Now Dorset and snow don’t usually go together, especially South Dorset! We get the occasional light scattering, just to tantalise us and remind us of what we are missing and it has usually gone within hours. But recently we actually had a fall of snow that was worth walking in……and I did just that ! Now I don’t like snow for what it does to the community, the slippery roads that can make driving difficult, and the effect it has on the elderly who can’t get out, but I love it for the effect it has on the landscape, turning it into a magical fairyland, a delight to walk in!
This walk started from a wonderful Dorset village, probably one of the prettiest you could wish to see, a designer village that exists simply because one man didn’t want the view from his manor house spoilt by houses and cottages! But more of that later.
The village nestles in a valley with its single street lined on both sides with identical cottages and with its almshouses and church part way down. These cottages are always picturesque but with the myriad icicles hanging from the eaves of each one, they took on a real fairy story look – you could almost expect to see Hansel and Gretel appear from the doorway!
I have said that the cottages are all identical, and they are from the outside, but internally they now differ. With their single front door, you would imagine that they were all built as substantial single dwellings but in fact they were semi-detached – inside the front door of each was a lobby with secondary front doors into separate cottages on each side. There was much overcrowding in the days when these were built and it is said that at one time as many as 36 people lived in one of these small cottages……with two bedrooms! Many have now been knocked into one single larger cottage.
As I walked down this street, I met one of the villagers and we fell into conversation – I was to bump into him again later in the walk. He had lived in the village for 14 months and was undertaking a project to film the village through the year. Naturally with rare snow on the ground, he was making the most of this as he captured the scene! As I left him and continued down the road, I wondered if he was still filming and if I would feature in his production!
From the village, my route took me down a lovely lane with parkland on each side and past one of the many manor houses that stand in the area. High on the side of the hill, this manor house had commanding views across this beautiful valley.
But this manor house would pale into insignificance compared to the main feature in this part of Dorset, the magnificent Milton Abbey and House.
The abbey was originally founded in 925 by King Athelstan although those buildings were destroyed by fire in 1309. The current abbey dates from the 14th and 15th century and as huge as the church is, it is only a fraction of what it was meant to be as the eastern chapels have been demolished and the main nave was never built. An interesting story is told of John Tregonwell who at the age of 5 fell from the tower……and lived! It seems that his petticoat which was the fashion of the day acted as a parachute, enabling him to ‘land’ safely!
The parkland around the abbey, designed by Capability Brown, is truly magnificent and my walk took me through this beautiful countryside.
Coming to the end of the lane in the picture above gives us a chance to turn and look back at not only the church itself but also the impressive mansion that is attached to it. This was the home of Joseph Damer, later Lord Milton. He bought the estate from the Tregonwell family who had acquired the abbey after the dissolution of the monasteries to use as their private residence. Joseph Damer had the ‘new’ mansion built in 1774.
At the time, the village, then known as Middleton, was below it in the valley but Joseph Damer did not like his view being ‘spoilt’ by the cottages so he had them all demolished and built a new village out of sight round the corner! As hard as that was for the then villagers, one of whom refused to leave and had to be literally flooded out, I guess we have him to thank for the picturesque 18th century designer village we now see.
The abbey and house, as is often the case with old mansions, has now been turned into a private school.
But we must move on! For a short time, our route takes us along a quiet country lane where I again bumped into my friend with his camera filming a different view of village life. And in the distance we can see the next unspoilt village on this walk.
But we don’t stay on the road long before detouring across the fields and footpaths to reach that village.
Eventually the path brings us out to another of those quintessentially Dorset villages with its delightful thatched cottages and its church standing proud in the centre.
It is always a pleasure walking through this interesting village whatever the time of year but all too soon, we have to head out into the country again to climb up to one of the highest points in Dorset with its amazing views over the Blackmore Vale and across four different counties.
The route up will take us through varied scenery.
Through beautiful woodlands…….
……..through lovely open farmland…….
…….and out onto the open hillside with another of my favourite views back down the valley. Amazingly, the gorse here was still in flower and provided a lovely splash of yellow in a monochrome landscape.
Reaching the ridge of the hill, my route took me along the country lane which was a blessing because the views are spectacular and walking on the road means that you can enjoy the scenery to the full without having to look where you are walking……..well, apart from the occasional patch of ice ! Now I know why I carry a walking pole – it has saved my backside several times !
Soon though I had to turn off the road and drop down into another snowy valley and along this section, it was 12 inches deep in places………apart from where the sheep had worn it away in their quest to find grass.
And I even managed to find some virgin snow, not yet walked upon, it almost seemed a shame to spoil it. I never could resist a gate or stile and in the virgin snow, this gate looked particularly attractive.
So I spoilt the snow by walking across it and then continued down the valley along a lovely farm lane.
As I was walking down this section, the clouds produced a spectacular display and it seemed like it was just for me as it added a different dimension to the pictures. Eventually I had to climb up the side of the valley again and spoil yet more virgin snow which came up to my knees making it hard work climbing up what wasn’t really a very steep hill. But there is always something special about being the first person to walk in the snow !
And it was the same as I crossed the next field; and looking back with the snow, the sunshine and the blue sky, it was quite breathtaking. Just stand with me a moment and admire the creator’s handiwork. ’The fool has said in his heart there is no God’.
And so it was on down the farm track again where I could feel less guilty because the tractors had already christened the snow ! It was along this section that there was a sad sight – animal tracks in the snow with drops of blood at regular intervals ! I wondered what had made the tracks and whether they had survived……..I hope so!
We are nearing the end of the walk now but there is yet another valley to drop into and a view made all the better by the foreground stubble that has managed to poke through the layer of snow on this more sheltered side of the hill. With the patchwork quilt of snowy fields on the opposite hillside, it made a delightful view as the light faded into evening.
And so my route brought me full circle as I dropped into the designer village again to pass the now redundant old school with its streetlamp shining brightly out into the gathering gloom. And the rows of cottages in the distance seem to welcome me back.
As I look back at this walk, it brings back such great memories, memories of post card perfect views across not only a designer village but also a designer landscape with its natural beauty enhanced by a heavy fall of snow. It was a 12 mile walk that felt more like 20, but it was 20 miles of heaven on earth ! But aren’t all walks in this amazing creation like that?
I have put up more pictures than I normally would but I hope you have enjoyed walking with me!
Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler.
Until next time,
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.
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