Along the coast path with a backpack – Day 3

26 Sep

I looked out of the tent to once again see a grey, misty morning.  In my mind I had seen myself waking up early to beautiful misty sunrises, enabling me to take some wonderfully atmospheric pictures but so far that hadn’t materialised.  At least it wasn’t too windy and it wasn’t raining, although again the tent was soaked in dew.

Today was to be a shorter day, just 11 miles although it turned out to be longer.  I lingered for a while over my cup of tea and breakfast snack before once again squeezing everything into my too small rucksack and heading off.  Walking back through the village of Uplyme I passed the cottage below with a stained glass window depicting the nearby viaduct.  For a moment it took me back to my lovely stroll in the fading light of yesterday evening.

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The Cannington Viaduct door

For a time I retraced my steps from yesterday to reach The Old Mill again, where I turned south to follow the River Lim down into Lyme Regis.  This was a lovely walk, part of which goes through the town along a ’causeway’ with the river on one side and the mill stream on the other and with some delightful old cottages.

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Betwixt and between

Lyme Regis is nicknamed ‘The Pearl of Dorset’ and dates from Saxon times although it developed more as a port in the 13th century.  The town was once served by a railway but the line closed as part of the Beeching axe of the 1960′s, hence the disused viaduct two miles up the valley.

It is probably most famous for its fossils and for The Cobb, the harbour wall built around the 13th/14th century which featured in the film ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’.  It is a delightful place to explore although it is also a popular tourist destination.  For me, the perfect time to visit is in the early morning as I did today.

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Yesterday’s walk with the distinctive shape of Golden Cap left of centre

I reached the sea front and immediately spotted a cafe advertising bacon baps so I sat outside and enjoyed breakfast looking out across Lyme Bay to the coastline I had walked yesterday.  In the picture above, Golden Cap, now clear of mist, is  visible with its distinctive flat top.  What a great place to sit and enjoy breakfast :)!

I had only walked two miles so it was time to move on and turning west, I headed off along the sea front with The Cobb ahead of me stretching out to sea.

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Lyme Regis and The Cobb

Having explored The Cobb, well no visit to Lyme Regis is complete without walking out on the old harbour wall, I climbed up to the coast path which follows the under cliff.

The next few miles would be deceptively difficult as despite having no major headlands, the route unceasingly climbs and falls, weaving in and out of the trees along the winding, muddy footpath with slippery rocks, tree roots and other hazards, not to mention a million steps ;)!  It is not a place to relax as you have to watch your feet constantly.  Near the start I passed the sign below warning that it is 4 hours of arduous walking and no escape routes.  But it is a wonderful place to walk!

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Warning!!

The Axmouth to Lyme Regis under cliff was formed by a series of huge landslides in the 18th and 19th century that created a middle ground between the cliff top and the beach.  It stretches for some 7 miles and it was a fashionable place to visit in victorian times.  There was even a cottage built there where cream teas were sold to the tourists.  At one time it was grazed by sheep, keeping the undergrowth in check but over the years it has become more overgrown.  It is now a National Nature Reserve and is a haven for wildlife.

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Deep in the woods – Hart’s-tongue ferns

The under cliff is quite an eerie place with the dense undergrowth, overhanging trees and the constant dampness, especially noticeable after yesterday’s rain.  It feels almost like a forgotten place, like some remote rain forest where no-one goes.  This feeling is emphasised by the few derelict cottages that lie amongst the trees.  I often wonder who lived there and what their lives were like!

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Derelict cottages in The Under Cliffs

There is a video of the walk on the web entitled, ‘The Path Goes on Forever’ and it can seem that way!  Beautifully cool on a hot summers day but perhaps a little dark on a grey autumn morning such as this, so I was pleased when at last the way opened out a bit more and I could see the Beer headland ahead of me.  My bed for the night was on that far headland and I had crossed the border into Devon.

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The way opens out ahead

I was not out of the woods yet though as there was still more under cliff to go through but ultimately the path climbed up and out onto the cliff top with just the sky above me.  And just for good measure, that was the moment the sun chose to come out.  I sat on a seat and enjoyed a rest for a few moments before continuing up and over the headland and dropping down through a golf course to reach the River Axe..

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The River Axe

Crossing the river, it was then just a short walk into Seaton, a seaside town with rather an interesting roundabout, or ‘Pedalabout’ as it is known :)!

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The Pedalabout

I didn’t linger in Seaton as in my view, its near neighbour Beer is much more attractive but I did take a last look back before climbing once again towards the next headland.  Looking back across Seaton, I noted a change in the geology from white chalk to red sandstone.  This red rock would become a feature of the walk later.

