Archive | August, 2012

The Drystone Waller – if that is a correct phrase ;)!

29 Aug

Sometimes, well very occasionally, I like to try my hand at a bit of poetry.  I say occasionally because I’m not very good at it, but would like to be.  I’d love to be able to write fluent, flowing and expressive poetry.  Anyway, on a recent walk I found some inspiration when I passed a drystone wall which set my thinking, and the creative juices flowing.  I always carry a notepad so I composed this poem as I walked:

The Drystone Waller

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One on one on one on one,
The drystone waller’s day’s begun,
Stone on stone on stone on stone,
Lots to do ere he goes home.

A solid build as ‘fits his trade,
Every stone securely laid,
Sweating brow and breaking back,
Another stone goes on the rack.

Perfect symmetry, line on line,
Locked together, looking fine,
From random stones, different shapes,
A cohesive whole he creates.

The master’s hand the holding glue,
Nothing more, forever new,
Come wind come rain ’twill strongly stand,
And remain a part of this ancient land.

These scattered stones have become a wall,
So solid, dependable, standing tall,
For years to come ere he’s gone home,
An epitaph to a job well done.

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It just struck me that these random stones just laying around on the ground, in the hands of a master become something useful and strong, something that has a real purpose.  Makes me think of people!

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

Until next time,
Your friend,
The Dorset Rambler.

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

A walk of contrasts, of new birth, of a disappearing ghost, and a jar of chutney :)!

24 Aug

Well it’s a grey day outside as I look out of my office window – definitely a day for blog writing, and a walk I did a couple of weeks ago.  It was a walk that took me past a number of lovely Dorset churches but the first one as I trod my way through the first village was one that I couldn’t visit.  There had been a fire in the church earlier in the year and damage was caused to the roof rendering it unsafe.  The good news is that it should be re-opening soon.

So having left the village, my route took me alongside the little stream that runs through the valley and past some historic machinery, relics and reminders of bygone days.   These were the remains of sluice gates above the tunnel in the picture below.  This was part of the 200 year old irrigation system that was used to flood the meadows, raising the temperature of the land early in the year to ensure a richer crop.  Even without the flooding, the land around this area is still a relic in itself as it always seems muddy whenever I walk it!

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The tunnel and the old irrigation system

The water meadows are delightful, with many wild flowers, bugs and bees around and it is lovely to walk with the chattering of the stream beside you, almost as if it was trying to talk to me about ‘the old days’.  But all too soon, I had to leave its company and strike out further ‘inland’ to reach one of those lovely little hamlets with its own church.  A picturesque and peaceful place and a church with an added bonus – there was a stall inside selling cakes, jams and chutneys to raise funds for the church.  Well, naturally I had to support it even if it did mean carrying it around all day!  I like these stalls though, they are part of Dorset life, and you often find some unusual chutneys on them :)!

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A beautiful church with a chutney stall at the back

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A picturesque cottage in the hamlet

Having left the hamlet (and returned 10 minutes later because I had left my hat in the church!), I continued along one of those very old ‘roads’ that always intrigue me.  I wondered who had gone that way before me in years gone by – was it a drove trail to the local market, was it just a link between villages or farms?  There are many of these routes in Dorset, probably busy byways in the days before cars but that have never been converted to modern roads.  I’m glad of course because they make me think about what life might have been like in those days, and they make great walking routes too with lovely hedgerows on either side.

A few miles further on, I passed a beautiful old manor house and another puzzle – what was it now?  I was to find out more a little further on in my walk :)!

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A lovely manor house and a grand entrance – but what is it now?

It was actually in the nearby village that I found out more, a village that goes by the delightful name of Frome St Quintin.  This village has a beautiful remote church that I have blogged before and I found out more about that too :)!  The church, in the picture below, has a rather strange tower which looks like some afterthought; that is because it was – the somewhat squat tower was added after the main church was built but what makes it so incongruous is the fact that the tower is rendered.  The rendering is a much more recent addition, necessitated by severe damp problems.

What makes this such a lovely place is that the church is surrounded by fields and has no road access – tradition has it that there was originally a settlement immediately surrounding the church but that it was decimated by the Black Death, leaving the church isolated.  The church was restored in 1881 so many of its features are late victorian, such as the beautiful carving on the altar pictured below.

