Tag Archives: farming

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 a village with two names, autumn fruits and foliage, hill forts and hedgerows, and being older!

20 Nov

It was one of those sharp, chilly autumn days and within five minutes I was thinking, ‘I hope I’ve got my gloves in my rucksack’!  Fingers were already stinging and the wind was cutting.  But it was also one of those fabulously crisp, clear and sunny autumn days that make you want to walk.  I was glad to be out!

My walk started in a Dorset village with two names – that is to say, it started life with one name but at some point changed its name so that today both appear on the sign.  It was famous for its annual fair which was once described as, ‘One of the main Dorset events of the year’ – but it has long since faded into history.  On the large green in the village centre, autumn was very evident.

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Evidence of autumn

I love strolling through these old villages, just taking in the sights and names that speak of times gone by and I wonder what life was like in those early days.  Some street names give away their past, streets such as Telegraph Street, Main Street, The Corner and so on but others such as Frog Street are less obvious.  Was there perhaps a pond there laden with frogs?  House names are the same, The Old Bakery was clearly the local supplier of bread in the days when public transport was non-existent.

It took me back to my younger days when there was a shop on every corner and all our shopping came from those.  It was just part of life for my mother to send me to the corner shop even at a young age to buy a packet of Brooke Bond tea or some bricketts for the fire.  There was even a cobbler within walking distance and we used to have our shoes repaired rather than buy new – well we couldn’t afford new!  In fact, often, we couldn’t even afford a repair so resorted to buying stick on rubber souls and a pot of glue, or in even leaner times, we would cut insoles out of whatever cardboard we could find as a temporary fix although they didn’t keep the water out for long!  How times have changed – it makes me feel old!

With all these thoughts about shoes going round my head, it made me think about my feet and I realised that already they were getting damp as my walking shoes were leaking.  Ah well, into the dustbin they will go – well we do live in the disposable age!

Leaving the village, my route climbed gradually up onto the hill top and I took a look back at the village spread along the valley floor.

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The village in the valley

Reaching the edge of the hill top forest, I looked up to see a large bird of prey, another event that made me think of age…….as I had forgotten to pick up my binoculars – actually I am not sure that my forgetfulness is necessarily down to age!  As it happens, its plaintive cry on the wing gave it away as a buzzard, and that cry was to follow me for some miles.

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The forest track

The light streaking through the trees was a delight and I stood for some time watching the squirrels running around the tree top super highways.  Have you ever watched them?  Their agility is amazing as they run out onto the flimsiest twig and leap into space to land on the  very tip of another flimsy branch on the next tree, never stopping for a second.  It was mesmerising watching them.

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Beautiful autumn sunlight

There was evidence everywhere of the forestry activities with debris and piles of logs all around.  There was writing on some logs and I hoped it wasn’t a warning ;)!

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I hope not!

At the edge of the woodland, there was a lovely contrast between the warm colours of the autumn foliage and the cold blue of the sky.  Such beauty!  With every season, in every weather, and at all times of the day, God’s creation comes up with something new, surprises around every corner – if we just look for them.  Maybe that is one of the main benefits of blogging – it makes you look for things constantly and teaches you to be aware.

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Tree top colours

At the end of the woodlands, I stepped out into beautiful open countryside and the low autumn sun threw long shadows that seemed to be reaching out to greet me as I walked, as if wanting to shake my hand.  At this point it was fast approaching lunch time which at this time of the year always poses a problem!  In the dryness of summer, all that is needed is a patch of grass but in the ‘wet’ season, more is needed.  I searched for a suitable log as the ground was far too wet and it made me think that land owners could be more considerate of walkers when paths cross their acreage.  Just a log left here and there is all that is needed!  I found one and sat to eat :)!

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Shadows shaking hands

After a lunch time spent in bright, beautiful, but chilly, sunshine, I headed off into another woodland.  The path skirted along the edge of an old coppice woods.  The once widespread practice of coppicing involved the harvesting of young branches to provide such things as hurdle timber, thatching spars, charcoal and so on but most operations have now ceased unless it is for conservation purposes.  It seems an ideal life, working in the woods and living in a nearby cottage but I am sure it wasn’t really an easy life.

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The old coppice woods

Ultimately my route took me out onto a country lane.  I normally try to avoid roads but quiet country lanes are different as they usually provide easy walking which allows you to look around you rather than having to watch where you are placing every step.  The wonderful summer hedgerows, once rife with wild flowers and butterflies have now given way to equally wonderful autumn berries and foliage.