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Looking back at Seaton

Theoretically, at this point I had just a mile and a half to walk but I hadn’t reckoned on yet another cliff fall until I came across the sign below.  I diverted inland for an extra mile or two before rejoining the coast path near the top of the headland.

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Diversion!

I always like walking over this headland as the path is easy, meaning that you can enjoy the beautiful views in both directions.  This is a welcome change from the under cliff where I had to watch my every step.  Looking east, I could see Seaton with Axe Cliff beyond…..

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Looking towards Seaton and Axe Cliff

…..and looking west I had my first view of Beer.  This beautiful coastal town gets its name not from the alcoholic beverage but from the Anglo-Saxon word for grove, as the area was heavily forested then.  It grew up around what was a smugglers’ cove with caves that were once used to store contraband.  Its main legitimate trades were fishing and lace making, with the former benefitting from the fact that Beer Head protects the cove from the prevailing westerly winds making it a very sheltered spot.  Fishing still goes on today but tourism is probably the main industry now.

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The first view of Beer

As my camp for the night was on the headland, I continued up the hill to Beer Head and pitched the tent.  It was only 4.15pm and there was plenty of warmth in the sun, giving a good opportunity to dry the tent, waterproofs and other clothes still damp from yesterday.  And of course to chill over a cup of tea outside the tent :)!  I was particularly pleased that I had now walked for three days with a heavy load and my ankle was still holding up well.

Evening came and I walked back down into the village where there is a great pub, with an even better beer garden overlooking the beach.  I sat in the evening light and had a beer in a Beer beer garden ;), and of course something to eat!

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A beer in a Beer beer garden – taken with the iPhone

Oh, and I spotted the photographic opportunity below :)!

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Can’t you read?!!!

Beer is such a delightful village, one of my favourite places and it was great to have reached camp early enough to be able to spend some time here.  Strolling along the beach lined with fishing boats which had been winched up out of the water made a very peaceful end to a great day.  The sun had set behind the headland, the gulls were wheeling around overhead and the air was still.  Later as I walked back to the tent by the light of the moon with the village lights flickering below, the words of the poet came to me, ‘All was left to darkness and to me’.  Perfect!

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Evening on Beer beach

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.

Along the coast path with a backpack – Day 2

25 Sep

I unzipped the tent and peered out to see a dull but dry day although I knew from the forecast that it was unlikely to stay that way!  After a cup of tea and a quick breakfast snack, I packed everything into the rucksack and set about dismantling the tent.

Now one of the problems with backpacking in the autumn is that the tent gets very wet overnight even if there has been no rain and this morning was no exception.  The call to get out on the trail early does not allow time for it to dry so there is no choice but to roll it up wet.  Since I would be putting the tent back up again in less than 12 hours time, this is not a problem……except it weighed twice as much as yesterday :(!

The early part of the walk took me back through the village of Puncknowle and back up onto the ridge I came along yesterday.  After a short time on the ridge, I dropped down the other side to rejoin the coast path at the end of Chesil Beach where I turned west.  After a short time I turned around to look back at the beautiful sunlight catching the hills I had just walked over, but there were already ominous signs in the dark clouds gathering above!

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An ominous sky over the coast path

I continued walking westwards into what was a gathering wind and soon dropped down into Burton Bradstock.  For the next few miles I would be walking in Broadchurch land – the series was filmed along this stretch of coast.  It is a standing joke in our house when we were watching that series that every 5 minutes I would be saying, ‘I’ve walked there’, or, ‘I been to that place’!

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Burton Bradstock

Only a short distance further and I reached Burton Freshwater, the next beach along.  In reality though I had to walk twice the distance because the River Bride drains into the sea at that point.  The only way to cross it is to detour inland to the nearest bridge and then walk back out on the other side – probably a mile long walk to reach 20 feet!  I guess I could have paddled across :)!

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Burton Freshwater in the gloom

Burton Freshwater is home to a large caravan park, so as lovely as it is I don’t linger there, preferring to continue along the coast.  This took me up onto the cliff top where I thought I was going to have a nice flat walk into West Bay – wrong!!  I had forgotten that along the short stretch of coast there was one of those annoying dips in the cliff that necessitated dropping right down to sea level only to climb back up the other side!  There will be many of those to come over the next few days!

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Feeding the poor and hungry ;)

At 10.30am I walked into West Bay where I intended to stop for breakfast as I knew there would be kiosks selling bacon and egg baps – mind you, I hadn’t anticipated having to share it with a hundred starving starlings ;)!  They were so tame that they were eating off my plate and out of my hands.  The two girls sat at the next table thought it was really funny.  Just to continue the TV theme, I noticed that the kiosk also sold Broadchurch Burgers, a smart marketing move :)!

