Coast to Coast – Part 1

26 May

Day 0 – St Bees to Tarn Flatt – 3 Miles

Why Day 0? Simply because the day was spent mostly travelling up from the South coast to the starting point at St Bees.  It was a long journey involving a car and three trains, plus travelling across London by tube. It always amazes me how slick the London Underground is – so many trains running at the same time, all timed to the second, a constant buzz of activity, people and trains rushing everywhere with deadlines to meet, no time to ‘stand and stare’, a complete contrast to what I was heading for!

The train from Euston to Carlisle was two thirds first class coaches – I joined a second class coach! My memories of this part of the journey were of a Scottish lady talking constantly for the three and a quarter hour trip, people talking on phones, bells and buzzes seemingly going off all around me. Joining the little coastal train at Carlisle was a culture shock – it was old and I’d swear it had square wheels as it was so bumpy after the north-bound train. It trolled its way slowly around the coast and finally pulled into St Bees station.

I should say at this point that the miles quoted in my headings were taken from the GPS and were the actual miles walked. They often exceeded the distance quoted in the guidebooks because of the need to walk off the trail to find camping spots.

St Bees
St Bees station

Leaving the station, I made my way down to the sea front and the starting point for my walk. There was an increasingly strong and chill wind blowing off the sea as I made my way down the quiet country lane until finally, after a whole day of travelling, I had my first sight of the headland that would be my first miles of walking.

St Bees Head
St Bees beach

There is a tradition with the C2C walk whereby walkers first dip their toe in the Irish Sea and also pick up a pebble to carry across to the other side of the country – far be it from me to break with that tradition :) !

St BeesSt Bees

With the light fading and the wind increasing, I left the beach and started on my way, climbing up the headland that would form the first few miles of my walk. As it was getting late, I had already decided to spend my first night at a camping barn just three miles along the coast and with gathering clouds, I wondered if I would make it before the rain came. I turned and looked back across the bay just as a lovely but last burst of sunlight flooded the beach.

St Bees
Looking back across the bay at St Bees

There wasn’t time to stand for long so I continued over South Head and onto St Bees Head, passing Fleswick Bay on the way.

St Bees Head
Fleswick Bay

The sky was really interesting as I made my way along the cliff-top, buffeted by the strong side wind.  The sun had set and there were some threatening storm clouds gathering.

From St Bees Head
Gathering storm clouds

It didn’t take long to reach the St Bees Lighthouse where I turned inland to reach my stopping point for the night, Tarn Flatt Camping Barn and I walked into the farm just as the rain began to fall!

The barn was a simple affair but perfectly adequate for my purpose.  I asked the owner if I would have the place to myself as there was no-one else there and she informed me that there were two others booked in but who hadn’t yet arrived. I wondered who they would be and how we would get on sharing the sparse accommodation but I needn’t have had any concerns. Half an hour after my arrival, Matt and Ben walked in and we got on well from the start. They were two younger guys from Yorkshire who were over for the weekend to do the Cumbrian part of the C2C and they arrived by car having driven across after work. They had made convoluted travel arrangements to move the car around over the next few days as they walked the first 65 miles of the route.

Tarn Flatt Camping Barn
Tarn Flatt Camping Barn

It wasn’t long before all three of us were tucked up fully clothed in our sleeping bags – it was to be a cold night!

Day 1 – Tarn Flatt to Ennerdale Bridge – 13 miles

I was up at 6.00 after a fitful night – it always takes a day or two to adjust to the hard ground after the softness of my bed at home! After a quick cuppa and snack, I bade farewell to Matt and Ben although we were to meet again at the end of the day as we were all staying at Ennerdale Bridge the next night. I retraced my steps back to the lighthouse and turned North to continue along the coast with fine views across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man.