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The isolated church and beautiful carving of the last supper

While I was there, I met a lady from the village and we fell into conversation – it was she who told me some of the history of the church and also of the old manor house.  So what of that magnificent old house?  Well the original house built in 1212 was owned by monks from Milton Abbey and it was rebuilt as this amazing mansion in 1612, passing into the private ownership of Sir John Strode.  It was said to be haunted by a ghost who on the same day each year would chant, ‘Search for Wat Perkins’ – many years later the skeleton of a murdered Scottish peddler was found in a ditch nearby and the ghost was reportedly never seen again!

In 1951 the Home Office acquired the house for use as a police training centre.  At that time a lot of ‘modern’ buildings were added such as accommodation blocks etc.  Being surplus to requirements, it was sold into private ownership again and has been used as a Christian retreat centre aimed at the American market, and for weddings etc.  The house has been described as the best in Dorset and it would be great to see it restored to its former glory – but somehow I suspect that is unlikely!

This was a walk of extreme contrasts in many ways!  As I climbed up to the ridge above the village I could hear the sound of many engines…..clearly the nearby Go-cart racing track was in use.  I stopped for a quick look at these tiny machines racing round the track at breakneck speed with just the sound of the high pitched engines speaking of tension.  Passing swiftly on down the other side of the ridge, their noise faded and I was able to walk in complete peace again.  And in this valley, I experienced a very special moment!


Who will win!

There were sheep on the hillside and one particular sheep was all on its own, laying on the ground.  I thought it looked unwell but it was also very big so I guessed it was heavily pregnant.  What I hadn’t realised was that it wasn’t only pregnant, it was giving birth at that very moment!  After a while as I stood and watched, she stood up and I saw the amazing sight of the head of a little lamb poking out as if it was just looking around surveying the scene to decide whether it wanted to come out!  With a head at each end, it looked like something out of Doctor Doolittle ;)!

It wasn’t long before the rest of the tiny lamb appeared and the mother then very lovingly licked it to clean it up whilst the little chap bleated at her – it was clearly a moment of mother/son (or daughter) bonding and it was very special to see.  With no midwife, no vet, no farmer, not even other sheep around, the ewe gave birth to a bonny baby.  Isn’t creation wonderful!  I felt very much like an intruder, as if I shouldn’t be there, so I kept my distance rather than get too close.  I did take a couple of pictures but the quality is not great because I have had to enlarge them quite a lot.

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Amazing new life

After some time, I continued my journey and as I got to the bottom of the field there were more young lambs seemingly waiting for their new playmate.  It seemed strange – new lambs in August.  It once heralded the coming of spring!

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Waiting for the new playmate

Strangely, in the opposite field there were some really attractive cows with rather ‘wonky’ horns.  It seems strange to talk of a cow as being attractive, but I think these really were.

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‘Attractive’ cows!

I continued down the valley to the ever present sound of the buzzards and eventually came into another picture postcard village.  I have been to this village before and to the church but this time, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before.  It was a fireplace actually in the porch beside the entrance door – this is something I have never seen anywhere else.  Apparently, before the village hall was built, the porch was used for some village meetings, hence the fireplace!

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The village church and its porch fireplace

The afternoon was drawing on and I still had a few miles to walk, so I moved on.  I climbed up out of the village through the trees and the beautiful light of the golden hour beamed down between the foliage creating an ethereal atmosphere that took my breath away.  I tried to capture the moment but the camera is a poor substitute for being there.

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Golden hour sunbeams

And as I reached the top of the ridge again I stole a last look down into the valley and the picture postcard perfect village in the distance.

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A delightful last look into the valley

My last couple of miles were down into the neighbouring valley and to the village I had started out from early that morning.  This too was a delightful village but in many ways contrasting with the village in the other valley.  A villager summed it up well when I stopped and chatted as I walked back to the car, this was a ‘working village’.  But to me, it was none the less beautiful for that!

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A ‘working village’

What a great walk this had been!  Great weather, some interesting conversations, new birth witnessed, delightful villages and churches, and a jar of chutney :)!  What more could a man want!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

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

Of a walk gone wrong, summer sunshine, and Two on a Tower :)

14 Aug

You can tell the weather here has improved – I’m blogging less often and I have a backlog of walks to upload.  The reason for the backlog is that I have been out walking so much, often for four days a week which is not bad considering I am not fully retired yet so still work some days.  The forecast today wasn’t great so I thought I would catch up a bit and add a post from a walk a few weeks ago.  It was a walk that didn’t work out as I had planned but which had an unexpected bonus thanks to a lovely couple, Liz and John, but more of that later :)!