It was very pleasant sat beside the harbour with its myriad boats and as a bonus, it was sheltered from the wind which had increased.  However, whilst sat there I felt the first drops of rain!!

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Looking back at West Bay

Climbing back up to the top of the headland, I turned for a last look at the town to see the wind really whipping up the waves along the shore.  It was becoming increasing difficult to walk against the ever strengthening westerly wind!  I continued along to the next bay, Eype Mouth, another Broadchurch location with the little cabin part way up the cliff path.  Even on the leeward side of the hills there was little protection from the wind which was like an enemy trying to beat me back.

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Eype Mouth

Ahead of me lie another of the steep climbs of the day, up to the top of Thorncombe Beacon.  At the top, the now gale force westerly wind buffeted me, constantly changing direction and knocking me off balance.  The rain was now pouring down but at least I still had a view from the top.  But much worse was to come!

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The view east from Thorncombe Beacon

As I descended towards Seatown the weather really closed in on me.  So much so that my next major obstacle, Golden Cap, was not even visible.  That particular headland is the highest point on the south coast of England so is no easy feat in any conditions, but today…….!!!!???  It would be fun ;)!

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Seatown with Golden Cap beyond…..somewhere  ;)

Starting my climb upwards from Seatown I passed a couple walking in the other direction with the wind on their backs, ‘Its clearing from the west’ they said.  It didn’t!  Well not for some time anyway.  Shortly afterwards I passed the cows in the picture below – even they were trying to find refuge from the severe conditions, trying to shelter under what flimsy trees there were.

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Sheltering!

By this point, my walking pole, normally reserved for the end of the day or emergencies, was off my rucksack as I needed it just to make progress.  Every step, even on the flat, was like walking up a near vertical hill.  I passed the time of day with another couple dropping down off the headland but the conditions weren’t conducive to conversation as the wind just whipped the words away.

I continued my slow upward progress, for a short time gaining some respite from the wind as the path skirts round the back of the headland before climbing up to the top.  The respite was all too short though and ultimately I reached the top and walked again into the teeth of the howling gale.  Normally this is a place to linger and take in the amazing views but today there were none so I headed straight back down the other side!!

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The view of what is to come!

Only when I was half way down did I drop out of the mist and low cloud and could see the way before me.  I wiped the rain from the camera lens for the hundredth time before trying to grab another picture.  Three miles to go to reach Charmouth where I hoped I would find a tea rooms to dry out and perhaps ride out the storm.  I pressed on with yet more ups and downs, yet more wind, yet more dense mist, yet more teeming rain in my face!  The final climb before Charmouth, whilst definitely not the highest, always seems the hardest, probably a case of ‘so near and yet so far’!  But eventually I made it!

Reaching the top, I could at last drop off the exposed headlands and get out of the constant buffeting wind.  I walked down the lane into the town where I found just what I was looking for :)!  It was with relief that I sat down in peace and stillness and enjoyed a cream tea.  Never had a cream tea tasted so good :)!

And not only that but in the half hour I sat there, the storm did finally clear from the west and the sun came out :)!

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Welcome sunshine :)

The walk wasn’t over and the wind hadn’t abated completely but my it was pleasant walking in the sunshine again.  Not that the route is great from here as due to cliff falls some years ago, the path follows the main road for some distance before diverting into the countryside again.  For the second night I headed inland, walking down a lovely country lane with beautiful dappled sunlight filtering through the trees.

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The old mill near Uplyme

The last two miles were particularly lovely, as I passed first a beautiful old mill and then followed the path through the trees beside the old mill stream into the village of Uplyme where I would stay the night.

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The path beside the millstream 

At 5.30pm, after nearly 17 miles walking and 1,500/2,000 feet of ups and downs in gale force headwinds, I pitched my tent and had a welcome cup of soup.  It was too early to eat and there was still daylight so what did I do?  I went for a walk :)!  Actually I knew that there was a disused railway viaduct nearby and I wanted to find it.  After what was a very pleasant stroll in the evening light, I once again retired to the local pub for a meal.

Retracing my steps back to the tent at the end of the evening by the light of the almost full moon, I reflected on the day.  And what a day it had been, what a GREAT day :)!  Sometimes it is wonderful to walk in really bad conditions and I’d certainly done that.  I climbed into my sleeping bag a contented walker.

Oh yes, and I did sleep reasonably well last night, and hopefully will do again tonight :)!  It is one of the benefits of walking long distances :)!

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.

Along the coast path with a backpack – Day 1

24 Sep

The day I had been looking forward to arrived :)  I had packed and repacked my rucksack numerous times, several rucksacks in fact, and I ended up with a hard choice – one that was big enough to take all my gear for a four day trip but was old and uncomfortable or one that was not big enough but was easier on the shoulders!  I chose the latter!  It just meant that the tent, and ultimately several other things, had to be attached to the outside.

