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On a Clear, Cold, Crisp Winter Day!

30 Jan

It was one of those wonderful winter days – you know, the ones we don’t get often! After all the wet, grey days, this one dawned to bright sunshine and a hard frost – I even had to scrape the ice off the windscreen. Perfect for a walk along the Dorset coast!

I set off from the small but popular village of Lulworth and headed up the road for a time before turning off onto what I call the inland coast path. This path runs along the ridge of hills parallel to the coast path proper. That will be our way back later. When I reach the farm gate at the top of the rise, I cannot help but lean awhile and look back the way I had just come to the sound of far away dull thuds from the MOD firing range in the distance.

On the Inland Coast Path

The distant thud of guns

Much as I like to just drink in this view, there is a chill breeze and I need to move on so I reluctantly turn to continue along the ridge. Not that I need to be reluctant as there are views aplenty all along this ridge.

I pass the first almost immediately, the wonderful valley that goes by the dubious name of Scratchy Bottom! I love this valley with its curving sides layered with lines of thick grass. It is like a boomerang that leads out to the sea.

Its name actually has nothing to do with our proverbial posteriors, or anyone or anything else’s for that matter (it is usually inhabited by sheep or cows) – it just comes from the fact that the valley bottom was once covered in scrub. Its main claim to fame is that in 2012, it came second in a poll of Britain’s worst place names. Wouldn’t you believe it, the place that came first, Shitterton, is also in Dorset! Oh, and the valley is also ‘famous’ for having been used as a film location!

Scratchy Bottom

Scratchy Bottom

Aside from the fact that a walk along this ridge is ‘bracing’, it is also fantastically exposed, open and spacious with a carpet of lush and well drained grass under foot. These are chalk hills. In summer, this is one of my bare foot walks………but not today! Today, my feet will stay tucked up warmly inside sock and boot! I walk with a great sense of freedom, looking across to the distant Isle of Portland.

Wide Open Spaces

Wide open spaces and a ‘bare foot’ path

One of the interesting and unexpected features of this remote place is a series of three shell sculptures, each sheltering in its own stone cupboard. I say three because that’s how they started, but in fact one is now conspicuous by its absence. These were carved by Peter Randall in 1985 at the request of the Weld Estates as part of Common Ground’s New Milestones project. The intention was to encourage small scale art works that would celebrate history and the natural world.

But these are not the only unexpected things on this walk.

Sculpture

Sea Shells

Just a short distance further along and a few hundred yards inland stands an obelisk. Below me on the cliff top stands an identical obelisk. They are functional rather than decorative and for years these puzzled me every time I passed them – why were they there and what was their purpose? I could find nothing in books or on-line. One day, I was determined to find some answers so I sat with phone in hand and made some calls…..which gave me the answer I was searching for.

The answer, or at least part of it, was found in a rather tasty tome entitled ‘The Channel Pilot Part 1’ dating from 1908 which referred to ‘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)’. Prize Firing was an annual competition to test the skills of the various ships to see if they were ready to go to war so these two obelisks aided that competition.

Across Weymouth Bay in the picture below, you will see the Isle of Portland and just to the right of that stands Portland Harbour, said to be the second largest man made harbour in the world. This was a busy Royal Naval base until 1995 so in the early 1900’s battle ships would leave the harbour and steam up and down in a straight line whilst firing at targets moored out to sea. Clearly these two obelisks were used to enable the captain to steer his ship in a straight line across the water. Oh, and as you can see, the obelisks have long since lost their white coating.

Obelisk

The Obelisk

Moving on, I continued to follow the inland path, deeply rutted from farm machinery but still with some great distant views. After several more miles, my route took me along a track which curved round the head of the ridge, dropping down towards the coast path proper.

Ringstead

Rutted Paths

I passed through an unusual landscape, various hillside terraces, some old wooden shacks left to rot, and what appeared to be a derelict toilet block. Clearly, this was once a holiday park. It amazed me how nature so quickly reclaims its own!

Eventually I reached the coast and turned east to head back towards my starting point and after a short time, I stopped to look back towards Osmington Mills, a tiny coastal hamlet which once had a fishermen’s slipway until coastal erosion destroyed it. In 1927, the Minx, a coal barge, broke her moorings and was wrecked on Frenchman’s Ledge below. Parts are still visible today.

