Archive | December, 2012

Twas on a cold wintry day……

23 Dec

Ah what a fabulous walk this was!  For almost the first time this year I could walk on solid ground, not because there wasn’t any mud but because for once the mud was frozen.  After the rain we have had seemingly all year, it was such a refreshing change to have seasonably cold, frosty weather which froze even the deepest puddles.  So it was hat and gloves on, and a hot drink to have on the way!

Mind you, before I even got to walking, the camera came out as I passed the beautiful valley in the picture below – I thought it looked as if Santa had passed by in his sleigh on his way to deliver presents to all the lovely children ;)!

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Where is Santa ;)

I arrived at the starting point of my walk and parked in a delightfully picturesque village with its picture postcard cottages and leafy lanes.  With the dappled sunlight, it made a beautiful start to the walk – but later, the darkness would reveal something even more special!

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Dappled light on a village street

Leaving the village, the first mile or two took me down one of those quintessentially timeless Dorset country lanes.  With the crisp frost and the dancing sunlight, it seemed that I was walking in an age more familiar to my grandparents and I almost expected to see a horse and wagon come by on their way to market.  It is truly wonderful how some things just don’t change, especially in this fast moving 21st century technological society that we live in.  How grateful I am for these timeless places, these quiet moments, and for the ability to enjoy them.

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Timeless

Turning off the lane, my route took me onto a farm track, passing the farmhouse on the way.  Seeing this farmhouse bathed in sunshine on this crisp day made me understand afresh the pleasures of living in a rural area.  I know there are ‘disadvantages’ to being a farmer like having to get up at 4.00 am every day but, hey, as they say, ‘every silver lining has a cloud’!  Hmm, or is that the other way round ;)!

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The farmhouse

But just standing there gazing at the view…….well, you couldn’t help but sigh and drink it all in.  With the frost in the foreground echoing the shape of the fence, and the gentle mist settled over the valley in the early morning light, it was magical  What a morning, what a view!  Stand there with me and realise afresh the truth of the poets words, ‘What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’!

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‘What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’

But, move on we must, before the cold freezes us to the spot!  From here, the route winds its way across farmland…….and loses its way a little!  A lack of signposting and some poor stiles can make it difficult to follow the path, especially when one field looks much like the next, but this is all part of the enjoyment of a good walk, creating some small challenges along the way and making the compass and map worth carrying.

We have a good system here in Dorset, a system that allows any problems with the footpath to be reported to the local authority – you can love or hate the Internet, but how did we manage without it?  Within days of my sending through the report, I received an email advising me that the corrective works had been commissioned so next time I walk this way, the path should be clear again :)!  I bet they love me!!

One of the things I love about this county of Dorset is the variety of habitat and terrain.  After the farmland, the path gently winds down into a lovely area of woodland with the frost clinging to the trees and shrubs creating a fairytale land.  If you let your imagination go, you could almost expect to see little snowmen running free.  And then, it is out into the open hillside again to be greeted by the most wonderful view.

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Across the open valley

Lunch time was beckoning and I knew that there was a lovely village church not far away.  That is significant because it is always nice to sit down to eat but that is not something that is straight forward in the winter when the ground is so wet.  However, most churchyards have a bench or two which solves the problem :)!  I often think it would be nice if more farmers would provide a seat or two beside footpaths crossing their land – it doesn’t need to be a padded sofa, just an old log or two will do ;)!  But on this day, it was a churchyard, and a beautifully peaceful one at that, and as I sat there, the weak winter sunlight falling on the delightfully coloured gravestones caught my eye.

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In the graveyard

On these cold days, it is always nice to have a hot drink so I usually carry either a flask or my small camping stove which in many ways is even better because it means I can brew a hot drink whenever I want to.  And today I wanted to!  Sat in that peaceful churchyard with food and a hot drink reflecting on life is one of the pleasures even on a cold day like this.  And so often, these country churchyards are a haven for wildlife too.

The second half of the walk crosses some pristine parklands, with two old stately homes to pass, with the usual array of cottages.  I think the one below with its mansard roof and country garden must be the perfect place to live.

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The country cottage

And then a little further on, another old and now disused but beautifully positioned building which probably housed farm workers in time gone by.  Its days of usefulness are long gone and it looks forlornly out across the land that its inhabitants once served.  And yet it still has a picturesque beauty that enhances the distant view, and a heritage that stretches even further.

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Empty but beautiful

Climbing up onto the ridge just as the sun was setting, my route took in some amazing views across the valley.  The evening mist was creeping stealthily across the low lying land creating a mystical atmosphere which was lit by the gentle pastel colours that are typical of a Dorset winter evening.  And the frost that had lingered on the ground all day, grew crisper as the temperature dropped even further.

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The evening mist settles across the valley

And as I dropped down off the hillside again, the village of Evershot was sat in shade with the blue mist creating a winter wonderland.

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A winter wonderland

Passing through the village and out into the countryside again, I looked back to see the last vestiges of the milky sunset reflecting off the smoke from the bonfires in the cottage gardens.

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Bonfires in the sunset

The last two miles took me across the most perfect parkland with its landscaped grounds and beautifully laid out trees.  One in particular seemed as if it was standing out from its peers, like a lookout on the ramparts of a hill fort.

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The lookout

And as darkness fell and the frost grew heavier and whiter still, I walked on alone apart from the many deer that roamed free.  They were my company for what I often think is the best part of the day.

