Archive | November, 2012

On White Nothe.

27 Nov

I am sitting in my office this afternoon looking out of my window at the most amazing sunset……and I am frustrated!  You see, this week I have been unwell so have not been able to get out walking and one of Yarrow’s Laws states that, ‘When not walking, there shall be a blazing sunset, and when walking, there shall be grey skies only’ ;)!  Ah well, tomorrow is another day.

Since I am at home, I thought I would catch up with another blog, and this one was sparked by a television programme that I watched earlier.  But more of that later!

The subject of this blog is White Nothe which is a fabulous headland on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset.  Also known as White Nose because of its distinctive shape, it is an area that I love to walk as it seems to be filled with interest and intrigue, not to mention wild, windy weather at times.

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The distinctive shape of White Nothe, AKA White Nose, at sunset

The chalk headland with its flat top juts out to sea and has amazing views all along the coast to the east and the west.  To the east, the views take in Bat’s Head, Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove.

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The view to the east

To the west, the views spread out across the beautiful Ringstead Bay and through to Weymouth.

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The Dorset Cost Path and the view to the west

And looking directly South, the view takes in The Isle of Portland, which in reality is not an island as it is connected to the mainland by a causeway.

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The view south to Portland

With the Dorset Coast Path running along this whole area, I am sure you can appreciate why I love walking it so much – well, who wouldn’t.  I mentioned that this area is intriguing, well it is to me, and one of the quirky things is the famous Smuggler’s Path which zig zags steeply down the end of the headland to the shore.  This path was made famous by J Meade Falkner in his book, ‘Moonfleet’ which is a tale of smuggling in Dorset.  In part of the book he wrote:

‘Forgive me, lad,’ he said, ‘if I have spoke too roughly. There is yet another way that we may try; and if thou hadst but two whole legs, I would have tried it, but now ’tis little short of madness. And yet, if thou fear’st not, I will still try it. Just at the end of this flat ledge, farthest from where the bridle-path leads down, but not a hundred yards from where we stand, there is a sheep-track leading up the cliff. It starts where the under-cliff dies back again into the chalk face, and climbs by slants and elbow-turns up to the top. The shepherds call it the Zigzag, and even sheep lose their footing on it; and of men I never heard but one had climbed it, and that was lander Jordan, when the Excise was on his heels, half a century back. But he that tries it stakes all on head and foot, and a wounded bird like thee may not dare that flight. Yet, if thou art content to hang thy life upon a hair, I will carry thee some way; and where there is no room to carry, thou must down on hands and knees and trail thy foot.’

(From Moonfleet by J Meade Falkner – as young John Trenchard and Elzevir Block flee from the Excise Men)

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The Smuggler’s Path

Actually, the path itself, whilst steep, is not that scary although when you reach the bottom there is a somewhat shaky and exposed ‘ladder’ that takes you the last 30 feet to the shore.  This is a path I always enjoy walking, especially down……well its tough going up it ;)!

One of the other quirky things is the ‘pill box’ which stands at the top of the zig zag.  It was in fact a communication post during the war, and I once scrambled up to the top to take some pictures.  These places always intrigue me because as I stand there, I find myself wondering about all the men that served there, and the legacy they left.  What also amuses me is that as I stand beside this communication post, I have no signal on my mobile phone!!

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The communication post

The most intriguing thing about the headland is the row of cottages behind in the picture above.  These puzzled me for years until I got talking to a very pleasant lady who lives in one of them and she told me all about them.  This is another very quirky part of this wonderful county!

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White Nothe Cottages

The cottages were built to house coastguards, with the nearest three story house being that of the captain and the other six cottages housing his men.  At one time, with wives and children, there were 44 people living in this short row of cottages.  They are well placed for the coastguards, simply because of the all round views.

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The coastguards’ view

These days, the cottages are in private ownership, although they are nonetheless quirky for that.  These are the facts:

1. They have no road access.  The only way to reach then is along a muddy farm track.
2. They have no mains electricity.  Power comes from a number of sources, a) an LPG powered generator, b) a car battery charged by solar panels, or c) for lighting, gas mantles, oil lamps or candles.
3. They have no mains gas.  Gas is by LPG bottle and since there are no deliveries, the residents have to go and collect them.
4. There is no running water.  Water provision is simply rain water captured off the roofs and stored in underground tanks.  This then needs to be pumped up to the header tank as needed.
5. Heating is by log burners which feed a small number of radiators.
6. There is no telephone or Internet.
7. There is no mains drainage, just a septic tank.

Quirky?  I think so, but fantastic too, and I would love to live in one :)!  In the middle of nowhere, with those views and being able to walk straight out of you front door onto the coast path…..bliss!

Just down from the top of the headland stands another interesting feature of this amazing coast.  It is a tiny hamlet of Holworth with its beautiful wooden chapel.  I had thought that this was unused but in fact it has recently been extended.  It stands in the perfect position right on the cliff edge.

