock and who am I to break the tradition!  The only thing was I was on my own!  It must have been an interesting sight – resting the camera on the ground, setting the self-timer, and then climbing up to the base of the rock before running up the 45 degree angle to the top before the shutter fired.  It took several attempts to get it right :)!  It wasn’t the only traditional challenge on this route – the Leap of Faith was to come, but more of that later!

Image

The Canon Rock with Lynn Ogwen far below

Image

The Dorset Rambler standing on The Canon Rock

I say I was alone but I mean of course without human company – there was much wildlife for company, including a group of mountain goats that were foraging for food on the most exposed parts.

Image

Tea time for the mountain goats

After two hours of scrambling I finally reached the summit and the next challenge!

At to top, there are two rocks approximately 3 metres high known as Adam and Eve and there is a gap of around 4 feet between them.  Tradition has it that anyone who can take the Leap of Faith between the two rocks receives the Freedom of Tryfan.  Now a 4 feet jump between two rocks may not seem much at ground level but it is altogether more challenging when you stand on top and look down at the shear drop of hundreds of feet down one side particularly, and of course not forgetting the wind that whips across the mountain at 3,000 feet up!

In fact, just getting up onto the top was difficult as there is very little in the way of hand or foot holds on either rock.  The thought of doing it within the 10 seconds allowed by the self timer on my camera would have been an impossible challenge – but fortunately there were other people at the top and one kindly agreed to take a picture for me.  But that added another challenge – I had to do it with people watching!!!

Anyway, it was fine and I did it – in both directions just to prove it wasn’t a fluke!  So The Dorset Rambler now has the Freedom of Tryfan ;)!  Now, how do I get down from this rock……

Image

Image

The Leap of Faith 3,000 feet up :)

With evening drawing in, everyone left to make their way down, leaving me alone on the summit.  I have to say that it was a magical evening and it felt great sitting at the top of the mountain all on my own eating supper whilst watching the sun set!  The view over the Ogwen Valley with the river, Afon Ogwen, snaking its way into the distance was just breathtaking!

Image

The sun setting on Tryfan

Not that I could sit there for too long as I didn’t want to run out of light (because it was a family holiday I hadn’t gone prepared with all the usual emergency equipment like head torches etc!).  So I too headed down the south side of the mountain, past the south peak into Bwlch Tryfan, the col between Tryfan and its neighbouing peak of Glyder Fach.  It always seems strange to me that even at the top of these passes there are dry stone walls with great wooden ladder stiles over them.  It must have been quite a task building these walls as they snake their way up the mountainside!

Image

The ladder stile and dry stone wall at Bwlch Tryfan

And then it was a very pleasant walk down through the valley as I watched the sun sink further towards the horizon, reflecting off one of natures mirrors – Llyn Bochlwyd.

Image

The setting sun reflects off Llyn Bochlwyd in the Cwm Bochlwyd Valley

And when I reached the lake I overtook my summit friends who waved goodbye.

Image

My summit friends take a break by Llyn Bochlwyd

Finally after three and a half fabulous hours, I reached Llyn Ogwen again as the last light faded from the evening sky.  It had been an amazing evening ‘walking’ in scenery which in many ways is in total contrast to Dorset’s rolling landscape, more rugged but equally beautiful.  I was blessed with fabulous weather which is something which definitely doesn’t always occur in the Welsh mountains!

Image

Llyn Ogwen and the Ogwen Valley

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

Your friend,

The Dorset Rambler

AWARDED THE FREEDOM OF TRYFAN ;)

All pictures on this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler

On walking backwards with cows and kestrels for company!

20 May

Well I’ve had some fantastic walks again this week despite the somewhat dubious weather, or perhaps because of it – it always adds variety when the weather is changeable.  This walk took in ridge tops, beautiful valleys and some very picturesque story book villages.

Image

A picture book village

It started strangely when I realised I was walking backwards!  Well, not physically walking backwards as that would be very difficult, not to mention pointless, unless you had eyes in the back of your head – which I don’t…….although thinking about it, that would be kind of cool, being able to see where you are going at the same time as seeing where you have been (hmm, maybe I should patent that!)!