Osmington Mills

Looking Back Towards Osmington Mills

The Minx is not the only wreck here as along this part of the coast, there are many wartime relics. There is evidence of lookout posts, pillboxes, several bunkers, a communications centre and even the remains of wartime gun placements. At one time there was a massive radar station on the clifftop too. There is also a great deal of mud!

I stopped to chat to a retired man who was taking a short holiday at Weymouth and who had come out to explore the coast path. He was walking in the opposite direction to me so had already walked the most severely steep parts – I still had those to come…….but he still had several miles of mud to walk through. We compared notes :) !

Relic of War

Relics of War

Having slipped and slid for several miles – I was thankful for my walking pole! – I finally reached the beach at Ringstead Bay and stopped for a late lunch. This one time fishing village is a beautiful place to spend some time, especially on a gorgeously sunny day such as this and I sat and sketched whilst I ate, listening to the surf gently washing across the shingle – what a beautifully relaxing sound. The sea seemed almost determined to reach me, as if it wanted to shake my hand, but I outsmarted it – well I’m no Canute!

Ringstead Bay

Ringstead Bay

I was glad of my flask of hot drink as it soon became chilly sitting on a cold rock. To warm up, I wandered around with the camera looking for picture opportunities……like the one below :) !

An Exercise in Colour

An Exercise in Colour – Ringstead Bay

All too soon I had to move on, which meant some steep climbs! The first of these was up to the top of the White Nothe headland. Part way up I stopped to look at a quaint little wooden church at another small hamlet, Holworth. This wooden chapel still has regular services despite its remote location and in fact it has recently been extended. It stands right on the cliff edge with amazing views across the water.

My walks are often like pilgrimages as I pass many churches and I like to stop and pray in each one. On this occasion, however, with boots thickly coated with mud, I just sat on the bench outside. Well, with that view, who wouldn’t!

The Fading Day

St Catherine’s Chapel View

St Catherine's, Holworth

St Catherine’s Chapel

Onwards and upwards I went, eventually reaching the top of the headland, a beautifully rugged and wild wilderness of a place. I so enjoy exploring this remote headland. It has a real air of mystery and intrigue about it.

On White Nothe

On White Nothe

One of its features is its row of old coastguard cottages. Remote and unserved by any roads, these cottages have no mains services – the residents collect rainwater, heat by log burner, light by gas lamp or LPG generator, and drain into cess pits. These seven terraced cottages are not for the faint hearted but the largest changed hands recently for some £470,000! Recently the captain’s house has been brought more into the 21st century by installing solar panels on the roof. I have a feeling that the owners may have bought the house next door as well…….so maybe there are now only six?

They are quiet cottages now, mainly used as holiday or second homes, but at one time they were home to seven families with a total of 44 people living in them. The captain of course lived in the largest, three story house, and his 6 men and their families lived in the others. Together they tried to keep our coast safe as there was a thriving smuggling trade all along this part of the coast. And you can really picture in your mind the events that took place here with its remoteness and its secret paths.

When the coastguards vacated the cottages, they passed into private ownership and one of the early residents was the author Llewelyn Powis. A memorial stands nearby.

On White Nothe

A Remote Place to Live

Despite their remoteness, in fact because of their remoteness, and their lack of modern ‘trappings’, this would be an amazing place to live. And who could possibly not delight in the view below back down to Ringstead Bay?

Ringstead Bay

The View over Ringstead Bay

And of course that’s not to mention the view out to sea!

The End is Near

Sea Views

The sun was getting low in the sky by now and there was a definite chill in the air. Fingers were being numbed by the cold so it was time to move swiftly on. I left the White Nothe and continued on my way. Ahead of me I could see the switch back of headlands that were to be my route from here and I knew that I would once again, as I had done many times before, be walking in the dark before I reached my finishing point! But hey, that is often the best time of the day.

Bat's Head and Beyond

The Switchback Home

By the time I dropped down to Durdle Door, the sun had gone and the light had a definite blue tinge to it – this is the photogenic blue hour. I have a thousand pictures of the view below but you just cannot help but take more each time you pass this way. This really is a magnificent coastline, as good as you will see anywhere in the world!

Durdle Door

Blue Hour at Durdle Door

When I reached the arch, projecting out of into the water like some huge and fearsome sea monster taking a drink, it was virtually dark. Everywhere was still and there was just a faint tinge of orange in the distant sky. The only sound was the washing of surf on shingle. The lights of Portland and Weymouth twinkled in the far away lands and had it been summer, I would have sat and drank in the awesome atmosphere. But tonight was now icy cold!