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Autumn berries and foliage

Walking down this country lane with no traffic was a delight and it led me once again onto a country track with a heavy profusion of Old Man’s Beard.  This attractive plant is a form of clematis and it is fairly obvious where its nickname comes from.  In fact, this is a plant with many names – Father Christmas, Traveller’s Joy, Shepherd’s Delight, Baccy Plant, Smokeswood, Woodbine……..

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Old Man’s Beard

This was a lovely part of the walk, and another slice of history as it led me to a very old byway known as Smuggler’s Lane.  It is always enjoyable to walk this lane and never more so than when the trees which line either side are clothed in their warm autumn coats.  It is not clear whether this path was actually used by smuggler’s but we do know that Roger Ridout who was something of a legend in north Dorset and who was responsible for transporting the contraband inland, lived in a nearby village.

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Smuggler’s Lane in autumn

Occasionally, the covering of trees so essential for hiding the smuggler’s activities cleared briefly, giving a glimpse of the farmlands beyond, the late afternoon sun highlighting the textures created by the ruts and hedgerows.

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Ruts and hedgerows

Nearing the end of the lane, I passed a lady walking in the other direction.  As she approached, she threw her arms in the air and said, ‘Isn’t it bliss to be retired?’ – she wasn’t wrong there!  It is one of the benefits of getting older, the freedom of being able to get out into this fantastic countryside during the daytime.  If you are in that position, as I am, make the most of it!

One of the other benefits of being older (I’m definitely not ‘old’) is being a granddad :)!  I have a wonderful grandson who is a delight to my wife and I and although he is too young to walk with me, I so look forward to the day when my son and I will be able to take him out into the countryside and teach him to love it as we do.  Three generations of TDR enjoying the countryside together :) – what better!

The lane eventually brought me out onto the road again briefly, passing a pretty cottage that was clearly once a gatehouse to the nearby stately home.

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The end of the lane

Turning again onto a farm track I passed an old barn, and then a young couple walking three dogs, a small one, a medium one, and a rather large one.  I noticed that they put the latter onto its lead as they passed me and I wondered why!

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The old barn

From there, I climbed up to the first of two hill forts that sit at the top of neighbouring hills.  Dating originally from Neolithic times, these are seen as good examples of Iron Age hill forts, although now they accommodate only sheep and cows.

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From one hill fort to another

To get from one fort to the other necessitated dropping down to the valley floor to climb up the other side.  Looking across the valley, the late afternoon sun was highlighting the trees and stubble, and the smoke from the bonfire drifted lazily in the air as if tired from its day’s work.

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The valley bonfire burns in the late sun

At the top of the hill, I passed another old barn and I just couldn’t help but capture the lovely evening shadows of the nearby trees being thrown by the sun.

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Shadows on the old barn

And just a little further along, a cow posed beautifully, silhouetted against the sunburst on the horizon.

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Sunset and silhouette

By the time I reached the second hill fort, the sun was yawning and preparing to put himself into his horizon bed.  In the valley far below, the cottage chimneys were sending out their smoke signals telling the world that the end of the day was fast approaching, and I was alone on the hilltop in the gathering gloom and cold.

Standing there alone in that place that dates back to Neolithic times watching the sun disappear was just awesome.  I could only imagine what it would have been like to be there with hundreds of others and to sleep there in all weathers.  It jus amazes me how these huge ramparts could even have been built by human power and primitive tools alone and in the most difficult of conditions.

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Sunset on the ramparts

After what seemed like a blink of an eye, the sun disappeared completely, and suddenly it got even colder with the stiff breeze whipping across the hill and penetrating the layers of clothing I was wearing!  I made my way thoughtfully down the side of the hill as the twinkling lights of the village cottages below acted as a beacon to guide my way.

I returned to my starting point a satisfied man.  What a fabulous day, a day with so much to take in and enjoy.  I hope you enjoyed walking it with me.

And, oh yes, I did have my gloves in my rucksack :)!

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 sights and sounds, aerial acrobatics, and angelic singing!

8 Jul

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

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

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Emerging views

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

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Fruits of the Forest!

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

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

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Ridge top meadows

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

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A Fritillary in the meadow

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

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

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One path, both ways

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

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

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Welcome shade

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

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

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

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The Avenue

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

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A reinstated footpath

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

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

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The sounds of an echoing valley

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

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A delightful Dorset village

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Beneath the Tree

9 Jun

As many of you will know, I like to write a bit of poetry.  I’ll never be a Walter de la Mare but I enjoy the creativity, especially if linked to a photograph.  This is my latest offering :)!  The picture was taken during a wonderful walk this week and inspired the poem.

