Tag Archives: churches

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 6

5 Jun

DAY 11 – ANGLE to TREVALLEN – 18 miles

What a difference a day makes!  After two days of walking through the industrial hinterland of the Milford Haven inlet, today I walked out onto the coast path proper again – it felt like walking out of a darkened room into bright sunlight!  And what a beautiful coast too, much more rugged and up and down than I had expected.

I was up and out on the trail again before 7.00am, walking initially around the Angle headland with Thorn Island just off the coast.  Most of this island is taken up by another fort built in the mid 1800’s to protect Milford Haven from the French navy.  After the Second World War it was converted to a rather remote hotel, with plans to link it to the mainland by cable car!  It has since closed and in fact in recent years the island was put on the market for £750,000.  Hmm, now where can I get my hands on three quarters of a million pounds ;) !

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For Sale – Thorn Island

After only a short walk, I dropped down into West Angle Bay on the southern side of the headland where there was one of the few signs of commercialisation in the shape of a caravan park……..but no cafe!

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West Angle Bay

I had expected the coast to level off as I walked further south but in fact it was still very hilly with many steep climbs and descents.  There were also many more remains from military activity with various gun posts etc.  This just demonstrates how important the Milford Haven and Pembroke Docks area was in the 19th/20th century, and indeed still is albeit for different reasons.

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Military remains

After several miles of delightful coast, I rounded a headland to be greeted by the view below.  This was Freshwater West, one of those lovely open, spacious Welsh beaches favoured by surfers, with acres of sand dunes behind.

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Freshwater West and the sand dunes

I walked down off the headland, through the sand dunes and out onto the road that runs around the bay and my thoughts turned to bacon sandwiches again!  There was some kind of surfer gathering and I passed a busy car park but I could see no facilities……..until I finally spied a trailer cafe hiding at the end of the car park.  Needless to say I made use of those facilities, sitting on the edge of the beach with one of the best bacon baps I have tasted and cup of tea :) !  It was still a little overcast and breezy but it was still lovely sat there looking out across the bay.

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A bacon bap and cuppa at Freshwater West :)

Freshwater West sits just north of the Castlemartin Firing Range so permitted footpaths south of here are limited.  I followed the road for a couple of miles to reach Castlemartin village where I passed another cafe, this time in a village hall.  I stopped for tea and cake………well a man has to have dessert :)!  It gave me the opportunity to charge my phone as well.  Passing the old circular village pound which has creatively been turned into a roundabout, I continued to walk along the road for a few more miles, passing a girl sat in her car at a layby.  She wound down the window to say hi and we got talking – she explained why she was there.

Apparently one year previously she had been walking the Welsh Coast Path and slipped on the wet surface, sliding down the steep slope and only coming to a stop with her legs hanging over the cliffs with a sheer drop below.  She managed to scramble out of her precarious situation and was now revisiting the area on the anniversary of what could have been a disastrous event as a kind of thank you for being alive!

We said our goodbyes and I continued on my way through the firing range, heading for the cliff tops again, and I took a short detour to look at the deserted hamlet of Flimston with its preserved church.

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The deserted village of Flimston with its preserved church

Flimston was once a working village with its own community but it became a ghost village when the whole area was taken over by the army to be used as a practice firing range.  Today the houses and cottages are all derelict but fortunately the church has been preserved.  Occasional services are still held there but disappointingly the church was locked so I was unable to look inside.

Finally, after several miles of road walking, I reached the coast path again at Stack Rocks which as the name suggests are rock stacks standing just off the coast.  These were completely covered with nesting guillemots and razor bills making a huge din!  I heard them long before I saw them!

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Stack Rocks, a haven for Razorbills and Guillemots

Nearby was probably the most photographed feature in Pembrokeshire, The Green Bridge of Wales, a natural limestone arch created by the erosion of the sea. Ultimately, the arch itself will collapse and another ‘Stack Rock’ will result.

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The Green Bridge of Wales

The cliffs along this part of the coast are full of crags, narrow cracks, gullies, caves and inlets so this is a fabulous part to walk as there are so many rock features to admire and explore.  In many ways, the army does this coast a favour by helping to preserve the whole area for wildlife, albeit at the expense of human access.  This hasn’t always been the case as the cliffs actually provided a dwelling for one famous ancestor.  St Govan, born around 500AD, was an Irish monk who lived in a small cave in the cliffs for many years.  There are various suggestions as to who he was, and one story suggests that he was being set upon by pirates when a fissure opened up in the cliffs, enabling him to hide and thus escape capture.  He then decided to make that fissure his home.

The little chapel in the picture below was built over the fissure in the 13th century and St Govan is said to be buried beneath it.  There are all kinds of stories told about the area, such as the number of steps down the cliff face to the chapel varies depending on whether you are going up or down, and that if you tap a certain rock you will hear the chapel bell chime!  Just below the chapel is St Govan’s Well, now dried up, and beyond that is the open sea.  The history of this place, whether the stories are true or false, is fascinating and it is a very beautiful place that I could have lingered at for a very long time.