The 7.20am train took me to my starting point at Weymouth and at 8.10am I was off walking……..but not very far :)!  Well it was breakfast time :)!

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Weymouth Beach

Walking along the seafront at Weymouth with its pristine, newly raked beach, I spied a beachside cafe advertising bacon baps so I sat down :)!  Not for long though, just long enough to eat breakfast and drink a cup of tea and by 8.30am I was off walking, really off walking this time.  The first part of this walk is quite novel really as it involves crossing the harbour entrance which is normally possible by rowing boat ferry, probably something of a rarity these days.  Unfortunately though, I was too early so had to detour some way inland to cross by the bridge and then walk back out on the other side.

Passing the 19th century Fort Nothe and then the much earlier Sandsfoot Castle, built by Henry VIII, both to protect the entrance to Portland Harbour, my route took me along the track bed of the old Portland Railway, some lovely flat, easy walking to start the day.  After an hour or so I reached Ferry Bridge and the start of the footpath that skirts round The Fleet.

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The shoreline of The Fleet

The Fleet is a well known tract of water between the mainland and the famous Chesil Beach, an 18 mile long barrier of shingle and pebbles.  The water trapped between the two forms The Fleet and is salt at one end, becoming more brackish towards the other.  Almost to echo this, the size of the pebbles on Chesil Beach also varies along its length from large at one end to much smaller at the other, caused by the action of the tide.

The footpath winds in and out of every bay and inlet and on this occasion even around the military rifle range that was operating, thus closing the shorter route.  It is a beautiful place to walk with myriad geese and wildlife, and later even more famously swans.  The noise from the geese was deafening!

Part way along, I passed what was once Fleet House, seat of the Mohun family immortalised by J Meade Faulkner in his book ‘Moonfleet’ (a book which I have always loved), now a hotel.  Nearby also are the remains of Fleet church which was all but destroyed in the huge storm of 1824 when a massive tidal wave broke over the top of Chesil Beach destroying much of the village.

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Fleet House, now a hotel

As the footpath nears the famous Abbotsbury Swannery, it turns inland to cross farm land and climb up onto a ridge.  The views across The Fleet and also inland are beautiful and it is a walk to be savoured rather than rushed.

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The rolling landscape of Dorset

After a few miles, the path took me down into Abbotsbury but before dropping into the village, I just had to stand and enjoy the wonderful view across to St Catherine’s Chapel, high on its hilltop.  This chapel was once part of Abbotsbury Abbey and was built by the monks as a place of pilgrimage and retreat.

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Across to St Catherine’s Chapel

Amazingly in the 5 hours since leaving Weymouth I had walked 14 miles……and I was now hungry so I decided to stop off at the local pub for a sandwich :)!  Unfortunately there was no room in my rucksack even for food!  Abbotsbury is a beautiful and unspoilt village with honey coloured cottages and the lovely surrounding hills.  It is a popular place with its swannery, tropical gardens, chapel, abbey ruins, tithe barn and so on, and especially so in the spring when the cygnets hatch in the swannery.

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Abbotsbury

All too soon I had to move on and climbed up onto the ridge that runs just inland of the coast path.  Part way up the side of the hill I turned for another view of the village nestling in the valley.

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Abbotsbury in its valley with the coast beyond

It wasn’t the last I would see of the village as there are fabulous views all along this ridge and in the picture below, you can really get a feel for the way The Fleet has been created by the long barrier that is Chesil Beach or Chesil Bank as it is sometimes known.  Beyond those, you can see the Isle of Portland stretching out to sea.

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The Fleet, Chesil Beach and Portland

Continuing along the ridge, the path crosses Wears Hill with its beacon marking the spot of a much earlier version last lit over 400 years ago.  This is one of a series of beacons all along the south coast.

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The beacon

The site is most noted for its amazing 360 degree view across the coast and inland.  When I got there, the cows were all sat down which is a worrying sight – well my grandmother used to say that it meant rain was coming!  It didn’t – not this day at least!!!

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Amazing views from Wears Hill

Yet another feature along this part of the walk is Abbotsbury Castle, an Iron-age hill fort.  Its double ramparts cover around 4 acres but the weather, and probably feet, have over the years caused some erosion.  When I passed through, the wind was whipping across the hilltop and I wondered how the people would have coped there in the winter.

