Tag Archives: flowers

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.

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.

A great llloooonnnnnggggg walk :)

10 Apr

I was clearing out my office today when I came across the journal I wrote during my first end to end walk……….so I thought I would post it :)!

Most of my walks are circular day walks but I like nothing better than just taking off with a pack on my back and walking wherever the mood takes me.  No car, just my legs………and hopefully a B&B at the end of a days walking (not as easy as you might think!).  This walk was quite some time ago now and the pictures are therefore quite old.

Day 1

It’s here at last! Something I’ve always wanted to do – an end to end walk over several days.  Someday perhaps I’ll walk the whole of the South West Coast Path, but for now, this is great – a 4 day walk along the Dorset coast starting from Osmington and reaching wherever.  Around 15/20 miles a day, can I do that for four days whilst loaded up?  We will soon know!

Early in the morning my ‘taxi’ arrived as a friend was giving me a lift to my starting point.  I was ready and waiting although still debating which waterproofs to take, how many layers I needed, whether to wear boots or shoes – it’s so difficult to know in this country!  It was 11.30am by the time I actually set off walking.

Osmington is a really nice village, very unspoilt and pretty with lots of cottages.  The first part of the walk took me through the village and along a lane which became a farm track where I caught my first glimpse of the famous white horse etched into the downs above the village………actually ‘grey’ horse was probably more accurate as it had lost some of its whiteness!  It’s strange but when I actually reached the top and stood by the horse, it looked like nothing, just some unrecognisable bare patches in the grass.  I guess life is a bit like that – things often look clearer from a distance!

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Here’s looking at ewe!

Walking along the top of the ridge was lovely, there were lots of lambs, and the skylarks were out in force – it was beautiful to hear them.  The day was perfect, quite balmy and still, and although the sun wasn’t out, it was a bright day.  The only downside was that it was hazy so I couldn’t fully enjoy the amazing views.  I took my life into my hands a couple of times as I had to walk through some fields of cows.  Now sheep, they are lovely, friendly, cuddly things, but cows, they are a different kettle of fish altogether ;)!  Anyway, I survived the ordeal!!

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Mist in the valley

I had lunch near Bincombe and then dropped down into the village to have a look round the old church…..and to take some photos of course!  It was a lovely old church but a bit of a nothing village, so I passed on up the hill.  I must say I had no problem route finding, with my map/book and the clear waymark signs it was straight forward.  In fact I surprised myself!

Leaving the village, I could see my next target in the distance, about 7/8 miles distant.  It was The Hardy Monument and I set myself a goal to not stop until I reached it.  This was a goal my head had set but my feet hadn’t necessarily agreed with!  And they started to complain about it too – not verbally of course, but in every other way!!  Note to self – set shorter goals in future!  But as always with me, a goal once set cannot be changed or it means FAILURE ;)!  So I trudged on – and it was a bit of a trudge towards the end!  But I was determined!  And I made it, too, without too many sore places, and no blisters.

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Hardy Monument

I rewarded my feet by letting them have some air as I sat beneath the monument – i.e. I took my shoes and socks off.  I could hear my feet audibly sigh with relief!  It was funny how all the other visitors disappeared at that point ;)!  Ah well, its one way to get the place to yourself.  I was really pleased as I had covered 10 miles in 4 hours and I was ahead of schedule.  I could afford to take my time a bit more for the last 4/5 miles.

Having aired my feet for half an hour and taken on some energy, aka food, I set off again.  After a mile or two the promised rain came but it was a bit of an apology of a downpour, thank goodness.  I didn’t even need waterproofs so they had the luxury of being taken for a ride without having to work for it.  I eventually dropped off the hill through yet more sheep with lambs, some clearly called Shawn as they had no wool, and into Abbotsbury, my stopping point for the night.  It was 6 o’clock when I checked into a B&B.

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A bit of a sunset!

What a fantastic day!  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  And I thoroughly enjoyed my hot shower and cuppa too :)!  In fact, in the evening I was so energised that I went out for a walk, climbing up to  St Catherine’s Chapel that sits at the top of a hill overlooking the village.  By then, the haze had cleared and there was even a bit of a sunset, although the emphasis was on the ‘bit’!  When the sun had gone down, it was time to retreat to the local hostelry for a well earned drink.

A great end to a great day!

Day 2

Surprisingly after a poor nights sleep, I was up early.  I was dressed and down for breakfast at 8.00 and a great breakfast it was too – full English with toast, marmalade and tea.  Just what I needed to set me up for the day.

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St Catherine’s Chapel

I was out and walking before 9.00, first of all climbing back up to St Catherine’s Chapel before dropping down the other side to Chesil Beach.  It was a fabulous sunny morning.  I expected my first few miles to be nice and easy as they are flat but I forgot they followed the edge of Chesil Beach which means walking on shingle – hard work!  It’s just the greatest place though and I spent some time trying to capture the essence of the place with the camera.

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On Chesil Beach

All along this part of the walk through West Bexington and on to Burton Bradstock, there was a fantastic display of wild flowers of all colours and they were picked out beautifully by the bright sunlight.  The footpath after Burton Bradstock was lovely too.  There were only minor climbs and lots of nice flat, wide grassy paths – very kind to feet and knees :)!  They didn’t complain a bit even after yesterday’s exertions.

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A myriad of wild flowers

After a few hours I dropped down into West Bay, which was just as well as I was hungry and also had no water left – this hot weather exhausts the water supply very easily.  Mind you, I had to take quite a detour before West Bay, going inland through a caravan site just to get across a narrow stream – it would have been quicker to have taken my shoes and socks off and paddled across rather than walk all the way to the bridge and back on the other side.

I also had quite a detour in West Bay too, but that was of my own making as I kept going up walkways only to find there was no way across the harbour entrance and having to retrace my steps – should have checked the map first…….but that is far too easy and sensible, and after all, I am a man ;)!  Anyway, my spirits lifted when I saw a sign over a kiosk saying ‘bacon rolls and tea’, so I just about ran over to it – and got them to fill my water bottle as well.  I sat and ate beside the harbour wall with just the starlings for company – they kept landing on the table right in front of me and looked longingly at my roll.  I almost felt guilty at not giving them some – almost, but not quite!  I figured my need was greater than theirs!

