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 )
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’!
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.
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 !
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 !
For some plants, you have no choice but to lay on the ground, like the Common Spotted Orchid below.
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 !
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Dorset Rambler
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