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Holworth Church with its perfect view

I think it is fair to say that yet another quirky thing about this place is its weather!  Often windy, as you would expect, it also has frequent mists which blow across the headland and role down to the sea like water pouring off a hillside.  It is an awesome sight to stand and watch this phenomenon which frequently occurs when the lower coast is clear.

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The mist covers White Nothe whilst Ringstead Bay stays clear

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The mist roles across the headland

Ah yes, one more feature about White Nothe – it seems to have a lot of old, broken fence posts which I seem to photograph with monotonous regularity ;)!  The picture below, I called ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let your hair down’ – I wonder if you can see why?

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Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let your hair down

So that is White Nothe, with its amazing views and intrigue, a place I love.  Oh yes, and the programme that sparked this blog?  The cottages were featured on a property programme from which I discovered that three of them are on the market………now, where’s my cheque book?

Actually, according to the programme, the three story cottage is on at £575K.  Ah well, I’ll just dream on!

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The sun fades over White Nothe

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award :)

25 Nov

Sandra Connor (http://sandraconner.wordpress.com/) has very kindly nominated me for the ‘Very Inspiring Blogger Award’ :)!  Thanks so much Sandra, you are very kind :)!  I consider myself very much a learner in terms of blogging so to be considered inspiring is very special and humbling!

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I believe I am meant to say seven things about myself – hmm, well here goes:

1.  I have worked at Bournemouth YMCA for 14 years although I am now gradually reducing my hours towards full retirement, probably next year.

2.  The YMCA is my second career – my first was in banking.

3.  I am looking forward to more writing, photography and walking as my third career and am working on a book about walking in Dorset.

4.  I drive a 40 year old MG BGT.

5.  I have two tortoises, mother and son.  The son, known as Titch, came about because we looked after a friend’s male tortoise – I had thought that mine was also a male prior to that (he was Toby, she’s now Tobi ;) )!

6.  I collect ‘things’ for my garden, mostly things found on my walks, including numerous rocks, bits of old chain, old bottles etc.  I once brought a vine stock back in my suitcase from France, and this week I brought back a large chunk of driftwood which I found on a walk along the coast.  The funniest thing I have collected was a large chunk of what I thought was Pink Quartzite but when it gradually shrunk in size, I discovered that it was a sheep salt lick :)!

7. I am a Christian and the more I walk in the countryside, the more I am bemused that anyone can believe that there is no creator.

Thanks again Sandra, and to all of you for reading my blog.

The award does lead me to ask the question, ‘What do you think of my blog?’  I am always conscious that it could easily become a bit ‘same-ish’ and lose its freshness, especially with the number of walks I do.  I try to break it up by putting up single pictures or poems now and again just to vary the content but it was intended to be a blog of my walks in Dorset, usually involving around 1,500 words and 15/20 pictures.  Are my posts too long, too short, interesting, repetitive etc etc – if you have any thoughts, I would appreciate your feedback.

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Of autumn mists and mellow fruitfulness ……..well, just mist really!!

4 Nov

I think we all like walking in the lovely bright summer sunshine, but I’m a strange person in that I like to walk in all weathers!  In fact there are times when bad weather really improves a walk – for instance, on a bright summers day mountains can seem quite tame but bring down some stormy weather and they take on a whole different character, much more threatening and dangerous.  On this walk, the day was very misty and with heavy cloud that really suited the landscape so well, as I think you will see.

It started with a walk around the southern shore of Poole Harbour, said to be the second largest natural harbour in the world with 100 miles of coastline.  Initially, the walk was straight forward with sandy beaches, gently lapping water, and……and house boats!

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The house boats at Bramble Bush Bay

These always intrigue me as some are not really boats at all – because they were effectively falling apart, they have been embedded in concrete to ‘stop the rot’.  They still lean at crazy angles and you would be justified in thinking they were derelict, but they are not.  They are still occupied in the summer months when the concrete bedded ones are joined by a number of additional floating houses to form a village by the beach.  It is one of those quirky things of Dorset that I have known all my life.

A little further on in my walk I came across another of those mysteries, a row of dragon’s teeth – but are they?

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Dragon’s Teeth?

This line of heavy concrete blocks stretches a short distance into the harbour’s water and are usually referred to as Dragon’s Teeth, a wartime anti-tank blockade, but I often wonder if that really was their purpose.  At one time, Brownsea Island, the largest island in the harbour, had a pottery industry and raw materials were transported by boat to the island, and in turn, the pottery goods were exported.  To do this, the barges used to berth at a number of landing stages on the harbour shore and I wonder if these blocks are the remains of one of these.  I have never been able to totally prove one way or the other but in many ways, it is the very mystery that makes these utilitarian blocks fascinating.

Continuing round the shoreline, I passed below the beautiful low sandstone cliffs with their amazing array of warm colours ranging from yellow, through the whole spectrum of oranges, to deep browns.  And below, the sandy beach begins to turn a little more rugged.