The Irish Sea
Heading North

Very soon the coastline bends round and I left it behind to head inland, initially along country lanes. Almost immediately I had a foretaste of what was to come as there were ominous dark clouds over the distant Lakeland mountains, and snow on the peaks too. The local man in the picture below passed me with a cheery ‘Good Morning’ and he informed me that the weather was set to improve after the weekend – I hoped so as it was another cold and windy day!

Heavy weather coming!
Storm clouds gathering

It was something of a relief to turn inland as it meant I had the wind on my back – which is of course why West to East is the recommended way to walk this route. The next few miles were spend traversing the coastal plain through Sandwith with the ever present view of the mountains to come, including Dent Hill which at 352 meters would provide a stern test later today (on the right in the picture below).

What is to Come
Mountains to come!

Entering Moor Row, I passed the statue of Alfred Wainwright, the creator of the Coast to Coast walk.  Walking through the village did highlight that there are shortcomings in all navigation and planning aids on a walk such as this – the guidebook stated that there was a cafe here and I was relying on it to get food for the day.  However, a very friendly local informed me that the owner had had a heart attack and had to close the cafe some time ago. He also informed me however that there was a shop in the next village.

Alfred Wainwright
The statue of Alfred Wainwright at Moor Row

Having read the guidebook, I was already aware that there were some notoriously difficult parts to navigate so I was carrying a strip map and compass, a guidebook, a GPS with the route loaded, and if all else failed, I had map software on my iPhone.  I was to use all these navigation aids during the walk! Because this is not a National Trail, way marking is hit and miss and it is often only there because kind locals have painted marks on posts and fences.

C2C
Waymarking by locals!

I continued to Cleator where I found the village shop – very timely as not too far away was the steep climb up over Dent Hill.  I would need that sustenance to help me there :) ! Leaving the village, I immediately missed a turning but fortunately another local resident called out, informing me that every walker misses that turning – clearly my 20 Kg backpack gave away the fact that I was walking the C2C :) ! This does highlight something very positive about this walk though – just the friendly and helpful nature of the people you meet along the way.

I stopped for a short time at the foot of the hill to eat lunch and then started the climb upwards. After the relative flatness of the preceding miles, the climb came as a ‘shock’…….there would be many of those to come over the next two weeks!  The views from Dent Hill were amazing and I was glad the sun had lingered long enough for me to get some pictures. On a clear day it is possible to see Scotland, The Isle of Man, and even Ireland.  I drank in the views for as long as I could but the wind whipping across the top was bitter so I moved on.

From Dent Hill
The coastal plain from Dent Hill

With the sun gone, the top of Dent Hill is quite bleak and I made my way across, getting ever nearer to those distant mountains.

From Dent Hill
On Dent Hill

Reaching the other side of the hill, I came across the mega-stile in the picture below. It is built like this to enable walkers to cross the deer fencing which runs around the hill. You almost feel you need oxygen to help you get over it :) !

Mega Stile
The mega-stile on Dent Hill

The drop down the other side of the hill through Raven Crag, which is actually a grassy hill, into Nannycatch (dont you just love these names!) is extremely steep, in fact it is the steepest part of the whole trail. As I climbed down, I wondered what it would be like to climb up if you were doing the trail in reverse! The views across the valley were spectacular though and I wondered who lived in a house like the one in the picture below. Is there a more idyllic place to live?!

Nannycatch
From Raven Crag into Nannycatch

It was something of a relief to reach the valley bottom, and what a delightful valley it was too! Nannycatch Beck babbles its way through the valley and the path follows its route closely. Being sheltered by hills on both sides, the keen wind was felt no longer and I thoroughly enjoyed quietly and slowly walking along the valley floor to the lovely sound of birds and brook singing together.

Nanycatch Beck
Nannycatch Beck

Eventually the path reaches the road that winds down to Ennerdale Bridge but before leaving this idyllic valley, I couldn’t resist turning for a last time to look back down the way I had come.