Durdle Door

Last Light of the Day

I left the coast and climbed up the last hill of the day and in complete darkness with just the stars and a faint moon for company, and the ever diminishing sound of the waves, lost in my own thoughts, I made my way home.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

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.

 

 

 

Dorset at its Best!

27 Jan
Kimmeridge and the Dorset Coast

Kimmeridge Bay and the Dorset Coast

This shot was taken on a recent walk on an absolutely glorious day last week. It was a cold, crisp and clear day, ideal for landscape shots such as this – and what a landscape it is! It was taken from the footpath to Swyre Head and shows the whole of Kimmeridge Bay with Smedmore House below us, Clavell Tower on the headland beyond that, and in the distance, Gad Cliff, Mupe Bay and right across the water, Weymouth and Portland. Can you see why I love walking in the hills and on the coast of Dorset?

We’ve had a few of these cold, clear days recently so I will be posting a full walk shortly, but for now, this is a taster to enjoy!

I post regular pictures on my Facebook page, so if you are interested in seeing more of Dorset in between my blog posts, please do ‘like’ my page. There is a link above.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

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 a short winter walk, spring sunshine, ancient paths and feathered friends

12 Jan

The year has not started well as unfortunately I went down with a horrible virus that has curtailed my walking somewhat. However, on this day, there was glorious sunshine – something that has been rarely seen over the British wet winter months. So despite feeling rough, I was determined to get out and enjoy a gentle stroll.

My walk started with one of those great Dorset sights, the famous and much photographed avenue of beech trees near Kingston Lacy. This avenue started life back in 1835 when trees were planted either side of what was then a turnpike or toll road that led to the mansion that was the home of William John Bankes. Bankes did not only own Kingston Lacy but seemingly half of Dorset, including Corfe Castle. There were originally 365 trees on one side of the road, one for each day of the year and 366 on the other for a leap year but sadly they are nearing the end of their life span and many have had to be removed.

The Avenue

The Beach Avenue

Part of the problem is that the trees and modern motorised traffic do not sit well together. These were planted in an age of more sedate forms of transport. In an effort to preserve this wonderful avenue however, the National Trust has planted a new avenue of hornbeams outside the original avenue. The new trees will provide similar autumn tones to the beech but are more suited to the current environment. It can never replicate the beauty of the beech and the cynical part of me thinks that they have been planted so far apart so that the road can be converted to a dual carriageway.

It is sad to think that these 180 year old trees may not be there much longer but for the time being at least, these magnificent elder statesmen can be enjoyed still.

The Old and the New

The Old and the New

It is possible to walk beside the avenue but the road is very busy and noisy with traffic so my route today takes me straight across the road and on up the hill towards my next historic landmark on this short walk. Following ancient trackways, my route takes me through farmland and past old cottages hidden in the trees. I often wonder what it would be like to live in these remote dwellings that seem so idyllic on a beautiful sunny day such as this. Certainly there are views to be enjoyed, but much more besides…..

The Farm Track

The Farmstead

Photography and blogging have secondary benefits – they make you think about your surroundings and notice things you might otherwise just walk past like the picture below. A small remnant of autumn leaves picked out by the sunshine with its shadow being cast on the trunk of the tree – somehow that tiny detail grabs my attention as the branch, and its shadow, gently sways in the breeze, an ever changing picture.

Leaf, Branch, Trunk and Shadow

Leaf, Branch, Trunk and Shadow

Before long, I reach my next historic landmark, Badbury Rings. This ancient hill fort dating from the Iron Age was developed in two phases, with the second phase virtually doubling its size. Its ramparts form an almost perfect circle and although it is only 100 metres above sea level, there are glorious views all around. The picture below was taken at a slight dogleg in one of the ramparts and shows the well known Point to Point course surrounding the brown field below and beyond that, the now disused Tarrant Rushton Airfield.

The latter mentioned was built during the Second World War and its main action during that conflict was to be the take off point for troop and tank carrying gliders heading for France, towed by planes. After the war its main purposes were the development of drones and the conversion of planes for in-flight refuelling. It officially closed in 1980 and has been returned to agriculture, although its old hangers and some of the runways are still visible.