I realised something was amiss when I looked at my GPS which cleverly gives an estimated time of arrival at the final destination (the end of the walk) – it actually quoted the same time as it was when I started walking.  Now either I was doing a superman and walking at superhuman speeds without realising it, or something was wrong!  It could have been the first, but it seemed unlikely so I checked the GPS and discovered that I was actually walking my route the wrong way round.  That was easily corrected because these nifty modern aids to walking can reverse the route at the touch of a button – dangerous because usually when I touch a button it deletes everything ;)!  Anyway, all was well and I could continue happily on my way!

The first part of the walk was a long climb up to the top of the ridge, and then an equally long and steep drop down into the valley on the other side.  The views were amazing and even more amazing was the fact that there was no mud……although that would be more than made up for later!

At the bottom of the valley, I walked into one of the most picturesque, unspoilt and friendly villages in Dorset.  I stopped to look at the village church which was very old and very lovely, with what must be the most picturesque graveyard possible!  In fact it was so lovely that I sat on a seat in the graveyard and had my lunch.

Image

The picturesque graveyard

Whilst I was there, I met a very nice lady who was tending her husband’s grave and we just naturally started chatting.  She had lived in the village for 51 years, since marrying her husband in fact as he was a villager.  She spoke of the pleasures of living in the village with lots of friends around her, but also of the hardships too.  She was elderly and becoming less mobile which could at some point pose a problem because there was now no public transport at all.  She was still able to drive but at some point in the future could become ‘village bound’!  The only village shop was the post office which opens on only two mornings a week but fortunately all the main supermarkets deliver so food at least would not be a problem.

Just as an aside, it’s strange that supermarkets make a big deal out of home deliveries like it’s a new invention – when I was at school some 50 years ago, I used to deliver groceries to earn myself some pocket money!

Image

The village church

The church itself was old, with leaning walls, and yet somehow it stays up and is still regularly used.  It is well known for its variety of gargoyles, those grotesque carved figures around the top with pipes coming out of their mouths designed to carry rainwater away from the masonry.  There are a number of reasons suggested as to why they have grotesque faces rather that just a simple pipe – one suggests that in the days when most people were illiterate, the gargoyles would convey the story of good verses evil, and another suggests that they were simply a representation of the fact that evil is kept outside the church.  Either way, they are very interesting and add to the charm of these ancient buildings.

Image

One of many grotesque gargoyles

The church is also one of the few with some old box pews remaining.  These were installed in churches from the 16th to the 19th century so that families could sit together and have a degree of privacy, sometimes to conceal non devotional activities!  Naturally the standard of pew would be suited to the social standing of the family with some having curtains and tables and even fireplaces, in fact they were passed down the generations in wills!  Of course the best and the one nearest the front would be reserved for the Lord of the Manor, whilst lesser mortals would have quite a small affair somewhere near the back!  Perhaps it is a good thing that most were ripped out in the 19th century!

Image

The old box pews

I had to leave the church and go on my way again but I hadn’t gone far before I met another villager.  He was a farmer who ran one of the five farms in the village (very strangely, at one time one was an ostrich farm)!  It was milking time so the farm workers were bringing the cows down from the fields to the village farm to be milked.  To do this, the cows had to be brought through the village lanes which meant stopping traffic.  It was once a common thing to be held up in your travels by herds of cows but sadly these days it is quite rare because today 90% of our travelling is on motorways or bypasses.  I say ‘sadly’ because I think it is a lovely reminder of times when the pace of life was slower!  It is also a good sign because it means that summer has arrived – in the winter the cows are in the barns and not the fields!

Image

A welcome sight – summer is here!!

To make sure that the cows don’t stray where they shouldn’t (well it wouldn’t be popular if the cows trampled all over the beautifully manicured gardens), the farm workers put rope across the various openings, including across the road at junctions.  Now if you are a driver, it’s not easy to see a thin rope across the road and a car nearly ran into it, braking only at the last minute!  So the farmer asked if I would help by standing there and herding the cows in the right direction, which I gladly did.

