The Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 1

10 May

DAY 0 – ST DOGMAELS to CEMAES HEAD – 3 miles

Why the ‘DAY 0′ title?  Well this was to be mainly a day travelling to the starting point of the walk, and a laborious journey it was too.  At 5.45am the alarm went off and I leapt out of bed……well more ‘fell’ out of bed really!  After a quick breakfast my wife, Chris, took me to the station to catch the 6.41am train.  The morning was dull and grey – not very inspiring!  And it was hard saying goodbye to Chris too – I wondered why I was doing it!  Three trains, two buses, a taxi and a walk later I arrived at the starting point in St Dogmaels, Pembrokeshire……..and I went to the pub :)!  For food as there was nowhere after this point where I would be able to eat.

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The Ferry Inn, St Dogmaels

I had a cooked meal and asked if they did sandwiches as I needed food for tomorrow, but annoyingly they didn’t.  This meant that, having eaten, I had to retrace my steps a mile or two back up the road into the village to find the nearest shop.  Lesson 1 – think ahead!  Finally, much later than intended, and just as the rain began to fall again, I arrived back at the official starting point (or finishing point depending on which way you do the walk) and could begin my trek.

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The official starting/finishing point for the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

With most of the day being taken up with travelling, it was to be a short walk of around 3 miles to my first camp, a farm at Cemaes Head, but it was all uphill!  I arrived at the camp in the early evening light with rain still falling, thinking about the difficulties of putting a tent up on sloping ground in the wet and about packing it away again wet tomorrow, when the farmer greeted me.  “Ah’, he said, “I’ve just put some yurts up for the new season so you are welcome to use one of those for the same price as a tent as it is so wet”.  Well he didn’t need to offer twice and I moved in!  Yes, it was basic, but it was dry and much more spacious than my little one man tent, and I wouldn’t have to pack it away wet tomorrow :)!

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My camp for the first night

One of the problems with camping at this time of the year is that the evenings are chilly, and with no pub within walking distance, what do you do to keep warm?  Well you go for a walk of course…….which I did, all around the headland.

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Cardigan Bay and Cardigan Island from Cemaes Head on a wet evening

It has been a good day.  The travel arrangements all went smoothly although not without some confusion and discomfort on the trains.  What will tomorrow, my first real day on the trail, bring?

DAY 1 – CEMAES HEAD to beyond NEWPORT – 14 miles

I woke to the sound of pouring rain and strong winds pounding on the yurt!  Having breakfasted and packed, I donned waterproofs and set out.  The going was really hard, a combination of driving rain in my face, strong gusty winds, a muddy and slippery path, and a very heavy pack, plus of course a route that went up and down more times than an escalator.

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On Cemaes Head

Very early in the day I climbed up and over Pen Yr Afr, the highest point of the whole walk at over 575 feet, with its amazing folded strata.  The day quickly became a bit of a slog and I just put my head down and kept walking, trying as best I could to keep the stinging rain off my face.  Taking photographs was difficult as the camera got soaked every time I took it out of its bag.  It seemed cruel because this was potentially the best and most rugged part of the whole walk and I couldn’t fully enjoy it because visibility was limited and besides, I had to watch my feet constantly.  I needn’t have worried, there were many more rugged parts to come!

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Limited visibility and muddy paths

The guide book had already warned me that the far northern section was the hardest with very steep climbs and slippery descents and in fact there were virtually no flat parts at all.  Weaving in and out of various inlets and rocky outcrops, I passed Carreg Wylan Stacks.  These just seemed to typify this coastline, a switchback of rugged rock formations.

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Carreg Wylan Stacks 

Despite the rugged beauty of the coastline, it became a challenge to just reach my campsite at the end of the day, such was the ferocity of the wind and rain – and I wondered why I was doing it!  A signpost rubbed my nose in it by reminding me that I still had 81/2 miles to walk!