Walking the Ramparts

View from the Ramparts

There is nothing better than a walk around the full circle of one of the ramparts. Being exposed, the walk is always bracing and there are views in all directions. Once part of the Kingston Lacy Estate, this hill fort is now owned, along with the house itself, and indeed Corfe Castle mentioned earlier, by the National Trust and it is a popular  walking area. There is always a great feeling of spaciousness and freedom which I love.

Walking the Ramparts

Rampart Walk

Around the hill fort itself there are areas of ancient woodland and a stroll through these trees is always rewarding. In the spring there will be bluebells aplenty and there are piles of rotting wood, a haven for bugs of all kinds as well as lichen and fungi. I walked through these woods surrounded by a myriad long tailed tits and these are always a delight to watch as they frolic together like happy children just out of school. I spotted a tree creeper running up the bark of the tree nearest me – these often join with groups of tits. Winter is a good time of year to spot birds such as this as the bare trees make them so much easier to spot.

The Log Pile

Rotting Log Pile

All too soon, it was time to make my way home. I love watching birds, or indeed wildlife of any kind, even if it is just the humble robin or long tailed tit, but my constant coughing tends to give my presence away! I made my way down the path in the picture below and crossed the avenue once again.

Through the Shrubbery

The Way Home

This was such a great walk even if it was so short. Just to be out in the sunshine after so many wet, grey days was invigorating and I made my way home a happy man. There is just so much to be enjoyed in this amazing county that I call home.

Thank you for walking this way with me. Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

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 a year well spent, the new one to come, resolutions to make or break, creativity….and mountain gazelles!

5 Jan

My first blog entry of 2016 and first of all may I wish you all a very happy, healthy and blessed 2016! May it bring you everything you wish for.

The end of the year is always a good time to review the last year and think about the new year to come, a blank sheet of paper to be filled with……what? Well, we will come to that later but what of 2015?

Morning Light on Bannerdale

Bannerdale on the Coast to Coast walk

It’s been another good year for walking – a shade under 2,000 miles covered in the 52 weeks and all very enjoyable. The type of walking seems to have changed, especially in the winter where there is much more tramping through water and mud than there used to be, but hey, that’s life……and I am not one to be put off by a bit of surface water……though a return to nice cold, frosty winters would be welcome :) . I have to say at this point though that I feel very much for those who live further north and who have been flooded out so many times again!

Crackpot Hall

Crackpot Hall on the Coast to Coast walk

The highlight of the year in terms of walking was surely the Wainwright Coast to Coast walk that I completed in May. Over 200 miles of the most superb scenery imaginable, crossing three National Parks from St Bees on the west coast to Robin Hood’s Bay on the east coast. So what are my memories of that walk?

Well, the scenery of course but also the weather – cold frosty nights in the tent, freezing sleet whilst crossing the Pennines, heavy rain, strong winds, bogs and surface water, and beautiful sunny days too (well I am British so the weather had to feature :) )! But there are other things too – good company as this is a popular walk and there tends to be a good community feel to it, semi-wild camping (unfortunately the weather precluded wild camping in the mountains), my first experience of bunkhouse and hostel accommodation. Oh, and walking across boggy moors in a split pair of boots! This truly was a memorable walk and despite all the problems caused by the Jet Stream blowing south, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

During the rest of the year, I have continued to walk the beautiful Dorset Coast as well as many routes farther inland. These are always a pleasure no matter how many times I walk them as they are always different. I think probably the Purbeck Way has featured highly this year as I have walked it several times. Perhaps Durdle Door as well – I walked there with my son and daughter on the night it was lit up by lighting engineers and arrived too late for the show due to traffic chaos in the village and a rescue helicopter that was trying to airlift an elderly man who had sadly had a heart attack on the cliff top. It was a memorable enough evening simply because I was doing a night hike with my children on my birthday.

Gold Hill

Gold Hill in Dorset

Something else I have done a lot more during the year is to explore local paths accessible from my home without the need to get into the car. In part this came out of a photographic project I set myself which I called ‘Looking for the Local WOW Factor’. The fact is there are unlimited amazing sights on your doorstep if you really look for them and you do not need to travel to the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls in order to come out with the WOW word. This is perhaps one of the benefits of photography, and perhaps blogging as well, it makes you really look around to see things that you might otherwise just pass by.

In the Spotlight

In the Spotlight – looking for the local WOW factor!