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Abbotsbury Castle ramparts

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Yet more views

By now, I was reaching my destination and the first night’s stop near the village of Puncknowle (pronounced Punnel) which stood just inland from the ridge top.  I walked into the village at 4.30pm after walking nearly 19 miles.  The evening was bright and dry as I pitched my tent but I was slightly relieved that the village was on the leeward side of the ridge!  I was somewhat relieved too that my ankle that had been giving me problems recently was giving me nothing more than twinges at the moment :)!

I spent the evening exploring the village and then retired to the local pub for a welcome meal – the dog in the picture is not mine by the way.

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The local pub

What a great first day :)!  Now how well will I sleep……..

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.

Holloways – walking Dorset’s labyrinthine paths!

17 Sep

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Hell Lane

There are thousands of paths criss crossing Dorset’s wonderful countryside but none as fascinating as 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 the southern counties of England where the bedrock is soft – West Dorset is predominantly sandstone.  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.

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.

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A network of tree roots hold up the walls

Holloways 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.  And 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!

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Another West Dorset holloway

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!

They are ever changing, ever different, 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 just ordinary people making their way to the port perhaps to emigrate to other lands!

There is always so much to discover as I walk through this lovely county of Dorset.

………………………………………………

I cannot end this blog entry without thanking those who have sent good wishes on my recent ankle problems.  I have now had the results of the X-Ray and it apparently shows that I have osteoarthritis as well as a slightly skewed joint.  This is normal in a joint that has had trauma in the past.  The words I didn’t want to hear were, ‘The more you walk, the more it will wear‘!  However, she did also say that as walking is good for you, and as it is not an exact science, I should keep on walking :)!  To use the doctor’s words, ‘The pain will tell you when it is time to stop’!  Hopefully that won’t be anytime soon :)!

So I am off to test the ankle later this week :)!  I am packing my rucksack with tent and everything else and heading off for a four day backpack along the Dorset and Devon Coast Path :)!  A blog entry will no doubt follow :)!

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.

Of dappled sunlight, amazing views, ridges and valleys, and some lost cows!

29 Aug

What a difference to last year!  2012 was wet, wet, wet; 2013 has been sunshine and warmth, making for some wonderful walks and very pleasant evenings.  Despite my ankle problems, I managed to get out on the trail again this week although I trod with care.  The X-Ray is done and I now just have to wait for the report…….and in the meantime I will continue to tread carefully, and walk on :)!

This walk started on a ridge top although my route immediately took me down into the valley along a stony track which definitely needed care as the last thing I needed was a twisted ankle.  The problem with these rough tracks is that you have to watch where you are walking, and with views ahead like the one below, it is hard to watch the ground.

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Rough path, great view!

It wasn’t long though before I came out onto a country lane.  Now I really like walking along country lanes because the walking is easy and you can fully take in all that is around you.  However, that is provided the country lane is quiet…….which this one normally is…….except in the school holidays!  I found myself stepping into the hedge with monotonous regularity to get out of the path of passing cars.  With beautiful dappled sunlight and amazing views ahead, it was still lovely despite the traffic.

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A ‘quiet’ country lane

In fact, with signs like the one below, you wouldn’t want to step too far into the hedge :)!

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Traffic one side, unexploded shells on the other ;)

The lane led me into one of those typically Dorset hamlets, with a manor house, a farm, a church and a cottage or two, nothing more.  Most of these settlements date back to manorial days before transport was easy and people needed to live near their work, and their lordly employers.  I was pleased to see the cottage below being re-thatched.  I have walked past it many times and have always felt sad at the poor state of repair into which it had fallen.

These cottages are so typically Dorset and they look so picture post card perfect but with those tiny windows, they must be quite dark inside.  As someone who loves light and the outdoors, I am not so sure that living in one would suit me.  And I’m not so sure I would want the huge capital cost of re-thatching either as it has a limited life span, not to mention the high cost of insurance!

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Refurbishment in progress

Continuing through the hamlet, my route took me along a wonderful quiet lane with dappled light filtering through the patchwork of leaves and branches above, highlighting the colours in the foliage.  With the ladder leaning against the tree it was like a Hardy scene and I almost expected someone in a smock to be picking apples.

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Nearly autumn!

And on to the church with its graveyard where in Thomas Gray’s words, ‘Each in his narrow cell forever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep’.  I wonder what this hamlet was like in their day!  Who were they and what stories could they tell?

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The Rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep

And of course, yet more dappled light with the sunshine filtering through the overhanging branches of the ever present yew trees.  Just beautiful!

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Beneath the yew tree’s shade

Leaving the village behind, I continued across the fields and past one of my successes :)!  In amongst the trees there is a small wooden bridge which once was broken and impassable and which badly needed replacing.  There is a system in Dorset whereby you can report problems with footpaths and I do this regularly – the bridge has now been replaced :)!