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St Govan’s Chapel

In fact, when I was planning my walk, I had thought that I might stay overnight in the chapel until I realised it was in the middle of a firing range!  Discretion being the better part of valour, I decided instead to stay at a nearby campsite.

What a great day; great walking, fabulous scenery, good weather, some good food……….and dry feet!  I haven’t had the last mentioned for some days!

DAY 12 – TREVALLEN to PENALLY – 16 miles

Once again I was up at 5.30 and out on the trail well before 7.00am.  It was a cloudy but bright start to the day as I dropped down off the headland to the beautiful Broad Haven beach, looking very unspoilt and untrodden in the early morning light.

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Broad Haven with Stackpole Warren beyond

My route took me across the pristine beach and I turned to take a rather cliched picture of my footprints in the sand.  Last night’s camp was on the headland in the picture below.

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My footprints on Broad Haven beach :)

I followed the coast path over Stackpole Warren and round Stackpole Head and very soon dropped down into Barafundle Bay, said to be one of the best beaches in the world, indeed it has been given various accolades over the years.  It is totally unspoilt, having no roads and being accessible only on foot.  Once the private beach of the Cawdor family of Stackpole Court – you can just imagine the wealthy ladies in their flowing gowns and parasols walking down the steps through the arch at the top, with the servants coming behind carrying the picnic.

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The beautiful Barafundle Beach

Continuing round the coast, I reached Stackpole Quay, also built by Lord Cawdor in the 1700’s, and where I knew there was a cafe……..and hopefully breakfast, but I was to be disappointed as it didn’t open till 10.00am!  I made do with a chocolate bar and continued on my way!

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Stackpole Quay

The scenery continued to be awesome as the rock changed from Old Red Sandstone to the Carboniferous Limestone of the south.  With the changing colours of the rock and the bright yellow of the rape fields, the coast was too photogenic to miss and I stopped for some more pictures.

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The photogenic Pembrokeshire Coast

I continued to Freshwater East, another delightful Pembrokeshire beach, backed by more beautiful sand dunes, and more holiday homes!  I walked across the beach and climbed up through the dunes onto the headland beyond.

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Freshwater East

The coast path continued to rise and fall constantly around more headlands, beaches and inlets and ultimately I reached Manorbier Bay with its Norman castle standing proud some way inland.  I sat on the beach and ate my lunch beside the stream that empties into the bay, serenaded by the trickling water.

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Manorbier Bay

Continuing round the next headland, the path once again took a slight detour inland, passing around Manorbier Camp, another firing range.  In some ways, this was a welcome detour as the path across the headland was at least a bit flatter than the coast path had been.  The coast here was amazing, with a lovely path to walk and fantastic vertical rock strata.  It was just beautiful!

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A beautiful path and amazing rock strata

Having circumvented the firing range, I returned to the cliff tops and very soon found myself at Lydstep Haven, one of the few commercialised parts of the coast path with a massive holiday park along the coast above the beach.  I didn’t linger, although I did make use of the camp shop to stock up on food.

From Lydstep, the walk became a little easier, but also posed one of those conundrums as there are two routes into Penally, my stopping point for the night.  The direct path would take me just a short distance into the town, but the ‘true’ coast path would take me an extra two miles round the tip of the Giltar Point headland – being a purist, I chose the latter.

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Giltar Point

After nearly 17 miles, it was a relief to walk the downhill path into Penally where I found my campsite.  It was a relief too to find out that they had showers (well one shower actually) – my last two camps had none!  After ‘freshening up’ I felt more human and I walked to the local pub to recharge my battery, and also my mobile phone battery that had died during the day.

That night I lay in my tent with a feeling of great satisfaction.  I had now walked some 180 miles and tomorrow, a short walk of 10 miles would bring me to the finishing point of the walk at Amroth.  I dropped off to sleep wondering how I would feel as walked that final leg with the finish in sight!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

A walk on the wild side…..with the camera!

7 Nov

It seems to me that there is often a bit of tension between walking and photography!  By that I mean that sometimes photography spoils a good walk.  Why?  Simply because you can become so engrossed in trying to capture the ultimate competition winning shot and almost miss what is going on around you.  And then when you get home and you haven’t got the prize picture you were hoping for, the day seems fruitless.

At some point I decided that I would either walk and focus on the countryside and surroundings, just taking the compact camera to capture memories of the day or I would go out specifically to take photographs and take the DSLR.  That way I enjoy walking or I enjoy taking ‘real’ pictures rather than trying to do both on the same day and getting neither.  In reality it rarely works and I often end up trying to do both because I find it difficult to switch off from thinking ‘photography’ and there is always that nagging feeling that today just might the day when the light, the scene and the conditions are perfect……..and you haven’t got your camera!

Well on this day I did go out specifically to capture pictures……although I still managed to walk nearly 10 miles!