One of the other things I have really enjoyed this year is my even more local walks with my son, Paul, and grandson. Sammy is only 2 so can’t yet walk distance, plus his sense of direction is ‘random’ :) but we explore local woodlands or the beach with Sam acting as leader and Paul and I acting as sherpas, usually both finishing up with handfuls, and pocketfuls, of sticks, stones, seashells, leaves and other paraphernalia that Sam collects on the way. We call it the Mountain Gazelle Club because little Sammy loves to climb over rocks and trees or anything else in fact :) – mini mountains ! He loves it and so do we – these are very special and precious times spent with two of my favourite people and I treasure the memories.

One of the good things about 2015 is that my ankles have continued to hold up ok even whilst backpacking the C2C with a 20kg pack. They do create problems at times but not enough to stop me walking so the arthritis is not worsening too quickly for which I am thankful.

Another highlight of the year was the visit by the BBC Countryfile team who wanted me to give them a guided tour of some Dorset Holloways with a view to appearing on the programme. Unfortunately it hasn’t been filmed yet but hopefully in 2016…..

The Magical, Mystery of Dorset's Holloways

The Magical, Mystery of Dorset’s Holloways

I don’t know if you make new year resolutions? I don’t because they are psychologically doomed to failure because they are often knee-jerk reactions to over indulging during the Christmas period. However, I do review my life regularly and plan changes that I would like to make in the future. This applied particularly when I retired as I didn’t want to just ‘drift’. I went through this process in November 2014 and one of the things I listed was to make more of my garden.

Prior to that it was pretty much lawn and shrubs with a line of large Leylandii along the bottom fence. These were becoming increasingly difficult to keep in check and they were also draining all the goodness out of the soil, not to mention keeping the garden in shade, meaning that I couldn’t grow much. So I made a plan for the garden and have pursued that throughout 2015 and I now have a conifer free garden, a raised vegetable bed, a potting shed, a water butt – in fact, everything I need for a productive kitchen garden.

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Part of the new kitchen garden

Add to that the start of my new foraging interest plus pickling and preserving, and a bit of cooking, and its been a productive year.

So what about the coming year? As I have said, I don’t set new years resolutions but in December I did review the plan I prepared 15 months ago to see if I was on track or if variations were needed. Predominantly I am on track so it will be more of the same but with some additions.

Walking and everything outdoors/nature of course is still high on the list and I have already started to think about which end to end walk I would like to do in May. The shortlist at the moment includes the West Highland Way plus an extension possibly to take in Ben Nevis, St Columba’s Way which is an old pilgrimage route running across Scotland from the island of Iona to St Andrews on the east coast, or possibly the Wainwright Coast to Coast again – yes, I enjoyed it that much!

FullSizeRender-1

An oil painting from many years ago

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A recent rough sketch

One the things I have also included is more creativity outside of photography. Many many years ago I used to paint in oils but I moved away from that when photography took over. Over the last year I have dipped into a bit of sketching again but I would like to develop that more in 2016 and follow other artistic pursuits.

There is far more on my list but I will not bore you with more save to say that I would like to review this blog and what I, and you, want to get from it. I set up a Facebook page in 2015 and I share pictures regularly on that and I have seen some growth in that and the blog page but does the style or content need to change to make it more interesting?

If you have any thoughts, please do send me a message as your feedback would be very welcome.

Thanks so much dear friends for all your interest, likes and comments over the last year and I hope you will all have a fantastic 2016.

Your friend The Dorset Rambler

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

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.

A Spring Walk on an Autumn Day

21 Nov

I am sat at my desk today listening to the rain falling yet again against my window and thinking back to sunnier days and the great walking I have been able to do again this year, and I decided that I would blog a walk that I did in the spring. This will be a virtual spring walk on a dull autumn day and I hope you will enjoy it with me!

The walk started on the high North Dorset downs on a hill known as Spreadeagle Hill….although there are no eagles here! The views across the valley with villages nestling beneath the downs are fantastic and there are many paths to choose from. The path below with its distant views always looks inviting but today, I ignored it.

Spreadeagle View

Great views from Speadeagle Hill

I chose instead the route that leads out across Compton Down, but first I had to walk the narrow path beside the road. This was a surprisingly beautiful path that was lined with Cow Parsley on both sides and with distant views across to the hilltop town of Shaftesbury. My walk would take me there and back.

Flower Strewn Path

Flower Strewn Path

After a short distance, I left the road and made my way over Compton Down. This is a wonderful grassy path that is easy to walk which means that you can take in all the views without fearing that you might trip over some rock – it is what I call a ‘bare foot path’ because you could easily kick off your boots and walk bare footed which is a rare pleasure.