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The parklands

And of course past the old mansion itself, now looming out of the darkness.

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The old mansion

Eventually, I walked back into the village I had started from and it was there that the darkness brought to light that ‘something special’ that I mentioned at the start.  It was a beautiful nativity scene set up in the window of one of the old cottages, lit up and glowing with its warm light shining out into the cold, darkness outside.  I stood and looked, and thought what a great message, light shining into darkness, and a what a wonderful reminder of what this Christmas time is all about!

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Be blessed!

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 ishttp://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.

 

On White Nothe (or is it Nose) again :)

6 Dec

I did say that it was a place that I love to walk…….well, I walked there again last week so I thought I would add a few more quirky and interesting facts about this remote and lovely place.

The first thing is that name and where it came from.  Well it comes from the shape and its resemblance to a facial appendage but I have not been able to establish whether it is the profile shape of the whole headland or, as one source suggests, just the rocky outcrop shown in the picture below.  Does it matter?  Well only to me as I’m inquisitive and like things to be settled!  Actually I think the whole headland looks like a nose – all it needs is a couple of caves for nostrils…..

Just as an aside, I wonder why the name changed from Nose to Nothe – do you think someone had a cold and couldn’t pronounce his S’s properly – I have this picture in mind of someone talking to a cartographer who was drawing up a map of the area and the mispronunciation stuck ;)!

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White Nose

In fact, the outcrop in the picture is not the only one on this headland.  There is a far less well known and perhaps more impressive outcrop below.  It is a massive pillar of chalk known as The Fountain Rock and is seen by few people because it is somewhat off the beaten track, and the beach it stands on is inaccessible.  Which leads me to one of the things on my wish list – one day I want to stand on the shore at the foot of this rock :)!  Now I could get my kayak out again or I could walk the shoreline from Ringstead and take a chance on the tides :)!!  One day……

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The Fountain Rock

Moving further along the headland in an easterly direction leads us to some more interesting features of this fantastic place.  The first is a series of three shell sculptures, each in its own cupboard – I say three but sadly there are now only two because one has been damaged.  These sculptures were carved by Peter Randall in 1985 at the request of the Weld Estates as part of Common Ground’s New Milestones project.  This aimed to stimulate small scale art works to express a sense of history and the natural world and they feature in a number of places across Dorset.  It seems incongruous somehow to come across these in the middle of nowhere but what a great idea, and a very pleasant, not to mention intriguing, surprise for anyone walking these parts for the first time.

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The Wayside Carvings

Just a short distance away is something that puzzled me all my life until finally I managed to get to the bottom of what was a real conundrum.  There are two obelisks perhaps a quarter of a mile apart and nowhere was there any mention of their purpose or who erected them.  They are both identical and one is inland of the other – but why were they put there?  Clearly it wasn’t just a random thought someone had on a quiet day when they were bored, and they are far two functional in appearance to be any form of memorial, so what are they?  Answers on a postcard to…….

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The inland obelisk

Actually as mentioned before, the riddle is solved – well at least in part!  After spending a day making numerous telephone calls to various ‘authorities’, each of whom suggested another, I reached the Hydrographic Office in Taunton and they found a reference to these in a publication entitled The Channel Pilot Part 1 (I believe it is a sort of seaman’s guide to the British coast).  This dates from 1908 and the reference actually says, ‘Two white beacons, 24 feet high for the use of His Majesty’s ships when prize firing, have been erected on high land east of White Nose (now known as White Nothe)’.

So the next puzzle was, what is or was ‘prize firing’?  Well it was the test of a ship’s proficiency for battle and on Admiralty orders this was to be carried out annually.  Basically it was a yearly competition to see if the naval gunners were any good – if they were then they went into battle and if they weren’t then it was back for more training.  What I am not totally sure on is exactly how the obelisks were used apart from the fact that they obviously had to be lined up when viewed from the ship.  As the observant will have noticed, they are no longer painted white.

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The coastal obelisk

There is one final point of interest at the top of the headland and that is a memorial to the author Llewelyn Powis.  He was one of a family of eleven, many of whom were writers, and for a number of years he lived in White Nothe Cottages that I showed in my last blog.  The cottages went through a bohemian period when many noted people, including Augustus John, visited.

In my last blog entry I mentioned the Smuggler’s Path and the fact that the last 30 feet or so down to the shore involved climbing down a rather rickety looking ladder – well I have now found my pictures of this contraption which I have climbed up and down many times!  I think this is pretty quirky so I thought I should post them :)!

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The stairway to heaven – well White Nothe actually

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The view from the top

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Ringstead Bay through the ladder

Oh yes, and did I mention the old fence posts ;)!  I love them – they are almost as quirky as The Dorset Rambler!  Its amazing what you see when you walk with your eyes really open.

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Another wonderful old fence post

One pleasure I did have on my last visit is that I again bumped into my friend Sally who lives in one of the cottages and we had a long and enjoyable chat.  She did correct one thing from my last post – she does have internet!  So just a tiny bit of the 21st century has finally come to these wonderful old cottages ;)!  Apart from that, the historic features and charm have been amazingly preserved – and long may it stay that way.

Well, for the time being at least, we must leave this delightful place with the strange name of White Nothe and move on to other areas – but more of that next time.  Before we go though, stand with me once more on the cliff top and look out to the setting sun across the mist that has settled on the sea.

Sunset 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.

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