The Nannycatch Valley
Looking back down Nannycatch

I feel that I should mention sheep at this point…….there are a lot of them…..all along the route :) ! When I was young, I used to dream of being a shepherd so this just added to the delight of this walk. Herdwick sheep are prevalent here because they are one of the breeds that can take the severe mountain climate and vegetation without hardship. They are also territorial so don’t stray from their own fells which makes them ideal for the Lake District even though their wool is not the best. For me, they are definitely a positive part of the amazing Lake District scenery.

Two of a Kind
Herdwick sheep

I made my way down the road into Ennerdale Bridge, my stopping point for the night, and headed for the local pub where I pitched my tent in the beer garden. Later that evening I met up with Matt and Ben again and we spent a great evening together. This is another feature of this walk – the almost ‘community’ feel to it as you meet, chat and walk with many other walkers.

Ennerdale
The road to Ennerdale Bridge

It was dark and cold as I later made my way to my tent but I didn’t know then quite how cold it was going to get! Tomorrow would see me in the Lake District mountains and I fell asleep wondering how I would cope with carrying my pack over greater heights than today!

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.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

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

The Wainwright Coast to Coast Path – Intro

14 May Great Fryup Dale

I have just returned from an amazing 13 days spent backpacking the Wainwright Coast to Coast Path, and what a fantastic 13 days it has been.  The weather man threw everything at me, below freezing temperatures, heavy rain, sleet, blizzard conditions at times, thick mist and low cloud, and beautiful sunshine.  The paths ranged from very nicely ‘paved’ sections to treading knee deep through almost swamp conditions as there had been so much rain.  But all of to was just awesome!

The End
The End :) – outside the Bay Hotel, Robin Hood’s Bay with a pint of Wainwright’s Ale

The route, the brainchild of the celebrated Lakeland walker, Alfred Wainwright, is officially 192 miles long and stretches from St Bees on the North West coast of England to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North East coast of England.  I say ‘officially’ because often it is not possible to stop on the trail itself which adds some miles – my GPS in fact clocked 205 miles in the 13 days.  The pedometer Ap on my iPhone tells me that I walked 475,000 steps :) !  It takes in three National Parks, The Lake District, The Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors and includes coast, mountains, moorlands, rivers, valleys, farmland, in fact every type of landscape.

Bannerdale
The high Lake District Mountains

It is very much a multi-cultural walk with people from all around the world coming to the UK specially to walk across this country, such is its renown around the world.  It is also a friendly community trail – I have walked with and talked with some lovely people who were either following the same route or were local residents only too happy to welcome walkers such as myself – and to put us right when we took a wrong turn.

The Pennines
On the bleak Pennines

It has to be said that it is a tough trail to walk, especially when carrying a 20Kg pack up over mountains over 2,500 feet high and where conditions under foot are not always great.  It is of course possible to use baggage transfer companies and carry less but one of the joys of carrying everything on your back is the pure and exhilarating freedom to stop when and where you please, although it naturally makes sense to have some sort of schedule – for me, a very flexible one.

Crackpot Hall
Crackpot Hall in Swaledale

A year ago I completed the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, another great trail, but the difference with this one is that good route finding skills are essential – in Pembrokeshire with the sea on one side of you and the land on the other it is hard to go wrong :) !  This time, I took a GPS, map and compass, and a guide book……oh and I still had to resort to the iPhone map Ap to establish my exact position at times :) !

All in all, it has been another fabulous experience and I have returned with not a single blister…..although I do have a pair of split boots as they didn’t wear quite so well as my feet!

Over the coming weeks I will be blogging each of the days walked as I kept a journal running each evening.  I will include photographs (naturally), some of the hardships, the delights (of which there were many), the people I met on the way, and much, much more.  I hope you will join me.