Passing over the hilltop and dropping down into what I call ‘the saddle’, I was amazed by the awesome display of beautiful, bright buttercups and I used my iPhone panorama facility to capture the scene. It was truly glorious on this spring day with just a gentle breeze, bright sunshine and soaring skylarks.

On Melbury Hill

On Compton Down

I felt almost guilty treading across the flowers, as if I was trampling roughshod across someone’s garden but the path goes that way. Reaching the bottom of my ‘saddle’, I turned and headed down the hillside through a field of sheep towards the village of Melbury Abbas – such a great Dorset name – and headed towards the village church. I always find that churches are good for lunch stops as they invariably have benches in the churchyard and places to shelter if its raining. This was far too early for lunch though! I stopped for a snack anyway, and gazed at the beautiful valerian growing out of the wall.

St Thomas' Church, Melbury Abbas

St Thomas’ Church, Melbury Abbas

The church stands high on the hillside and below it is an interesting path that climbs down the steep embankment to the road that runs through the village. The path is usually overgrown now through lack of use but I love walking it because you almost get a sense of ancient times and the people who once walked it regularly as they made their way to worship on a sunday morning. Those would have been the days when villagers could safely walk through the village – with the increase in traffic, the village has now become a very busy rat run on the route from Blandford to Shaftesbury. But on this day, I knew there would be no traffic!

There's a Path in there Somewhere

There’s a Path in there Somewhere

Walking through the village today was a rare pleasure thanks to the local authority. You see, the road leaves the village and makes its way up the hill through a Dorset Holloway known as Dinas Hollow. Two years ago the local authority closed the road to traffic because the steep sides had become unstable and were in danger of collapsing. I think the villagers must have thought all their birthdays had come at once to have the road clear after many years of traffic thundering along this very narrow lane and headlights blazing in through their windows at night. Now all was silent – it was like a deserted village!

Never would you normally risk walking this road, it would be far too dangerous as even heavy trucks use this route. This was a pleasure that I was going to enjoy on this day, and Melbury Abbas is a village that does reward anyone who takes the trouble to walk its lanes as it is totally unspoilt and uncommercialised.

As a footnote, the local authority has since re-opened the road having carried out very little work apart from trimming a few trees, albeit with some traffic management in place.

The Empty Road

The Empty Road – Dinas Hollow

Climbing up through Dinas Hollow with its steep sides and overhanging trees was a delight. I have driven up this ‘tunnel’ thousands of times without really having a chance to look around – this was a chance to linger and look and I made the most of it.

Reaching the next village, East Melbury, I passed an interesting old cottage going by the name of The Old Glyn Arms. The names of these old cottages, and indeed roads, always intrigue me as they often convey something of their history. This one certainly did. It was built in the 17th century and was once the village pub but it was converted to a private house in the 1950’s. Once again, I wondered about the people who had frequented this lovely old thatched building – who were they and what would they be like if you could meet them today? So much history in a single cottage!

The Old Glyn Arms

The Old Glyn Arms

Leaving East Melbury, I struck out cross country passing a much more modern development on the way, in the shape of a new pipeline. This pipeline runs for several miles and is being laid to improve the water supply between Blandford and Shaftesbury. It seemed to be carving up so much of the countryside and the bright blue pipes were so garish echoing the colour of the sky but I knew from experience that in a year or two you will not even know that the pipeline exists because nature will have reclaimed its own.

The Pipeline

The Pipeline

On this pathway, there was in any event plenty of nature’s own to be enjoyed with a wonderful array of campions and cow parsley to enjoy. The pipeline was soon forgotten.

Campion

Campion

Campion

The Lush Green Hills

The Lush Green Hills

There was plenty of evidence of farming too with haymaking already taking place, making the most of a warm dry spell. As a photographer, I do love the lines that farming often creates through the crops.

Haymaking

Haymaking

When I plan my walks, I always try to include a village or two because I really enjoy walking through these old hamlets and looking at the cottages and cottage gardens. This one was no exception and I soon reached another delightful hamlet with an array of spring flowers both in and outside of the gardens. Wisteria climbing up the wall of an old cottage, and garden walls laden with spring plants seemings growing out of the stone.

Wisteria

Wisteria

The Garden Wall

The Cottage Garden Wall

At the top of the lane leading out of this settlement I came across what looked like snow covering the ground. This was in fact seeds from poplars, a myriad tiny cotton wool pieces of fluff that have been blown under the nearby shrubs. There was something beautiful and spellbinding about this simple thing.