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Give me some food!

It was time to get on the road (or path) again so I said a cheery goodbye to the starlings – and they just ignored me.  Well they were probably put out with me!  With lunch inside me and 10 miles behind me, I walked with a new spring in my step – until I saw Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast of England, in the distance.  I would have to climb that later, but there were numerous others before and after as well.  Its funny how sights like that can suddenly sap your energy ;)!  Anyway, I ignored it and carried on.

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Do I really have to climb that?

The views from the top of each peak were amazing…….but why do they have to make them so difficult to get to?  Why can’t someone invent an eco friendly country escalator?  Golden Cap, when I reached it, was a difficult climb, especially after 15 miles of walking.  My feet and legs were now complaining in unison!  My body was soaking up water like a sponge too and I had very little left.  But when I reached the top, it was worth it…….because I could sit down ;)!  The annoying thing was that there were people on the top which meant I had to pretend to be climbing it easily – well it wouldn’t do to let people know I am not a superwalker ;)!  There is a need to create the impression that I am strong, energetic and young.  Vanity, vanity!!

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From Golden Cap

The disappointing thing was that having reached the pinnacle on this days walking, I still had another three and a half miles to walk…..and more climbs!  In fact the last climb of the day was the toughest, with a heavy pack and virtually no water, I was relieved when I reached the top.  I just kept telling myself that all I had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time and I would get there.  Simples!  Yeah right!!

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Showing the way

From this point, my route took me down hill into Charmouth where because of cliff falls I would have to follow the road into Lyme Regis, my stopping point for the day.  Walking along a road with noisy traffic flying past is not my idea of fun but I was determined that I would still walk it even though I had already walked 20 miles.  And then, after a mile or two of torture I spied……..a bus stop!  And not only that, but a bus was due in 5 minutes :)!  It was just meant to be, so I did!

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The Cobb, Lyme Regis

Tired but happy, I checked into a B&B – which was no easy task as they were all fully booked!  It was something of a disappointment after last night’s accommodation but I was so tired that I didn’t care!  After a refreshing shower and cuppa, I went off for……..you guessed it……..a walk!

Day 3 – to follow next time :)

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 dancing waves, hovering clouds, diving Chinooks, and patterns in the sand!

21 Feb

This is a walk that started with one of my favourite modes of transport, the ferry that plies its trade to and fro across the entrance to Poole Harbour.  As the ferry leaves on its journey, we can see the results of the devastating action of the tides which have over the years undermined the foreshore putting buildings at risk.  It seems that no matter what man does, he cannot defeat the forces of nature.

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Repairing the foreshore

This is a ferry that I have travelled on all my life, in fact I travelled this even before I was born…..in my mother’s womb :)!  I like it so much that I bought a metre of the chain to add to the cornucopia of quirky things that I have collected on my walks over the years and that now adorn my garden.  Why only a metre?  Well, it is heavy and it took two of us to lift just that length into the car!  The chains are each 1,235 feet long and are replaced every 15 to 18 months because they stretch and wear out – so I have a very small piece of history in my garden :)!

Getting off the ferry is like entering another world, we leave one side inhabited by man and land on the other side inhabited by nature.  Suddenly we are transported from some of the most expensive real estate in the world into the wide open spaces with three miles of the most broad, clean, sandy beaches you could wish to find!

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Wide open spaces

Flanked by the most delightful sand dunes and beyond that, acres of heather clad heathland – entering this world, you just revel in the sense of freedom and with the bracing wind blowing off the sea, you can just feel yourself coming alive!  No matter how many times I walk this beach, I never lose that wonderful sense of freedom………and I never run out of new photos to take!

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The beauty of the sand dunes

On this day the wind was strong and the waves rolled relentlessly to the shore, one after the other without losing any momentum.  As one finally dissipates its energy onto the beach, another three pile in behind it, like some perpetual motion machine.  Standing on the shore, you get some sense of what King Canute must have felt!  And that great Iona song, ‘Wave After Wave’ comes to mind.

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Three in a row

Even with their relentless and unceasing power, the waves do not have it all their own way as the wind seemingly does battle with them, whipping the tops off as they break.  What an amazing sight and one that a photo can never do justice to.  As we stand watching the dancing waves and flitting spray carrying out their performance, it is like watching a well choreographed stage show, only so much better!  Ah the wonders of God’s creation completely outdoes the best that man can offer!

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Whipping the wave tops

Even the clouds seem to join in as they hover like giant airships!  As we watch them, we can’t help but let our imaginations run free and wonder what it would be like to stand on top and see the world from their perspective.

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A hovering airship!

This beach is not only a walker’s paradise but it is a horse rider’s paradise too as the local stables offer beach rides in the winter months.  The picture below just typifies freedom to me.

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Freedom

But it is time for us to leave this captivating scene and head on with our walk.  Passing through a delightful village, we cross the graveyard that surrounds the beautiful Norman church and it is alive with snowdrops – a timely reminder that spring, and new birth, is not too far away.

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Snowdrops in the churchyard

And then beyond the village we are met with a stiff climb that takes us up onto a ridge of hills and once again we are met with that same bracing wind that has us reaching for our gloves again.  From here we have amazing views back across the village and beyond we can see almost the whole of the four miles we have walked so far.  In the summer, these hills are rife with skylarks rising high above but today, it is a bird of a very different kind that sings overhead!

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What a view

With a thunderous roar, like a giant bird coming out of the sun, the Chinook appears…..and it will accompany us for some time.  This is a military machine on manoevers, landing on the headland and hovering over the water by turns, depositing and picking up troops on a training exercise.  With precision timing, it is another, if different, spectacle to behold.  As much as I love the solitude and silence of the countryside, these helicopters make an awesome sight with their massive power and yet incredible manoeuvrability – to quote Cassius Clay, they ‘float like a butterfly and sting like a bee’!