I have spoken before about good farmers who reinstate paths after fields have been ploughed up or planted, as opposed to ‘bad’ ones who don’t.  This little wooden bridge leads onto the field of a good farmer who always reinstates the path by driving his tractor diagonally across the field.  I stopped part way and turned to look back down the ‘tram lines’ to see the church now far in the distance.

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Down the tram lines

One of the highlights of this walk is undoubtedly the section that traverses the ridge just inland of the coast path – often I would walk along the coast path itself but sadly due to the many serious cliff falls last year, that path is still closed.  As sad as that is, the inland route is equally beautiful with a fabulous panorama which covers 360 degrees.  Just gaze in wonder with me for a moment, feel the sea breeze on your face and smell the countryside.

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A fabulous panorama

One of the good things about this walk is that when you leave one view, the next is not far away.  Walking round to the next valley brought another vista to be enjoyed and as it was past lunch time, I sat on the hillside and ate looking out onto the scene below.  Where better to eat!

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Lunch time view

This valley is truly amazing, a huge bowl with a ridge of hills round three sides and the sea on the fourth, and with another of the Purbeck mansions sitting in the middle, with of course its associated farm.  This whole valley and surrounds changed hands a few years ago for £25M.  What a place to live!  In the picture below, I have tried to capture the whole amphitheatre although it never comes across fully in a small picture.

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The ‘amphitheatre’

And all around the top of the bowl runs the path that forms my way onwards, and what a lovely path.  This is one of those paths that I call ‘bare foot paths’, beautifully grassy and flat and the sort of path that when I was young we used to take off our shoes and socks and walk bare foot along.  So refreshing on a hot summers day, and so liberating!  These days I keep my shoes on but it always takes me back to my youth :)!

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Bare foot path

Having circled the valley perimeter, my route took me on to another country lane – another normally quiet road that was not so quiet today!  Clearly some work was going on somewhere as trucks came past me kicking up dust.  Still, as someone once said, ‘If life throws you scraps, make a patchwork quilt’ – the trucks might be a nuisance but they provided some good photographic opportunities :)!

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Dust to dust

The lane eventually took me into the hilltop village with its lovely array of cottages and its well known church which is often referred to as the ‘Cathedral of the Purbecks’ because it is far too grand for a small Dorset village thanks to the generosity of the Lord of the Manor.

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A village cottage with the ‘Cathedral of the Purbecks’ behind

I said before that this is a walk with one view after another – well there was another just round the corner.  Walking down another of those old gravel tracks which seem to criss cross throughout Dorset, the view suddenly opened out and the famous old castle came into view far down in the valley.  Crossing the stile, I continued down the hillside and across the common towards what is probably one of the most popular towns in Purbeck.

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Down the valley

Although I love this town, when I am walking, I try as far as possible to avoid the busy places as I would rather be out in the wilds.  So I skirted round civilisation, just grabbing a closer shot of the castle standing proud on its hilltop.

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Standing proud

And a little farther on, there was a sad reminder of something that I had heard on the news earlier in the day.  The picture below shows the castle framed between two ash trees and I called it ‘Ashes to Ashes’ partly because of the two trees, partly because of the nearly destroyed castle, but also because sadly the Ash Dieback disease has come to Dorset.  Up till now, the county has been pretty much clear of it and these two ash trees have had a long life.  I wonder how much longer they have though :(!

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Ashes to Ashes

The final part of my walk involved a climb up onto another ridge, the Purbeck Hills from which the area takes its name, and yet more glorious views.  And yet more bare foot walking paths too :)!  Flat, wide and grassy, just what was needed with my bad ankle.

It was along this section that I had one of those odd experiences.  Half way along, the path drops down to a road that crosses the ridge and a lady approached me and asked, “Were there any cows up there?”.  I assured her that there hadn’t been and asked somewhat tongue in cheek, “Why, have you lost some?”.  In fact she hadn’t!  She was actually working for the county council environmental health department and apparently there had been a complaint about a cow with an eye infection – she was looking for that cow.  When she described where it was, I was able to point her in the right direction which was another nearby ridge.

It was interesting chatting to her – she had been doing this job for 20 years and it involved investigating complaints and visiting farms throughout Dorset.  Since it was a lovely warm summer’s day, I thought what a great job that must be…..until she pointed out that she does the same thing in freezing winter weather when she can be knee deep in mud and other farmyard materials!  It didn’t seem quite so idyllic then ;)!

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Along the ridge top

I was nearing the end of the walk now and the evening sun was setting, creating a beautiful warm glow across the hilltop and picking out the long grass which seemed to be aflame.  The evening was very still and balmy as I passed the castellated arch which stands on the ridge above yet another old Purbeck mansion.  The house itself sits in the valley below and the arch is in fact nothing more that a folly that can be seen from the house but it always adds a little bit of mystery in the fading light.  I sat a while and just drank in the scene, and some water too before heading back to the car.