Like Snow

Like Snow

I climbed up onto the ridge and dropped down the other side through a dense woodland and along yet another Dorset Holloway. This sunken path, worn by centuries of hooves and feet being surrounded by an ageing forest had an air of mystery about it as they so often do.

A Dorset Holloway

A Dorset Holloway

Soon, I came out onto open parkland at Wincombe Park, with its magnificent home high on the hillside overlooking a once beautiful lake. This area is now working farmland but it still had all the marks of stately home parkland with carefully planted trees and once well manicured lawns.

Wincombe Park

Wincombe Park

Passing through the woods that surround the park there was a lovely contrast in the spring foliage with autumnal tones of the copper beach trees standing out strongly against the fresh green leaves of other species. It was a delight to the eyes and the path itself must have been a delight to the nose too, being lined as it was with wild garlic in full flow. The latter was lost on me unfortunately as I have no sense of smell but I could appreciate the view.

Foliage

Foliage

Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic

I reached Shaftesbury, the hilltop town we saw in the distance earlier and I made my way through the town, walking down its most famous and much photographed street, Gold Hill. This wonderful cobbled street with its old cottages on one side and even older abbey wall on the other is always a pleasure to walk down. The views across the surrounding countryside are wonderful and the whole scene is picture postcard perfect. No wonder it is so popular. Normally I eat my lunch somewhere out in the country with a view to enjoy but today I made an exception. I ate my lunch in town, sat on a seat enjoying the view below.

Gold Hill

Gold Hill

I was fortunate to have walked down Gold Hill on such a quiet day but it was time to move on and I left the town and headed out across the meadows, accompanied by birds, butterflies and bees. We shared the enjoyment of the meadow together and I have to say I lingered a long time in these lovely surroundings. Well, as the poet said, ‘What is life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’! I stood and I stared! In the distance I could see my next objective, Melbury Hill.

Meadows

Meadows

Coming out of the other side of the meadow, I crossed the stile below and dropped down onto a very quiet country lane. With the dappled light filtering through the trees, even the stile with its embankment below was picturesque.

The Stile

The Stile

Over the next two miles, I passed three old mills that were once driven by the now small stream that runs though the valley bottom. Two of these are now private dwellings and the other has been modified but is still a working mill. The Domesday Book in fact describes five working mills within one mile, all being driven by the River Sturkel, a tributary of the larger River Stour – indeed the name Sturkel is thought to mean Little Stour.

Cann Mill, the one remaining working mill, continues to produce flour by old methods and even now is driven partly by water power. The building itself was sadly damaged by fire in 1950 and had to be rebuilt but its popularity continues thanks to the thriving artisan bakery movement in Dorset. Purchased by Norman Stoates in 1947, the current owner is the fifth generation of that family operating the business. It is very much part of history that still operates and serves the community today.

My easy walk along the valley bottom stream eventually ended and I turned to climb out of the valley, clambering up the steep side of Melbury Beacon. Once again, the views were amazing and I stopped often to look back across the valley towards Shaftesbury.

Across the Valley

Across the Valley

On Melbury Hill

On Melbury Hill

Once again I found myself amongst the buttercups which were also littered with other wild flowers such as Red Clover. Even an old water trough provided some interest with the skeleton of a leaf floating amongst other debris. There is beauty even in decay!

Red Clover and Buttercups

Red Clover and Buttercups

Leaf Skeleton

Leaf Skeleton

I was now reaching the end of my walk and I dropped down off the hill into my ‘saddle’ that I passed earlier in the morning. I could almost imagine a giant sitting astride this hill with a leg in each valley as if he was on some giant horse. The sun had now faded and in the evening light, I enjoyed once again walking on my ‘bare foot path’ with a lush carpet of gold at my feet. Even the best carpet manufacturer could not better this.

Melbury Hill and Compton Down

Melbury Hill and Compton Down

There was no-one around as I crossed Compton Down for the second time, save for a few nosy cows who were interested in what I was doing there. We passed the time of day!

Nose!

Nose!

What a delightful walk this was and reviewing it on this grey, wet autumn day has brightened things up. Wonderful walking, amazing views, lush countryside, interesting villages, and memories to take carry me.  I hope you have enjoyed walking it with me.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

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.