I was heading for the coast as I really wanted to capture something of the ruggedness of the Dorset coastal quarries and the somewhat grey, overcast and even stormy day was perfect for the purpose.  My outward route started in a small village and then followed an inland path known as The Priests Way, so called because in olden times it was the route taken by the priest as he covered the two villages at each end.  On the way I passed the rather strange tiny bus stop below – clearly meant for little people ;)!

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A bus stop for little people ;)

Near the end of the track I turned south and headed towards the Dorset Coast Path, passing the rather unusual wall below.

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Getting ahead ;)

Having reached the coast, I first headed for my favourite quarry.  I think the reason I like it is that it is tiny and little known, in fact you could easily walk past it and not even realise it is there.  But climb down into it and you find yourself half way up the cliff face, all alone and with just a sheer drop below you – the picture below was taken on an earlier visit.

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On the quarry ledge

Sat on that ledge is a great place to eat lunch whilst watching the waves crashing onto the rocks below.  I wanted to get a picture that illustrated a quarryman’s view so I set up the camera and tripod to do some long exposure pictures to bring out the contrast between rocks and water.  At the processing stage I turned the image into a sepia toned picture as it seemed to suit the subject and my intention.  The result is below.

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A quarryman’s view

From this point, my route took me along the coast path, passing numerous quarries of varying size along the way.  Rather than stop at each quarry, I chose the ones that I wanted to capture, each time setting up my camera, tripod, filters etc…….which of course I had to pack away again before moving on.

At the next quarry, I stood looking out at the sheer vastness of the sea and sky and the perpetual motion of the waves and clouds, ever moving and ever changing.  In a feeble effort to record what I felt, I set up the camera again for another long exposure shot to give the feeling of movement and the ever changing scene.

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A vast, ever changing scene

Looking down, it was again the constant action of the waves pounding the coastal rocks below that spoke to me of the hard conditions that the quarrymen must have endured as they transported the rocks away from the cliffs in small boats before delivering them to the larger barges waiting further out to sea.  This must have been a seriously hazardous occupation and I cannot imagine what it must have been like manoeuvring huge rocks between vessels whilst both were being pounded by waves.

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Off the quarry ledge

And the waves are just relentless, like a giant perpetual motion machine, they never stop, never tire, but continue to pound the coast, gradually eroding the land.  Minute by minute, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, the waves come and the tide ebbs and flows, sometimes gently and sometimes powerfully but never ceasing.  It is a wonderful thing to watch….and frustrating to try to capture in a single image!

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Perpetual motion – the power of the sea

Eventually I left the quarry and headed up to another of my favourite locations, a barren and exposed headland with just a few stark buildings, buildings with a history.  And again, I wanted to capture the feeling of the barrenness, the exposure to the elements, rather than just the scene itself.  This is what I call the fourth dimension in a picture.  Not an easy task as the wind was whipping across the headland and the light was going fast.  I set up the tripod and shot the pictures below which I later converted to black and white as this really does help to bring out the mood well.  The first was taken using a wide angle lens to bring out the huge expanse of the sky whereas in the second I focussed more on the cottages them selves.

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On the barren headland

The row of cottages is in fact a group of old coastguard cottages built in 1895.  The coastguards and their families were originally housed at Chapman’s Pool, far below but moved to the top of the headland when these cottages were built.  These in turn were vacated in 1950 following complaints about the remoteness of the site and difficulties getting children to school. The building to the left originally housed the cart that contained all the life saving equipment.

I decided that I would do another long exposure shot which I gave a dated feel to in the processing.  The streaks are the movement of the clouds.

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From the dim and distant past

In addition to the cottages, there is a Norman chapel on the headland.  This square, squat building in fact contains features that indicate it may not have been built originally as a chapel and there are suggestions that it might have been erected as a watchtower for the nearby Corfe Castle allowing for early sightings of enemy ships.

However, it is built in the centre of a low earthwork of Christian origin and records show that there was a paid chaplain in the time of King Henry III which tends to contradict the earlier suggestion.  I guess we will never know for certain but either way, it is a wonderfully bleak and open place.

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The old chapel

With the light fading and with it my hopes for a glorious sunset, it was time to pack up and continue on my journey back to the starting point of my walk.  Walking along the cliff top in the gathering gloom is always special with the gusting wind in my face and the storm clouds overhead.  It was a fitting end to a glorious day out with the camera.

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.

 

Of literary giants and characters, bluebells and blossom, and some strange sights!

4 Jun

Sitting here in my office on a dull, dreary day, gazing out of the window across the local park, my mind wanders back to a delightful walk that I took recently.  It was in many ways a literary walk taking in some wonderful Dorset countryside and several wonderful old Dorset churches.  It was a walk to inspire the imagination!  Join with me and we will walk together.

It started in a delightful area of woodland, made all the more special by the dappled light and amazingly fresh spring colours in the trees.  Verdant new life that just takes your breath away!  As I walked along the track that wound its way through the woodlands accompanied by the bird song all around, I could not help but think of Thomas Hardy’s Tess.  I could picture her walking these ancient tracks with her friends as they made their way to church in their Sunday best dresses with Angel Clare not too far away.  It was sad that the event that led to her demise came in a similar glade at the hands of Alec d’Urberville!  Thomas Hardy wrote of such tragedy that seems to contradict the joy of this location.

