Tag Archives: nature

Of a short winter walk, spring sunshine, ancient paths and feathered friends

12 Jan

The year has not started well as unfortunately I went down with a horrible virus that has curtailed my walking somewhat. However, on this day, there was glorious sunshine – something that has been rarely seen over the British wet winter months. So despite feeling rough, I was determined to get out and enjoy a gentle stroll.

My walk started with one of those great Dorset sights, the famous and much photographed avenue of beech trees near Kingston Lacy. This avenue started life back in 1835 when trees were planted either side of what was then a turnpike or toll road that led to the mansion that was the home of William John Bankes. Bankes did not only own Kingston Lacy but seemingly half of Dorset, including Corfe Castle. There were originally 365 trees on one side of the road, one for each day of the year and 366 on the other for a leap year but sadly they are nearing the end of their life span and many have had to be removed.

The Avenue

The Beach Avenue

Part of the problem is that the trees and modern motorised traffic do not sit well together. These were planted in an age of more sedate forms of transport. In an effort to preserve this wonderful avenue however, the National Trust has planted a new avenue of hornbeams outside the original avenue. The new trees will provide similar autumn tones to the beech but are more suited to the current environment. It can never replicate the beauty of the beech and the cynical part of me thinks that they have been planted so far apart so that the road can be converted to a dual carriageway.

It is sad to think that these 180 year old trees may not be there much longer but for the time being at least, these magnificent elder statesmen can be enjoyed still.

The Old and the New

The Old and the New

It is possible to walk beside the avenue but the road is very busy and noisy with traffic so my route today takes me straight across the road and on up the hill towards my next historic landmark on this short walk. Following ancient trackways, my route takes me through farmland and past old cottages hidden in the trees. I often wonder what it would be like to live in these remote dwellings that seem so idyllic on a beautiful sunny day such as this. Certainly there are views to be enjoyed, but much more besides…..

The Farm Track

The Farmstead

Photography and blogging have secondary benefits – they make you think about your surroundings and notice things you might otherwise just walk past like the picture below. A small remnant of autumn leaves picked out by the sunshine with its shadow being cast on the trunk of the tree – somehow that tiny detail grabs my attention as the branch, and its shadow, gently sways in the breeze, an ever changing picture.

Leaf, Branch, Trunk and Shadow

Leaf, Branch, Trunk and Shadow

Before long, I reach my next historic landmark, Badbury Rings. This ancient hill fort dating from the Iron Age was developed in two phases, with the second phase virtually doubling its size. Its ramparts form an almost perfect circle and although it is only 100 metres above sea level, there are glorious views all around. The picture below was taken at a slight dogleg in one of the ramparts and shows the well known Point to Point course surrounding the brown field below and beyond that, the now disused Tarrant Rushton Airfield.

The latter mentioned was built during the Second World War and its main action during that conflict was to be the take off point for troop and tank carrying gliders heading for France, towed by planes. After the war its main purposes were the development of drones and the conversion of planes for in-flight refuelling. It officially closed in 1980 and has been returned to agriculture, although its old hangers and some of the runways are still visible.

Walking the Ramparts

View from the Ramparts

There is nothing better than a walk around the full circle of one of the ramparts. Being exposed, the walk is always bracing and there are views in all directions. Once part of the Kingston Lacy Estate, this hill fort is now owned, along with the house itself, and indeed Corfe Castle mentioned earlier, by the National Trust and it is a popular  walking area. There is always a great feeling of spaciousness and freedom which I love.

Walking the Ramparts

Rampart Walk

Around the hill fort itself there are areas of ancient woodland and a stroll through these trees is always rewarding. In the spring there will be bluebells aplenty and there are piles of rotting wood, a haven for bugs of all kinds as well as lichen and fungi. I walked through these woods surrounded by a myriad long tailed tits and these are always a delight to watch as they frolic together like happy children just out of school. I spotted a tree creeper running up the bark of the tree nearest me – these often join with groups of tits. Winter is a good time of year to spot birds such as this as the bare trees make them so much easier to spot.