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A bird of a different kind

With the Chinook following us, we continue on our way round the famous landmark that is Old Harry Rocks with its strong tidal race curving around the headland.  A few years ago I kayaked round these stacks which was easy and great fun on the way out but somewhat more difficult on the way back, fighting a fast flowing tide.  By the time I reached the safety of the beach, my arms felt like lead but it was great to see this chalk headland from a different viewpoint.

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Old Harry Rocks

Having stopped off to enjoy a flask of hot Bovril at the top of the chalk cliffs in the one sheltered spot that was available, we continue along the track that leads back to the beach as for the last three miles, we would be retracing our steps from earlier in the day.  By now the tide had gone out, revealing another of those quirky things that litter this coast.

This is The Training Bank, a man made reef of rocks laid to help maintain the deep water channel through the entrance to Poole Harbour by directing the tidal flow.  This is only visible at low tide and it makes an interesting spectacle stretching out across the bay towards Old Harry Rocks.

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The Training Bank

One of the amazing things about The Training Bank is the beautiful red seaweed which clothes all of the rocks.

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Red seaweed

I love walking the beach as the sun sets.  Apart from the wonderful peace, the soft evening light and low tide just seem to bring out the most beautiful patterns in the sand.  It is a sight that I can never resist photographing!

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Patterns in the sand

As we near the end of the walk, we have to cross several streams that are watersheds from the heathland.  These are normally shallow and no bother to cross but with the rain that we have had in recent times, they were somewhat deeper than normal and the result of this is………wet feet!  Ah well, I normally manage to get wet feet anyway as I am usually so busy taking pictures at the water’s edge that I don’t notice the incoming tide reaching out to grab me by the ankles ;)!  Reflecting the post sunset glow in the sky, these little streams do make picturesque subjects for the camera :)!

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Watershed wonder

And of course, the dunes with their Marram Grass also provide some photographic fodder :)!

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Sunset in the dunes

And so finally after a fantastic day along the Dorset coast we reach the ferry again.  Now that the sun has gone, the temperature dips to below freezing so the little bit of protection that the ferry provides is welcome.  And we take the ride back across the harbour entrance with just the last remaining glow in the sky.  What a great day!

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A twilight journey back

Thanks for joining me on this walk – I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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 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.

Of a walk gone wrong, summer sunshine, and Two on a Tower :)

14 Aug

You can tell the weather here has improved – I’m blogging less often and I have a backlog of walks to upload.  The reason for the backlog is that I have been out walking so much, often for four days a week which is not bad considering I am not fully retired yet so still work some days.  The forecast today wasn’t great so I thought I would catch up a bit and add a post from a walk a few weeks ago.  It was a walk that didn’t work out as I had planned but which had an unexpected bonus thanks to a lovely couple, Liz and John, but more of that later :)!

This day I decided to take a slightly shorter walk, just 10 miles, and to stop along the way to do some ‘proper’ photography.  I planned to do a circular walk taking in a lovely inland ridge, dropping down to the coast to walk along the water’s edge for the return leg.  It all started fine with some spectacular views from the ridge on a beautiful sunny day as had been forecasted.

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Wonderful views from the inland ridge

After a few miles I dropped down to the coast path to make my way to one of the few places on this stretch of coast where there is access to the shore with the intention of walking along the rocks to get a different view of the coast from the more normal cliff-top path.  However, when I got there I discovered that the tide was coming in which posed a problem because the foreshore gets cut off in several places at high tide, making in impassable.  Now I had checked the tide tables before going out so clearly either the tables were wrong or I had misread them – probably much more likely the latter!  So I had to walk the more usual cliff tops – which turned out to be a great bonus in the end :)!

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The view east from the cliff top path

The flowers along the coast path were gorgeous and walking along this undulating path was a real audio visual experience with the amazing views, gorgeous flowers and the undulating song of the skylarks overhead seeming to match the undulating path.  Aside from the fact that I had all my camera equipment with me, it was such a relaxing and leisurely walk.

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Beautiful flowers along the coast path

The real surprise came when I reached Clavell’s Tower :)!  This is a tower I love and have known all my life from its days as a derelict building in danger of falling into the sea, through its dismantling stone by stone and its rebuilding some 30 meters inland, to its restoration and re-opening as a holiday home by The Landmark Trust.  I have hundreds of pictures of it already……..but there’s always room for one more ;)!  So I was leaning on the gate taking the picture below when the new tenants for the week, Liz and John, arrived at the gate.  We got chatting, as you do, and they very kindly asked if I would like to have a look inside.  Well I needed no second bidding and jumped at the chance as I had not seen inside it since the restoration!

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Clavell’s Tower from the ‘garden’ gate

The tower has four floors with the lower floor being a basement.  That was the only floor I had previously stood on because in the days before its restoration that was the only floor that existed – and it was just dirt.  The others had crumbled or been destroyed by fire long since!  When I was younger, that floor proved useful as an outdoor toilet (well there is no other cover around that could be used for that purpose ;) ) so I thought it was quite fitting that the basement still provides bathroom facilities – albeit it is nicely tiled now ;)!

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The steps to the tower

The entrance steps lead to the ground floor (or is it first floor) and the kitchen and dining area.  Then the second floor is the bedroom with the top floor being the lounge.  Liz and John kindly allowed me to take some photos even though I was invading their space.

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The bedroom – what an amazing place to sleep

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The lounge

The only way of getting between floors was via the curving staircase which takes up some space.  This means that the tower is only big enough for two – I guess Thomas Hardy knew that when he wrote ‘Two on a Tower’ which was based here – but I think The Landmark Trust have done a fantastic job in restoring the building so sensitively.  Probably the best part for me was the gallery that is accessed from the bedroom, this has amazing views!

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The curving staircase and the gallery door

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What an amazing place to sit with a cup of tea

There are just a couple of downsides to staying in Clavell’s Tower – one is that you will need to book it some two years in advance because it is so popular, and the other is that although there is a track that leads up to the tower, guests are not allowed to drive up it which means you will have to park by the bay and climb the steep hill on foot carrying  your luggage!  It pays to travel light when you stay at Clavell’s Tower!!  There is a lot of history to this place, but that is for another blog.