Whilst waiting for the cows to arrive, we got chatting.  He told me that farming had run in his family for many generations, back to the 17th century in fact, and always cattle and the sons had always followed in their father’s footsteps.  His son was an accountant in the city, but even he wants to return to the farm at some point and take over the family business.  The farmer gets up to milk the 170 cows at 5.00am and milks them again in the afternoon, 365 days of the year.  I asked him if he ever tired of it but he said no, he loved his work and his way of life, being on the farm and with nature too.  I could understand what he meant!

Image

Cow herding 21st century style

What seemed strange to me is that the cows have calves to stimulate the milk flow but the calves are then quickly weaned so that the milk can be taken for human consumption – although I gather they are given a small amount still.  The milk yield gradually decreases through the year and then next year the cycle begins again!  An interesting fact that the farmer told me was that if a cow has two calves, one male and one female, the female is always infertile!  It’s amazing what you learn on a walk :)!

When the cows were all in, I bade my farewell and continued up the road to be greeted very soon by a couple of interesting sights.  The first was an old ford where the tiny stream crosses the road – I could just picture in my mind horses drinking at that ford in days of old as they made their way to market!  I gather that in addition to enabling cars to cross the stream, the ford has also on occasion been used by the locals in conjunction with a bucket and sponge as a free car wash!  What seems unbelievable looking at the tiny stream is that in the 19th century a man was washed downstream and drowned, such was the strength and depth of the water then after a storm.

Image

The car wash……or is it a ford!

The other unusual sight was a post box attached to a pole.  It was unusual in that it was an Edward VII post box, but more than that, it was unusual because of the sign on it.  It said, ‘Please do not use this box until further notice as birds nesting’!  Isn’t that cool that modern life still stops sometimes for nature!

Image

Nature triumphs :)

A little further up the trail, I came across the most magnificent barn.  It was huge and was right at the top of the valley with amazing views from the doorway.  I was really surprised, and delighted, that no one had converted it to a house – which seems all too common with barns these days.  It would certainly be a great place to live.  And then I realised that someone does live there – a family of kestrels!  They were nesting high up on one of the roof beams and I could hear the chicks loudly voicing their need for food!

Image

Image

The old barn – a great nesting site

Having climbed up to the top of the valley, I crossed the ridge and dropped down the other side again, just as the rain came on!  And I came across another delightful hamlet nestling in the valley with its little church sitting on its own in a meadow of dandelions and buttercups.  It always enriches a walk when you come across these little unexpected treasures, and this was certainly a treasure with its rather unusual tower looking as if it was an afterthought!

Image

Image

The church in the meadow, with its ‘after thought’ tower!

So, back to the mud!!  And boy, were the last few miles muddy!!  So much so that at one point I sank in up to my knees – I got soaked.  Its funny how it slows you down as it is not easy to get into a good stride when every time you put your foot to the ground, you sink in – it’s like walking in jelly…..but definitely not as tasty!  And even when you get to the other side, you still squelch for the rest of the day because your shoes that are meant to keep water out are now keeping it in ;)!  It was still great though with some unexpectedly interesting things.  Like the old railway bridge that the route goes under.  The railway closed many years ago and the bridge has been colonised by that gorgeous orange lichen – I thinks its called Crustose lichen.  Very photogenic!

Image

Photogenic lichen

And then the last thing to pass was the cleverly disguised trunk below.  It seems to have been carved out of a single tree (a trunk carved from a trunk in fact!) and contained what was once a usable note book and pen, a sort of visitor’s book to be signed by all who pass.  Sadly the heavy rain has not only filled the footpath!

Image

Don’t forget to sign the visitor’s book!

What a great walk!  So much of interest and interesting and friendly people too!  Another day, very well spent in this amazingly beautiful county of Dorset!

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

Your friend

The Dorset Rambler

A walk with great company :)!

