Archive | July, 2012

Flying Crooked???

22 Jul

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Cabbage White

The butterfly, a cabbage-white,
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has- who knows so well as I?-
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the acrobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.
(Robert Graves)

I heard this poem for the first time on the radio many years ago when I was in my car and it struck a chord immediately.  So when I got home, I looked it up and subsequently used it as an opening to a sermon.  You see, to me, there is a message in it!  Most of the poem is about how useless the Cabbage White is because it just can’t fly straight – it just flies randomly in all directions with no direction at all.  It even compares it very unfavourably with the swift which has such amazing aerobatic skills.

But then right at the end it turns it around and says that far from being useless, it has a real gift for ‘flying crooked’ :)!  You see, its all about how you look at it – which led me to question, how do we look at ourselves?  You may not be able to ride a bike like Bradley Wiggins, or wield a tennis racket like Roger Federer; you may not be a Mother Theresa or a Martin Luther King – the Cabbage White is not a Swift……but he has his own gifts and strengths, as do we all!  Its all about how we see ourselves :)!

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Flying crooked!

Both pictures were taken on a recent walk – full blog to follow.  The second one was of course modified in Photoshop :)!

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

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

All photographs on this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and may not be used without permission.

Of fond memories, war and peace, and a snake that is not a snake!

16 Jul

PERCHED on my city office-stool,
I watched with envy, while a cool
And lucky carter handled ice. . . .
And I was wandering in a trice,
Far from the grey and grimy heat
Of that intolerable street….

So said the poet, Wilfred Gibson.  Well I am not on a stool and I’m not in a city but I am in my office that looks out onto my very green garden on a dull day and my mind wanders back to the one sunny day last week and a wonderful walk.

It started on the famous Sandbanks peninsula, said to be the forth most expensive real estate in the world with properties valued in millions.  It is just my parking place though and I am quickly transported to another world.  The transport is a chain ferry that runs to and fro across the entrance to Poole Harbour, apparently the second largest natural harbour in the world.  The journey is but a few hundred yards but it saves a drive of around 30 miles and it takes me from urban to country in a matter of minutes!  And it is an interesting experience to boot!

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The Sandbanks Ferry

I’ve been travelling on this ferry all my life but it never fails to give me a kick.  There is something magical and escapist in this ferry, maybe because it takes me back 60 years to when I was a child and we went to the beach, our wilderness area to explore and lose ourselves in…..ah, the wonder and simplicity of childhood!  The Sandbanks Ferry is one of those quirky things of Dorset and something to be blogged separately but for now, it’s on with our walk.

The ferry takes me across to Shell Bay, in my view one of the loveliest and most unspoilt beaches in Dorset.  It marks the start (or finish) of the 640 mile walk around the South West Coast of England – but my walk will cover just a few of those.

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Shell Bay

Stepping onto the beach brings back very fond memories from my childhood.  We used to walk the 5 miles from our home in Parkstone to spend the day on the beach, and when I say ‘we’ I mean the whole family, my parents, me and my 4 brothers (apart from when I was in a pram of course), grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – we all used to go to the beach regularly.  We would spend the whole day there and then walk home again – well, we had no cars and with such a large family my parents often couldn’t afford the bus fare.

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The Dorset Rambler and family (I’m the baby of the family and that’s my pram behind) :)

The sand dunes became our mountains to climb and whoever reached the top first would sing out, ‘I’m the king of the castle, you’re the dirty rascal’ :)!  We would then kneel down and pulling ourselves along with our hands, make grooves like railway lines all around the beach.  There were great football and cricket matches, lots of sand castles and my father always took an old lorry inner tube that was either rolled hoopla fashion down the dunes or became our boat for further adventures!  It amazing how creative we were and how the simple things could become such an adventure.  I think that sense of wonder and excitement that we had as children is something to be treasured and carried with us even into old age, even if it does take more effort.  So many people lose that as they grow up and they are all the poorer for it!

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In the sand dunes today

For this walk, I didn’t linger on the beach – that was to be my way back.  My way out was along a very quiet path known as the Heather Trail.  This is a lovely route that winds through the heathland behind the dunes and it can be a very colourful walk at the right time of year.  This is the Egdon Heath of Hardy novels such as The Return of the Native.  With the accompaniment of the skylarks, it is a lovely place to be.

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The Heather Trail

It also skirts past swampy areas of heath with decaying trees – when we were younger, we used to imagine crocodiles and all kinds of snakes here.  There aren’t any of course – the adder is the only ‘dangerous’ snake we have and they don’t usually live in swamp areas.

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The ‘swamp’

Eventually the path comes back out onto the beach again…..and a part of the beach that needs care!  This is Studland Beach and part of it is noted for being an official naturist beach.  Walking this part, the camera usually stays firmly in its holster, although on this occasion, the skies were so amazing that I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures!  Clearly someone inland was getting wet but where I was, it was sunshine all the way :)!