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Evening light across the hilltop

What a wonderful walk!  So many views, such great paths, fabulous weather, and lots of memories to carry with me always.  I hope you enjoyed walking with me!

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.

 

Derelict?

16 Aug

Hi all, sorry for the long absence.  Unfortunately my walking has been somewhat curtailed recently due to an ankle problem.  Many years ago at the beginning of time when I was a teenager I managed to shatter my ankle playing football and they had to insert a six inch nail to hold it together.  It is possible that it is just wear and tear on it that is causing the problem or possibly it could be my old friend Arthur Itis :)!  I am currently waiting for an X-Ray and in the meantime I am trying not to walk on it too much in case it exacerbates the problem.  Needless to say, I am slightly frustrated!

I thought it was high time for a new post though and the picture below made me think of a poem that I wrote many years ago :)!

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Come round for a meal sometime ;)

BUILDING CONTRASTS

This building stood out for all to see,
It was a terrible sight,
With it’s roof caved in, and it’s windows smashed,
You wouldn’t go there at night.

The doors were gone, the stairs were too,
The chimney stack on the ground,
Weeds grew up out of every crack,
Not one solid part could be found.

The garden too was overgrown,
With brambles and briers and fern,
There were parts of cars, and iron bars,
Some wood, and an old milk churn.

But in front of this, there was a sign,
It said “Architect Arnold Lee,”
And I thought, if that’s his work, it’s not very good,
I wouldn’t let him build for me.

But then I looked at the house next door,
It had only just been built,
It had a tiled roof, with gable ends,
And a chimney from which smoke spilt.

The leaded lights were double-glazed,
And the doors were all brand new,
The paintwork gleamed, the doorknobs shone,
And there was even a nameplate too.

Roses grew all around the front door,
The garden looked a real treat,
With lawns and flower beds all around,
Everything looked so neat.

In front of this house, there was a sign too,
It said, “Architect Charles McKee,”
I thought, what an advert that was for him,
I’d be glad to have him build for me.

But it made me think of what I am like,
For I know I should build my own life,
For the Bible says I am the Temple of God,
And He the architect of my faith.

So which of the two do I look like,
The well built one, as I should,
Or am I more like the derelict house,
Is my spiritual house that crude.

I wonder if I have done very well,
And as people look at me,
Would it encourage them to turn to my God,
To change them and set them free.

The old shack is actually quite interesting and I have visited it many times over the years.  It always intrigues me as it is in the middle of nowhere and is built out of the rock face.  It has running water – well actually it runs off the hillside and is collected by a series of channels into outside storage tanks made of stone.  It would have been a lovely place to live and as you can see, someone installed a rather nice Aga cooker.  Naturally there is no mains of any sort there and it just fires up my imagination.  Who lived there and what was it for?  I do have some ideas but I have never been able to find out for sure.

I have lots of walks that I have not blogged so will put another one up soon.

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Of sights and sounds, aerial acrobatics, and angelic singing!

8 Jul

This walk started and finished in one of those beautiful Dorset villages that you know so well because you drive through it so often, but you don’t actually know at all because you drive through it so often!  It is only as you explore the little streets and lanes on foot that you really discover those special hidden beauties, those little corners of Dorsetness…..and this one had a major surprise.  But more of that later :)!

Leaving the village, the path climbed steadily upwards out of the valley and up to the ridge top.  I just couldn’t help turning round to take in the views that were already emerging, and these wonderful views were to stay with me all day.  It seemed that there was to be wildlife with me all day too as first a hare raced across the field in front of me and then a fox crossed the track.  The latter was definitely a well fed country fox – they always look so much healthier than the town foxes that scavenge on dustbins.  Foxes and hares are not rare but seeing them always adds to the enjoyment of a walk.

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Emerging views

Having reached the ridge, my route took me through a woodland area, a forestry plantation, not quite so interesting as mixed deciduous woods but nevertheless an area that plays an important part in this world.  Not only does it provide much needed timber but it provides much needed oxygen to repair that damaged ozone layer, so I guess it can be forgiven any perceived lack of excitement ;)!  Actually I think any woodland is a delight to walk through.

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Fruits of the Forest!

Overhead came the drone of a bi-plane and amazingly as I watched it looped the loop as part of an aerobatic display.  It was interesting watching this plane – it seemed like it would stall as it tried to fly upwards to turn over but somehow, despite its age, it managed the loop and flew on.  This genuinely was an old plane – it was like watching Biggles all over.  Later in the walk, I was to get an even more impressive display of flying!