The Log Pile

Rotting Log Pile

All too soon, it was time to make my way home. I love watching birds, or indeed wildlife of any kind, even if it is just the humble robin or long tailed tit, but my constant coughing tends to give my presence away! I made my way down the path in the picture below and crossed the avenue once again.

Through the Shrubbery

The Way Home

This was such a great walk even if it was so short. Just to be out in the sunshine after so many wet, grey days was invigorating and I made my way home a happy man. There is just so much to be enjoyed in this amazing county that I call home.

Thank you for walking this way with me. Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

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.

Autumn in the Forest

17 Oct

I took a walk in the forest this week, not a large forest, just a small area of mixed and coniferous woodland and it was a delight. The truth is I went because the woodland has recently been sold and there are fears that it might be built upon. I wanted to see for myself if anything was happening there. I couldn’t have known what awaited me!

Contrasting Colours

Contrasting Colours – Fruits and foliage of the Forest

It was a cloudy day mainly but one of those wonderful days when the sun makes an appearance now and again, throwing beautiful splashes of light through the trees. And it was that time of the year when some trees have shed their foliage and fruit creating a thick, warm autumn carpet on the forest floor, whilst others still wear their green summer clothes, producing a beautiful mix of warm and cool tones. It was like an amazing set to a major production of some literary work.

On the Forest Floor

On the Forest Floor

In the Spotlight

In the Spotlight

These bursts of sunlight, like spotlights in a theatre, pick out the players in this wonderful performance on the world stage that even the best playwright could not match. They speak no words but each leaf and berry plays his part so well to create an annual spectacle that is free for everyone to enjoy. No ticket needed to see this drama! But this is no silent drama, the birds around are a beautiful chorus, accompanying the spectacle, and the distant lowing, barking and cawing add their part to the experience on this still day.

Red Berries in the Sunset

Red Berries in the Sunset

Higher in the trees, other actors are waiting in costume highlighting the approach of winter and the season of goodwill. Red berries glisten in the golden glow of the setting sun. Others, as if in a supporting role, stand in the wings with just a hint of autumn tones. Their time is not yet but before the play finishes, they will have played their part well.

Evergreen

Evergreen – Waiting in the Wings

Vestige of Autumn

Vestige of Autumn

Threaded Veins

Threaded Veins

Some players have played already, their spaces now vacant form a structure for the silken, silver filaments sewn by spiders. The late sun shines on the spun threads. Such delicacy. It reminds me of a web I saw earlier this week, seemingly hovering in mid air until I spotted a single filament stretching vertically upwards a clear 20 feet to a telegraph wire. How could something so fine support so much and continue to resist the power of the wind.

Silken Threads

Silken Threads

As the sun sank towards the horizon, silhouetted branches hung like a stage curtain rail with its drape set to drop at the end of the performance. On the stage below, the players continue to dance even though on this evening there is only one in the audience. The stage light picks the actors out  against the beautiful backdrop that nature’s set designers have produced. Its creative art is so much more than even the best stage production man can offer.

Across the Valley

Across the Valley – Curtains and Players on Stage

The performance is not yet spent but it is time for me to leave. I cannot but linger though and just drink in a little more of this awesome spectacle. William Shakespeare said that, ‘All the world’s a stage’ – he was so right, and if we will, we can watch the performance and enjoy the best play ever written.

Hanging

On Stage – A Leading Actor in the Spotlight

So what of this forest? Will it continue to be part of God’s awesome annual production? Or will it be lost like some Victorian theatre that no longer meets the needs of today’s theatre goers? Oh how I hope it remains for my grandchildren to enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Holloways and Sunken Paths, the Mysterious Ancient Highways

20 Feb

Holloway

There are thousands of ancient paths criss crossing Dorset’s wonderful countryside but none more fascinating than these labyrinthine paths like the one in the picture above which goes by the interesting name of Hell Lane! These are known as Holloways, although they do have other names such as shutes, bostels or grundles depending on the area they are in, and they are only seen in areas where the bedrock is soft – West Dorset is predominantly sandstone and therefore has many Holloways.

