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Holloways and Sunken Paths, the Mysterious Ancient Highways

20 Feb

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 whether the term Holloway would have been applied much when the usage of these ‘highways’ was at its peak – I suspect they might well have been referred to as simply ‘lanes’.  Holloway, as a name, seems to have come much more to the fore in recent years having been popularised by Dan Richards’ and Robert Macfarlane’s book of the same name.  In terms of literature, they also feature strongly in Geoffrey Household’s book Rogue Male, where the main character fleeing his pursuers goes to ground and hides out in a disused Dorset Holloway.

They certainly wouldn’t have started their lives as Holloways because most would have initially been at ground level but centuries of use by cattle, carts and people gradually eroded the soft surface creating a ditch which was then deepened and widened by yet more ‘traffic’ and also by water running off the surrounding land as the ditch became at times a river. Eventually, many have become as deep as 20 or 30 feet creating in effect gorges rather than paths.

Coombe Down Hill

Holloways, and indeed all the ancient byways, are a record of the habits of our ancestors with hundreds of years of repeated use and that makes them rich in heritage and mystery……which is why I love walking them. With walls towering on either side and trees growing out of the top with their network of roots holding the walls in place, these paths have a real air of mystery. You feel like you are walking a natural and secret tunnel as the mesh of intertwined trees and branches above makes you feel shut in.  And there is lots of wildlife too! Gilbert White, a pioneering naturalist from the 18th century once said that to walk the holloways was to ‘Access a world of deep history, an unexpectedly wild world, buried amid the familiar and close at hand’. He wasn’t wrong!

I have a number of regular walks that take in one or more holloways and they are always a delight to walk. On a grey, stormy day you could almost fear to walk them as the gloom and darkness created by the high walls and overhanging branches creates a feeling of shadowy threat. On a bright sunny day with lovely dappled light filtering through the trees, they take on an altogether different feel!  But always secret and mysterious. So where are these Holloways?  Well the truth is they are many and varied, ranging from the gorge-like to simply shallow sunken paths, worn by feet, wheels, and hooves.

These are a few I have walked.

Holloway
Hell Lane, Symondsbury

Hell Lane is perhaps one of the most impressive and interesting.  With Shutes Lane it connects Symondsbury with North Chideock, climbing up over the ridge near Quarry Hill.  It is interesting because the eastern part is much more gorge like than the western half – to walk from the ridge down to North Chideock is a bit like walking a shallow river bed!  The reason for this difference might well be the fact that the church and other buildings at Symondsbury were built with stone from the quarry.  You can just imagine how the constant traffic of heavy laden carts running between quarry and village would have considerably deepened that part of the track to the gorge it now is.

The Winniford Valley
The Winneford Valley – the Holloway runs into the trees, top right

There are others in this area, tracks such as the one, now part of the Monarch’s Way, that climbs from North Chideock, through the Winneford Valley up over Coppet Hill.

Henwood Hill Henwood Hill
On Henwood Hill

And a smaller, but none the less beautiful, path that runs across the ridge at Henwood Hill.  This is a lovely path to walk in spring when the bluebells and wild garlic are in flower.

Coombe Down Hill Coombe Down Hill
Coombe Down

Moving away from this immediate area, there is a fine Holloway that climbs from the A3066 south of Beaminster up over Coombe Down.  This is deep and wild with gnarled tree roots growing out of the steep sided walls, holding them in place.  It is a well walked path, forming part of The Jubilee Trail.

A Sunken Lane Follow the River
Near South Poorton

Another smaller lane (or is it a river!) runs from the road at South Poorton and drops down to the nature reserve.  With it’s fern lined walls and it’s stony, waterlogged bottom, this is a lovely haven for wildlife and this, together with the nature reserve beyond, makes a delightful walk.

Holloway, West Milton
The track drops down steeply at West Milton

And there is evidence of further Holloways at the other end of the nature reserve as the track drops down to another interesting village, West Milton.