Thanks Liz and John for allowing me to invade your privacy and view the inside of this beautiful Clavell’s Tower – I hope you had a great holiday :)!

So, it was on with the walk but only a short hop down the hillside to reach Kimmeridge Bay where I intended to take some time out from walking and take some pictures that would hopefully capture the essence of the sea in summer.  This is much more difficult than you might think.  I sat on the rocks watching the waves gently rolling over the shoreline and the constantly changing light and movement with the sun reflecting off the water creating an ever changing array of what I can only describe as bursts of light like twinkling stars in the night sky.  It was beautiful to watch but to capture it with the camera was like trying to catch a rainbow.

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Starlight

I set the tripod up and tried a few long exposure shots, creating a milky smooth water effect against the hard crispness of the rocks.

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Across Kimmeridge Bay

Finally I tried to capture some of the activity in the bay which is a popular place for snorkelling, boating, fishing and just rock pooling.

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Gone fishing

I sat for some time dangling my feet in the water to cool down but the sun was getting lower and it was time to move on as I still had a couple of miles to walk.  As I made my way back, a gentle sea mist rolled across the fields adding a beautiful atmosphere to the golden fields.

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The fields are ripe for the harvest

Kimmeridge and the surrounding area is a special place and one that I always love to visit whether it is as part of a long walk, or just to sit and ponder and drink in the beauty.  This walk hadn’t gone as planned, but it turned out even better than I had expected because of a chance meeting with two kind people who gave me the opportunity to see something I hadn’t had the opportunity to see before.  My only disappointment was that there was no staircase up to the tower roof ;)!

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

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

The photographs on this blog are all copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be used in any way without permission.

Of wet and mud; of birds, butterflies, bulls and bullocks; and of tuneful church bells!

1 Aug

Well summer came at last to this ‘green and pleasant land’…….well for a time at least!  And as is always the case with these changeable times and changeable weather, you have to make the most of it – and make the most of it I have!  So much so, that there has been little time to sit in my office and write.  In fact, over the last two weeks I have completed 7 full day walks (work gets in the way on other days), a total of around 100 miles on foot.  And it has been great :)!

But today is drab outside my window so I can happily sit in my dry office and at least commit one walk to my blog.  It is a walk I did a couple of weeks ago just as the wet weather was changing to sunnier climes for us.  It was a varied walk in every sense of the word as you will see!

It started in a surprising way!  Having parked up, I got out of my car and was just putting my walking shoes on when the church clock started to chime the hour.  I thought nothing about it until something vaguely registered in my head……the church bells were playing a tune!  In fact it was the National Anthem – very strange to hear it played on church bells.  I thought maybe the bell ringers were practicing but it seemed unlikely.  I thought maybe it was something to do with Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, but I was wrong on that too.  I stopped a passing villager who told me that it happened every three hours and that it had done so since the jubilee of Queen Victoria.  Very unusual, and a lovely start to the day.  I determined that I would be back in time for the evening ringing so that I could record it!

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‘God save our gracious queen’ say the bells of St Andrews

One of the things I love about walking is the fact that people are usually so friendly wherever I go – the same can’t always be said about the animals I meet but more of that later.  Maybe it is because I am of the ‘older generation’, but most will say a cheery ‘hello’ and some will stop to chat for a few minutes or often longer.  As I walked through this village and out into the countryside, three groups of villagers stopped to pass the time of day with me.  Clearly this is a village where the natives are friendly :)!

Once out into the countryside I had company of a different sort with buzzards hunting overhead, making their distinctive pee-yaah sound as they soared.  Later they were accompanied by the ever graceful swallows wheeling around catching insects.  There were wrens too – I just love wrens!  They are so diminutive and yet they have such a clear, crisp and loud song, so easily recognisable.

It wasn’t long before I reached another beautiful village with its own church standing proud in the centre. The first view I had of this was as I passed the end of the tiny lane that led off the road.  With cottages on either side and lined with flowers, this was a delightful way to get to the church yard.  As always, this was a place of peace and a place with some amazing stained glass too!  Every window tells a story and none better than the one below.

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The way to the church

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The village church with its stained glass

As you can see from the photographs, the day that had started so promisingly had now clouded over, and worse was to come!  Underfoot, the ground was difficult and crossing every field was like walking across a lake as there was so much surface water around after all the rain of recent months.  Despite the waterproof walking shoes, my feet were wet!  But hey, we are used to that!  Also, it was rather like an obstacle course as every stile was swamped by overgrown shrubbery – wet shrubbery!  I wondered why everything was so overgrown and I came to the conclusion that there are two reasons – one is the rain, and the other is the rain!  Well not quite.  The first ‘rain’ simply makes everything grow more; the second ‘rain’ keeps everyone indoors meaning that the paths haven’t been walked so much (and that after all is what keeps the paths clear usually) – well apart from The Dorset Rambler who of course is crazy enough to walk in all weathers!

Just as I left the village, I came across the remains of the ancient pound.  These were a common sight in days gone by when animals were grazed on the common lands.  If they strayed into areas where they weren’t meant to be, causing damage, they were impounded and only released to their owners on payment of a fine.

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The Pound

Nearby, there is one of those typical village farmhouses, perhaps predictably called……Pound Farm!

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The old farmhouse

So it was out into the countryside again, for a time along a very quiet country lane.  Now although I usually keep away from roads, I have to say that I really enjoy walking along these quiet lanes.  Because the walking is so easy, it means that I can focus on what is around me rather than where I am walking – especially on this walk!  The hedgerows and verges on either side of the road were beautiful with all manner of wildlife, including the cabbage white butterfly that I posted about last time, and lots of Meadowsweet.

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The Cabbage White

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Meadowsweet

It wasn’t too long before I turned off the road and crossed another of those beautiful meadows.  Not so many flowers in this one but the grasses were gorgeous.  I am always amazed at the infinite variety of different grasses there are, and how beautiful they are when you take the time to look at them.