15 May

This was a walk with a difference – I had company, and just the best company too :)!  Because I mostly walk during the week, I normally walk alone which is fine because I am quite happy in my own company and besides, you are never really alone out on the trail because you always bump into some interesting people along the way.  But this time my son Paul and his lovely wife Laura came with me :)!  Now Paul is a best friend as well as my son – we are kindred spirits, and the three of us make a great team out on the trail.  And what a great walk we had!

It started in some beautiful meadows, famous meadows in fact, with bluebells everywhere and even an orchid or two!  Plus of course lots of orange tip butterflies, so called because their wings have……..orange tips!!

Image

An Early Purple Orchid with bluebells

There were several ponds along this 16 mile walk, some man made and some natural…….in fact there were some ponds on the footpath itself because of all the rain we have had recently – but more of that later!  The pond below is actually part of a fishery and it is in a beautiful setting in a small hamlet.  Overhanging the pond and tied to a tree branch was a swing which just needed someone sat on it to create a prize winning photograph.  We tried to persuade Laura to pose on it for us but for some reason she declined ;)!

Image

The fishery pond

Image

A swing just begging for someone to sit on it ;)

After all the rain we have had recently, everything looked so beautifully clean, fresh and lush.  In fact we decided that the word of the day should be VERDANT because everything everywhere was just that!  At one point we dropped down through a valley and the light coming through the tress threw such lovely shadows across all the greenery – it was just magic!

Image

Verdant, the word of the day!

Mind you, that rain brought problems too as the paths in many places were extremely muddy or even impassable because they had ‘ponds’ of their own.  On occasion it meant detouring off the track and following an obstacle course over fences and through hedges just to get round the obstruction.  It was either that or take off the shoes and socks and paddle!!  I did suggest to Paul that he should do the gallant thing and carry Laura through the puddles, but we climbed fences instead ;)!

Image

An unforeseen ‘pond’

Image

Part of the obstacle course ;)

Apart from puddles and ponds, something else we had aplenty was clouds, lots of fluffy white sky sheep swimming across the deep blue swimming pool of the sky.  Very photogenic!

Image

Fluffy sky sheep – or is that an airship?

Half way round our circuit we passed the lovely Manor House in the picture below.  It sits in an idyllic position in a tiny hamlet in a beautifully picturesque valley, and it was clearly well looked after.  We met the current ‘lord’ of the manor – although he is not really a lord any more, just a wealthy person.  He was another of those friendly country folk that I so often seem to get talking to on my travels and he told us a bit about the house and the hamlet it sits in.

It was once a village with around 100 inhabitants but with the declining manpower needed to run the farms, it is now down to a small hamlet of about 16 people.  The Manor House itself dates mostly from the 17th century and at one point it became almost derelict.  So much so that an underground spring actually ran through the lounge which was very useful to the local pig farmer who took his pigs into the lounge to be slaughtered so that the blood would be washed away by the spring!  A bit gruesome but it is part of the history and heritage of the now restored Manor.

The hamlet has its own church dating from the 1870’s and this too is now owned by the current ‘Lord’ of the Manor who paid the princely sum of £50 for it not long ago.  It has to be maintained in good order as a church so it’s great that he felt able to take it on and preserve a part of history that might have otherwise become derelict!

Image

The manor house

Shortly after passing the Manor, we came across another pond with some great photographic opportunities…….and Laura almost provided a great action shot opportunity for me, but she resisted ;)!  Paul is taking a photograph by the way so was oblivious to what she was doing ;)!!!

Image

Go on!  There’s a great picture to be had!

Now normally, I try to avoid any convenience food or drink when on a walk, preferring to have my sandwiches sat somewhere in the countryside.  This walk however took us through a town and when we heard the chimes of an ice cream van, we couldn’t resist!

Image

Ice cream time, even if it doesn’t go with the rugged outdoor image :)

This is another walk that takes in one of those sunken lanes and you can get a sense of scale from the picture below.  These lanes always intrigue me – it could be that it was formed simply by water running off the hills but I prefer to think of it as having been deliberately dug to make a route for smugglers carrying their contraband in unseen!  It really is an awesome place to walk!

Image

A smuggler’s route?