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The countryside of Tess

With these typical Hardy woodlands and the nearby open heathland that once covered the whole of Dorset, it is not surprising that his novels come to mind because sandwiched betwixt wood and heath stands Hardy’s Cottage.  Built by his great grandfather, this is where Hardy was born in 1840 and where he started his writing career so it is fitting that he wrote of the area that surrounded him.  The cottage, now delightfully preserved by The National Trust, could have easily jumped out of one of his novels.  Looking across the garden, you can just hear Gabriel Oak’s voice drifting out of the open window saying to Bathsheba, ‘And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be – and whenever I look up, there will be you’.

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Thomas Hardy’s Cottage

Passing on down the narrow lane that seems little changed since Hardy’s day, I passed the first of several orchards, beautifully adorned with blossom and bluebells.  It would have been a great place to ‘stand and stare’ awhile…….but there was a walk to complete :)!

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A beautiful orchard

Not that I got very far because just down the lane I came across a very friendly lamb who needed a bit of fuss!  So I obliged :)!  Well, it is unusual to find a lamb who comes towards you rather than running away.

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A very friendly lamb

In fact it was one unusual sight to another because I hadn’t gone half a mile further before I saw the nest box below.  It seemed a somewhat random place to hang a nest box.  Needless to say, it was empty.

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A random nest box

But there was more to come because just a little further along the track I passed the sheep below – for some reason all clustered together under a small clump of trees despite having a whole field of lush grass!  I wondered if they knew something I didn’t :)!

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A ‘cluster’ of sheep

All along this walk you can see the ‘Hardy factor’.  Passing through a tiny village I passed thatched cottages along either side of the narrow country lane, including the old school house and the old post office.  These would have been two thriving gathering points in this small community in Hardy’s day but no longer.  As with a lot of villages, these ‘centres’ are no more as they have been converted to private houses.

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The Old Post Office

This was a spring walk and that was very evident too in this village with one of my favourite plants, the wisteria, growing over some cottages.

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Wisteria

Passing on through the village, my route took me over a lovely old bridge which had the usual warning notice about transportation if anyone caused damage to it – these are often seen in Dorset although it seems a harsh penalty – and onto a delightful causeway between two streams.  This really was a lovely part of the walk with the rippling stream on either side and a spectacular display of beautifully delicate cow parsley, not to mention a swan with a family of tiny cygnets.

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The riverside walk

This was such a varied walk as the river led on to some lovely water meadows, rife with buttercups and with many relics from the past, including the old sluice gates and channels that would have been used to flood the meadows in spring.  This was the method used to raise the ground temperature ready for the planting of seeds to ensure a speedy germination.  Although derelict, these sluice gates are still in place, part of the heritage of past generations.  I often wonder what life was really like back in those days – I would love to visit but I fancy I would want to come back to this century!

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Sluice gates and buttercups in the meadow

Fortunately the weather has been drier so the meadows were easy walking.  Before long, I found myself passing Hardy’s other home, Max Gate, currently shrouded in scaffolding as the National Trust carry out renovations.  From here, my route took me down a lovely track that Hardy must have walked many times when visiting his friend and fellow author William Barnes.  They were near neighbours when Barnes was resident at the Came Rectory.

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En route to visit William Barnes

And of course this part of the walk would not be complete without a short detour to take in the old church where William Barnes was rector.  Standing in this church, you could just imagine Barnes preaching from the pulpit.  He must have had a broad Dorset accent as he wrote in the same dialect – not easy to read even for a Dorset born and bred man like myself.

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Memories of William Barnes

And in the churchyard, another literary giant comes to mind – Thomas Gray in his Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard wrote, ‘Beneath those rugged elms, that yew tree’s shade……..Each in his narrow cell forever laid’.  Such a great descriptive poem, and death is so final……..or is it?

Beneath that yew tree's shade
Beneath the yew tree’s shade

And almost right outside the church was the loveliest display of ramsons and bluebells.  A fitting tribute to a famous Dorset author.

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Ramsons and bluebells

It seems that I am forever passing strange sights…..or maybe it is just that I am always on the lookout for quirky and unusual things.  The picture below is no exception :)!  This is something I have seen a number of times before where the corner of the field containing horses is essentially blocked off.  I can only surmise that it is because horses fight if trapped in a corner so any potential areas are blocked off but I don’t know if that is the case.

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A strange fence

Having walked cross country for a time, I reached civilisation again when I came to a lovely unspoilt hamlet with just a cluster of cottages, a tithe barn, a manor house, and a delightful little church.  This is of course the make up of many Dorset hamlets.