At this point, there was one of those slightly off-putting moments when I heard gunshots just across the field.  It could have been someone shooting pigeons or it could have been a deer stalker but either way, I wondered if they knew I was around.  I took comfort from the fact that I couldn’t see them so can’t have been in range but it did highlight that when you walk in the country, you trust that anyone out there with a gun knows what they are doing and observes the code.  Fortunately the gun laws in the UK are stringent.

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Ridge top meadows

There were some beautiful meadows along this walk and not only that but they were meadows with a view too.  It is interesting to just count the variety of grasses so elegantly waving their heads in the gentle breeze, seemingly trying to dodge the many butterflies…..or flying flowers as I call them :)!  They seem to have no aerobatic skills at all, as they flit to and fro in a seemingly random pattern.  Someone once said that butterflies are in fact expert fliers because they use warm air currents to get around and thus avoid wasting energy.  I don’t know if this is true but what I do know is that with the combination of waving grasses, the myriad wild flowers, and the ‘flying flowers’ the meadow is a place where you just want to sit and soak it all in.  And of course. with the skylarks singing over head you could almost think that heaven must be like this.

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A Fritillary in the meadow

And on the subject of skylarks, how do they manage to produce such an ethereal song whilst flying?  Surely that must be like me running up hill whilst singing at the top of my voice.  Amazing creation!

This was definitely a walk to be savoured as the paths are so delightful and so inviting.  I actually didn’t plan my route in advance this time, preferring to go where my mood took me and with paths like these, there was no shortage of beckoning sights.

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One path, both ways

Did I mention aerobatics?  Well there was a treat in store that would knock spots off the biplane, butterflies or even the Red Arrows had they been around.  This was the house martins out looking for food.  Their agility is legendary as they swoop and climb at amazing speeds, doing hand brake turns, ducking and diving, and never flying into each other.  What a sight, and it is free to all who want to stand and watch.  Which I did :)!

Now we British are obsessed with the weather as you may know, but this was a hot day so I needed to move on and find a bit of coolness and a clump of trees provided the ideal spot to take in the view again, and to take in some fluid too.

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Welcome shade

Ah, but it was time to move on again so it was out into the sun to continue my way along the ridge surrounded by trees and distant views.  Whenever I walk, I seem to run out of superlatives to describe the beauty of this wonderful county and this amazing countryside.  Sometimes I just stand and watch in awe as the breeze ripples through the vibrant green foliage and the words of the poet come to mind, ‘I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree’.

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I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree

The next part of the walk took me down one of those gorgeous Dorset avenues that invariably speak of manor houses, lords and ladies.  This is because most of them were planted many years ago as the drive way to some stately home.  This is one of the most beautiful, especially with the dappled light of evening, and my path went right down the middle.

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The Avenue

It is another of those parts not to be rushed but eventually the avenue ends and I find myself on the hilltop again, crossing a field of crops……..and it is one of those ‘good farmer’ fields :)!  The law says that if a farmer ploughs or plants a field with a footpath running through it, the footpath must be reinstated within 24 hours.  Good farmers, as in this case, do that, but ‘bad’ farmers don’t which means you have no idea where the footpath goes which is a pet hate of mine.

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A reinstated footpath

Evening was upon me as I crossed the field and started to drop down off the ridge back to the village.  It was a beautifully still evening when sounds seem to travel across the valley.

Have you ever stopped and specifically listened and tried to pick out all the different sounds that surround you?  So often we miss things because we are just not aware of what is around so sometimes I stop and listen!  Standing looking across the valley in the picture below, these are the sounds I heard in just a minute or two – the wind, rustling grass, trees creaking, crickets, sheep bleating, many birds but particularly the strong song of the wren, a distant tractor, children’s happy voices, gunshots, wood pigeons cooing, buzzards, the buzzing of bees and flies, cows mooing, the crowing of a cockerel, rooks with their rasping voices, a barking dog, church bells in the distant valley, and so much more.  Try it when you are next out walking.

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The sounds of an echoing valley

But there was something even more surprising awaiting me in the village as I reached the end of my walk.  Walking through the narrow lanes between delightful cottages, a single female voice was drifting out into the open.  I could hear it down the street and as I drew closer to the cottage the singing was coming from, I could not help but stop and listen.  It was unexpected, beautiful and mesmerising, one of those special moments that will remain in my memory always.  I wanted to knock on the door and say how lovely it was but I didn’t intrude but continued on my way.  A beautiful end to a beautiful day!

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A delightful Dorset village

Thanks for walking with me.  I hope you have enjoyed the sights and sounds of our wonderful countryside.

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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