As always, there were many sheep with lambs on the route and for the third time recently The Dorset Rambler came to the rescue of one little lamb.  There was a tree in the particular field which had a fence around it and somehow the lamb had found its way into the fenced off area and it couldn’t get out.  It was bleating pitifully and was throwing itself against the fence in an effort to escape – sheep are a bit dense I think!  With some difficulty because it kept running away from me, I managed to get it out and ran happily across to its mum…….and a good feed!!Image

Happy families!

Shortly after, we met another interesting character!  He was the local farmer who was using a JCB to dig a hole in the middle of one of his fields.  It seemed a bit of a random thing to do so we stopped and asked him, ‘Why?’  Apparently there is a network of land drains running throughout the field and one had exploded and needed repairing.  Without it, a verdant green grassy field would become nothing more than a useless quagmire!  He told us all about his farm which was several thousand acres of arable, sheep and cows, all operated by 5 people.  In the past of course that one farm would have been split into numerous smaller farms, each of which would have employed many men.  And of course the huge field we were stood in would have been numerous smaller fields too.  How times change with the coming of more sophisticated machinery!  With the loss of all those hedgerows that provided cover for much wildlife, the change is not all good!

Image

Care, exploding land drains!

As evening settled over the countryside and the beautiful golden hour approached, we passed through another lovely wooded area.  How the scene changes at this magic time of day.  Even the conifers look picturesque with their new foliage uncurling!

Image

A lovely evening woodland walk

Image

Even the conifers take on a special beauty in the golden hour!

As we neared the end of the walk, the sun was setting and we dropped down off the hilltop and into the valley.  And there was just time for one more photograph, a reminder of a special day!  Memorable for great scenery and sun, memorable for lots of water and mud, memorable for fences climbed and lambs rescued, memorable for interesting and friendly country folk, but memorable most of all for the company of two great people who are close to my heart!

Image

Two special people!

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

Your friend,

The Dorset Rambler

Please note that all photographs on this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler

Two castles, two ponds and two very different people!

10 May

This was another lovely walk, 21 miles through the beautiful north Dorset countryside and some interesting things and interesting people on the way!

It started with two castles, an old castle and a ‘new’ castle!  To be more exact they are fortified palaces with the original one being built in the 12th century and destroyed by the Parliamentarians in 1645 during the English Civil War.  It was at one time owned by Sir Walter Raleigh having been gifted to him by Queen Elizabeth.  He originally tried to improve the old castle but in the end he gave up with that and in 1594 built a lodge which was eventually to become the ‘new’ castle.  Just as an aside, Sir Walter Raleigh fell out of favour with royalty and he was beheaded in 1618.  Apparently his head was embalmed and given to his devoted wife and it is said that she kept it in a velvet bag until her death some 29 years later when it was reunited with his body in his tomb!

Image

The old castle on the left across the water and the new castle on the right

Having passed the castles, the walk took in some really beautiful parkland with great paths to walk on – it made a great change after the muddy paths of recent walks.  I think you can just imagine royalty riding along these paths in their carriages, or whilst out with the hunting parties.

Image

Beautiful parkland

Shortly after exiting the parkland, I came across the first of the ponds – or rather a series of small ponds.  They were in a beautiful setting on the edge of a village beside a farm and it wasn’t clear whether they were private or not.  They weren’t fenced off and there were no signs so I took the opportunity to grab a picture or two.

Image

Pondlife

On this walk there were many rape fields, and very beautiful they were, like bright yellow table cloths laid out ready for a spring picnic.  It seems really strange that these crops which are so pretty bear a name which has such horrible connotations and it made me wonder where the name comes from – it apparently derives from the Latin word for turnip!  The fields do seem to be particularly vibrant this year!

Image

Beautiful rape fields

Whilst I was walking, they were spraying the crop….which concerned me a little!  I am not sure what they spray it with, but I am sure that it is not intended for human consumption particularly when it is in neat form.  Fortunately the day was still and I was able to avoid getting too close so I managed to avoid breathing it in.  On the plus side, it was interesting watching what looked like an aeroplane driving up and down the fields…….and of course it gave me a nice focal point for a picture :)!