Holloways and Sunken Paths, the Mysterious Ancient Highways

25 Oct

I had a phone call last week from the people at BBC Countryfile. They are putting together some future programming based on Dorset and wanted to meet with me to discuss it and so that I could give them a guided tour of Dorset’s wonderful Holloways. I am still processing the pictures from the visit but I thought I would reblog this entry on Holloways that I posted earlier this year. The programming is still in the development stage and it may be several months before we know if it will go ahead but it was good to meet with them and show them our beautiful county.

I will put up a fresh entry with more pictures of these amazing places soon.

Thanks for stopping by.

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 Dorset Rambler

Holloway

There are thousands of ancient paths criss crossing Dorset’s wonderful countryside but none more fascinating than these labyrinthine paths like the one in the picture above which goes by the interesting name of Hell Lane! These are known as Holloways, although they do have other names such as shutes, bostels or grundles depending on the area they are in, and they are only seen in areas where the bedrock is soft – West Dorset is predominantly sandstone and therefore has many Holloways.

So what are Holloways?

Well the name Holloway comes from the anglo-saxon word which literally means ‘sunken road’, and they date from at least 300 years ago, many going back as far as the iron age. They started life as either drove trails used to move cattle and other animals from farms to markets, routes from inland to the sea ports, pilgrimage routes, or simply boundary ditches. I am not sure…

View original post 1,280 more words

Autumn in the Forest

17 Oct

I took a walk in the forest this week, not a large forest, just a small area of mixed and coniferous woodland and it was a delight. The truth is I went because the woodland has recently been sold and there are fears that it might be built upon. I wanted to see for myself if anything was happening there. I couldn’t have known what awaited me!

Contrasting Colours

Contrasting Colours – Fruits and foliage of the Forest

It was a cloudy day mainly but one of those wonderful days when the sun makes an appearance now and again, throwing beautiful splashes of light through the trees. And it was that time of the year when some trees have shed their foliage and fruit creating a thick, warm autumn carpet on the forest floor, whilst others still wear their green summer clothes, producing a beautiful mix of warm and cool tones. It was like an amazing set to a major production of some literary work.

On the Forest Floor

On the Forest Floor

In the Spotlight

In the Spotlight

These bursts of sunlight, like spotlights in a theatre, pick out the players in this wonderful performance on the world stage that even the best playwright could not match. They speak no words but each leaf and berry plays his part so well to create an annual spectacle that is free for everyone to enjoy. No ticket needed to see this drama! But this is no silent drama, the birds around are a beautiful chorus, accompanying the spectacle, and the distant lowing, barking and cawing add their part to the experience on this still day.

Red Berries in the Sunset

Red Berries in the Sunset

Higher in the trees, other actors are waiting in costume highlighting the approach of winter and the season of goodwill. Red berries glisten in the golden glow of the setting sun. Others, as if in a supporting role, stand in the wings with just a hint of autumn tones. Their time is not yet but before the play finishes, they will have played their part well.

Evergreen

Evergreen – Waiting in the Wings

Vestige of Autumn

Vestige of Autumn

Threaded Veins

Threaded Veins

Some players have played already, their spaces now vacant form a structure for the silken, silver filaments sewn by spiders. The late sun shines on the spun threads. Such delicacy. It reminds me of a web I saw earlier this week, seemingly hovering in mid air until I spotted a single filament stretching vertically upwards a clear 20 feet to a telegraph wire. How could something so fine support so much and continue to resist the power of the wind.

Silken Threads

Silken Threads

As the sun sank towards the horizon, silhouetted branches hung like a stage curtain rail with its drape set to drop at the end of the performance. On the stage below, the players continue to dance even though on this evening there is only one in the audience. The stage light picks the actors out  against the beautiful backdrop that nature’s set designers have produced. Its creative art is so much more than even the best stage production man can offer.

Across the Valley

Across the Valley – Curtains and Players on Stage

The performance is not yet spent but it is time for me to leave. I cannot but linger though and just drink in a little more of this awesome spectacle. William Shakespeare said that, ‘All the world’s a stage’ – he was so right, and if we will, we can watch the performance and enjoy the best play ever written.

Hanging

On Stage – A Leading Actor in the Spotlight

So what of this forest? Will it continue to be part of God’s awesome annual production? Or will it be lost like some Victorian theatre that no longer meets the needs of today’s theatre goers? Oh how I hope it remains for my grandchildren to enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by.

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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