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Lewesdon Hill Lane

One further path that I feel is worthy of inclusion is Lewesdon Hill Lane, although this is not perhaps a Holloway in the true sense.  I include it because it is ancient and sunken and a beautiful track to walk – it has even been suggested by some to have been part of the Ickneild Way, that ancient super-highway.  With moss covered banks on either side and surrounded by ancient woodlands, there are some wonderful views from this path.

Near Stoke Abbot
The access road down to Stoke Abbot

If you walk Lewesdon Hill Lane, you may well eventually reach the track that drops from the ridge down to the delightful village of Stoke Abbot.  It really is worth walking this part as the deeply cut access road that leads to the village is a Holloway in itself, and of course the village with its pub is a pleasant detour.

The sunken lane near Chetnole
Near Chetnole – this section is fairly clear but later it becomes overgrown Cutty Stubbs
Cutty Stubbs

Sadly, not all of our old sunken byways have been well maintained and with the development of other forms of transport many have fallen into disrepair.  The pictures above show sunken paths at Cutty Stubbs and Chetnole – both are now impassable.  At Cutty Stubbs, I couldn’t even find the entrance to the sunken path and had to ask the farmer for permission to cross his field to find it!  I did once question this with the authorities in an effort to have them cleared and reopened but sadly they ‘fall between stools’ and no-one has a budget that they wish to apply.  The reason is that these are often Byways Open to All Transport (BOAT’s) rather than footpaths and responsibility for these falls with the Highways authority.  The Footpaths authorities have a budget to maintain footpaths and Highways have a budget to maintain roads and BOAT’s………but naturally their funding is always exhausted keeping the roads in reasonable repair, with nothing left for our ‘off-road’ tracks.

Holloways may have been popularised by more recent writings but justifiably so.  They are ever changing, ever different, ever mysterious, but always delightful! And as is often the case when I walk, I travel along them wondering about those who have trod that way before – were they early drovers, were they pilgrims heading for one of the Dorset abbeys, were they smugglers, were they just ordinary people making their way to the port perhaps to emigrate to other lands!  Who were they and what was their purpose in travelling these ancient routes?  If only the walls could speak! These days walkers and wildlife are the companions of the Holloway and to go there is to enter another world.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

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

A Walk in the Snow!!

3 Feb

Today, we woke up to snow :)!  Now that is a rarity in Southern England, especially the part where I live – frankly, we always miss out!  And I love snow!  So this morning when I realised there was a white covering (and that’s all it was) I quickly threw on my hat and gloves and set out for the local heathland.

The pavements looked slippery so in order to make quicker progress I walked in the road and I soon reached the start of the woodlands that lead up to the open heath.

A Winding Path

The path through the woods is a delight to walk.  It winds in and out, up and down, a gently undulating and meandering route with glimpses of the heath beyond.  The sun soon joined me on the pathway, and together we enjoyed an easy and picturesque stroll, stopping regularly to take in the views.  Often it seemed, a robin also joined me, although I am sure it wasn’t the same robin………they all look alike, but aren’t they great companions.

Across the Heath

Everything was covered in a layer of white fur, and each fence post wore a white cap, as if trying to keep out the early morning chill that hung in the air.  And there was a chill!  But at least it was a still day with no wind to help that chill to penetrate through the layers of winter clothing.

Fence Post

The paths were white but footprints revealed that others had passed that way before me, probably dog walkers out for their early sojourn before heading off to work.  Retirement undoubtedly has its advantages and I am forever grateful that I am blessed with good health and am able to get out and enjoy the countryside!  So many don’t have that privilege and I feel for them.

Conifers

We are so fortunate in these modern times that these small oases of countryside in the urbanity that makes up most of the area are tended by the local wildlife organisations and volunteers.  They work tirelessly to preserve what remains for all to enjoy.  Evidence of their presence is seen regularly in the piles of logs and other paraphernalia.

Preserving heathland is a constant battle to keep invasive trees and shrubs at bay.  Just the other day I chatted to the local warden who was clearing broken glass from one of the footpaths and she explained to me the strategy of using cattle to keep some types of plant at bay in order to encourage heather to grow because it attracts so many species of butterflies.