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Meadow grasses

Along this section of the walk, I passed a number of remote cottages and I confess to a tiny bit of envy – they get all this beauty straight from their own doorstep.  Still, I guess there is beauty visible from every doorstep if you look at it the right way.

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A beautiful country cottage

Having walked across ‘lakes’ and scrambled through overgrown stiles, my way was about to get worse!  My route took me down one of those very old sunken lanes that I have referred to before in my blog.  They always intrigue me and I often wonder what they were originally ‘built’ for.  Was it to drive the livestock to the local market?  Was it for farm workers to walk to work along?  Did people use them to get to church on a sunday morning?  Were they for the various landed gentry to drive their horse and carriage along as they visited their various properties?  I guess they had various purposes and it is a shame that so many of them are being lost to the undergrowth because there is no budget to maintain them.  This one started off beautifully as it was a clearly delineated lane with clear banks on either side and fairly easy to walk down.  However, it soon deteriorated and I found myself hacking my way through brambles and nettles that were above my head.  I could have found an alternative route but TDR is not to be beaten!

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The sunken lane

And win through I did, to come out onto clearer ground.  As I walked across the meadows and crossed the railway line that marked the final phase of the walk, the rain started to fall….and the track started to get muddier!  The long meadow grass is beautiful, and the trees and shrubs are beautiful, but not so much when they are wet and when all they want to do is transfer their wetness to me ;)!  They did that in abundance!

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Crossing the railway line

There were still two more hamlets and two more churches to pass before the end of the walk.  The first had the distinction of having an upside down font.  If you look carefully at the picture below, you will see that the animals carved on the font have their legs in the air.  In fact it is almost certain that the font was originally the base of an anglo-saxon cross which at some point was turned over and hollowed out to form the font of the current church.  The church sits next to the 17th century manor house as is often the case.

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The church with its upside down font!

At this point, things were getting difficult.  I was walking in an area which was new to me and there using an OS map……which was getting increasingly wet and unreadable!  Ah, the challenges of walking in England!  Well no rain had been forecasted that day!  Anyway, I continued on instinct more than anything else and very soon came across the final church, the smallest church in Dorset and apparently the second smallest in England.  It was right next to a farmhouse and to get to it I had to cross the loveliest small hump back footbridge – and in doing so felt as if I was walking into someones private garden.  The church is now redundant and maintained by The Historic Churches Preservation Trust who do a great work in maintaining these very old buildings that are so much a part of the heritage of this country.  Their motto is ‘Creative spaces, sacred places’.

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The way to the church

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The smallest church in Dorset

Inside, apart from being dry :), the church was light, airy and had a lovely sense of peace about it.  As always, I wondered at the amazing legacy that it has and the thousands of lives that have been impacted by its witness.  It was time to move on so I headed back out into the even heavier rain to cross a number of boggy arable fields….although these were nothing to what was to come!  Amazingly, there were still lots of butterflies accompanying me despite the wet conditions.  It surprised and delighted me that these flimsy creatures still seem to be able to fly even though they were wet.  And they still looked happy – well have you ever seen a depressed butterfly??

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A very gloomy evening!

The final stretch was probably the worst because it crossed a dairy farm, and where there is cattle, there is MUD!  And boy was there MUD, literally knee deep in places.  It made the going very hard.  And on top of that I had to cross a field with a bull who eyed me up as I walked, but did no more than that.  Well they are usually fairly docile. The next field was full of young bullocks, and they didn’t give me such an easy time – they chased me and charged at me incessantly as I crossed their field!  They are harmless too, just nosy and with a bit of an attitude ;)!

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“You are probably wondering why I’ve called you here. I’ve had complaints from walkers that you have been charging at them and chasing them.  You know your mothers wouldn’t allow that!  And besides, it’s making a terrible mess, just look at this place!  Now go and clean it up!” ;)

Finally I got back to the car and the relative dryness – I was somewhat wet!!  I had walked through waterlogged fields, scrambled across overgrown stiles, been stung and torn by brambles, hacked my way through impassable undergrowth, fallen numerous times, got soaked, glared at by a bull, chased and charged by bullocks……what a fabulous day!  I was happy!

Oh, and the church bells?  I was too late and missed them!

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

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

The photographs on this blog are all copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be used in any way without permission.

Of fond memories, war and peace, and a snake that is not a snake!

16 Jul

PERCHED on my city office-stool,
I watched with envy, while a cool
And lucky carter handled ice. . . .
And I was wandering in a trice,
Far from the grey and grimy heat
Of that intolerable street….

So said the poet, Wilfred Gibson.  Well I am not on a stool and I’m not in a city but I am in my office that looks out onto my very green garden on a dull day and my mind wanders back to the one sunny day last week and a wonderful walk.

It started on the famous Sandbanks peninsula, said to be the forth most expensive real estate in the world with properties valued in millions.  It is just my parking place though and I am quickly transported to another world.  The transport is a chain ferry that runs to and fro across the entrance to Poole Harbour, apparently the second largest natural harbour in the world.  The journey is but a few hundred yards but it saves a drive of around 30 miles and it takes me from urban to country in a matter of minutes!  And it is an interesting experience to boot!

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The Sandbanks Ferry

I’ve been travelling on this ferry all my life but it never fails to give me a kick.  There is something magical and escapist in this ferry, maybe because it takes me back 60 years to when I was a child and we went to the beach, our wilderness area to explore and lose ourselves in…..ah, the wonder and simplicity of childhood!  The Sandbanks Ferry is one of those quirky things of Dorset and something to be blogged separately but for now, it’s on with our walk.

The ferry takes me across to Shell Bay, in my view one of the loveliest and most unspoilt beaches in Dorset.  It marks the start (or finish) of the 640 mile walk around the South West Coast of England – but my walk will cover just a few of those.

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Shell Bay

Stepping onto the beach brings back very fond memories from my childhood.  We used to walk the 5 miles from our home in Parkstone to spend the day on the beach, and when I say ‘we’ I mean the whole family, my parents, me and my 4 brothers (apart from when I was in a pram of course), grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – we all used to go to the beach regularly.  We would spend the whole day there and then walk home again – well, we had no cars and with such a large family my parents often couldn’t afford the bus fare.