So what are Holloways?

Well the name Holloway comes from the anglo-saxon word which literally means ‘sunken road’, and they date from at least 300 years ago, many going back as far as the iron age. They started life as either drove trails used to move cattle and other animals from farms to markets, routes from inland to the sea ports, pilgrimage routes, or simply boundary ditches. I am not sure whether the term Holloway would have been applied much when the usage of these ‘highways’ was at its peak – I suspect they might well have been referred to as simply ‘lanes’.  Holloway, as a name, seems to have come much more to the fore in recent years having been popularised by Dan Richards’ and Robert Macfarlane’s book of the same name.  In terms of literature, they also feature strongly in Geoffrey Household’s book Rogue Male, where the main character fleeing his pursuers goes to ground and hides out in a disused Dorset Holloway.

They certainly wouldn’t have started their lives as Holloways because most would have initially been at ground level but centuries of use by cattle, carts and people gradually eroded the soft surface creating a ditch which was then deepened and widened by yet more ‘traffic’ and also by water running off the surrounding land as the ditch became at times a river. Eventually, many have become as deep as 20 or 30 feet creating in effect gorges rather than paths.

Coombe Down Hill

Holloways, and indeed all the ancient byways, are a record of the habits of our ancestors with hundreds of years of repeated use and that makes them rich in heritage and mystery……which is why I love walking them. With walls towering on either side and trees growing out of the top with their network of roots holding the walls in place, these paths have a real air of mystery. You feel like you are walking a natural and secret tunnel as the mesh of intertwined trees and branches above makes you feel shut in.  And there is lots of wildlife too! Gilbert White, a pioneering naturalist from the 18th century once said that to walk the holloways was to ‘Access a world of deep history, an unexpectedly wild world, buried amid the familiar and close at hand’. He wasn’t wrong!

I have a number of regular walks that take in one or more holloways and they are always a delight to walk. On a grey, stormy day you could almost fear to walk them as the gloom and darkness created by the high walls and overhanging branches creates a feeling of shadowy threat. On a bright sunny day with lovely dappled light filtering through the trees, they take on an altogether different feel!  But always secret and mysterious. So where are these Holloways?  Well the truth is they are many and varied, ranging from the gorge-like to simply shallow sunken paths, worn by feet, wheels, and hooves.

These are a few I have walked.

Holloway
Hell Lane, Symondsbury

Hell Lane is perhaps one of the most impressive and interesting.  With Shutes Lane it connects Symondsbury with North Chideock, climbing up over the ridge near Quarry Hill.  It is interesting because the eastern part is much more gorge like than the western half – to walk from the ridge down to North Chideock is a bit like walking a shallow river bed!  The reason for this difference might well be the fact that the church and other buildings at Symondsbury were built with stone from the quarry.  You can just imagine how the constant traffic of heavy laden carts running between quarry and village would have considerably deepened that part of the track to the gorge it now is.

The Winniford Valley
The Winneford Valley – the Holloway runs into the trees, top right

There are others in this area, tracks such as the one, now part of the Monarch’s Way, that climbs from North Chideock, through the Winneford Valley up over Coppet Hill.

Henwood Hill Henwood Hill
On Henwood Hill

And a smaller, but none the less beautiful, path that runs across the ridge at Henwood Hill.  This is a lovely path to walk in spring when the bluebells and wild garlic are in flower.

Coombe Down Hill Coombe Down Hill
Coombe Down

Moving away from this immediate area, there is a fine Holloway that climbs from the A3066 south of Beaminster up over Coombe Down.  This is deep and wild with gnarled tree roots growing out of the steep sided walls, holding them in place.  It is a well walked path, forming part of The Jubilee Trail.