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A delightful unspoilt Dorset hamlet

The church, dating from the 12th century and of unknown dedication, is set apart from the hamlet in the middle of a field.  It really is a beautiful sight and is another church being cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust who do a great work.  The scene below is just so typically English, but the sign always makes me smile – it seems to be somewhat stating the obvious :)!  Even here there are literary connections as it was in this little church that William Barnes preached his first and last sermon.  For me, the peaceful churchyard made a great place for lunch in the company of birds and sheep.

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A delightful church

Having had my late lunch in the churchyard, it was time to press on along country footpaths, accompanied by skylarks singing their sweet lilting songs overhead – isn’t it amazing that they can make such glorious music whilst flying (it must be like us trying to run and sing at the same time).  Such a lovely sound that just lifts any stresses away and takes you into another place.  The sound is so joyful you feel that they belong in church.  And it wasn’t long before I came across the next church on this walk.  Another lovely unspoilt village with a very old church that had been modernised inside to create a lovely light, airy worship space – a real ‘ancient and modern’.

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Ancient yet modern

My route after leaving the village took me across farm land and quiet country lanes with verges that were breaking out with a myriad of different spring flowers, eventually crossing a railway line.  Here I thought I’d try something different so I crouched down in the gateway and waited for a train to come along, which it did very soon……..and very quickly too!  In fact as it passed, the air pressure created almost knocked me over :)!  Well, it had to be done :)!

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Whoosh!

I was nearing the end of the walk now but there were still more interesting things to see, such as the old King George post box buried in the hedge below.

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A King George post box

And as I approached the end of my walk, Thomas Hardy returned as I negotiated a particularly muddy section of the track.  It brought to mind the scene from Tess of the d’Urbervilles where Angel Clare carries Tess and all her friends one by one over the mud so that they didn’t get their clothes dirty.  What a gentleman!!!

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Where is Angel Clare?

And yet another scene came as the forecasted rain began to fall – I’m sure that is Joseph Poorgrass’ horse wandering free on the heath.  He’s probably at the inn again!

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Joseph Poorgrass’ horse?

Before we finish, let me take you back to a meadow near the end of the walk – what a lovely relaxing sound.

What a great walk!  So much to see and hear, and so many connections with our literary giants.  I hope you enjoyed walking with me.

Be blessed!

Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler.

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.

Twas on a cold wintry day……

23 Dec

Ah what a fabulous walk this was!  For almost the first time this year I could walk on solid ground, not because there wasn’t any mud but because for once the mud was frozen.  After the rain we have had seemingly all year, it was such a refreshing change to have seasonably cold, frosty weather which froze even the deepest puddles.  So it was hat and gloves on, and a hot drink to have on the way!

Mind you, before I even got to walking, the camera came out as I passed the beautiful valley in the picture below – I thought it looked as if Santa had passed by in his sleigh on his way to deliver presents to all the lovely children ;)!

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Where is Santa ;)

I arrived at the starting point of my walk and parked in a delightfully picturesque village with its picture postcard cottages and leafy lanes.  With the dappled sunlight, it made a beautiful start to the walk – but later, the darkness would reveal something even more special!

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Dappled light on a village street

Leaving the village, the first mile or two took me down one of those quintessentially timeless Dorset country lanes.  With the crisp frost and the dancing sunlight, it seemed that I was walking in an age more familiar to my grandparents and I almost expected to see a horse and wagon come by on their way to market.  It is truly wonderful how some things just don’t change, especially in this fast moving 21st century technological society that we live in.  How grateful I am for these timeless places, these quiet moments, and for the ability to enjoy them.

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Timeless

Turning off the lane, my route took me onto a farm track, passing the farmhouse on the way.  Seeing this farmhouse bathed in sunshine on this crisp day made me understand afresh the pleasures of living in a rural area.  I know there are ‘disadvantages’ to being a farmer like having to get up at 4.00 am every day but, hey, as they say, ‘every silver lining has a cloud’!  Hmm, or is that the other way round ;)!

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The farmhouse

But just standing there gazing at the view…….well, you couldn’t help but sigh and drink it all in.  With the frost in the foreground echoing the shape of the fence, and the gentle mist settled over the valley in the early morning light, it was magical  What a morning, what a view!  Stand there with me and realise afresh the truth of the poets words, ‘What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’!

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‘What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’

But, move on we must, before the cold freezes us to the spot!  From here, the route winds its way across farmland…….and loses its way a little!  A lack of signposting and some poor stiles can make it difficult to follow the path, especially when one field looks much like the next, but this is all part of the enjoyment of a good walk, creating some small challenges along the way and making the compass and map worth carrying.

We have a good system here in Dorset, a system that allows any problems with the footpath to be reported to the local authority – you can love or hate the Internet, but how did we manage without it?  Within days of my sending through the report, I received an email advising me that the corrective works had been commissioned so next time I walk this way, the path should be clear again :)!  I bet they love me!!

One of the things I love about this county of Dorset is the variety of habitat and terrain.  After the farmland, the path gently winds down into a lovely area of woodland with the frost clinging to the trees and shrubs creating a fairytale land.  If you let your imagination go, you could almost expect to see little snowmen running free.  And then, it is out into the open hillside again to be greeted by the most wonderful view.