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A long way to go on the switchback

Then in the afternoon the rain stopped, visibility gradually improved, and finally the sun made an appearance – and I knew why I was doing it!  The scenery was breathtaking and the ruggedness was picked out by the sun slanting across the landscape.  It didn’t make the pack any lighter or the climbs any less steep, but it helped.

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Brightness at last

Mid afternoon, with aching muscles, I walked into Newport knowing that I only had a mile or two to walk to reach my camp for the night.  I had met few walkers during the day, well only one in fact, a young girl who admitted that she was a ‘fair weather walker’ who had only set out when the rain cleared.  Late afternoon I pitched my tent in a wonderful spot with amazing views across Newport Sands and the coastline I had walked during the day.

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Newport Sands

What a day, what a start! The expression ‘jumping in at the deep end’ came to mind!  Would I describe it as a great day?  Yes definitely because I had a real sense of achievement at having made it through despite the conditions.  But more than that, the conditions I had walked in somehow really suited this rugged coastline and brought out its character in a way that the sun can’t do.  I had been concerned because this first day is said to be the most challenging part of the whole walk, not what you want to hear when you have arthritic knees and ankles.  I had feared that I might not be able to make it but in the end, they caused me no problems at all.  I was a happy man as I sat and watched the sun go down over the Pembrokeshire Coast, and settled back into my tent for the night.

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A beautiful sunset to end the first day

DAY 2 – NEWPORT to STRUMBLE HEAD – 17 miles

The day dawned with a beautiful sunrise, a welcome sight after yesterday’s rain.  Having breakfasted and packed, I put on my still sodden shoes and set out along the coast again, feeling slightly stiff from my efforts of yesterday.

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Sunshine – a welcome sight and a beautiful morning

It didn’t take long to reach my first stopping point of the day, Cwm-Yr-Eglwys (the valley of the church), with its ruined church right on the edge of the water.  The church had served the local hamlet and once seated 300 but coastal erosion had been its downfall.  This was such a beautiful spot and I sat for a while just drinking in the warm sunshine and the lovely view across the bay.

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Cmm-Yr-Eglwys

Today’s main feature was to be the climb up and over Dinas Island, not an island at all but a headland.  Distinctively shaped like a 50p coin but with five sides, the headland has one side connected to the land and four surrounded by sea.  It would be a short and fairly level hop to walk the one side attached to the land but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t walk all around the whole headland although this proved a hard walk with steep climbs over the highest point, Pen Y Fan at 466 feet.  The views more than made up for the effort needed though.

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The view from Dinas Island

I passed a few walkers on route as this particular headland makes a very nice day walk, although I had still not met any other ‘end to enders’.  Dropping down off the high headland, I reached Pwllgwaelod (don’t you just love these Welsh names), a lovely bay from which I could view the coastline that would be my companion for several hours.

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Pwllgwaelod and the coastline to come

One of the features of this coast is that you can often see where you are headed in the distance but it seems to take an age to reach it because of the constant ups and downs and the constant weaving in and out of a million coves and inlets.  This is of course its charm and beauty as well, an ever changing landscape.

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A switchback path around a million coves and inlets

I had set myself a task to not take a break until I reached Fishguard so it was something of a relief to arrive at the old fort that marks the start of Fishguard’s three towns – Lower Town, the newer Fishguard town, and Goodwick.  Fishguard Fort was built in 1781 to defend the community against privateers but it is now in ruins.  Nevertheless, it occupies a delightful position.

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Fishguard Fort with the Marine Walk around the headland beyond

The Lower Town, the oldest part, is particularly picturesque with its old harbour, once a thriving herring fishing, ship building and coastal trading centre, and the walk through the town and around the next headland along the Marine Walk was equally lovely with wonderful views across the bay.  The newer part of Fishguard which operates a ferry service to Ireland was perhaps less inspiring so I hurried through, just stopping for food on the way.

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Lower Town, Fishguard

At this point I only had a few miles to walk to reach my overnight stopping point but as is often the case, those miles seemed to take a long time to walk.  The climb out of Fishguard/Goodwick was steep but once on the high headland, the path levelled off slightly for a time, probably the first ‘flat’ part since the start two days ago.  Walking in the late afternoon sun was lovely and the scenery continued to be as beautiful as ever.