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Sandstone

There is quite a lot of debris along this part of the coast, remains from the days when there were thriving industries. This is very evident at Redhorn Quay.  The old jetty itself has long since disappeared but there is a rusting hulk, still standing proud, determined to hold out till the last.  I fear it will not be there much longer as the weather over the years has destroyed most of it already.

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The wreck at Redhorn Quay

I always linger at Redhorn because as you stand there with the wind whipping around you and the sound of the sea lapping on the shore, you can almost sense what it would have been like all those years ago when the wreck was a working barge plying its trade around the harbour.  With other derelict vessels nearby, it feels like a graveyard.

But it was time to move on.  Now this is not an easy walk and in some ways that is what makes it special because it is not frequented by many people.  This makes it seem all the more remote.  What makes the walk difficult is that it is extremely marshy and great care is needed to avoid stepping in the wrong place!  But it has a very beautiful loneliness about it.  With the heavy mist and cloud, the marshes take on real character as you walk carefully beside the water.  The tide was out revealing vast expanses of mud flats which were frequented by a whole range of waders, and their plaintive cries echoing across the harbour just emphasised the feeling of loneliness that this area evokes.  I love those plaintive cries, especially that of the curlew and the oyster catcher!

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Marshes and mud flats in Poole Harbour

I lingered as long as I could but had to move on because there was a lot more to enjoy on this walk.  As I left the harbour shore, I took one last look back across the wonderful autumn marsh grass.

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Across the marsh grass

From the marshlands of the harbour, I walked on across the heathland further inland, with its famous Agglestone (holy stone).  This stone stands proud on its hilltop as if it was monarch of all he surveys…..but the truth is it is not meant to be there!  It is a massive block of sandstone, not necessarily massive by world standards but massive in the context of the sandy heathland that surrounds it.  It is this incongruity which makes it another of Dorset’s curiosities.  Legend has it that it was thrown by the devil from the Isle of Wight when he was aiming to destroy Corfe Castle which is a few miles away.  Clearly his aim was not that good…….or maybe it is just that it is a relic of the ice age ;)!

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The Agglestone on Godlingston Heath

One of the things I like about this walk is the varied terrain, from marshes to heathland and on to much more civilised ground as I crossed the well manicured grass of Isle of Purbeck Golf Course, famed for being owned by Enid Blyton.  Even here though there was wetness!!!

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Tracks in the wet grass on the Isle of Purbeck Golf Course

And having passed across the fairway, watching for low flying golf balls ;), my route took me up over to the top of Ballard Down with its well known obelisk looming out of the mist.  This obelisk was erected for the first time in 1883 to commemorate the coming of a clean water supply to Swanage.  I say ‘for the first time’ because it was taken down during the Second World War to prevent its being used by enemy pilots to aid navigation.  It was erected for a second time in 1952 but somewhat shorter because the bottom section had been damaged.

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The ‘shorter’ obelisk on Ballard Down

The view from the obelisk is wonderful and it was a view that stayed with me as my route followed the ridge for several miles.  Normally on this part of the walk I would be serenaded by skylarks but not on this day.  I did however come across some fungi, grouped together as if they were deliberately posing for a family photograph.  Naturally I obliged ;)!

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A fungi family gathering on Ballard Down

Having enjoyed the spectacular views…..and the bracing wind……on the ridge top, I eventually dropped down into the valley again to pass through a farm with the usual array of ‘abandoned’ farm machinery.  Some of this was clearly just parked until needed again but it always amuses me how much machinery simply gets left to rust away. On some walks it almost seems like someone has deliberately set up a museum of farming through the ages!

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Waiting to be used again

I was nearing the end of my walk now but there was still time to look for some more pictures.  I like to look for a different view of things and recently have been searching for what I call ‘alternative autumn pictures’.  I found one on this walk in a river bed which reflected the trees above – the ‘autumn leaves’ were in fact pebbles under the water.

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Autumn in the river bed

The final stretch of this wonderful and varied walk should have taken me along the beach back to my starting point but I took a detour to revisit the early part of my walk again, hoping for an amazingly vibrant sunset across the Dragon’s Teeth and house boats – but as often happens it didn’t come!!  Well I guess the sun did set, but hidden from view behind a huge bank of cloud!  Ah well, I took the pictures anyway.

Somehow, in the fading light, the random concrete blocks seem even more imposing.

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Poole Harbour in the fading light

And standing on the shore on this crisp evening with the water gently washing across the sand with the mist still lingering across the harbour, there was a special atmosphere.  It is what makes walking so enjoyable and memorable!

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Darkness falls on The Bramble Bush Bay houseboats 

By the time I reached the Sandbanks Chain Ferry for my trip back across the Poole Harbour entrance, it was dark – but then, I finish nearly all of my walks in the dark….just to make them last a little longer.  And this was a walk I didn’t want to end.

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The Sandbanks Chain Ferry

Not much sun, lots of cloud and mist, chill breezes, waders and fungi, marshland, heath, hilltops and beach, and a good smattering of Dorset quirkiness – a wonderfully varied and evocative walk.  I hope you enjoyed walking it with me.

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

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