Image

Ah, lovely fresh air ;)

It wasn’t long before I came across the second pond, a much larger affair than the earlier pond and equally beautiful.  The public footpath circled right along the bank so I was able to enjoy the labours of the landowners.

Image

The second pond

The pond was part of the grounds of a ‘manor’ house (I use inverted commas as I am not sure that it technically qualifies as a manor although it was a very large house with many acres of land) and in fact the ‘Lord and Lady’ of the manor were showing some friends around their grounds.  The ‘Lady’ and I fell into conversation and I commended her on the beautiful grounds and she was very quick to give the credit to others, saying, ‘We have a good gardener’.  She also told me that they had recently improved the stiles across their land which is quite refreshing as many landowners neglect the public footpaths that they are meant to keep in good order!  These were lovely people and I bade my farewell and moved on.

Image

A beautiful place for a public footpath

There were a number of lovely village churches on this walk.  The church below was renovated in the late 1800’s and when the survey was carried out, it was discovered that most of the church, including the tower, had only one foot of masonry below ground and virtually no foundations.  The restoration improved the situation and the church still stands although as you can see in the picture below, the walls lean at a slightly crazy angle!

Image

The church with leaning walls

One of the interesting things about this church is the east window which is ‘stained glass’ but more modern than the other glass in the church.  It depicts the crucifixion scene and Christ’s tomb.

Image

An interesting ‘stained glass’ window

The church also contains a 15th century tomb with an alabaster effigy.  As is often the case, this is partly set within the wall of the church.  I was impressed with modern technology when taking the picture below :)!  Cameras these days often have face recognition so that they automatically focus on the face if there is one in the picture.  Well, my camera automatically focussed on the effigy’s ‘face’ even though it barely has one!

Image

The tomb

At another church just down the road, I noticed a strange sign!!  The church was locked but the sign indicates that the key is available in the porch of the farmhouse on the left……and promptly points to the right :)!

Image

How does that work – left, right??

During the afternoon, the route took me through the most delightful woodland which was beautifully brought alive by the afternoon sun.  All the trees were dressed in their brand new clothes and were stood on a lovely bluebell carpet.  It was a quite magic part of the walk!  Strangely, I fancy the carpet is not so blue as it usually is – perhaps it is because of too much rain and not enough sun!

Image

Spring greens on a carpet of blue

Image

A perfect place for a spring walk

Towards the end of the day, I passed another two tiny churches.  The first one, pictured below, was in a delightful little hamlet which was typically Dorset.  The second one was in reality only part of a church – just the chancel.  The rest of the church has long since disappeared!

Having looked around the outside of this second church, I decided to go in but the door was jammed and as I tried to push it open, a voice came from inside saying, ‘Hold on’!  Shortly after, a man opened the door for me.  At first I thought he was the cleaner but it turned out that he was in fact a homeless man who had lived, or rather slept, in that little church for 7 years!  Some might say that it was inappropriate for him to be there but he was doing no harm to either the church or anyone around – he was just using it as a night shelter.

He was another friendly individual who told me all about himself – both his parents had died 10 years earlier and it had sent him into a tailspin that resulted in his losing his home.  He talked about the difficulties and challenges of being homeless and the freedom that it brings too.  How the summer is easy once you get used to having no home base, but how winter is so difficult because of the cold.  He told me of winter nights when he just had to walk all night to keep warm!  He was in his sixties and now claiming a pension and the prospect of another winter sleeping rough at that age was not appealing!  In addition to that, he had that day lost his glasses so was unable to read – I felt for him!  One unusual thing about him was that he didn’t touch alcohol – he must be one of the few homeless people who don’t drown themselves in drink to help them cope with their lifestyle!  We chatted for quite some time – I think he was glad of the company – and he waved to me as I set off again down the trail.

Image

A little church in a Dorset hamlet

It was interesting, the total contrast in social status between the ‘Lady of the Manor’ and the homeless man, and perhaps just because of circumstance!  In my eyes, and God’s eyes, they are both equal and I enjoyed sharing part of my journey with each them.  Isn’t that what life is really about!  We rub shoulders with many different people on life’s journey – hopefully we leave a little something behind with each one as we travel.  These two certainly contributed to a memorable walk for me!