This day I decided to take a slightly shorter walk, just 10 miles, and to stop along the way to do some ‘proper’ photography.  I planned to do a circular walk taking in a lovely inland ridge, dropping down to the coast to walk along the water’s edge for the return leg.  It all started fine with some spectacular views from the ridge on a beautiful sunny day as had been forecasted.

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Wonderful views from the inland ridge

After a few miles I dropped down to the coast path to make my way to one of the few places on this stretch of coast where there is access to the shore with the intention of walking along the rocks to get a different view of the coast from the more normal cliff-top path.  However, when I got there I discovered that the tide was coming in which posed a problem because the foreshore gets cut off in several places at high tide, making in impassable.  Now I had checked the tide tables before going out so clearly either the tables were wrong or I had misread them – probably much more likely the latter!  So I had to walk the more usual cliff tops – which turned out to be a great bonus in the end :)!

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The view east from the cliff top path

The flowers along the coast path were gorgeous and walking along this undulating path was a real audio visual experience with the amazing views, gorgeous flowers and the undulating song of the skylarks overhead seeming to match the undulating path.  Aside from the fact that I had all my camera equipment with me, it was such a relaxing and leisurely walk.

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Beautiful flowers along the coast path

The real surprise came when I reached Clavell’s Tower :)!  This is a tower I love and have known all my life from its days as a derelict building in danger of falling into the sea, through its dismantling stone by stone and its rebuilding some 30 meters inland, to its restoration and re-opening as a holiday home by The Landmark Trust.  I have hundreds of pictures of it already……..but there’s always room for one more ;)!  So I was leaning on the gate taking the picture below when the new tenants for the week, Liz and John, arrived at the gate.  We got chatting, as you do, and they very kindly asked if I would like to have a look inside.  Well I needed no second bidding and jumped at the chance as I had not seen inside it since the restoration!

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Clavell’s Tower from the ‘garden’ gate

The tower has four floors with the lower floor being a basement.  That was the only floor I had previously stood on because in the days before its restoration that was the only floor that existed – and it was just dirt.  The others had crumbled or been destroyed by fire long since!  When I was younger, that floor proved useful as an outdoor toilet (well there is no other cover around that could be used for that purpose ;) ) so I thought it was quite fitting that the basement still provides bathroom facilities – albeit it is nicely tiled now ;)!

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The steps to the tower

The entrance steps lead to the ground floor (or is it first floor) and the kitchen and dining area.  Then the second floor is the bedroom with the top floor being the lounge.  Liz and John kindly allowed me to take some photos even though I was invading their space.

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The bedroom – what an amazing place to sleep

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The lounge

The only way of getting between floors was via the curving staircase which takes up some space.  This means that the tower is only big enough for two – I guess Thomas Hardy knew that when he wrote ‘Two on a Tower’ which was based here – but I think The Landmark Trust have done a fantastic job in restoring the building so sensitively.  Probably the best part for me was the gallery that is accessed from the bedroom, this has amazing views!

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The curving staircase and the gallery door

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What an amazing place to sit with a cup of tea

There are just a couple of downsides to staying in Clavell’s Tower – one is that you will need to book it some two years in advance because it is so popular, and the other is that although there is a track that leads up to the tower, guests are not allowed to drive up it which means you will have to park by the bay and climb the steep hill on foot carrying  your luggage!  It pays to travel light when you stay at Clavell’s Tower!!  There is a lot of history to this place, but that is for another blog.

Thanks Liz and John for allowing me to invade your privacy and view the inside of this beautiful Clavell’s Tower – I hope you had a great holiday :)!

So, it was on with the walk but only a short hop down the hillside to reach Kimmeridge Bay where I intended to take some time out from walking and take some pictures that would hopefully capture the essence of the sea in summer.  This is much more difficult than you might think.  I sat on the rocks watching the waves gently rolling over the shoreline and the constantly changing light and movement with the sun reflecting off the water creating an ever changing array of what I can only describe as bursts of light like twinkling stars in the night sky.  It was beautiful to watch but to capture it with the camera was like trying to catch a rainbow.

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Starlight

I set the tripod up and tried a few long exposure shots, creating a milky smooth water effect against the hard crispness of the rocks.

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Across Kimmeridge Bay

Finally I tried to capture some of the activity in the bay which is a popular place for snorkelling, boating, fishing and just rock pooling.

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Gone fishing

I sat for some time dangling my feet in the water to cool down but the sun was getting lower and it was time to move on as I still had a couple of miles to walk.  As I made my way back, a gentle sea mist rolled across the fields adding a beautiful atmosphere to the golden fields.