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Across the open valley

Lunch time was beckoning and I knew that there was a lovely village church not far away.  That is significant because it is always nice to sit down to eat but that is not something that is straight forward in the winter when the ground is so wet.  However, most churchyards have a bench or two which solves the problem :)!  I often think it would be nice if more farmers would provide a seat or two beside footpaths crossing their land – it doesn’t need to be a padded sofa, just an old log or two will do ;)!  But on this day, it was a churchyard, and a beautifully peaceful one at that, and as I sat there, the weak winter sunlight falling on the delightfully coloured gravestones caught my eye.

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In the graveyard

On these cold days, it is always nice to have a hot drink so I usually carry either a flask or my small camping stove which in many ways is even better because it means I can brew a hot drink whenever I want to.  And today I wanted to!  Sat in that peaceful churchyard with food and a hot drink reflecting on life is one of the pleasures even on a cold day like this.  And so often, these country churchyards are a haven for wildlife too.

The second half of the walk crosses some pristine parklands, with two old stately homes to pass, with the usual array of cottages.  I think the one below with its mansard roof and country garden must be the perfect place to live.

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The country cottage

And then a little further on, another old and now disused but beautifully positioned building which probably housed farm workers in time gone by.  Its days of usefulness are long gone and it looks forlornly out across the land that its inhabitants once served.  And yet it still has a picturesque beauty that enhances the distant view, and a heritage that stretches even further.

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Empty but beautiful

Climbing up onto the ridge just as the sun was setting, my route took in some amazing views across the valley.  The evening mist was creeping stealthily across the low lying land creating a mystical atmosphere which was lit by the gentle pastel colours that are typical of a Dorset winter evening.  And the frost that had lingered on the ground all day, grew crisper as the temperature dropped even further.

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The evening mist settles across the valley

And as I dropped down off the hillside again, the village of Evershot was sat in shade with the blue mist creating a winter wonderland.

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A winter wonderland

Passing through the village and out into the countryside again, I looked back to see the last vestiges of the milky sunset reflecting off the smoke from the bonfires in the cottage gardens.

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Bonfires in the sunset

The last two miles took me across the most perfect parkland with its landscaped grounds and beautifully laid out trees.  One in particular seemed as if it was standing out from its peers, like a lookout on the ramparts of a hill fort.

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The lookout

And as darkness fell and the frost grew heavier and whiter still, I walked on alone apart from the many deer that roamed free.  They were my company for what I often think is the best part of the day.

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The parklands

And of course past the old mansion itself, now looming out of the darkness.

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The old mansion

Eventually, I walked back into the village I had started from and it was there that the darkness brought to light that ‘something special’ that I mentioned at the start.  It was a beautiful nativity scene set up in the window of one of the old cottages, lit up and glowing with its warm light shining out into the cold, darkness outside.  I stood and looked, and thought what a great message, light shining into darkness, and a what a wonderful reminder of what this Christmas time is all about!

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Be blessed!

Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler.

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.

 

On White Nothe.

27 Nov

I am sitting in my office this afternoon looking out of my window at the most amazing sunset……and I am frustrated!  You see, this week I have been unwell so have not been able to get out walking and one of Yarrow’s Laws states that, ‘When not walking, there shall be a blazing sunset, and when walking, there shall be grey skies only’ ;)!  Ah well, tomorrow is another day.

Since I am at home, I thought I would catch up with another blog, and this one was sparked by a television programme that I watched earlier.  But more of that later!

The subject of this blog is White Nothe which is a fabulous headland on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset.  Also known as White Nose because of its distinctive shape, it is an area that I love to walk as it seems to be filled with interest and intrigue, not to mention wild, windy weather at times.

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The distinctive shape of White Nothe, AKA White Nose, at sunset

The chalk headland with its flat top juts out to sea and has amazing views all along the coast to the east and the west.  To the east, the views take in Bat’s Head, Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove.

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The view to the east

To the west, the views spread out across the beautiful Ringstead Bay and through to Weymouth.

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The Dorset Cost Path and the view to the west

And looking directly South, the view takes in The Isle of Portland, which in reality is not an island as it is connected to the mainland by a causeway.

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The view south to Portland

With the Dorset Coast Path running along this whole area, I am sure you can appreciate why I love walking it so much – well, who wouldn’t.  I mentioned that this area is intriguing, well it is to me, and one of the quirky things is the famous Smuggler’s Path which zig zags steeply down the end of the headland to the shore.  This path was made famous by J Meade Falkner in his book, ‘Moonfleet’ which is a tale of smuggling in Dorset.  In part of the book he wrote:

‘Forgive me, lad,’ he said, ‘if I have spoke too roughly. There is yet another way that we may try; and if thou hadst but two whole legs, I would have tried it, but now ’tis little short of madness. And yet, if thou fear’st not, I will still try it. Just at the end of this flat ledge, farthest from where the bridle-path leads down, but not a hundred yards from where we stand, there is a sheep-track leading up the cliff. It starts where the under-cliff dies back again into the chalk face, and climbs by slants and elbow-turns up to the top. The shepherds call it the Zigzag, and even sheep lose their footing on it; and of men I never heard but one had climbed it, and that was lander Jordan, when the Excise was on his heels, half a century back. But he that tries it stakes all on head and foot, and a wounded bird like thee may not dare that flight. Yet, if thou art content to hang thy life upon a hair, I will carry thee some way; and where there is no room to carry, thou must down on hands and knees and trail thy foot.’