Thanks for reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler!

The Dorset Rambler

To Spring!

7 May

Spring is such a great time of year, such a great time to be out in the fields, walking the countryside, leaning on a country gate now and then to take in the view.  To me, it seems a time of freedom, freedom from the ‘prison’ of the winter when doors and windows have to be closed to keep out the wind and the cold.  Freedom from the short days.  Freedom from layers of clothes.  Freedom from hibernation as everything comes to life again.  Spring is a time of new birth, new hopes, new expectations, a time for brushing off the cobwebs and for washing the sleepy dust from the eyes of life’s hibernation.

Isn’t that what creation does, to sweep away the gloom and deadness of winter, to wash everything down and give the countryside a lovely new and fresh coat of paint.  And for our enjoyment!  They say that autumn is the season of  ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness – well Spring is the season of vibrant greens and yellow floweriness!  In the meadows, the wild flowers are blooming, dandelions and bluebells, wild garlic, primroses and cowslips, and there are even some ‘flying flowers’ – butterflies – to liven the scene up as they flit seemingly aimlessly from flower to flower!

Suddenly we hear the birds singing, the beautiful skylark often serenades me as I walk and at the end of the day the blackbird takes over.  It is the best sort of music ever!  And suddenly, the children are singing as they play outside again running through the long grass in the fields – don’t you just love the sound of children playing, its such a happy sound.  They are so free from cares and constraints and they have such wonder in everything they do.  It is such a shame that age robs us of some of that creative wonder of discovery, and such a shame too that often computer games rob children of that wonder so early in life!

When I was walking this week, the meadows were so beautiful and I wanted to capture something of the freshness and freedom of the spring.  The picture below is my feeble attempt at the impossible and as you look at it, imagine the sound of the skylarks and bees, the fresh smell of the grass, the babbling of the small brook that runs through the meadow, and the sound of happy and free children playing over the hill……..and wonder!

Image

The Spring Meadow

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

The Dorset Rambler

New walk, new birth, and a badly placed hole!!

3 May

I had a great walk yesterday, and saw areas that were new to me!  That’s one of the things I love about walking – no matter how much you do it, there are always new areas to explore and new sights to see.  And in different light, different weather, different times of year, different times of day, even the familiar can look different and new.  I never tire of Dorset and its wonderful countryside!

Yesterday’s walk was in west Dorset and started with the familiar, but from a different angle.  This was Colmer’s Hill, a much photographed landmark with its tiny clump of trees on the top.  The hill was named after the Reverend John Colmer who was once Rector at Symondsbury and the trees were apparently planted around the time of the First World War.  Someone once asked me how you get to the top, but in reality, I don’t think you can because there appear to be no public footpaths that go there.  It is one of those places that you always view, and photograph or paint, from another vantage point.  And what a great subject it makes too!

Image

Colmer’s Hill

I had trouble with the footpaths on this walk!  There was one particular half mile stretch that I needed to find and it just wasn’t there, or in reality, it was there but was impassable!  It was an old ‘lane’ which was probably used in olden times to take the cattle, sheep etc to market but it has long since become boggy and overgrown.  I spoke to the farmer who owns the land and he explained that the lane hasn’t been used for many years despite the fact that it is still shown on the OS map.  The old farmer had a job to stand, leave alone walk, and he had an amazingly broad Dorset accent.  Now I am Dorset born and bred and people say I have a broad Dorset accent, but even I had a job to understand what he was saying as he tried to direct me to another footpath!!  Perhaps it was because he was elderly!

I had more footpath trouble as I came across a badly placed hole!  You’ll need to picture the scene here!!!  I was walking across what was a nice flat and even field and as I walked, I was looking intently at the map trying to work out the route…….when I suddenly disappeared down a fox hole!  Well, to be more precise, one third of me disappeared down a fox hole and the other two thirds fell forward face first into the mud!  It was like something out of a Laurel and Hardy movie – you know the sort of thing, they are walking along together when one disappears down a man hole and the other one can’t work out where he has gone!  What would have seemed even more strange had anyone been watching was to see The Dorset Rambler laughing out loud for the next hour because it was so funny.  I just couldn’t get the Laurel and Hardy picture out of my mind!!

