Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Of bright sunshine, eerie woodlands, raining lead shot, and a very DARK walk back!

2 Dec

What a gorgeous morning this was!  Bright sunshine on a crisp autumn day and this time I had made sure I had my gloves with me before I started out.  Not that I got very far before I stopped to get the camera out – I parked in a rough lay-by with a very nicely placed puddle to reflect the autumn trees.  But soon, I headed out along that country lane for a short distance before turning off onto open fields.

Image
A well placed puddle

The day was chill and the grass still wet, and even though the sun had risen, the shadows thrown by the trees were long.  These cold days are so much better for photography than the warm summer hazy days as the light has a clarity that really brings out the shades and shapes of the landscape.  Today, I had the pleasure of the company of both sun and moon at the same time as the latter was clearly working the day shift.  As lovely as it was to see the soft moon in the daytime sky, this was a pleasure that was to have consequences later!

After a short time, my route left the open countryside and I walked through a doorway into some woodlands.

Image
The woodland doorway

The path descended into a deep valley filled with trees that had once formed a thriving coppicing industry although activities here had ceased long ago.  This was an eerie valley, always dark, always damp, decaying wood everywhere, lots of moss, and with hardly a sound in the very still air.  Little did I know it then, but this would be an even more eerie place later in the day as I made my way back!

Eventually my route took a left turn and I walked along a path, carpeted with golden leaves, that climbed up the hillside into a more light and airy woodland.

Image
A golden carpet of leaves

It is always a pleasure walking this stretch of woodland with the rustling of the leaves and the plaintive cry of the buzzards being the only sounds.  It seemed like I was the only person out, but not quite – I passed an elderly couple walking their dog and we greeted each other as we passed.  The old gentleman could walk no further so was taking a rest as his wife walked a little further along the path.

At the edge of these woods I passed through the old gate in the picture below.  I pass it regularly and yet each time I find myself taking yet more pictures of it.  I never could resist an old wooden gate, especially with that lovely sunshine streaming through the trees!  It could easily have been the gate that inspired Hardy to write, ‘I leant upon a coppice gate, when frost was spectre grey….’!

Image
The old gate

A little further along, my path dropped down into what is one of my favourite valleys with the rather wonderful name of Shepherd’s Bottom.  Normally there are sheep grazing which always seems appropriate in this place.  Today there were none but it was still a lovely place to be.  

Image
Shepherd’s Bottom

Dropping down into the valley, I passed through a small area of woodland before climbing up the other side to yet more woodlands.  At one time of course the whole of Dorset comprised of woodlands or heathland and with so much of the land having been cleared for farming, it is good to see these pockets of wild countryside still remaining.  This however was a working forest and signs warned of the danger from large machinery.

Image
The forest track

By the time I had come out of the woodlands and onto the open hilltop again, it was time for lunch so I found a suitable seat……which was actually a relatively dry stile!  The views from my lunch ‘table’ were amazing and even in the cold, I was happy to sit and look out across the valley beyond.  

My peace was disturbed however by men with sticks that had what appeared to be carrier bags tied to the end.  They were walking the hillside waving their sticks and I quickly guessed their purpose.  One of them, a young man with two spaniels in tow, passed by me.  As he lifted his dogs one at a time over the stile that had been my seat, I asked him if there was a shoot, to which he replied, ‘Yes’.  Apparently the guns were at the bottom of the valley and soon after I heard the first shot.  As I packed up and walked on, gunshots echoed out constantly, and frequently I was rained on by lead shot.  

Although having lead shot falling on me out of the sky didn’t concern me, it did make me wonder what the long term effect would be on the farmland and the crops.

Image
My lunch time view

After some time, I moved away from the shoot onto a neighbouring hillside.  My route was to take me down the side of the hill and through a delightful village.  This is one of those places that you would normally not stop at but that really reaps rewards if you are prepared to walk and explore.

Image
The village in the valley

It has an old school, an old church, numerous cottages and farmhouses…….

Image
The old farmhouse

…….and even an old mill in a very picturesque position beside a beautifully still millpond.  Once a busy village mill, this is now in a private residence.

Image

Image
The old mill

Leaving the village behind, my route took me beside the now slow flowing mill stream and out onto the narrowest of country lanes with high banks on either side.  The sun was streaming straight down the road, highlighting the fallen leaves as if it were a spotlight and the leaf a starring player in a stage production.  But this was better than any stage production!

Image
In the spotlight

Climbing out of the valley, I ultimately crested one of the highest points in Dorset.  With 360 degree views over countryside and along the ridge, this is a spectacular spot to just sit and gaze.  This is a place with a history as it was once the site of one of the chain of Armada beacons erected in the 16th century between London and Plymouth.  How communications have changed since then!