(From Moonfleet by J Meade Falkner – as young John Trenchard and Elzevir Block flee from the Excise Men)

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The Smuggler’s Path

Actually, the path itself, whilst steep, is not that scary although when you reach the bottom there is a somewhat shaky and exposed ‘ladder’ that takes you the last 30 feet to the shore.  This is a path I always enjoy walking, especially down……well its tough going up it ;)!

One of the other quirky things is the ‘pill box’ which stands at the top of the zig zag.  It was in fact a communication post during the war, and I once scrambled up to the top to take some pictures.  These places always intrigue me because as I stand there, I find myself wondering about all the men that served there, and the legacy they left.  What also amuses me is that as I stand beside this communication post, I have no signal on my mobile phone!!

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The communication post

The most intriguing thing about the headland is the row of cottages behind in the picture above.  These puzzled me for years until I got talking to a very pleasant lady who lives in one of them and she told me all about them.  This is another very quirky part of this wonderful county!

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White Nothe Cottages

The cottages were built to house coastguards, with the nearest three story house being that of the captain and the other six cottages housing his men.  At one time, with wives and children, there were 44 people living in this short row of cottages.  They are well placed for the coastguards, simply because of the all round views.

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The coastguards’ view

These days, the cottages are in private ownership, although they are nonetheless quirky for that.  These are the facts:

1. They have no road access.  The only way to reach then is along a muddy farm track.
2. They have no mains electricity.  Power comes from a number of sources, a) an LPG powered generator, b) a car battery charged by solar panels, or c) for lighting, gas mantles, oil lamps or candles.
3. They have no mains gas.  Gas is by LPG bottle and since there are no deliveries, the residents have to go and collect them.
4. There is no running water.  Water provision is simply rain water captured off the roofs and stored in underground tanks.  This then needs to be pumped up to the header tank as needed.
5. Heating is by log burners which feed a small number of radiators.
6. There is no telephone or Internet.
7. There is no mains drainage, just a septic tank.

Quirky?  I think so, but fantastic too, and I would love to live in one :)!  In the middle of nowhere, with those views and being able to walk straight out of you front door onto the coast path…..bliss!

Just down from the top of the headland stands another interesting feature of this amazing coast.  It is a tiny hamlet of Holworth with its beautiful wooden chapel.  I had thought that this was unused but in fact it has recently been extended.  It stands in the perfect position right on the cliff edge.

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Holworth Church with its perfect view

I think it is fair to say that yet another quirky thing about this place is its weather!  Often windy, as you would expect, it also has frequent mists which blow across the headland and role down to the sea like water pouring off a hillside.  It is an awesome sight to stand and watch this phenomenon which frequently occurs when the lower coast is clear.

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The mist covers White Nothe whilst Ringstead Bay stays clear

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The mist roles across the headland

Ah yes, one more feature about White Nothe – it seems to have a lot of old, broken fence posts which I seem to photograph with monotonous regularity ;)!  The picture below, I called ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let your hair down’ – I wonder if you can see why?

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Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let your hair down

So that is White Nothe, with its amazing views and intrigue, a place I love.  Oh yes, and the programme that sparked this blog?  The cottages were featured on a property programme from which I discovered that three of them are on the market………now, where’s my cheque book?

Actually, according to the programme, the three story cottage is on at £575K.  Ah well, I’ll just dream on!

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The sun fades over White Nothe

Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler.

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 summer and autumn, Dorset heathlands, memories of a hero, and a spider rescued!

5 Oct

Betwixt and between seems to summarise where we are at the moment and this was a betwixt and between walk!  In terms of flora and fauna, summer has not quite gone and yet autumn is here; in terms of weather, autumn is definitely here!  On this walk there was evidence of both seasons and there is such beauty in both and so much to be enjoyed if we just walk with our eyes open.

The walk started off by crossing some classic old Dorset countryside……although there is precious little of it left now – I mean that mix of conifer plantations and open heathland that was made famous by one of Dorset’s great authors, Thomas Hardy.  At one time, much of Dorset was covered with open heathland but gradually over the years it has either been built on or reclaimed for farming, making it a rare commodity in the 21st century.  Fortunately some pockets remain dotted around the county and this walk took in several.

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The beautiful Dorset heathland

Having crossed the high heathland in the midst of changing from its summer dress to its winter garb, my route dropped down into woodlands with ferns in a similar state of change.  These look delightful as they gently unfurl in the spring but are equally delightful as they change into autumn colours on the ‘forest’s ferny floor’ as Walter De La Mare describes it.