A Sunken Lane Follow the River
Near South Poorton

Another smaller lane (or is it a river!) runs from the road at South Poorton and drops down to the nature reserve.  With it’s fern lined walls and it’s stony, waterlogged bottom, this is a lovely haven for wildlife and this, together with the nature reserve beyond, makes a delightful walk.

Holloway, West Milton
The track drops down steeply at West Milton

And there is evidence of further Holloways at the other end of the nature reserve as the track drops down to another interesting village, West Milton.

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Lewesdon Hill Lane

One further path that I feel is worthy of inclusion is Lewesdon Hill Lane, although this is not perhaps a Holloway in the true sense.  I include it because it is ancient and sunken and a beautiful track to walk – it has even been suggested by some to have been part of the Ickneild Way, that ancient super-highway.  With moss covered banks on either side and surrounded by ancient woodlands, there are some wonderful views from this path.

Near Stoke Abbot
The access road down to Stoke Abbot

If you walk Lewesdon Hill Lane, you may well eventually reach the track that drops from the ridge down to the delightful village of Stoke Abbot.  It really is worth walking this part as the deeply cut access road that leads to the village is a Holloway in itself, and of course the village with its pub is a pleasant detour.

The sunken lane near Chetnole
Near Chetnole – this section is fairly clear but later it becomes overgrown Cutty Stubbs
Cutty Stubbs

Sadly, not all of our old sunken byways have been well maintained and with the development of other forms of transport many have fallen into disrepair.  The pictures above show sunken paths at Cutty Stubbs and Chetnole – both are now impassable.  At Cutty Stubbs, I couldn’t even find the entrance to the sunken path and had to ask the farmer for permission to cross his field to find it!  I did once question this with the authorities in an effort to have them cleared and reopened but sadly they ‘fall between stools’ and no-one has a budget that they wish to apply.  The reason is that these are often Byways Open to All Transport (BOAT’s) rather than footpaths and responsibility for these falls with the Highways authority.  The Footpaths authorities have a budget to maintain footpaths and Highways have a budget to maintain roads and BOAT’s………but naturally their funding is always exhausted keeping the roads in reasonable repair, with nothing left for our ‘off-road’ tracks.

Holloways may have been popularised by more recent writings but justifiably so.  They are ever changing, ever different, ever mysterious, but always delightful! And as is often the case when I walk, I travel along them wondering about those who have trod that way before – were they early drovers, were they pilgrims heading for one of the Dorset abbeys, were they smugglers, were they just ordinary people making their way to the port perhaps to emigrate to other lands!  Who were they and what was their purpose in travelling these ancient routes?  If only the walls could speak! These days walkers and wildlife are the companions of the Holloway and to go there is to enter another world.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

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

The WOW Factor

17 Dec Sunlight on Sea

A couple of months ago I made a conscious decision to walk every day, even if it was just for a few miles.  Prior to that, I walked several days a week but on the other days, work and other commitments tended to eat away at the available time and I missed out.  With retirement came more freedom to shape my own day, despite somehow becoming even busier with grandparent ‘duties’ etc :) – in fact sometimes I wonder how I had the time to work :) !

I still do my full day walks several days a week throughout Dorset but on the other days I have been able to focus on local walks which has led me to explore the various pockets of countryside that exist within easy reach of home.  These include small nature reserves, woodland, heath, river banks etc, oases in the urban sprawl that makes up our town.  As part of this, I set myself a challenge to look for the WOW factor on my doorstep, to notice the small details that we so often miss when walking.  These ‘WOW’s’ are there in abundance although when it comes to photographing them, it can be a real challenge!

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WOW – Amazing, tiny fungi on a newly sawn tree

If you walk the Grand Canyon, Niagara, Machu Pichu, the Everest foothills, or even my local Durdle Door (below), there is a strong chance that that ‘WOW’ is going to escape your lips without even thinking about it simply because of the grandeur of the scene before you.  One author put is this way, ‘Beauty is cheap if you point a camera at a grand phenomenon of nature’.  But what about the local, perhaps smaller, phenomenons of nature that are equally ‘wow’ albeit maybe with a small W – these are all around us.  The challenge is to notice them and capture them in the camera.