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.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

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

Of a once grand abbey, a once thriving village, glorious greenery, and a graveyard

23 Apr

I woke to a glorious sunny morning, eager to get out on the trail again.  I had already decided which walk I wanted to do – it started from the picture postcard village of Milton Abbas.  This is a designer village with one broad main street lined with almost identical houses thanks to Joseph Damer, Lord Milton, owner of Milton Abbey.  In 1780 he decided that the nearby market town of Middleton was spoiling his view so he appointed Sir William Chambers and Capability Brown to design a new village in Luccombe Bottom, just around the corner…….and out of sight!  The result was Milton Abbas.  The old town of Middleton was demolished and the grounds landscaped to form the parkland of his mansion.

Milton Abbas
Milton Abbas

It really is a beautiful, pristine village and it was wonderful walking down this street, passing old buildings such as the old bakery, the post office, the church and almshouses.  At the bottom of the main street, I turned north and walked through the parklands towards Milton Abbey itself, lost to the church at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Parkland
The path from the village to the Abbey

I decided that I would look inside the Abbey – it is the only building that has public access as this magnificent mansion is now Milton Abbas School.  Walking through the door, I was surprised at how the beautiful building had deteriorated since I last visited.  There were people carrying out a survey and I chatted to one of them.  He was a glass specialist who worked at Salisbury Cathedral and he told me that the problem was water ingress caused by damaged windows, gutters and downpipes.  The building dates from the 14th century so it is not surprising that there is deterioration in the structure.  His role was to report on the condition of all the windows, stained glass and others.  I commented that his job must be really interesting and he agreed but did add a caveat that it was not quite so good in the cold and wet of winter!

There are several tombs in the abbey but none more beautiful than that of Joseph and Caroline Damer.

Joseph and Caroline Damer
The tomb of Joseph and Caroline Damer

Leaving the church, I followed the path that skirts around the grounds and was able to look back across the perfectly manicured lawns for a fine view of this magnificent abbey and mansion.  With the trees now clothed in their bright, verdant foliage, the view was quite breathtaking.

Milton Abbey

Milton Abbey
Milton Abbey viewed across the parklands

From the abbey grounds, my route took me briefly along the country lane before turning off along a track that runs through the valley bottom.  A horse rider bid me a cheery good morning as she passed and of course, being English, we commented on the weather :) !

After a mile or two, I arrived at the next village, Hilton, which sits in the eastern part of the Dorset Downs.  This village was once part of the Milton Abbey estate when it was owned by the Hambro family, and the hillsides around were forested to provide cover for pheasants as King Edward VII was regularly entertained by the Hambros.  The surrounding hills are still wooded but the trees are much more recent as the original forests were cleared during WW2.  The village itself is a delight to walk through, with it’s many thatched cottages with gardens full of spring colours.  It is a typical Dorset village.

Hilton
Hilton

I made my way to the church, standing proud on it’s hillside.  The graveyard was thick with spring flowers which seemed to compliment the old, lichen covered gravestones.  I was walking around taking pictures when a local lady walked through the gate and we fell into conversation.

She told me that she was born in the village but left when she married her farmer husband, before returning later in life.  She was sad because there were no young people in the village as they were unable to afford to pay the market price for houses that had increased way beyond the norm over the years.  I asked if the village had, like many, become a place of weekend homes and she replied that although there were some second homes, it was not as bad as some villages.  As with most villages, there were cottages called, ‘The Old Post Office’ etc that gave indications of their previous uses – in this 21st century, it is sad that the heart has gone from these communities.

The villager told me that the church minister used to live in The Rectory beside the church, a substantial three story, 10 bedroom pile, but now he lived miles away and looked after four other villages as well as Hilton.  As always, The Rectory, much changed, is now in private ownership.

All Saints, Hilton
All Saints, Hilton

I left the village with an air of sadness, sadness for a lifestyle that had gone forever, sadness that these once vibrant communities now seemed so soul-less, but cheered that there are still friendly people happy to welcome visitors like me.  And I left to the raucous sound of rooks cawing high in the trees overhead, their derisory scoffing echoing after me as I made my way up through Hilton Bottom.

Oil Seed Rape
Hilton Bottom

As I neared the top of the hill, I sat and ate lunch looking down through the lovely valley with it’s rapidly ripening oil seed rape and I pondered on my conversation with the old lady in the village below.