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Heavy skies but the sun shines on the righteous ;)

Having passed through Hardy country, the walk took me on to another famous author as Studland is very much Enid Blyton territory.  Most of her novels were based here with the Famous Five and Secret Seven having their adventures around this coast.  In fact, with her husband, Enid Blyton owned the local golf club.  It seems strange that such an iconic children’s author once had her work banned by the BBC who described her on occasions as a ‘tenacious second rater’ whose books were ‘stilted and long winded’.  She was also felt to be racist and sexist!  Ah but we as children didn’t care what the critics said, we loved her books!  In the two pictures below, I’ve tried to create something Blyton-esque – pictures that might perhaps have appeared in one of her novels.

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One goes on an adventure!

The coastline at Studland is interesting and varied.  As you can see from the pictures above, the cliffs are sandstone with a beautiful array of warm colours, tones and patterns, and a few shallow caves too.  Later, this sandstone turns to chalk as we reach the start of the famous World Heritage Site – the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, so designated by UNESCO in 2001.  Perhaps that is a subject for a future blog too.  It is an amazing coastline and one which I never tire of visiting.

Walking along the beach, I am always struck by the peace, the gentle lapping of the waves, the calling of the gulls overhead, the lovely sound of the children playing in the distance, but it has not always been so peaceful.  There are several reminders of less peaceful times.  One is above the beach and one that we will pass later in the walk but one is right on the beach – it is an old Second World War pill box which nestles at a crazy angle on the sand.  This is a feature in many places along the coast and is perhaps a stark reminder of what our ancestors went through to bring the peace that we now enjoy.

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The pill box – with a robin on the top

It was as I was walking along this part of the route that there was another reminder of both war and peace, it was the faint drone of a plane’s engine growing louder as it came closer.  This was a troop carrying plane that often flies over this part of the coast, plying its trade to and fro, dropping paratroops out of the back – it looked like some giant insect giving birth as it flew with its new-born offspring gliding to earth.  I often envy the troops their view as they glide slowly and effortlessly down in the silence just carried by the warm air and breeze.  I’m not sure though that my envy would be quite so evident if I was stood at the back of the plane and about to leap out into the unknown!

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Giving birth ;)

The next stage of my walk took me away from the beach and up onto the clifftops….and to an altogether more agile flier than the cumbersome troop carrying plane.  Walking along the beautiful grass covered cliff top, I decided to rest and just enjoy the scene.  I sat on the grass and watched hundreds of martin’s wheeling through the air with amazing skill.  In fact I tried to watch them through the binoculars but they were just so fast, constantly changing direction, that I couldn’t follow them.  I guess they were making the most of the sunshine and having their dinner on the wing, swerving here and there to catch insects in flight.  It was a wonderful sight!  And the wild flowers were amazing too, almost as if someone had planted them – but then, I guess the great gardener himself did just that :)!

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On the cliff tops

It was time to move on and it wasn’t long before I reached Old Harry Rocks, the point at which Ballard Down reaches the sea.  There is some debate over how it got its name – some say Harry is named after the devil who took a nap there, and others say he is named after Harry Paye, an infamous local smuggler.  Either way, it is a beautiful and breathtaking place.

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Old Harry Rocks

It is impossible to get onto the stacks themselves but with care you can go down that slope to reach the tip of the ‘mainland’, a point known as St Lucas Leap – this was named after a greyhound who went over the cliff whilst chasing a hare.  Hmm, I can feel another blog entry coming on there too :)!

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St Lucas’ Leap

On the way back down the coast path, the memories from my youth and the remembrances of war came together.  I passed the cottage in the picture below – it sits right on the cliff top with fabulous views over Studland Bay.  It reminded me of a day in the 1950’s when I passed it whilst out (grudgingly) walking with my parents.  My father recognised the owner who was working in his garden and fell into conversation with him.  During the war my father was in Italy for three years as a driver in the army and this man was the colonel that he used to drive around.  He hadn’t seen him for many many years!  As an aside, I never knew what went on in wartime as my father never talked about it!

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The way back

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Of lush countryside, lovely meadows, two hill forts…….and a butterfly at last!

7 Jul

Well as I sit at my desk typing this blog, the rain is pouring down outside – yet again!!!  It’s been one on those years so far in England, just rain, rain, and more rain with just the odd better day in between.  Ah, the good old English summer – lazy, hazy, crazy days – don’t you just love ‘em!  We wish!  Actually I don’t mind walking in the rain if it starts raining when I’m already out, but there seems little point in going out if it is raining already…….but I miss walking when I am trapped in by the weather.  Still, without it what would we English have to talk about ;)!

I did manage to get out recently for a great walk through some lush countryside and some beautiful meadows, not to mention a couple of hill forts and an old mill.  It started with a lovely woodland walk with some gorgeous dappled sunlight filtering through the foliage (sadly the sun wasn’t to last long though :( )

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Through the dappled forest

And part way through the woodlands I came across a rather unusual tree that was playing host to a whole load of ferns.  Walter De La Mare’s poem, The Listeners, refers to ‘the forest’s ferny floor’ but maybe this should be changed to ‘the forest’s ferny trees’ ;)!  The tree was still living but was clearly decaying and moss covered, giving the ferns a foothold – or is that ‘root-hold’!