BENEATH THE TREE

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Sitting below this bower’s shade
With dappled light upon the glade,
The wind’s caress is all around,
The roots wind deep into the ground,
Dependable, strong, always free,
A delightful spot beneath the tree.

Branches above me joyfully wave,
The way to heaven they seem to pave,
Quivering leaves, a tremulous sight,
Always cheerful, springtime bright,
New life around for all to see,
A delightful spot beneath the tree.

The playing of squirrels above me, around,
A haven for lambs when the rain comes down,
Views down the valley, oh so green,
What better place to sit and dream,
Sweet singing of birds to serenade me,
A delightful spot beneath the tree.

With balmy sun upon the lea,
What better spot than beneath a tree?

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.

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.

Happiness is snow shaped :)

3 Feb

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.

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A designer village cottage

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.

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The post office and shop

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!

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A beautiful lane

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.

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One of the manor houses

But this manor house would pale into insignificance compared to the main feature in this part of Dorset, the magnificent Milton Abbey and House.

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Milton Abbey and its grounds

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.

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Through the parkland

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.

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Across the Capability Brown parkland

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.

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Down the country lane

But we don’t stay on the road long before detouring across the fields and footpaths to reach that village.

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Across fields and footpaths

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.

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An unspoilt Dorset village

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…….

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……..through lovely open farmland…….

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…….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.

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On the open hillside

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 :)!

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The Blackmore Vale

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.

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Snow grazing!

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.

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The gate and the virgin snow

So I spoilt the snow by walking across it :) and then continued down the valley along a lovely farm lane.

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Looking both ways!

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 :)!

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Almost too lovely to spoil!

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’.

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Rolling hills of snow

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!

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Tractor tracks

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.

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In the fading light

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.

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The old school

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!

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.

 

Of autumn mists and mellow fruitfulness ……..well, just mist really!!

4 Nov

I think we all like walking in the lovely bright summer sunshine, but I’m a strange person in that I like to walk in all weathers!  In fact there are times when bad weather really improves a walk – for instance, on a bright summers day mountains can seem quite tame but bring down some stormy weather and they take on a whole different character, much more threatening and dangerous.  On this walk, the day was very misty and with heavy cloud that really suited the landscape so well, as I think you will see.

It started with a walk around the southern shore of Poole Harbour, said to be the second largest natural harbour in the world with 100 miles of coastline.  Initially, the walk was straight forward with sandy beaches, gently lapping water, and……and house boats!

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The house boats at Bramble Bush Bay

These always intrigue me as some are not really boats at all – because they were effectively falling apart, they have been embedded in concrete to ‘stop the rot’.  They still lean at crazy angles and you would be justified in thinking they were derelict, but they are not.  They are still occupied in the summer months when the concrete bedded ones are joined by a number of additional floating houses to form a village by the beach.  It is one of those quirky things of Dorset that I have known all my life.

A little further on in my walk I came across another of those mysteries, a row of dragon’s teeth – but are they?

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Dragon’s Teeth?

This line of heavy concrete blocks stretches a short distance into the harbour’s water and are usually referred to as Dragon’s Teeth, a wartime anti-tank blockade, but I often wonder if that really was their purpose.  At one time, Brownsea Island, the largest island in the harbour, had a pottery industry and raw materials were transported by boat to the island, and in turn, the pottery goods were exported.  To do this, the barges used to berth at a number of landing stages on the harbour shore and I wonder if these blocks are the remains of one of these.  I have never been able to totally prove one way or the other but in many ways, it is the very mystery that makes these utilitarian blocks fascinating.

Continuing round the shoreline, I passed below the beautiful low sandstone cliffs with their amazing array of warm colours ranging from yellow, through the whole spectrum of oranges, to deep browns.  And below, the sandy beach begins to turn a little more rugged.

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Sandstone

There is quite a lot of debris along this part of the coast, remains from the days when there were thriving industries. This is very evident at Redhorn Quay.  The old jetty itself has long since disappeared but there is a rusting hulk, still standing proud, determined to hold out till the last.  I fear it will not be there much longer as the weather over the years has destroyed most of it already.

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The wreck at Redhorn Quay

I always linger at Redhorn because as you stand there with the wind whipping around you and the sound of the sea lapping on the shore, you can almost sense what it would have been like all those years ago when the wreck was a working barge plying its trade around the harbour.  With other derelict vessels nearby, it feels like a graveyard.