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The fields are ripe for the harvest

Kimmeridge and the surrounding area is a special place and one that I always love to visit whether it is as part of a long walk, or just to sit and ponder and drink in the beauty.  This walk hadn’t gone as planned, but it turned out even better than I had expected because of a chance meeting with two kind people who gave me the opportunity to see something I hadn’t had the opportunity to see before.  My only disappointment was that there was no staircase up to the tower roof ;)!

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

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

The photographs on this blog are all copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be used in any way without permission.

Of wet and mud; of birds, butterflies, bulls and bullocks; and of tuneful church bells!

1 Aug

Well summer came at last to this ‘green and pleasant land’…….well for a time at least!  And as is always the case with these changeable times and changeable weather, you have to make the most of it – and make the most of it I have!  So much so, that there has been little time to sit in my office and write.  In fact, over the last two weeks I have completed 7 full day walks (work gets in the way on other days), a total of around 100 miles on foot.  And it has been great :)!

But today is drab outside my window so I can happily sit in my dry office and at least commit one walk to my blog.  It is a walk I did a couple of weeks ago just as the wet weather was changing to sunnier climes for us.  It was a varied walk in every sense of the word as you will see!

It started in a surprising way!  Having parked up, I got out of my car and was just putting my walking shoes on when the church clock started to chime the hour.  I thought nothing about it until something vaguely registered in my head……the church bells were playing a tune!  In fact it was the National Anthem – very strange to hear it played on church bells.  I thought maybe the bell ringers were practicing but it seemed unlikely.  I thought maybe it was something to do with Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, but I was wrong on that too.  I stopped a passing villager who told me that it happened every three hours and that it had done so since the jubilee of Queen Victoria.  Very unusual, and a lovely start to the day.  I determined that I would be back in time for the evening ringing so that I could record it!

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‘God save our gracious queen’ say the bells of St Andrews

One of the things I love about walking is the fact that people are usually so friendly wherever I go – the same can’t always be said about the animals I meet but more of that later.  Maybe it is because I am of the ‘older generation’, but most will say a cheery ‘hello’ and some will stop to chat for a few minutes or often longer.  As I walked through this village and out into the countryside, three groups of villagers stopped to pass the time of day with me.  Clearly this is a village where the natives are friendly :)!

Once out into the countryside I had company of a different sort with buzzards hunting overhead, making their distinctive pee-yaah sound as they soared.  Later they were accompanied by the ever graceful swallows wheeling around catching insects.  There were wrens too – I just love wrens!  They are so diminutive and yet they have such a clear, crisp and loud song, so easily recognisable.

It wasn’t long before I reached another beautiful village with its own church standing proud in the centre. The first view I had of this was as I passed the end of the tiny lane that led off the road.  With cottages on either side and lined with flowers, this was a delightful way to get to the church yard.  As always, this was a place of peace and a place with some amazing stained glass too!  Every window tells a story and none better than the one below.

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The way to the church

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The village church with its stained glass

As you can see from the photographs, the day that had started so promisingly had now clouded over, and worse was to come!  Underfoot, the ground was difficult and crossing every field was like walking across a lake as there was so much surface water around after all the rain of recent months.  Despite the waterproof walking shoes, my feet were wet!  But hey, we are used to that!  Also, it was rather like an obstacle course as every stile was swamped by overgrown shrubbery – wet shrubbery!  I wondered why everything was so overgrown and I came to the conclusion that there are two reasons – one is the rain, and the other is the rain!  Well not quite.  The first ‘rain’ simply makes everything grow more; the second ‘rain’ keeps everyone indoors meaning that the paths haven’t been walked so much (and that after all is what keeps the paths clear usually) – well apart from The Dorset Rambler who of course is crazy enough to walk in all weathers!

Just as I left the village, I came across the remains of the ancient pound.  These were a common sight in days gone by when animals were grazed on the common lands.  If they strayed into areas where they weren’t meant to be, causing damage, they were impounded and only released to their owners on payment of a fine.

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The Pound

Nearby, there is one of those typical village farmhouses, perhaps predictably called……Pound Farm!

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The old farmhouse

So it was out into the countryside again, for a time along a very quiet country lane.  Now although I usually keep away from roads, I have to say that I really enjoy walking along these quiet lanes.  Because the walking is so easy, it means that I can focus on what is around me rather than where I am walking – especially on this walk!  The hedgerows and verges on either side of the road were beautiful with all manner of wildlife, including the cabbage white butterfly that I posted about last time, and lots of Meadowsweet.