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The forest’s ferny trees

Out of the woodlands, my route took me down another of those oft seen ‘Smuggler’s Lanes’.  I haven’t been able to establish whether it really was a smuggler’s route or whether it was just named that because it was quite a secret and hidden path.  It wasn’t near the coast but I guess contraband needed to be taken well inland so it might well have seen illegal traffic in the long ago past.  Ah, if only those trees could talk, I’m sure they would have many a tale to tell!  For me though, it was just the beauty of the path that I enjoyed.

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Smuggler’s Lane

I told the story in my last blog entry of my ongoing battle with butterfies that taunted me constantly as I tried to photograph them.  Well on this walk I fooled them and I actually managed to grab some shots before they took off rather than after!!  The picture below shows a Meadow Brown butterfly wearing his rather nice fur coat.  He clearly knew what the English summer was going to be like ;)!

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Meadow Brown

There were butterflies everywhere along this route, partly because the hedgerows were so thick with plants and flowers, I saw so many different varieties.  It is amazing when you look at these delicate ‘flying flowers’ to think that some of them actually migrate and have flown a thousand miles to get here.  They don’t look capable of flying that far or indeed of flying in any specific direction – as the poem says, they have a definite gift of ‘flying crooked’!

The hedgerows themselves were thick with wild flowers and were so beautiful to walk through, it was a delight, especially in the warm summer sun.  I think it is difficult to capture in a photograph because you need to use all the senses to fully appreciate the beauty, to feel the sun’s warmth, to hear the birds and the rustling of the leaves and to feel the gentle breeze.  I did take a couple of pictures though……and tried to find a different angle too :)!

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Hogweed

For some plants, you have no choice but to lay on the ground, like the Common Spotted Orchid below.

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Common Spotted Orchid

This was a real walk of variety and the next part took me up onto the hilltop, well in fact, up onto two prehistoric hill forts.  The first was covered in lovely meadow grass and wild flowers – it would have taken me a long time to identify all the different varieties.  And the views from the ramparts were spectacular on this clear day.  There were cattle and sheep grazing and I thought, ‘What a great place to eat’ – so I joined them!  I ate sandwiches of course, not grass ;)!

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Across the ramparts

Then it was down into the valley and up onto the next hill fort and an even bigger surprise.  At the top was a fantastic field of poppies.  It was a photographer’s paradise!  And clearly a few had been there before me as quite a lot of the flowers had been clumsily trampled down :(!  Well of course I managed to take one or two pictures as well although I am always careful where I tread.  The code of the country says ‘Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time’ but sadly not all observe that!

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The poppy field

The colours were really vibrant in the now hazy sunlight, although despite their beauty, it is still quite difficult to get a satisfying composition for a photograph.  I guess you are always left with the feeling that you just haven’t done it justice – well how can you!  Further along the hill, there are more ramparts, and well defined ones too.  It seems hard to imagine that these ramparts were dug out by men with primitive tools.  As you stand looking at the views though, you can see why they ‘built’ the fort and with the wind whipping up from the valley, you can perhaps imagine a little of what life must have been like up there in those bygone days.

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On the hill fort

Dropping off the hill, my route passed through probably the worst part of the walk and yet there were still lovely things to see.  I had to walk through a farm and as often is the case, farms=mud!  And there was mud aplenty!  Not only that but I had to plough my way through the most overgrown footpath that I think I have ever walked!  It led me the next day to make a few phone calls to see if the path could be sorted which is something the local authority will do if you report a problem.  However it was not that simple.

There are a number of types of byway – 1) the public roads, 2) public footpaths and 3) all vehicle public routes (these fit somewhere between 1 and 2 and are often farm tracks or old lanes/drove trails.  My overgrown footpath fitted into category 3 which is dealt with under roads and highways and whilst they have a budget to maintain the public roads, they have no budget to maintain the lesser routes such as mine.  So basically there is a budget to maintain the roads and there is a budget to maintain public footpaths, but there is no budget to maintain the routes that fall between the two extremes!  Ah well, I tried.

I did in the end make it through the overgrown lane and came out into a clearing where there was an old mill – I suspect that the overgrown lane once served the mill.  This is now a private dwelling but as I looked at it, I could just picture in my minds eye the miller leaning on that stable door getting some air and clearing his lungs of the flour dust that would have filled the mill in those days.

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The old mill

Apart from the old mill, one of the other lovely things I passed on this part of the walk was a gorgeous barley field.  These fields are always great to see but especially so when there is a bit of wind and as you stand watching the barley waving its heads in the breeze, you can almost feel you are standing before a huge lake with gentle waves washing across the water.

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The barley field

My walk was almost completed but there was one more crop to pass, another cereal crop which I thought was particularly picturesque with those curving tramlines running through it.  The sun had long since gone by now but at the end of a great day in the Dorset countryside it made a beautiful sight.

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Down the tramlines

Another magical day in Dorset, and one to be savoured as I look out at the still falling rain!

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

Your friend

The Dorset Rambler

The pictures on this blog are all the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be copied or reproduced without permission.

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