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Walking towards Strumble Head in the evening sun

Just short of Strumble Head, I turned inland to find my campsite – well the term campsite was stretching the truth somewhat.  It was actually a field on a farm with no facilities.  I was offered the use of the shower (cold!) and toilet in one of the farm cottages but they were hardly five star!  I was just glad to have somewhere to pitch my tent for the night, even if it was in the middle of nowhere – in fact, because it was in the middle of nowhere!

I went to sleep looking forward to another day on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path tomorrow……but that’s for the next blog entry.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Intro

8 May

I’ve just returned from an amazing 13 day backpacking trip along the length of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path living out of my little tent. Amazing rugged coastline, beautiful sunshine, crazy gale force winds, driving Welsh rain, and a relentless up and down switchback of a path, all whilst carrying a 40lb pack. Nearly 200 miles of walking and I have apparently climbed the equivalent of Everest. Now I have sore feet……..but I’m happy :)!

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My home for two weeks :)

One list of ‘best’ walks puts The Pembrokeshire Coast Path at number 3 in the whole world and I can see why.  It is a wonderful, rugged coastline, and backpacking it gives a fantastic freedom, a freedom to walk with no real set agenda apart from a fairly flexible general plan of where to walk each day.  OK, its no easy walk, especially carrying everything on your back, but it is certainly a rewarding one, and part of that is simply the challenge to set out from St Dogmaels in the north and finish up nearly two weeks later in Amroth in the south without a break.  There were some days when there was simply a need to grit my teeth and keep walking, those days when the famous Welsh weather closed in and it was hard to just keep my balance in the gusty and slippery conditions.  On those days, I had a mantra that I repeated to myself over and over again as I walked – ‘One foot in front of the other gets you there’, and ultimately it did.

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One foot in front of the other gets you there! The finish line.

The walk has been in the planning for some time as I researched the route, possible stopping points along the way, travel arrangements to/from the start and finish etc and all this preparation, although deliberately flexible, proved invaluable.  This coastline is unspoilt which is part of the attraction but it was also part of the challenge as on some days there was nowhere on route to buy food.  This meant that when on the trail I had to constantly think ahead to make sure that I did not run out of supplies.  There were also other challenges to overcome such as keeping the mobile phone charged, chilly evenings and damp, cold nights – there was a need to keep warm before bed time – how to get anything dry after rain, and so on.  But all the challenges pale into insignificance compared to the fantastic beauty and shear exhilaration of being on the coast path ‘away from it all’ for nearly two weeks.

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A wonderful evening on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

The beautifully rugged scenery, the experiences along the way, the wonderful people that I came into contact with, and that final walk into Amroth make this a memorable walk indeed.  It is one that at my age and with knees and ankles that have seen better days, I am grateful to have been able to complete.

At the end of each day I wrote up a blog of that day’s walk and over the course of the next few weeks I will post those on this site.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

The New Logo :)

21 Apr

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I decided I needed a logo so I drew a freehand sketch of a signpost and my son Paul found a website where they draw up graphics for $5 :)  The picture above is the result and I’ve even had some Tee Shirts printed :)!

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I have just realised how long it is since I did my last blog entry!  Where does time go?  I am still walking lots and there will be lots more blog entries to come although not for a couple of weeks – all will become clear :)!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

 

Who Cares?

7 Mar

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Faceless names upon the stone,
No one knows, they are gone,
Ashes to ashes, no-one there,
Does anyone care?

Loved ones once, when alive,
But all too soon, their time to die,
Leaving this earth, with mourners there,
People around to care!

Generations passed, all forgot,
No-one now tends their final plot,
Overgrown and in disrepair,
Does anyone care?

Who cares?

Who Cares!!!!