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The forest’s ferny floor

It was at this juncture that I rescued a spider!!  Well to be exact, I avoided destroying him and his web!  I was walking along the forest track just listening to the birds singing their myriad different songs – its strange really, who told the wren that he had to sing that particular tune, or the yellow hammer his particular tune?  The wonders of this wonderful creation!

Anyway, as I walked, I noticed something glistening immediately in front of me so I stopped for a closer look.  It was a single slender strand of web that stretched a full 10 feet from one side of the path to the other and that supported the web with the spider in the middle waiting for his prey to fly by (it conjures in my mind pictures of me walking into the web and being bound up by the spider like something out of a horror movie ;) )!  Well, I didn’t want to destroy his handiwork and it was at the wrong height for me to get over or under it so I detoured around it by fighting my way through the brambles and undergrowth to the other side, not an easy task!

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A very grateful spider with his lunch!

A little farther along the trail, I came across some evidence of summer, just to contrast with the autumn heathland that I had just walked through.  This was a hover fly on a corn marigold.  It was almost as if summer was saying, ‘I haven’t quite gone yet!’

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Hover fly on a corn marigold

For a time I left the heathland behind (although I would return to it later) as my route took me to the resting place of one of Dorset’s heroes.  To get there, I had to cross the river, and a beautiful river crossing it was too with its hugely long and thin bridge alongside what was a ford.  In fact whilst I was there, a group of cyclists thought it still was ‘fordable’ as they all rode into the river for a short distance before each in turn got stuck as their wheels sank into the shingle……and they fell off!

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A delightful river crossing

The goal was St Nicholas’ Church Moreton, famous for being the resting place of T E Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia.  It is a beautiful church with some spectacular windows, each engraved with lovely scenes.  The original church was badly damaged in the Second World War when it was hit by a German bomber and instead of repairing the windows, it was decided to commission Lawrence Whistler to create new ones.  They are beautiful and world famous!

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St Nichols’ Church, Moreton and its windows

Lawrence’s grave itself sits in a small detached part of the graveyard.

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Lawrence of Arabia’s resting place

For the time being, I left T E Lawrence but there would be more reminders of his life further on in my walk.  My route took me back across the long bridge and through another pocket of heathland.  This one was covered partly with wonderfully picturesque long, yellowing grass.  I love this grass and I sat and ate my lunch in the middle of it, just listening to the gentle sounds of the Dorset countryside.  It was a delightful place.

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The lunch stop

And here too was a reminder (or is that a remainder!) of summer, with a plethora of butterflies all around me.

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A speckled wood butterfly

All too soon it was time to leave my idyllic surroundings and continue on my way to an altogether different area in more ways than one.  My route took me out of the heath and onto a country lane, but not just any country lane, this was the very place that T E Lawrence met his untimely death on 19th May 1935 at the age of 46.  Having achieved and survived so much during the Arab campaign, Lawrence finally succumbed on this stretch of Dorset road when he lost control of his motorbike whilst trying to avoid two boys who were cycling in a hidden dip.  It seemed fitting that as I walked this stretch of road, an army tank passed by.

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The spot where Lawrence died

Of course Lawrence was an author, famous for The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but that wasn’t his only legacy.  As a result of his accident, crash helmets were ultimately introduced for all motorcyclists.  Just a short distance away along the same road sits Clouds Hill, Lawrence’s cottage home for many years, now in the hands of that National Trust.

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Clouds Hill

Leaving T E Lawrence behind, I continued my walk, and crossed yet another pocket of heathland.  Here again there was a mix of summer and winter with the delightful Bell Heather still bearing its summer magenta-purple plumage whilst the equally delightful Bog Asphodel had changed from yellow to a wonderful autumn orangey red.

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Colours of the heathland – Bell Heather and Bog Asphodel

I was nearing the end of my walk now but there were two quintessentially Dorset villages to pass through, picture postcard perfect villages!  Apart from the usual array of delightful thatched cottages, the first village had a rather interesting village post office :)!  Sitting beside the old village hall, the shop was in what was at one time a granary with its arched foundations designed to keep unwanted visitors out!  This was a wonderful village to walk through although I suspect that there may be less residents there now with some of the cottages having been turned into second homes.  It is a shame that the soul has gone out of a lot of our lovely villages as local people are priced out by the ever increasing prices of these cottages!

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A delightful village

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The old granary

My final stopping point was another village of picture book cottages and the nice thing about this one was that although there is recent development, it has all been designed to blend in with the old.  It does give you some faith in the authorities that control the planning requirements and a greater hope that our wonderful heritage will never be lost :)!

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New and old alike

I started of by saying that we are betwixt and between and this wonderful walk contained much to prove that.  It highlighted the beauty of both summer and autumn – in fact every season has its beauty and this is never more true than in this county and country of ours.  With the changing seasons and weather, we never have a chance to tire of anything and I think that is a real positive………..unless it is rain, and I think we have had our fair share of that ;)!!!!!

Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler.

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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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