Logs

Climbing up onto the high heathlands gives a great feeling of open spaciousness, despite the fact that there are houses not too far away.  You could easily feel that you are out in the wild country rather than in a town.  Here, the snow had settled well into the worn grooves that make up the footpaths and with a blue sky as a fitting backdrop, you can’t help but stop and drink in the scene.

On the Open Heath

From this high vantage point, there are amazing views across the conurbation that is Poole, even reaching in the far distance to Poole Harbour and beyond.  It’s strange but mention Canford Heath to a walker and they will immediately think of the heath on which I am stood, but mention Canford Heath to a non-walker and they will almost certainly think you are referring to the housing estate below me.  I remember a time when all was heathland and I used to walk my dog for miles across it but I guess the need for houses overtook the need for open space.

Once again, I just feel gratitude to those who give time and energy to preserve these last vestiges of Dorset heathland.

Heath with a View

Dropping northwards off the high heathland down one of the myriad criss crossing paths you can almost seem to hear the rumbling of Lady Wimborne’s carriage echoing down through the ages as she drove across what was her estate.  Back in the 19th century, Lord and Lady Wimborne lived in what was then Canford Manor and owned most of the area.  The carriageways that they drove are the footpaths we now walk.

Rain is far more a feature of our winters than snow, and there are still many waterlogged areas to negotiate……..although they do look quite attractive surrounded by snow, lovely stands of birch, and of course those long grass stems, a relic of last summer.

Puddle

I have written often about the delights that can be found if we just keep alert to all that is around us and we so often miss things on the ground or up high.  And even now in the depths of winter, there are reminders of an autumn long gone.  Beautiful oranges and browns amidst the white and the mud.

A Last Vestige of Autumn

With the gentle warmth of the sun, our transient layer of snow was already fading as I climbed up once again to the higher ground to make my way back.  The very sun that melts the snow also brings out it’s pure brightness, making the paths stand out starkly from the darker surrounding foliage.  A dog walker slowly makes his way up onto the heath, standing out, black against white with a beautifully atmospheric backdrop of winter light.

Walking the Dog

What a wonderful walk.  Snow may not come often but it brings a completely different feel to our local countryside when it does…….even if it is but a brief visit.

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 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.

Wild and Wintry

13 Jan

You will know from my recent posts that although I love long walks, I also thoroughly enjoy shorter walks exploring my local area.  We have had some quite wild weather recently and I have taken the opportunity to get out and try to capture the essence of winter.  This week has included some long walks along the Dorset coast in gale force winds, pouring rain and THICK mud, as well as lots of walks over local heathland and woods.  And much more…….

The pictures below were all taken on what was a short stroll through a local park that looks out onto Poole Harbour on a really blustery and stormy day………just right for capturing the ‘contradiction’ of a summer place in the depths of winter.  There were just a few hardened dog walkers out and the odd sailboarder waiting for the conditions to become right.  Apart from that, it was just me and my camera :) !

The biggest difficulties I had were trying to hold the camera steady in the very windy conditions, and trying to keep water off the lens, both rain and sea spray which was blowing everywhere!  Despite, in fact because of, the conditions, I had a fabulous time just trying to bring out the feeling of abandonment of winter in a summer place!  And of course I had a great walk too :) !

On a Winter's Day
Stormy skies over beach huts

 

Lonely in Winter
The loneliness of winter

 

Waiting
Waiting

 

Out of Season
A playground in winter

 

Tete a Tete
Tete a tete

 

Empty!
Empty – I wonder why!

 

Times Past
Memories of a once busy railway line

 

Mind the Gap
Mind the gap

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 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.

The WOW Factor

17 Dec Sunlight on Sea

A couple of months ago I made a conscious decision to walk every day, even if it was just for a few miles.  Prior to that, I walked several days a week but on the other days, work and other commitments tended to eat away at the available time and I missed out.  With retirement came more freedom to shape my own day, despite somehow becoming even busier with grandparent ‘duties’ etc :) – in fact sometimes I wonder how I had the time to work :) !