But it was time to move on.  Now this is not an easy walk and in some ways that is what makes it special because it is not frequented by many people.  This makes it seem all the more remote.  What makes the walk difficult is that it is extremely marshy and great care is needed to avoid stepping in the wrong place!  But it has a very beautiful loneliness about it.  With the heavy mist and cloud, the marshes take on real character as you walk carefully beside the water.  The tide was out revealing vast expanses of mud flats which were frequented by a whole range of waders, and their plaintive cries echoing across the harbour just emphasised the feeling of loneliness that this area evokes.  I love those plaintive cries, especially that of the curlew and the oyster catcher!

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Marshes and mud flats in Poole Harbour

I lingered as long as I could but had to move on because there was a lot more to enjoy on this walk.  As I left the harbour shore, I took one last look back across the wonderful autumn marsh grass.

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Across the marsh grass

From the marshlands of the harbour, I walked on across the heathland further inland, with its famous Agglestone (holy stone).  This stone stands proud on its hilltop as if it was monarch of all he surveys…..but the truth is it is not meant to be there!  It is a massive block of sandstone, not necessarily massive by world standards but massive in the context of the sandy heathland that surrounds it.  It is this incongruity which makes it another of Dorset’s curiosities.  Legend has it that it was thrown by the devil from the Isle of Wight when he was aiming to destroy Corfe Castle which is a few miles away.  Clearly his aim was not that good…….or maybe it is just that it is a relic of the ice age ;)!

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The Agglestone on Godlingston Heath

One of the things I like about this walk is the varied terrain, from marshes to heathland and on to much more civilised ground as I crossed the well manicured grass of Isle of Purbeck Golf Course, famed for being owned by Enid Blyton.  Even here though there was wetness!!!

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Tracks in the wet grass on the Isle of Purbeck Golf Course

And having passed across the fairway, watching for low flying golf balls ;), my route took me up over to the top of Ballard Down with its well known obelisk looming out of the mist.  This obelisk was erected for the first time in 1883 to commemorate the coming of a clean water supply to Swanage.  I say ‘for the first time’ because it was taken down during the Second World War to prevent its being used by enemy pilots to aid navigation.  It was erected for a second time in 1952 but somewhat shorter because the bottom section had been damaged.

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The ‘shorter’ obelisk on Ballard Down

The view from the obelisk is wonderful and it was a view that stayed with me as my route followed the ridge for several miles.  Normally on this part of the walk I would be serenaded by skylarks but not on this day.  I did however come across some fungi, grouped together as if they were deliberately posing for a family photograph.  Naturally I obliged ;)!

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A fungi family gathering on Ballard Down

Having enjoyed the spectacular views…..and the bracing wind……on the ridge top, I eventually dropped down into the valley again to pass through a farm with the usual array of ‘abandoned’ farm machinery.  Some of this was clearly just parked until needed again but it always amuses me how much machinery simply gets left to rust away. On some walks it almost seems like someone has deliberately set up a museum of farming through the ages!

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Waiting to be used again

I was nearing the end of my walk now but there was still time to look for some more pictures.  I like to look for a different view of things and recently have been searching for what I call ‘alternative autumn pictures’.  I found one on this walk in a river bed which reflected the trees above – the ‘autumn leaves’ were in fact pebbles under the water.

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Autumn in the river bed

The final stretch of this wonderful and varied walk should have taken me along the beach back to my starting point but I took a detour to revisit the early part of my walk again, hoping for an amazingly vibrant sunset across the Dragon’s Teeth and house boats – but as often happens it didn’t come!!  Well I guess the sun did set, but hidden from view behind a huge bank of cloud!  Ah well, I took the pictures anyway.

Somehow, in the fading light, the random concrete blocks seem even more imposing.

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Poole Harbour in the fading light

And standing on the shore on this crisp evening with the water gently washing across the sand with the mist still lingering across the harbour, there was a special atmosphere.  It is what makes walking so enjoyable and memorable!

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Darkness falls on The Bramble Bush Bay houseboats 

By the time I reached the Sandbanks Chain Ferry for my trip back across the Poole Harbour entrance, it was dark – but then, I finish nearly all of my walks in the dark….just to make them last a little longer.  And this was a walk I didn’t want to end.

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The Sandbanks Chain Ferry

Not much sun, lots of cloud and mist, chill breezes, waders and fungi, marshland, heath, hilltops and beach, and a good smattering of Dorset quirkiness – a wonderfully varied and evocative walk.  I hope you enjoyed walking it with me.

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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