Image
The view from the beacon

I lingered a while to enjoy the view, lost in my own thoughts.  The breeze was gentle but cutting, with a sting in its tail and I was glad of my flask of hot Bovril to warm me.

Image
A warming drink as the sun goes down

With the light fading fast, I needed to move on and so followed the ridge of hills for a mile or more, bathed in the warm light of the setting sun.  Along this stretch I was not alone as I passed a group of people who were, like me, enjoying the sunset.

Image
Enjoying the sunset

Just as I reached the end of the ridge-top path and my route turned once again into woodlands, the sun dipped his toe into the horizon pool before diving headlong in and disappearing from view.  This was a beautiful but slightly concerning sight as I still had several miles to walk!

Image
The sun dips his toe into the horizon pool

With the sun went the light!  I entered the first area of woodland with just enough glow in the sky to enable me to find my way and avoid the huge areas of deep mud on the heavily rutted forest track.  However, very soon the light had gone completely so I took my head torch out of my rucksack……only to find that the batteries were all but dead!  The words of Thomas Gray came into my mind, ‘And all was left to darkness and to me’!

Normally at this point the moon would cast his gentle glow to aid me but of course he had been up when I set out this morning so was still fast asleep!  I entered a second area of dense woodland with only a glimmer of light with which to find my way.  By now, I had given up trying to find my way round the mud but rather just ploughed through the middle.  Being ankle deep most of the time, I slipped and slid my way slowly onwards along a track which in daylight would not have been easy to follow but in the dark………!

Image
The eerie darkness

Those eerie woodlands of this morning were even more so in the dark.  The stillness was tangible!  Owls hooted spookily all around me, leaves rustled, trees creaked like rusted door hinges, twigs cracked, broken by unknown feet, and the eyes of unseen creatures stared at me, caught in the slight glimmer of my head torch.  I could not tell what the eyes belonged to other than to guess by their height off the ground.

Every few yards game birds, spooked by my presence, panicked and took off noisily with thrashing of wings and screeching of voice.  I hoped that they would be able to find another roosting spot in the dark!

My way out of the woods was by the track I had come along earlier in the day but it was not an obvious track, especially with a heavy covering of leaf and mud, and the sign pointing it out was half hidden in the trees.  However, eventually I found it!  I made my way slowly up the side of the valley and after what seemed an age I reached the road from which I had started the walk.

What a day!  Fabulous sunshine, amazing views, interesting places and most memorable of all, a wonderful night walk in the deep, dark woods!

I sat and enjoyed the rest of my Bovril before heading for home and a hot shower :)!

Thanks for reading.

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!

Image

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.

On walking backwards with cows and kestrels for company!

20 May

Well I’ve had some fantastic walks again this week despite the somewhat dubious weather, or perhaps because of it – it always adds variety when the weather is changeable.  This walk took in ridge tops, beautiful valleys and some very picturesque story book villages.

Image

A picture book village

It started strangely when I realised I was walking backwards!  Well, not physically walking backwards as that would be very difficult, not to mention pointless, unless you had eyes in the back of your head – which I don’t…….although thinking about it, that would be kind of cool, being able to see where you are going at the same time as seeing where you have been (hmm, maybe I should patent that!)!

I realised something was amiss when I looked at my GPS which cleverly gives an estimated time of arrival at the final destination (the end of the walk) – it actually quoted the same time as it was when I started walking.  Now either I was doing a superman and walking at superhuman speeds without realising it, or something was wrong!  It could have been the first, but it seemed unlikely so I checked the GPS and discovered that I was actually walking my route the wrong way round.  That was easily corrected because these nifty modern aids to walking can reverse the route at the touch of a button – dangerous because usually when I touch a button it deletes everything ;)!  Anyway, all was well and I could continue happily on my way!

The first part of the walk was a long climb up to the top of the ridge, and then an equally long and steep drop down into the valley on the other side.  The views were amazing and even more amazing was the fact that there was no mud……although that would be more than made up for later!

At the bottom of the valley, I walked into one of the most picturesque, unspoilt and friendly villages in Dorset.  I stopped to look at the village church which was very old and very lovely, with what must be the most picturesque graveyard possible!  In fact it was so lovely that I sat on a seat in the graveyard and had my lunch.