I still do my full day walks several days a week throughout Dorset but on the other days I have been able to focus on local walks which has led me to explore the various pockets of countryside that exist within easy reach of home.  These include small nature reserves, woodland, heath, river banks etc, oases in the urban sprawl that makes up our town.  As part of this, I set myself a challenge to look for the WOW factor on my doorstep, to notice the small details that we so often miss when walking.  These ‘WOW’s’ are there in abundance although when it comes to photographing them, it can be a real challenge!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
WOW – Amazing, tiny fungi on a newly sawn tree

If you walk the Grand Canyon, Niagara, Machu Pichu, the Everest foothills, or even my local Durdle Door (below), there is a strong chance that that ‘WOW’ is going to escape your lips without even thinking about it simply because of the grandeur of the scene before you.  One author put is this way, ‘Beauty is cheap if you point a camera at a grand phenomenon of nature’.  But what about the local, perhaps smaller, phenomenons of nature that are equally ‘wow’ albeit maybe with a small W – these are all around us.  The challenge is to notice them and capture them in the camera.

Awaiting the sunrise
WOW – Durdle Door

Just yesterday I went for a local walk with my son, Paul.  We followed a narrow ribbon of woodland that wound through various housing developments, it was urban and yet at times it felt like we were in the depths of the countryside.  The views were amazing and there was a myriad historic features, the site of an old mill, the remains of an old steam railway, relics of a long gone pottery works, majestic pines, a lovely clear mirror-like stream that I didn’t know existed, views across the harbour, and much more.  It was both fascinating and rewarding, and of course all the more special for sharing it with my son, my favourite walking companion.

The picture below was taken on a gentle stroll along the local promenade – hardly a wild wilderness but when this scene presented itself, I could not help but say ‘WOW’ to myself.  The view across the bay was magnificent but with that awesome stormy sky, the eerie amber light on the horizon and the sudden, and short lived, burst sunlight on the water, it just came alive.

Sunlight on Sea
WOW – Awesome light across the bay

Be it a walk along the coast or a walk across just a small patch of heathland, there are always wonderful sights if we are alert and aware of our surroundings.  Even the tiniest of leaves in the woodland with the last vestiges of the sun streaming through them makes me say “WOW’!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
WOW – Amazing texture and colours of nature

You can tell that I am passionate about the ‘ordinary’ although in fact there is no ordinary because the whole of nature is extraordinary.  My quest in my walks and my photography is to show the seemingly ordinary for the extraordinary that it is, and that is less about photography and more about seeing what is there.

You may have seen in the press that the most expensive photograph ever sold, taken in Antelope Canyon, Arizona, changed hands at $6.5M recently.  I wonder what made it worth that much.  That canyon is undoubtedly beautiful and there are thousands of pictures on the web to show all its beauty – but $6.5M???  The reality in my book is that you don’t need to spend a fortune jetting around the world in search of outstanding beauty, just look on your doorstep, its there if you will see it!

City Silhouettes
WOW – There are magnificent sights even in town!

Photography, and indeed, what we see as beauty, is of course a very personal thing – ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ as the well known saying goes, so what makes me say ‘WOW’ may not be the same thing that stirs others.  But the fact is, there is beauty and interest all around us just where we are so take the time to walk your local walks and search out that ‘WOW’ factor, whatever that means to you.

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 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.

Of Walking with your Eyes Open

29 Oct

I read an interesting article recently comparing photography with painting/drawing.  The gist of it was that photographers see an eye-catching scene and capture it on camera without noticing the detail whereas an artist sits and takes in all the detail as well as the overall scene.  The conclusion was that photographers miss out.  It was a view held, if not started, by the art critic, John Ruskin and there is certainly truth in that view especially in the 21st century when everyone seems so ‘busy’ and rushes through life without stopping to just sit, look and listen.  As the poet said, ‘What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’!