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The Dorset Rambler and family (I’m the baby of the family and that’s my pram behind) :)

The sand dunes became our mountains to climb and whoever reached the top first would sing out, ‘I’m the king of the castle, you’re the dirty rascal’ :)!  We would then kneel down and pulling ourselves along with our hands, make grooves like railway lines all around the beach.  There were great football and cricket matches, lots of sand castles and my father always took an old lorry inner tube that was either rolled hoopla fashion down the dunes or became our boat for further adventures!  It amazing how creative we were and how the simple things could become such an adventure.  I think that sense of wonder and excitement that we had as children is something to be treasured and carried with us even into old age, even if it does take more effort.  So many people lose that as they grow up and they are all the poorer for it!

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In the sand dunes today

For this walk, I didn’t linger on the beach – that was to be my way back.  My way out was along a very quiet path known as the Heather Trail.  This is a lovely route that winds through the heathland behind the dunes and it can be a very colourful walk at the right time of year.  This is the Egdon Heath of Hardy novels such as The Return of the Native.  With the accompaniment of the skylarks, it is a lovely place to be.

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The Heather Trail

It also skirts past swampy areas of heath with decaying trees – when we were younger, we used to imagine crocodiles and all kinds of snakes here.  There aren’t any of course – the adder is the only ‘dangerous’ snake we have and they don’t usually live in swamp areas.

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The ‘swamp’

Eventually the path comes back out onto the beach again…..and a part of the beach that needs care!  This is Studland Beach and part of it is noted for being an official naturist beach.  Walking this part, the camera usually stays firmly in its holster, although on this occasion, the skies were so amazing that I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures!  Clearly someone inland was getting wet but where I was, it was sunshine all the way :)!

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Heavy skies but the sun shines on the righteous ;)

Having passed through Hardy country, the walk took me on to another famous author as Studland is very much Enid Blyton territory.  Most of her novels were based here with the Famous Five and Secret Seven having their adventures around this coast.  In fact, with her husband, Enid Blyton owned the local golf club.  It seems strange that such an iconic children’s author once had her work banned by the BBC who described her on occasions as a ‘tenacious second rater’ whose books were ‘stilted and long winded’.  She was also felt to be racist and sexist!  Ah but we as children didn’t care what the critics said, we loved her books!  In the two pictures below, I’ve tried to create something Blyton-esque – pictures that might perhaps have appeared in one of her novels.

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One goes on an adventure!

The coastline at Studland is interesting and varied.  As you can see from the pictures above, the cliffs are sandstone with a beautiful array of warm colours, tones and patterns, and a few shallow caves too.  Later, this sandstone turns to chalk as we reach the start of the famous World Heritage Site – the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, so designated by UNESCO in 2001.  Perhaps that is a subject for a future blog too.  It is an amazing coastline and one which I never tire of visiting.

Walking along the beach, I am always struck by the peace, the gentle lapping of the waves, the calling of the gulls overhead, the lovely sound of the children playing in the distance, but it has not always been so peaceful.  There are several reminders of less peaceful times.  One is above the beach and one that we will pass later in the walk but one is right on the beach – it is an old Second World War pill box which nestles at a crazy angle on the sand.  This is a feature in many places along the coast and is perhaps a stark reminder of what our ancestors went through to bring the peace that we now enjoy.

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The pill box – with a robin on the top

It was as I was walking along this part of the route that there was another reminder of both war and peace, it was the faint drone of a plane’s engine growing louder as it came closer.  This was a troop carrying plane that often flies over this part of the coast, plying its trade to and fro, dropping paratroops out of the back – it looked like some giant insect giving birth as it flew with its new-born offspring gliding to earth.  I often envy the troops their view as they glide slowly and effortlessly down in the silence just carried by the warm air and breeze.  I’m not sure though that my envy would be quite so evident if I was stood at the back of the plane and about to leap out into the unknown!

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Giving birth ;)

The next stage of my walk took me away from the beach and up onto the clifftops….and to an altogether more agile flier than the cumbersome troop carrying plane.  Walking along the beautiful grass covered cliff top, I decided to rest and just enjoy the scene.  I sat on the grass and watched hundreds of martin’s wheeling through the air with amazing skill.  In fact I tried to watch them through the binoculars but they were just so fast, constantly changing direction, that I couldn’t follow them.  I guess they were making the most of the sunshine and having their dinner on the wing, swerving here and there to catch insects in flight.  It was a wonderful sight!  And the wild flowers were amazing too, almost as if someone had planted them – but then, I guess the great gardener himself did just that :)!

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On the cliff tops

It was time to move on and it wasn’t long before I reached Old Harry Rocks, the point at which Ballard Down reaches the sea.  There is some debate over how it got its name – some say Harry is named after the devil who took a nap there, and others say he is named after Harry Paye, an infamous local smuggler.  Either way, it is a beautiful and breathtaking place.

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Old Harry Rocks

It is impossible to get onto the stacks themselves but with care you can go down that slope to reach the tip of the ‘mainland’, a point known as St Lucas Leap – this was named after a greyhound who went over the cliff whilst chasing a hare.  Hmm, I can feel another blog entry coming on there too :)!

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St Lucas’ Leap

On the way back down the coast path, the memories from my youth and the remembrances of war came together.  I passed the cottage in the picture below – it sits right on the cliff top with fabulous views over Studland Bay.  It reminded me of a day in the 1950’s when I passed it whilst out (grudgingly) walking with my parents.  My father recognised the owner who was working in his garden and fell into conversation with him.  During the war my father was in Italy for three years as a driver in the army and this man was the colonel that he used to drive around.  He hadn’t seen him for many many years!  As an aside, I never knew what went on in wartime as my father never talked about it!

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The way back

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Of lush countryside, lovely meadows, two hill forts…….and a butterfly at last!