Image

The picturesque graveyard

Whilst I was there, I met a very nice lady who was tending her husband’s grave and we just naturally started chatting.  She had lived in the village for 51 years, since marrying her husband in fact as he was a villager.  She spoke of the pleasures of living in the village with lots of friends around her, but also of the hardships too.  She was elderly and becoming less mobile which could at some point pose a problem because there was now no public transport at all.  She was still able to drive but at some point in the future could become ‘village bound’!  The only village shop was the post office which opens on only two mornings a week but fortunately all the main supermarkets deliver so food at least would not be a problem.

Just as an aside, it’s strange that supermarkets make a big deal out of home deliveries like it’s a new invention – when I was at school some 50 years ago, I used to deliver groceries to earn myself some pocket money!

Image

The village church

The church itself was old, with leaning walls, and yet somehow it stays up and is still regularly used.  It is well known for its variety of gargoyles, those grotesque carved figures around the top with pipes coming out of their mouths designed to carry rainwater away from the masonry.  There are a number of reasons suggested as to why they have grotesque faces rather that just a simple pipe – one suggests that in the days when most people were illiterate, the gargoyles would convey the story of good verses evil, and another suggests that they were simply a representation of the fact that evil is kept outside the church.  Either way, they are very interesting and add to the charm of these ancient buildings.

Image

One of many grotesque gargoyles

The church is also one of the few with some old box pews remaining.  These were installed in churches from the 16th to the 19th century so that families could sit together and have a degree of privacy, sometimes to conceal non devotional activities!  Naturally the standard of pew would be suited to the social standing of the family with some having curtains and tables and even fireplaces, in fact they were passed down the generations in wills!  Of course the best and the one nearest the front would be reserved for the Lord of the Manor, whilst lesser mortals would have quite a small affair somewhere near the back!  Perhaps it is a good thing that most were ripped out in the 19th century!

Image

The old box pews

I had to leave the church and go on my way again but I hadn’t gone far before I met another villager.  He was a farmer who ran one of the five farms in the village (very strangely, at one time one was an ostrich farm)!  It was milking time so the farm workers were bringing the cows down from the fields to the village farm to be milked.  To do this, the cows had to be brought through the village lanes which meant stopping traffic.  It was once a common thing to be held up in your travels by herds of cows but sadly these days it is quite rare because today 90% of our travelling is on motorways or bypasses.  I say ‘sadly’ because I think it is a lovely reminder of times when the pace of life was slower!  It is also a good sign because it means that summer has arrived – in the winter the cows are in the barns and not the fields!

Image

A welcome sight – summer is here!!

To make sure that the cows don’t stray where they shouldn’t (well it wouldn’t be popular if the cows trampled all over the beautifully manicured gardens), the farm workers put rope across the various openings, including across the road at junctions.  Now if you are a driver, it’s not easy to see a thin rope across the road and a car nearly ran into it, braking only at the last minute!  So the farmer asked if I would help by standing there and herding the cows in the right direction, which I gladly did.

Whilst waiting for the cows to arrive, we got chatting.  He told me that farming had run in his family for many generations, back to the 17th century in fact, and always cattle and the sons had always followed in their father’s footsteps.  His son was an accountant in the city, but even he wants to return to the farm at some point and take over the family business.  The farmer gets up to milk the 170 cows at 5.00am and milks them again in the afternoon, 365 days of the year.  I asked him if he ever tired of it but he said no, he loved his work and his way of life, being on the farm and with nature too.  I could understand what he meant!

Image

Cow herding 21st century style

What seemed strange to me is that the cows have calves to stimulate the milk flow but the calves are then quickly weaned so that the milk can be taken for human consumption – although I gather they are given a small amount still.  The milk yield gradually decreases through the year and then next year the cycle begins again!  An interesting fact that the farmer told me was that if a cow has two calves, one male and one female, the female is always infertile!  It’s amazing what you learn on a walk :)!

When the cows were all in, I bade my farewell and continued up the road to be greeted very soon by a couple of interesting sights.  The first was an old ford where the tiny stream crosses the road – I could just picture in my mind horses drinking at that ford in days of old as they made their way to market!  I gather that in addition to enabling cars to cross the stream, the ford has also on occasion been used by the locals in conjunction with a bucket and sponge as a free car wash!  What seems unbelievable looking at the tiny stream is that in the 19th century a man was washed downstream and drowned, such was the strength and depth of the water then after a storm.

Image

The car wash……or is it a ford!

The other unusual sight was a post box attached to a pole.  It was unusual in that it was an Edward VII post box, but more than that, it was unusual because of the sign on it.  It said, ‘Please do not use this box until further notice as birds nesting’!  Isn’t that cool that modern life still stops sometimes for nature!