This was a fascinating place, an old and uncared for Dorset cemetery.  Mentioned in the Doomsday Book, the old church to which the graveyard belonged was demolished in 1742 to make way for a new building a mile or so down the road.  Now the cemetery stands alone, neglected and uncared for, but the graves are still there – its just that no-one knows the people any more.  It struck me as sad and poignant and I composed the above poem to express something of that feeling.

When those people were buried, others would have stood around the grave mourning their loss.  Generations later…….who cares?  How many people will remember you or me, and for how long?  Who will care?

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.

Rain, Rain, Rain…….and more Rain!!

13 Feb

It’s amazing how much rain seems to fall out of the UK skies at the moment!  Most of you will know from the news that there is massive flooding throughout the south coast, including the whole of Dorset.  The picture below is typical of Dorset footpaths at the moment – impassable!

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Impassable

A combination of this and also a hospital visit for a minor op has somewhat curtailed my activities over the last month or so……but not entirely :)!  There is always somewhere to walk and I have a few places that usually manage to stay dry enough and one of these is the Dorset sea front where the prom kind of stays dry.  It is often covered in thick sand from the storms and/or sea spray from the howling winds and high tides, but at least there is no MUD :)!!

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High tide breeches the sea wall!

In fact it is quite civilised and makes a change from the countryside as there are no hills to climb, food and drinks on tap all along the route, and dry seats to sit on in the various cafes etc that stay open in winter :)!  And you can walk for miles!  It’s not necessarily a walk that makes for an interesting blog entry but I thought I would put up a series of pictures taken on my various wanders over recent weeks………a sort of pictorial blog!

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I hope you enjoyed this brief visit to the sea front with me………and I am really hoping that normal service will be resumed in the very near future.  Now where did I leave my umbrella!

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 a canine encounter, a bloody battle, a blazing fire, a bright sunset……and of course, a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

31 Dec

It was one of those beautiful crisp winter days, the frost was still heavy in the shade although the bright, clear sunshine had thawed the cold earth elsewhere.  With lovely grassy paths soft under foot, the walking was pleasant and the day was peaceful.  But not for long!

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Grassy paths and autumn colours

I saw him in the distance but gave him no thought – just a dog, a bull terrier, being walked by his owner.  They got closer and the dog ran towards me, just having fun and wanting to play I thought.  Then he started to run around me, tripping me up as I walked.  Still I thought nothing until he started to nip my shoelaces, then my rucksack, then my trouser legs, then finally ME!  Fortunately, he didn’t break the skin but I ‘suggested’ to the owner that if she couldn’t control her dog, she shouldn’t own one!  Or at the very least she should keep it on a lead!  It wasn’t such a peaceful start to the day after all.

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The morning light

However, with paths like the one above to walk down in the beautiful morning light, the incident was soon forgotten.  The path in fact skirts round one of the many deer parks that were once used to keep up the supply of deer as this was for hundreds of years the hunting ground of English Kings.  These days, it is just the local deer stalker who is employed to keep the numbers down.  Turning off this track, my route took me down a gentle slope into a valley, passing more parkland and farmsteads on the way.

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Down into the valley

In some ways, this is still hunting territory although now it is not deer but game birds.  They flew off noisily every few minutes as I disturbed them – it always amuses me that they seem to leave it till the last minute as if they hadn’t noticed me.  Although it was winter, the birds were still making melody all around and there were even odd butterflies to add a bit of colour.  The whole landscape was peaceful and a delight to walk through, but it hadn’t always been that way!

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A peaceful Dorset farm lane

I came to the gate below with its rather unusual sign on it and decided to take a break for a cup of hot Bovril.  Leaning on the gate I reflected on the history of this place.  It is called the Bloody Shard Gate although the name refers to the area rather than that specific gate, it being the connecting point of some five paths.  Its name emanates from a bloody skirmish that took place in the 18th century between gamekeepers and poachers.  The gamekeepers won the day but there is an interesting story concerning one of the poachers who had a hand severed in the battle.  The poacher recovered but his hand didn’t and was buried in a local churchyard.  It is said that it still roams the area at night searching for its owner!