Awaiting the sunrise
WOW – Durdle Door

Just yesterday I went for a local walk with my son, Paul.  We followed a narrow ribbon of woodland that wound through various housing developments, it was urban and yet at times it felt like we were in the depths of the countryside.  The views were amazing and there was a myriad historic features, the site of an old mill, the remains of an old steam railway, relics of a long gone pottery works, majestic pines, a lovely clear mirror-like stream that I didn’t know existed, views across the harbour, and much more.  It was both fascinating and rewarding, and of course all the more special for sharing it with my son, my favourite walking companion.

The picture below was taken on a gentle stroll along the local promenade – hardly a wild wilderness but when this scene presented itself, I could not help but say ‘WOW’ to myself.  The view across the bay was magnificent but with that awesome stormy sky, the eerie amber light on the horizon and the sudden, and short lived, burst sunlight on the water, it just came alive.

Sunlight on Sea
WOW – Awesome light across the bay

Be it a walk along the coast or a walk across just a small patch of heathland, there are always wonderful sights if we are alert and aware of our surroundings.  Even the tiniest of leaves in the woodland with the last vestiges of the sun streaming through them makes me say “WOW’!

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WOW – Amazing texture and colours of nature

You can tell that I am passionate about the ‘ordinary’ although in fact there is no ordinary because the whole of nature is extraordinary.  My quest in my walks and my photography is to show the seemingly ordinary for the extraordinary that it is, and that is less about photography and more about seeing what is there.

You may have seen in the press that the most expensive photograph ever sold, taken in Antelope Canyon, Arizona, changed hands at $6.5M recently.  I wonder what made it worth that much.  That canyon is undoubtedly beautiful and there are thousands of pictures on the web to show all its beauty – but $6.5M???  The reality in my book is that you don’t need to spend a fortune jetting around the world in search of outstanding beauty, just look on your doorstep, its there if you will see it!

City Silhouettes
WOW – There are magnificent sights even in town!

Photography, and indeed, what we see as beauty, is of course a very personal thing – ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ as the well known saying goes, so what makes me say ‘WOW’ may not be the same thing that stirs others.  But the fact is, there is beauty and interest all around us just where we are so take the time to walk your local walks and search out that ‘WOW’ factor, whatever that means to you.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Of Walking with your Eyes Open

29 Oct

I read an interesting article recently comparing photography with painting/drawing.  The gist of it was that photographers see an eye-catching scene and capture it on camera without noticing the detail whereas an artist sits and takes in all the detail as well as the overall scene.  The conclusion was that photographers miss out.  It was a view held, if not started, by the art critic, John Ruskin and there is certainly truth in that view especially in the 21st century when everyone seems so ‘busy’ and rushes through life without stopping to just sit, look and listen.  As the poet said, ‘What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’!

You can see the point – the artist has to sit for some time, perhaps several hours, to take in all the finer detail of a scene in order to commit it to paper whereas the photographer doesn’t necessarily need to as the camera does the work of recording the detail instantly.  But it needn’t be that way and we can benefit hugely from making a conscious effort to really look as we walk – there is so much that we often just pass by without even realising.

The same is true of life.  I read another article some time ago from a blogger who set out the benefits to her of writing a blog – the gist of it was that blogging made her take notice of things that happened during the day, be it a chance meeting, a conversation, a thought, or just something she saw.  Things that would normally just slip by without taking root, became more vibrant as they provided material for the next blog.

All this is just about maximising life and adding texture and sparkle with a full realisation of this wonderful world we live in – everything we see, everything we hear, everyone we meet, everything that happens to us can enrich our lives if we let it.

I always try, although I often fail, to adopt this view when I am walking, being alert to all that is around me, especially in the countryside.  It means taking time and often standing or sitting still to drink in what is before me, looking up and down as well as all around.  The pictures below were all taken on a local walk that I do often – it is my regular ‘Sunday morning stroll’ and I ‘walked with my eyes open’.