Image

A badly placed hole – hmm, should I sue the farmer under health and Safety laws ;)

What was a real privilege on this walk was to watch a ewe give birth to two beautiful lambs.  The farmer and young vet were just delivering them when I crossed the field so I stopped to watch and chat to them (the farmer and vet that is, not the lambs ;) )…..and of course to take a picture or three :)!  Apparently ewes can have anything from one to four lambs depending on the breed.  It’s interesting how it works – hill sheep only have one because they need to be bigger to cope with the rougher conditions.

Image

Brand new!

Image

Off to the nursery, aka the barn!

This is another walk that took in a lovely village church and this one is known as the ‘Cathedral of the Vale’, such is its size.  It was in a beautiful village with the great name of Whitchurch Canonicorum – don’t you just love the Dorset names!!  The church is constructed out of the local warm coloured stone and for a village church is impressive inside and out.

Image

The Cathedral of the Vale

One of the interesting things about this church is the tomb below.  It has three oval openings at the bottom and it is said that people used to put their hands or legs in those alcoves in order to be healed.  This is one of only two shrines in England that have survived intact after the Reformation!

Image

The healing tomb

The village itself is certainly pretty and as you can see from the picture below, is quintessentially English!

Image

A quintessentially English cottage

I have to say that despite all the rain we have had recently, the meadows are already beginning to burst into life with bluebells, dandelions and other wild flowers starting to bloom, as well as butterflies and even a slow worm.  This was a delightful part of the walk as the meadows ran alongside the river that seemed to chatter to itself, or to me, on its way down stream to the sea.

Image

Image

Image

Image

The meadows burst into Spring life

Ultimately the route took me to the sea.  All along the coast of Dorset there are reminders of the days when smuggling was rife.  Sometimes ships wrecked by storms would be plundered and at other times, the ships would be deliberately lured onto the rocks so that the cargo could be stolen and stored until later.  The contraband would often be hidden amongst the rocks and caves and then would be sneaked inland under cover of darkness.  A favourite place to stow the contraband was St Gabriel’s Church and nearby there is a sunken lane still known as the Smuggler’s Path.  It is not clear whether this was a route used by the smugglers or whether in fact it was a path created by the Excise Men to help them patrol the area.  Either way, it makes a very pleasant place to walk today!

Image

The Smuggler’s Path

And one of the places that the contraband would certainly have been landed is St Gabriel’s Mouth which is just a short distance from the church.  Strangely, in all my years of walking in Dorset, I had never been to St Gabriel’s Mouth until this walk.  It is always great to see new places and to see well known landmarks from a different angle so I rather enjoyed this trip.  To see Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast of England, from below was something new and special.

Image

St Gabriel’s Mouth

In fact I decided to continue my walk along the seashore rather than climb back up over the headland as I usually do……..but it was a slightly risky decision as the tide was coming in and there were several miles to walk along the shingle.  So much so, that I ended up having to climb up above the beach and try to walk on the soft and clingy clay around the point in order to reach the safety of the beach the other side.  It was a difficult ‘walk’ and in hindsight, although the climb up over the headland at Golden Cap would have been steep, it would most certainly have been less tiring!

The cliffs along this stretch of the coast are made up of Liassic Clay which is very unstable.  As you stand below them they look very imposing and almost threatening but somehow this, and the difficulty in walking actually makes it more enjoyable and challenging.

Image

The imposing, and crumbly, cliffs below Golden Cap

One strange thing I did see here is the rock below – I thought it looked like some sort of sea monster that had been petrified ;)!

Image

The sea monster ;)

The end of the walk was at probably the best place to finish any walk, on a Dorset beach.  As the light fades, Golden Cap stands defiant as the sea pays homage around it!  What a beautiful end to the day!

Image

Golden Cap from the beach

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

The Dorset Rambler

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 214 other followers