7 Jul

Well as I sit at my desk typing this blog, the rain is pouring down outside – yet again!!!  It’s been one on those years so far in England, just rain, rain, and more rain with just the odd better day in between.  Ah, the good old English summer – lazy, hazy, crazy days – don’t you just love ‘em!  We wish!  Actually I don’t mind walking in the rain if it starts raining when I’m already out, but there seems little point in going out if it is raining already…….but I miss walking when I am trapped in by the weather.  Still, without it what would we English have to talk about ;)!

I did manage to get out recently for a great walk through some lush countryside and some beautiful meadows, not to mention a couple of hill forts and an old mill.  It started with a lovely woodland walk with some gorgeous dappled sunlight filtering through the foliage (sadly the sun wasn’t to last long though :( )

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Through the dappled forest

And part way through the woodlands I came across a rather unusual tree that was playing host to a whole load of ferns.  Walter De La Mare’s poem, The Listeners, refers to ‘the forest’s ferny floor’ but maybe this should be changed to ‘the forest’s ferny trees’ ;)!  The tree was still living but was clearly decaying and moss covered, giving the ferns a foothold – or is that ‘root-hold’!

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The forest’s ferny trees

Out of the woodlands, my route took me down another of those oft seen ‘Smuggler’s Lanes’.  I haven’t been able to establish whether it really was a smuggler’s route or whether it was just named that because it was quite a secret and hidden path.  It wasn’t near the coast but I guess contraband needed to be taken well inland so it might well have seen illegal traffic in the long ago past.  Ah, if only those trees could talk, I’m sure they would have many a tale to tell!  For me though, it was just the beauty of the path that I enjoyed.

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Smuggler’s Lane

I told the story in my last blog entry of my ongoing battle with butterfies that taunted me constantly as I tried to photograph them.  Well on this walk I fooled them and I actually managed to grab some shots before they took off rather than after!!  The picture below shows a Meadow Brown butterfly wearing his rather nice fur coat.  He clearly knew what the English summer was going to be like ;)!

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Meadow Brown

There were butterflies everywhere along this route, partly because the hedgerows were so thick with plants and flowers, I saw so many different varieties.  It is amazing when you look at these delicate ‘flying flowers’ to think that some of them actually migrate and have flown a thousand miles to get here.  They don’t look capable of flying that far or indeed of flying in any specific direction – as the poem says, they have a definite gift of ‘flying crooked’!

The hedgerows themselves were thick with wild flowers and were so beautiful to walk through, it was a delight, especially in the warm summer sun.  I think it is difficult to capture in a photograph because you need to use all the senses to fully appreciate the beauty, to feel the sun’s warmth, to hear the birds and the rustling of the leaves and to feel the gentle breeze.  I did take a couple of pictures though……and tried to find a different angle too :)!

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Hogweed

For some plants, you have no choice but to lay on the ground, like the Common Spotted Orchid below.

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Common Spotted Orchid

This was a real walk of variety and the next part took me up onto the hilltop, well in fact, up onto two prehistoric hill forts.  The first was covered in lovely meadow grass and wild flowers – it would have taken me a long time to identify all the different varieties.  And the views from the ramparts were spectacular on this clear day.  There were cattle and sheep grazing and I thought, ‘What a great place to eat’ – so I joined them!  I ate sandwiches of course, not grass ;)!

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Across the ramparts

Then it was down into the valley and up onto the next hill fort and an even bigger surprise.  At the top was a fantastic field of poppies.  It was a photographer’s paradise!  And clearly a few had been there before me as quite a lot of the flowers had been clumsily trampled down :(!  Well of course I managed to take one or two pictures as well although I am always careful where I tread.  The code of the country says ‘Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time’ but sadly not all observe that!

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The poppy field

The colours were really vibrant in the now hazy sunlight, although despite their beauty, it is still quite difficult to get a satisfying composition for a photograph.  I guess you are always left with the feeling that you just haven’t done it justice – well how can you!  Further along the hill, there are more ramparts, and well defined ones too.  It seems hard to imagine that these ramparts were dug out by men with primitive tools.  As you stand looking at the views though, you can see why they ‘built’ the fort and with the wind whipping up from the valley, you can perhaps imagine a little of what life must have been like up there in those bygone days.

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On the hill fort

Dropping off the hill, my route passed through probably the worst part of the walk and yet there were still lovely things to see.  I had to walk through a farm and as often is the case, farms=mud!  And there was mud aplenty!  Not only that but I had to plough my way through the most overgrown footpath that I think I have ever walked!  It led me the next day to make a few phone calls to see if the path could be sorted which is something the local authority will do if you report a problem.  However it was not that simple.

There are a number of types of byway – 1) the public roads, 2) public footpaths and 3) all vehicle public routes (these fit somewhere between 1 and 2 and are often farm tracks or old lanes/drove trails.  My overgrown footpath fitted into category 3 which is dealt with under roads and highways and whilst they have a budget to maintain the public roads, they have no budget to maintain the lesser routes such as mine.  So basically there is a budget to maintain the roads and there is a budget to maintain public footpaths, but there is no budget to maintain the routes that fall between the two extremes!  Ah well, I tried.

I did in the end make it through the overgrown lane and came out into a clearing where there was an old mill – I suspect that the overgrown lane once served the mill.  This is now a private dwelling but as I looked at it, I could just picture in my minds eye the miller leaning on that stable door getting some air and clearing his lungs of the flour dust that would have filled the mill in those days.

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The old mill

Apart from the old mill, one of the other lovely things I passed on this part of the walk was a gorgeous barley field.  These fields are always great to see but especially so when there is a bit of wind and as you stand watching the barley waving its heads in the breeze, you can almost feel you are standing before a huge lake with gentle waves washing across the water.

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The barley field

My walk was almost completed but there was one more crop to pass, another cereal crop which I thought was particularly picturesque with those curving tramlines running through it.  The sun had long since gone by now but at the end of a great day in the Dorset countryside it made a beautiful sight.

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Down the tramlines

Another magical day in Dorset, and one to be savoured as I look out at the still falling rain!

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

Your friend

The Dorset Rambler

The pictures on this blog are all the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be copied or reproduced without permission.

Back to walking in beautiful Dorset, a cat that plays ball…..and a car that doesn’t!