You can see the point – the artist has to sit for some time, perhaps several hours, to take in all the finer detail of a scene in order to commit it to paper whereas the photographer doesn’t necessarily need to as the camera does the work of recording the detail instantly.  But it needn’t be that way and we can benefit hugely from making a conscious effort to really look as we walk – there is so much that we often just pass by without even realising.

The same is true of life.  I read another article some time ago from a blogger who set out the benefits to her of writing a blog – the gist of it was that blogging made her take notice of things that happened during the day, be it a chance meeting, a conversation, a thought, or just something she saw.  Things that would normally just slip by without taking root, became more vibrant as they provided material for the next blog.

All this is just about maximising life and adding texture and sparkle with a full realisation of this wonderful world we live in – everything we see, everything we hear, everyone we meet, everything that happens to us can enrich our lives if we let it.

I always try, although I often fail, to adopt this view when I am walking, being alert to all that is around me, especially in the countryside.  It means taking time and often standing or sitting still to drink in what is before me, looking up and down as well as all around.  The pictures below were all taken on a local walk that I do often – it is my regular ‘Sunday morning stroll’ and I ‘walked with my eyes open’.

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Through the trees

On the Nature Reserve
Autumn grass in the nature reserve

We especially miss things that are on the ground, like diminutive fungi, and things that are high up like the beautiful light filtering through the canopy above.

Fungi
Get down low

PA240102-102
Look up

The leaves, especially at this time of year, are truly amazing.  The colours range from green through the whole range of autumn tints, to the dead and decayed – there is as much beauty in decay as there is in the fresh foliage of spring!

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Stand Out!
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Notice the leaves

Have you ever noticed what a huge variety of bark there is in an average woods?  Different textures and colours, wrapped in ivy, covered in lichen, lived in by bugs…..

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Different bark

Whatever the weather, bright sunshine as in the second photograph above, or dull and wet as in the picture below.  The splashes of the raindrops on the water are like little pools of diamonds on the black water of the pond, like stars in the night sky.  How often we run when the rain comes……but stop for a while and drink in the beauty.

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Comes the rain

And the log pile – is it just a log pile, or is it a high rise for bugs and fungi?  Take a look, explore, you never know what you might see.

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The log pile

Fungi
Fungus

Everyone loves a spiders web with that wonderfully delicate and intricate tracery, an engineering miracle that can hold so much weight.

Caught Up!
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Suspended!

And of course there is always the bigger picture.  The beauty of dappled sunlight slanting across the clearing with a carpet of golden leaves.  Who could resist such a lovely scene?

The Clearing
In the clearing

And even late in the year, butterflies continue to dazzle with their beauty……even if a little bedraggled.  The Comma below will hibernate soon.

Comma
Comma

So much to see all around us, and yet we miss so much.  So walk with your eyes open, both through the woods and through life itself!

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 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.

Two Dorset Ferries

16 Oct

Hi all.  Sorry for the lack of posts recently – unfortunately due to various events and health issues my walking has been somewhat curtailed this year…..although on the positive side I have had my mountain bike out a lot more.  This is because two of my health issues have involved twisted ankles which prevented me from walking but not from cycling.  I am now fully recovered and looking forward to some great autumn walks :)!

THE FLOATING BRIDGE

I thought I would post a blog about two valuable but very different Dorset ferries, the first of these being the Sandbanks Chain Ferry which plies its trade transporting cars across the entrance to Poole Harbour.  It is classified as a ‘floating bridge’.

Bramblebush Bay
The Bramblebush Bay

Poole Harbour is one of the largest natural harbours in the world with around 36 square kilometers of water and 100 miles of coastline but the entrance is just 300 meters wide.  The peninsulas either side of the entrance were originally just sand spits without roads but now the situation is considerably different with the northern peninsula particularly, Sandbanks, now being covered with houses, some of the most expensive real estate in the world – you would need to be a multi-millionaire just to buy a plot of land here!