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The Cabbage White

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Meadowsweet

It wasn’t too long before I turned off the road and crossed another of those beautiful meadows.  Not so many flowers in this one but the grasses were gorgeous.  I am always amazed at the infinite variety of different grasses there are, and how beautiful they are when you take the time to look at them.

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Meadow grasses

Along this section of the walk, I passed a number of remote cottages and I confess to a tiny bit of envy – they get all this beauty straight from their own doorstep.  Still, I guess there is beauty visible from every doorstep if you look at it the right way.

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A beautiful country cottage

Having walked across ‘lakes’ and scrambled through overgrown stiles, my way was about to get worse!  My route took me down one of those very old sunken lanes that I have referred to before in my blog.  They always intrigue me and I often wonder what they were originally ‘built’ for.  Was it to drive the livestock to the local market?  Was it for farm workers to walk to work along?  Did people use them to get to church on a sunday morning?  Were they for the various landed gentry to drive their horse and carriage along as they visited their various properties?  I guess they had various purposes and it is a shame that so many of them are being lost to the undergrowth because there is no budget to maintain them.  This one started off beautifully as it was a clearly delineated lane with clear banks on either side and fairly easy to walk down.  However, it soon deteriorated and I found myself hacking my way through brambles and nettles that were above my head.  I could have found an alternative route but TDR is not to be beaten!

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The sunken lane

And win through I did, to come out onto clearer ground.  As I walked across the meadows and crossed the railway line that marked the final phase of the walk, the rain started to fall….and the track started to get muddier!  The long meadow grass is beautiful, and the trees and shrubs are beautiful, but not so much when they are wet and when all they want to do is transfer their wetness to me ;)!  They did that in abundance!

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Crossing the railway line

There were still two more hamlets and two more churches to pass before the end of the walk.  The first had the distinction of having an upside down font.  If you look carefully at the picture below, you will see that the animals carved on the font have their legs in the air.  In fact it is almost certain that the font was originally the base of an anglo-saxon cross which at some point was turned over and hollowed out to form the font of the current church.  The church sits next to the 17th century manor house as is often the case.

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The church with its upside down font!

At this point, things were getting difficult.  I was walking in an area which was new to me and there using an OS map……which was getting increasingly wet and unreadable!  Ah, the challenges of walking in England!  Well no rain had been forecasted that day!  Anyway, I continued on instinct more than anything else and very soon came across the final church, the smallest church in Dorset and apparently the second smallest in England.  It was right next to a farmhouse and to get to it I had to cross the loveliest small hump back footbridge – and in doing so felt as if I was walking into someones private garden.  The church is now redundant and maintained by The Historic Churches Preservation Trust who do a great work in maintaining these very old buildings that are so much a part of the heritage of this country.  Their motto is ‘Creative spaces, sacred places’.

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The way to the church

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The smallest church in Dorset

Inside, apart from being dry :), the church was light, airy and had a lovely sense of peace about it.  As always, I wondered at the amazing legacy that it has and the thousands of lives that have been impacted by its witness.  It was time to move on so I headed back out into the even heavier rain to cross a number of boggy arable fields….although these were nothing to what was to come!  Amazingly, there were still lots of butterflies accompanying me despite the wet conditions.  It surprised and delighted me that these flimsy creatures still seem to be able to fly even though they were wet.  And they still looked happy – well have you ever seen a depressed butterfly??

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A very gloomy evening!

The final stretch was probably the worst because it crossed a dairy farm, and where there is cattle, there is MUD!  And boy was there MUD, literally knee deep in places.  It made the going very hard.  And on top of that I had to cross a field with a bull who eyed me up as I walked, but did no more than that.  Well they are usually fairly docile. The next field was full of young bullocks, and they didn’t give me such an easy time – they chased me and charged at me incessantly as I crossed their field!  They are harmless too, just nosy and with a bit of an attitude ;)!

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“You are probably wondering why I’ve called you here. I’ve had complaints from walkers that you have been charging at them and chasing them.  You know your mothers wouldn’t allow that!  And besides, it’s making a terrible mess, just look at this place!  Now go and clean it up!” ;)

Finally I got back to the car and the relative dryness – I was somewhat wet!!  I had walked through waterlogged fields, scrambled across overgrown stiles, been stung and torn by brambles, hacked my way through impassable undergrowth, fallen numerous times, got soaked, glared at by a bull, chased and charged by bullocks……what a fabulous day!  I was happy!

Oh, and the church bells?  I was too late and missed them!

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

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

The photographs on this blog are all copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be used in any way without permission.

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