22 Jun

Well, having scaled the heights of Snowdonia in my recent posts, we are back in beautiful Dorset today – and beautiful it was with some strange blue stuff above me and even a big round yellow thing ;)!  It was actually sunshine and blue skies which is something of a miracle this ‘summer’!!

I parked up in a north Dorset village right outside the church so before I even got walking I had a look round – village churches are always so interesting and this one was no exception.  The thing that caught my eye was a lovely circular window with stained glass depicting the verse ‘Suffer the little children to come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven’.  It was unusual to see a circular window.

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Suffer the little children to come unto Me

Those who have been following my blog will know that I regularly look round churches on my walks.  This is partly because I love the old church architecture and the different styles that were popularised through the ages such as Norman, Early English, Decorated, Perpendicular etc as well as the fact that everything has a meaning or conveys a message, things such as gargoyles, bench ends and so on.  Not long ago there was a documentary on television called ‘How to Read a Church’ which was really interesting because unless you know what you are looking at, the messages are all lost.  More than this though, I love the sense of all the lives that have been touched by these churches over hundreds of years – this is a far greater legacy than the purely architectural heritage and goes much deeper.  And along with this is the pure witness of the churches – after all, when you approach a village on a walk, what is the first thing you see – it is the church tower standing proud and declaring the message of Christianity to all.

But I was challenged recently!  I went into a church, looked at all the interesting features, took lots of photographs and was on my way out when I stopped short!  This was a house of prayer and all I had done was look around and take pictures!  So I made a decision that whenever I look round a village church, I will always offer a prayer for those who worship there, for the local people whose lives are impacted by its presence.

Once I’d got going on my walk, I very quickly came across the most beautiful meadows that were rife with wild flowers and butterflies.  The flowers were comparatively easy to capture with the camera but not so the butterflies – but more of that later!

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Dandelions and blue skies

I just love meadows!  With the long grasses, dandelions, daisies, buttercups, orchids and all manner of other colourful flowers waving their heads in the breeze – for me, its almost as spiritual a place as being in church.

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In the meadows

So back to those butterflies :)!  They are so pretty, delicate and harmless aren’t they, but I think they have a devious side!  So there I am walking across this meadow and the butterflies, loads of them, flutter past me and settle on a stem of grass right in front of me.  I get my camera out carefully and approach stealthily and they just sit there whilst I frame the shot and focus the camera.  The shutter release is halfway down and I’m about to capture a classic competition winning shot…….and they take off leaving me with a lovely shot of a blade of grass.  So I walk on a short distance, they flutter past me again, settle on a blade of grass, and the whole thing is repeated again!  I’ll swear that they have a grin on their faces as they take off ;)!!  So I gave up and they won the day!

It wasn’t only the butterflies that toyed with me either!  The cows, well heifers, did the same.  I crossed several fields that were part of a dairy farm and they kept following me – they are inquisitive little things.  Every time I stopped and turned round, they stopped too.  Maybe they thought I was the pied piper of Hamlyn!

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Nosy!

About half way round my circular walk, I came across another delightful village church.  This one was full of photographic opportunities such as beautiful windows with the most gorgeous light coming through onto the flowers that had been placed on the window sills inside.  I think the window below was really lovely in an understated way with its plain glass.

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The church window

The window below had tinted glass which really warmed the soft light coming through.

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Beautiful light

But it wasn’t only the interior, the churchyard was lovely too.  It had the most gorgeous copper beech tree and the afternoon sunlight really brought out the fabulous colours of its summer foliage.  I often eat my lunch in graveyards which might make me seem strange but they are great places for finding wildlife……and besides, they are often the only places you can find a seat :)!

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The graveyard copper beech 

Part of the walk took me down some country lanes.  Now normally I like to avoid roads but country lanes are different provided they are quiet.  They can actually be very pretty in the summer when the hedgerows are vibrant with wild flowers and there are usually some lovely old typical Dorset thatched cottages to add interest as well as the odd orchard or nature reserve to detour onto.  The hedgerows seemed to be particularly vibrant on this walk.

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The hedgerows

There seemed to be a lot of the plants in the picture below – like miniature conifer trees.  I believe it is great horsetail and that lovely fresh green colour looks striking with the low sunlight streaking through from behind.

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Great Horsetail

There was a surprising amount of what I call ‘autumn’ colours too – I loved the subtle changes in tones in the picture below, ranging from the deep red new growth, through reddish orange and yellow to green.  God is such a great ‘painter’ of colours!

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Subtle hedgerow tones

And hogweed, probably not the most attractive plant but its hairy stems always look great when backlit by the sun.

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Hogweed

Eventually the country lane led me to another village and here, it was The Dorset Rambler to the rescue again!!  This time it was a little bird, a blue tit, in the mouth of a cat!  Actually I didn’t set out to rescue it, I could just see that the cat had something in its mouth and when I went towards him he let it go and it flew unharmed up into the tree in the cottage garden.  I was glad I happened along at that moment though!

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The cottage garden

The last few miles of the walk took me through the most beautiful parklands that surrounded the local manor house.  It was the golden hour, the time when the sun is getting low in the sky and the light is at its best – if you are a photographer you will know that morning and evening light is by far the best.  The grounds had been landscaped and planted with a whole variety of different trees so naturally I spent more time taking pictures than walking!

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Parklands

It was a spectacular end to a fabulous day’s walking back in my beloved Dorset – but sadly the day wasn’t to end as I’d hoped!  As I drove home feeling very satisfied, the car broke down and I had to call the RAC who were unable to fix it so it had to be transported back on a rescue truck.  I spend a lot of time sat by the roadside waiting to be collected.  So what does a photographer do when he has time on his hands……take pictures of course.  I wandered off with my camera :)!

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Beside the country road

Whatever happens and wherever you are, there is always something beautiful if you just look for it :)!

PS – I did get home safely at about midnight and the car is now at the car hospital having an operation :)!

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

Your friend, The Dorset Rambler

The pictures on this blog are all copyright of The Dorset Ramble and must not be reproduced or used without permission.

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