Image

Nature triumphs :)

A little further up the trail, I came across the most magnificent barn.  It was huge and was right at the top of the valley with amazing views from the doorway.  I was really surprised, and delighted, that no one had converted it to a house – which seems all too common with barns these days.  It would certainly be a great place to live.  And then I realised that someone does live there – a family of kestrels!  They were nesting high up on one of the roof beams and I could hear the chicks loudly voicing their need for food!

Image

Image

The old barn – a great nesting site

Having climbed up to the top of the valley, I crossed the ridge and dropped down the other side again, just as the rain came on!  And I came across another delightful hamlet nestling in the valley with its little church sitting on its own in a meadow of dandelions and buttercups.  It always enriches a walk when you come across these little unexpected treasures, and this was certainly a treasure with its rather unusual tower looking as if it was an afterthought!

Image

Image

The church in the meadow, with its ‘after thought’ tower!

So, back to the mud!!  And boy, were the last few miles muddy!!  So much so that at one point I sank in up to my knees – I got soaked.  Its funny how it slows you down as it is not easy to get into a good stride when every time you put your foot to the ground, you sink in – it’s like walking in jelly…..but definitely not as tasty!  And even when you get to the other side, you still squelch for the rest of the day because your shoes that are meant to keep water out are now keeping it in ;)!  It was still great though with some unexpectedly interesting things.  Like the old railway bridge that the route goes under.  The railway closed many years ago and the bridge has been colonised by that gorgeous orange lichen – I thinks its called Crustose lichen.  Very photogenic!

Image

Photogenic lichen

And then the last thing to pass was the cleverly disguised trunk below.  It seems to have been carved out of a single tree (a trunk carved from a trunk in fact!) and contained what was once a usable note book and pen, a sort of visitor’s book to be signed by all who pass.  Sadly the heavy rain has not only filled the footpath!

Image

Don’t forget to sign the visitor’s book!

What a great walk!  So much of interest and interesting and friendly people too!  Another day, very well spent in this amazingly beautiful county of Dorset!

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

Your friend

The Dorset Rambler

People (and animals) do the strangest things!

22 Mar

It’s amazing some of the things you see when you are out walking, and often these strange things involve people…….and animals…….or people with animals!

Image

I took the shot above recently on a walk across the MOD Artillery Firing Range……and yes, that is two walkers clambering over one of the tanks that I believe are used as targets.  The range walks are only open to the public at certain times because most of the time there is firing practice going on.  When the walks are open, the public are restricted to the footpaths – which are of course checked for unexploded shells before opening the gates.  These signs are specifically to warn people that on other parts there may be unexploded shells, so basically, if you want to live, keep out…….a fact that appears to have been lost on these two walkers!  Of course what then happened is that seeing these two clambering over the tank, others followed!  Am I being wimpy or is that a stupid thing to do?  I was walking in the area all day and I didn’t hear any explosions so I assume they got out safely!

And as for animals, I came across this character on another walk.

Image

Although he appears to be walking on water, it is in fact ice as the trough has frozen over.  I have no idea how or why he jumped up onto the trough.  Did he fancy a swim?  Did he fancy trying skating?  I am convinced that his brain is not sufficiently advanced as to be able to understand the laws of physics as they relate to water and ice so I am not sure what was in his mind?  The poor thing was stuck though because it was so slippery that he was having trouble just keeping on his feet and he certainly wasn’t able to jump down.  It did leave me in a quandary though because there was a severe risk that the ice would break as the temperature was rising and I had visions of coming back later to find a drowned sheep!  So I thought I’d help him but whenever I went near, he panicked so much that it was just making the situation worse.  In the end, I just left well alone…..but I’m glad to say that I checked at the end of the day and he was nowhere to be seen.  Of course he may have drowned and someone may have taken him home to cook………;-)

The strangest thing about people with animals is the way dog owners don’t or won’t control their dogs!  Now I’m a dog lover and I like a friendly dog but it does annoy me a little when they run up and jump all over you and the owner just carries on walking.  Oh, and a pet hate on mine is those extendable leads - they are of course a great idea……..but not when the owner walks on one side of the path and their dog is on the other side and everyone else is expected to either practice their high jump or limbo dancing to get past!  Probably the strangest thing is dogs that are left to run free along the cliff tops like the ones below near Old Harry Rocks.  There are now signs up along this part of the Dorset coast saying that in the last year, four dogs have gone over the cliffs!

Image

As they say, there’s nowt so queer as folk…..or sheep!

Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings (or is it rantings) af The Dorset Rambler!

The Dorset Rambler

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 196 other followers