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Bloody Shard Gate

The area is in fact steeped in a history of conflicts such as the English Civil War, the local landowners were at odds with each other, farmers were at odds with royalty as the protected deer caused damage to crops, and there was even a battle between two packs of local dogs resulting in the death of forty five animals.  There was no evidence of that though when I walked through the peaceful woodlands which were almost like a silent graveyard of the age old coppicing industry.

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A graveyard of the coppicing industry

Walking along these grassy paths surrounded by woodlands, you can just imagine King John riding through with his entourage as they hunted for deer.  The farmers finally won their particular battle with royalty after 800 years of protection for the deer, although that was probably down to hunting going out of fashion.  It is said that when the protection was lifted, villagers shot 12,000 animals in two days!

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From hunting ground to farm land

At the half way point on this walk is a lovely unspoilt Dorset village and as I walked into it, the low winter sunshine threw long shadows across the ground making beautiful patterns of shadows and light.

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Shadows and light

This always seems an unusual village to me as the cottages that line the main street are all end on to it rather than facing onto it as they normally do.

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The village street

It also includes a rather nice pub with a blazing log fire so on this walk, my lunch time seat was dry :)!  I don’t usually visit pubs when I am walking, preferring to stick to the countryside and a well placed rock or log for a seat – but sometimes you just have to make an exception.  The fire was very inviting :)!

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Beside the pub fire

Leaving the pub, I headed out of the village and passed the interesting garden below.  I had assumed that it was an old village railway station and stopped to ask a lady if that was the case but apparently it wasn’t – it was just a villager who was keen on railway paraphernalia.

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Not the railway station

It was good to be out in the country again and I crossed fields and walked farm tracks for a few miles before dropping into another village, well more of a hamlet really.  This one, like most, had a delightful church as well as a farm, a few cottages and of course a manor house.  The manor was one of the two that had been rivals in days gone by.

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The hamlet

The trail from the village passes through more parkland, but this is no ordinary parkland.  This once surrounded a palatial mansion, the largest in the county, which was built in the early 18th century.  Its size was in fact its downfall as no one wanted it and at one point the owner, who lived in Italy, offered to actually pay £200 a year to anyone who would live it it.  There were no takers however and it is said that he gave instructions to his servant to demolish the wings of the house.  Apparently the servant seeing a chance to make some money for himself demolished the main house as well and sold the stone which was used on various other buildings in the area.  When he heard the owner was returning to England, the servant apparently committed suicide!  The current house is still a substantial country mansion despite its being only a fraction of the original, mainly just the stable block.  Its most noted inhabitant was the Wedgewood family of pottery fame.

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The parkland

By the time I reached the next village, the light was beginning to fade but I took time out to visit the church.  I enjoy looking round these old village churches, they have such a long heritage and are still a testimony to Christianity and to those who have served and worshipped over the centuries.  The architecture has a special beauty.

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Inside the village church

Coming out of the church, the day was almost spent and I strode out up the track as I had several miles still to walk.  The sun dropped below the horizon and the sky lit up with a bright red glow as I walked.  It seemed a fitting end to a glorious day, and perhaps a fitting end to this last post of 2013!

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The day’s end

I hope you have enjoyed walking with me this year.  If you have any comments on my blog, or suggestions as to how it could be improved in the coming year, I would love to hear from you.

May I wish you all a very happy New Year.  Every blessing, and much walking, in the year to come.

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

2 Dec

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

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A well placed puddle

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

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

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The woodland doorway

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

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

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A golden carpet of leaves

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

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

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The old gate

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

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Shepherd’s Bottom

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

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The forest track

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

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

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

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My lunch time view

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

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The village in the valley

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

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The old farmhouse

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

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The old mill

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

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In the spotlight

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

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The view from the beacon

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

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A warming drink as the sun goes down

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

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Enjoying the sunset

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

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The sun dips his toe into the horizon pool

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

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

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The eerie darkness

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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