Across the Heath
Studland Heath with the harbour entrance and the Sandbanks Ferry in the distance

It was in the early 1900’s that the first idea for crossing the harbour entrance was muted.  The suggestion was that this should be a transporter bridge although the proposal failed, as did several other schemes.  From the early 1900’s foot passengers were catered for as a rowing boat ferry operated during the summer, carrying passengers across to the wild and remote Shell Bay – this must have been really hard work especially when the strong tides were running through that narrow harbour entrance.  This first ferry was eventually changed to a motor boat service.

It was just before the First World War that the suggestion was made that a vehicle ferry should be set up and some 9 years later, the Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road And Ferry Company was formed to progress this.  Roads needed to be built and slipways formed with Purbeck Stone being brought in from the Dorset coastal quarries either overland or by barge.  With some of the land being boggy marshlands, copious amounts were needed.  On 15th July 1926, the first ferry, a coal fired, steam driven craft carrying up to 15 cars, commenced service.  This continued to operate for over 30 years, although the whole area was taken over by the military during the Second World War.

Boarding
Traffic boarding the ferry in the evening light

In the mid 1950’s, a new and larger ferry was installed.  This carried up to 28 cars and again operated for some 35 years before being taken out of service.  The current ferry, The Bramblebush Bay, came into service in 1994 and was larger again with a length of 244 feet and a beam of 54 feet.  This carries up to 48 cars but when fully loaded still has a draught of just 3 feet 9 inches.

The ferry operates on two hardened steel chains, each 1,235 feet long, anchored at either side of the harbour entrance.  Wear and tear on the chain causes it to stretch and two links have to be taken out each fortnight in order to maintain the optimum length.  Although there are two chains, the ferry actually drives on one side at a time only (the side farthest from the flowing tide) in order to make it easier to manouvre at the slipway and to reduce cost.  There is a tremendous strain on the chains, especially when a strong tide is flowing and a chain has been known to break – the most recent was in July this year and the suggestion is that the cross channel ferry that passes through the harbour entrance may have clipped the chain on its way through at low tide although this was not proven.  The chains are replaced every 15/18 months and the old ones sold off – I bought a 1.5 meter length as a feature for my garden and it took two of us to lift it into the car boot, such is the weight!

Freedom
Sunset from the Sandbanks Ferry

To travel on the Sandbanks Ferry is a delight and there is no better way to start and finish a walk.  It is one of my regular haunts and I thoroughly enjoy both the quirkiness and the amazing views, especially at sunrise and sunset.

THE WEYMOUTH ROWING BOAT FERRY

Don't pay the ferryman!

This is a much different but equally delightful, and quirky, ferry service and it operates to carry passengers across the Weymouth Harbour entrance.  It is a short trip and saves around a mile of walking because without it you have to cross at the nearest bridge.  It costs the princely sum of £1 but I like it so much that I always pay more.  The ferry has operated for over 60 years and is one of the oldest of its type in the UK.

I walk this part of the Dorset coast regularly because it is from here that I start my annual 4 day end to end backpack.  I catch the early train to Weymouth and always start day one with a bacon sandwich on the sea front.  Partly the reason for this ritual is that the rowboat ferry doesn’t start until 10.30 am and although I could easily walk to the bridge, I much prefer to cross by the ferry – this, and the Sandbanks Ferry above, is just one of those things that makes Dorset such a great place to walk :)!

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.

A Tactile Walk

13 Aug

The morning was bright and for once I decided to leave Dorset for the neighbouring county to do a 15 mile walk through some wonderful countryside and villages.  The day started in one of those beautiful meadows that are a dream to walk; the long grass swaying in the gentle breeze, the skylarks’ sweet song soaring above me, the butterflies fluttering by, the bees and bugs buzzing all around – just a dream!  

The Meadow
In the meadow

Have you ever thought of a walk being tactile?  Walking through the meadow hearing, seeing, smelling (if I had a sense of smell), but feeling too as I walked with fingers outstretched combing through the heads of the long swaying grass.  It was a lovely feeling that added another dimension – a real multi-sensory meadow!

After a mile or two my route took me along a lane rife with tall, delicate cow parsley, always a delight in summer.  