Hilton Bottom
A beautiful lunch time view

Eventually I pulled myself away from what is one of my favourite places and continued to the top of the hill, passing lines of hawthorn trees in full bloom.

Blossom
Hawthorn Blossom

The top of the hill is in fact almost the top of Dorset.  At 900 feet, there are only a couple of places that can outdo its height, but not its views.  From the top of this chalk hill it is possible to see for miles across the Blackmore Vale, taking in four separate counties.  It was an appropriate place to site a wayside pulpit and an equally appropriate message.

Wayside Pulpit
The Wayside Pulpit on Bulbarrow Hill

Dropping down off the hill, my route took me through a delightful valley with beautiful but contrasting sides.  The north facing side was thick with amazing spring green foliage brought to full life by the lowering afternoon sun.  With long shadows being thrown down the hillside, it was a scene to just stand and absorb as the birds seemingly gave vent to their delight overhead.

Spring Greens
Verdant spring greens

The south facing hillside was thick with bluebells gradually coming into full flower.  These are old woodlands and there are many old and rotting trunks which provide a haven to a myriad of tiny creatures.  With these valley walls on either side, I made my way down the track that runs between them and in the distance I could hear the cry of a cuckoo as if to prove to me that spring had arrived.  It seems strange to me that even the tiniest of birds is unable to realise that in the cuckoo they have an infiltrator in their midst, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the new baby is several times the size of its own!

Bluebells
Bluebells and rotting trunks

The woodland track eventually gave way to a narrow country lane for a time.  Now whilst I normally shun roads as much as possible, there are benefits to walking on tarmac and that is that you don’t need to watch your feet as you do on rough stony ground.  That means that you can really take in all that is around you which is great even if for just a short time.

However, soon I was back of stony ground as I climbed again out of the valley onto another ridge top.  This track with lovely hedgerows on either side was particularly beautiful with the now low sun streaming through the leaves, highlighting the new, spring growth.

Spring

Spring
New spring growth

The final part of my walk today took me through more, but very different, woodlands.  This is Forestry Commission land with its array of perfectly vertical specimens with evergreen foliage.  To me, these are not so enjoyable to walk as the mixed deciduous woodlands and yet there is a strange beauty.

Forestry
Through the forest

In fact, wherever you are there is beauty, even in the smallest detail such as the unfolding of a fern on the forest floor.  It is amazing how this happens each year and how these become the thick, green, ferny leaves of summer, and the orange carpet of autumn.  Each stage as beautiful as the former.

Unfurling
Unfurling

I finished my walk where it started, in the postcard-perfect village of Milton Abbas where I paid a visit to the church.  This is something I like to do throughout my walks, partly because churches are beautiful and interesting places, but mostly because God’s peace is so evident there.  It always moves me when I think about the enormous heritage of these places with the hundreds of thousands of lives that have been impacted down through the ages, especially when they were packed to the doors with worshippers.  When I think about those who are buried in the churchyard, I cannot help but think of Thomas Gray’s words, ‘Each in his narrow cell forever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep’.  One day they will sleep no more!

Graveyard
Milton Abbas churchyard

It was a fitting place to end my day, a wonderful day of walking and conversation, of interesting places and people, a day when I have felt blessed.

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.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

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 joins the 21st Century :)

18 Apr

Yes, its true, I now have a Twitter feed – it is @adorsetrambler and I will be using it to post pictures and interesting things from my many and varied walks around Dorset and beyond.  So if you fancy joining me on my walks without leaving your seat, follow me on @adorsetrambler :)!

I have realised that it is a long time since I posted a full blog entry but I will do so very soon.  In fact I have been planning and preparing for my latest back pack adventure – I will be walking the Wainwright Coast to Coast at the end of this month.  It is a trail that is nearly 200 miles long running from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin’s Hood Bay in North Yorkshire and takes in three National Parks as well as crossing the Pennines. Mobile phone signal and battery permitting, I will be tweeting throughout the walk, and of course I will blog the whole walk afterwards.