The Lane
A lane lined with cow parsley

Pushing my way through the at times overgrown lane with grass and flowers brushing my legs, I was somewhat glad that the recent weather had been dry.  The lane eventually gave way to more open ground as I reached the edge of a field and passed an old, rustic fence post, its rough solidness contrasting with the flimsy grasses around it.  I ran my fingers over the post, feeling its roughness and wondering who else’s hands had done that same thing over the many years it had been there.  With hedging and missing gate, the post seemed surplus and yet still added something to a lovely rural scene.

Meadow's Edge
A lovely rural scene

Eventually I reached the first village, and a beautiful village it was.  I love walking the countryside but I also love walking these old villages with their old cottages, some picturesque and some functional, all part of a local community that has existed and seen many changes over the centuries.  Strange to think that cottages like the one below once housed poor farm workers but so often now are second homes for the wealthy.  How times have changed and what stories these cottages could tell.

The Cottage
Picturesque or functional, always a delight

Passing out of the village along a quiet country lane, I joined another footpath that skirted round a hill.  The heights reached on this walk are not mountainous but the views are none-the-less beautiful for that and I stopped to take in the landscape below me.

The Footpath
Low hills but still great views

The hill itself was a real surprise!  Known as Windmill Hill, presumably because at one time there was a windmill there, the area was covered in beautiful blue flax, not the most common farm crop.  The breeze blowing across the hill rustled through the flowers creating a waving sea of blue.

Flax on Windmill Hill
A waving sea of blue

There was more tactile to come but unfortunately not so positive – the path beyond the blue hill was overgrown with stinging nettles; shorts and nettles are not a good combination!  I picked my way carefully through and eventually reached clearer ground as the path skirted along the edge of some woodland with some lovely dappled sunlight filtering through.  It was like a fairyland and I tried to capture it with the camera.

If you go down in the woods today......
A fairyland

Another picturesque village, and a lunch stop, followed before I once again made my way out into the countryside.  The crops in the fields were already ripening and the paths through them were narrow and once again I walked with outstretched fingers feeling the touch of the full seed heads.  The golden grain swayed in the breeze as I walked.

Against the Grain
Golden grain

And naturally a poppy or two joined in.

A Beautiful Cliche!
Poppy

More fields followed with contrasting crops, the delicacy of oats to the touch and the robustness of barley.  The feel of these is so different, and the look too of course with the barley field seeming to impersonate the sea as wave after wave rolls across the field ahead of the breeze.  Narrow paths and high crops, I couldn’t resist running my outstretched fingers through the heads once again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Way Through
Contrasting crops

I stopped in the middle of the barley field, watching the ‘waves’ and listening to the rustling of swaying stalks.  It was a delight and made me think of W H Davies words, ‘What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?’  We should, indeed, must take time to stand and stare, and to touch and feel too, to fully take in all that is around us.

But I needed to move on, as the day was ticking by, and leaving the field behind me, I joined a wonderfully picturesque path along a ridge top, again not a high ridge but with lovely views on each side.

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Along the ridge

Eventually I neared the end of my journey, but there was more to come.  For the last stretch, I joined a rampart and ditch that had once formed the fortification along the county boundary.  I sat for some time with the long meadow grass waving around me, drinking in the scene.  What history there is in these ramparts, what blood must have been shed on their flanks that are now covered with the most delightful wild flowers and butterflies – a beautiful place of peace after centuries of strife.

Rampart
On the rampart

The final part of my walk was back through the meadows that I had started out from.  Still with skylarks serenading me overhead, and a myriad wild flowers to welcome me back, I took some time to capture the scene, and to try to capture the essence of the meadow which I love so much.  In reality, this is an impossible task since the meadow is a place that needs all of your senses to take in its joys and a camera can only do the visual.

In the Meadow
In the MeadowSummer in the Meadows
The essence of a beautiful meadow

God gave us all our senses to enjoy but so often we neglect to use them, rushing through life hardly noticing what is around us.  The sense of touch is particularly not associated with walking as much as sight and sound but it can really add another dimension to a good walk – so next time you go out walking, make it a tactile walk.

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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