I have continued to walk nearly every day and so far this year I have covered nearly 700 miles.  This week the weather has been particularly spring like with bright sunshine so here are a couple of pictures that I took on a wonderful walk along the coast – well I had to walk this stretch because I needed lots of hill climbing practice :)!

On a Misty Morning

The shot above was taken from the top of Bat’s Head looking east and there was a lovely atmospheric light caused by the sea fret blowing in farther along the coast.

Sea Fret on the Dorset Coast

The shot above was taken from further along at White Nothe, again looking to the east.  This is the view I had as I sat and ate my lunch.  Sigh, what could be better :)!

More to follow soon but in the meantime, I look forward to seeing you at @adorsetrambler.

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.

My Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler

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

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.

Lewesdon Hill Lane DSC00233-36
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.

What Might Have Been!

11 Feb

What Might Have Been

A strange title perhaps but its actually a very appropriate title :)!

I did a 16 mile walk last week and timed it so that I would reach Corfe Castle in time for the post sunset glow, intending to get some shots of the castle silhouetted against the sky. Now when you are walking that distance, it is not always easy to time your arrival to the minute and I know that as a photographer I should have made sure that I allowed enough time to get there early so that I could get my viewpoint etc right.  This is just good photographic practice, especially as sunsets are so fleeting!  In reality, I did get there in time, the sun had dropped below the horizon and I was ready for the explosion of light……..except it didn’t materialise as the sun dropped into a bank of very low cloud. I ended up with just a picture of the castle against a bland sky.

Corfe Castle

I began to wish I had walked slightly quicker, although in truth the day’s walk was more important to me than the picture anyway, because 15 minutes earlier as I was walking along Nine Barrow Down towards Corfe, there had been a lovely setting sun that would have silhouetted the castle very nicely.  However, that wasn’t really what I had in mind as I wanted that lovely post sunset glow that we often, well sometimes, get.  But the setting sun had been lovely!

The Setting Sun

When I got home, I remembered that I had taken some shots of the setting sun as I walked along the ridge, albeit there was nothing of interest to put in the foreground at the time so I decided to put the two images together. I have never done this before and I am not really comfortable with it because it kind of feels like a ‘cheat’, although in reality I think what I’m not comfortable with is the passing off of a heavily manipulated image as real rather than the actual manipulation itself. This of course is something that came to the fore in the LPOTY competition a couple of years ago.

Most photographers will use Photoshop or Lightroom or whatever to process, improve and enhance their pictures and that in itself is nothing new – even in my younger days of ‘steam driven’ cameras we could be quite creative in the darkroom! But how much is too much?

In this case, both images (the sky and the castle) were taken by me on the same day just 15 minutes apart, and in fact, had I walked a bit quicker during the day and arrived at the castle before the sun had dropped below the horizon, the image at the top of this post is exactly the image I would have finished up with…….even if it wasn’t the image I originally had in mind.

A purist would undoubtedly say that any image manipulation is wrong.  However, others would argue that photography is an art form and much as a painter uses brushes, knives, sponges, rags or whatever to create his picture, so the photographer is perfectly at liberty to use all the tools that he has at his disposal.  After all it is very common, even essential, for landscape photographers to use filters on their cameras to balance the various light sources and tones etc, and this in itself is a form of ‘manipulation’.

So how much is too much?  Well in all honesty, I do think care is needed – I have seen photographs with spectacular sunset skies but where the angle of the shadows clearly indicate that the main picture was taken in the middle of the day.  In my view, creativity is to be applauded but it needs to be carefully applied, having in mind the overall picture.  But at the end of the day, it comes down to honesty and integrity – manipulate an image as much as you like, but be honest about what you have done rather than try to pass the image off as a real and original photograph.

So my confession is that the image at the top is not real……..but it might have been :)!

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.

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