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Through the trees

On the Nature Reserve
Autumn grass in the nature reserve

We especially miss things that are on the ground, like diminutive fungi, and things that are high up like the beautiful light filtering through the canopy above.

Fungi
Get down low

PA240102-102
Look up

The leaves, especially at this time of year, are truly amazing.  The colours range from green through the whole range of autumn tints, to the dead and decayed – there is as much beauty in decay as there is in the fresh foliage of spring!

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Stand Out!
PA240064-64-Edit
Notice the leaves

Have you ever noticed what a huge variety of bark there is in an average woods?  Different textures and colours, wrapped in ivy, covered in lichen, lived in by bugs…..

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Different bark

Whatever the weather, bright sunshine as in the second photograph above, or dull and wet as in the picture below.  The splashes of the raindrops on the water are like little pools of diamonds on the black water of the pond, like stars in the night sky.  How often we run when the rain comes……but stop for a while and drink in the beauty.

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Comes the rain

And the log pile – is it just a log pile, or is it a high rise for bugs and fungi?  Take a look, explore, you never know what you might see.

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The log pile

Fungi
Fungus

Everyone loves a spiders web with that wonderfully delicate and intricate tracery, an engineering miracle that can hold so much weight.

Caught Up!
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Suspended!

And of course there is always the bigger picture.  The beauty of dappled sunlight slanting across the clearing with a carpet of golden leaves.  Who could resist such a lovely scene?

The Clearing
In the clearing

And even late in the year, butterflies continue to dazzle with their beauty……even if a little bedraggled.  The Comma below will hibernate soon.

Comma
Comma

So much to see all around us, and yet we miss so much.  So walk with your eyes open, both through the woods and through life itself!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

A Tactile Walk

13 Aug

The morning was bright and for once I decided to leave Dorset for the neighbouring county to do a 15 mile walk through some wonderful countryside and villages.  The day started in one of those beautiful meadows that are a dream to walk; the long grass swaying in the gentle breeze, the skylarks’ sweet song soaring above me, the butterflies fluttering by, the bees and bugs buzzing all around – just a dream!  

The Meadow
In the meadow

Have you ever thought of a walk being tactile?  Walking through the meadow hearing, seeing, smelling (if I had a sense of smell), but feeling too as I walked with fingers outstretched combing through the heads of the long swaying grass.  It was a lovely feeling that added another dimension – a real multi-sensory meadow!

After a mile or two my route took me along a lane rife with tall, delicate cow parsley, always a delight in summer.  

The Lane
A lane lined with cow parsley

Pushing my way through the at times overgrown lane with grass and flowers brushing my legs, I was somewhat glad that the recent weather had been dry.  The lane eventually gave way to more open ground as I reached the edge of a field and passed an old, rustic fence post, its rough solidness contrasting with the flimsy grasses around it.  I ran my fingers over the post, feeling its roughness and wondering who else’s hands had done that same thing over the many years it had been there.  With hedging and missing gate, the post seemed surplus and yet still added something to a lovely rural scene.

Meadow's Edge
A lovely rural scene

Eventually I reached the first village, and a beautiful village it was.  I love walking the countryside but I also love walking these old villages with their old cottages, some picturesque and some functional, all part of a local community that has existed and seen many changes over the centuries.  Strange to think that cottages like the one below once housed poor farm workers but so often now are second homes for the wealthy.  How times have changed and what stories these cottages could tell.

The Cottage
Picturesque or functional, always a delight

Passing out of the village along a quiet country lane, I joined another footpath that skirted round a hill.  The heights reached on this walk are not mountainous but the views are none-the-less beautiful for that and I stopped to take in the landscape below me.

The Footpath
Low hills but still great views

The hill itself was a real surprise!  Known as Windmill Hill, presumably because at one time there was a windmill there, the area was covered in beautiful blue flax, not the most common farm crop.  The breeze blowing across the hill rustled through the flowers creating a waving sea of blue.

Flax on Windmill Hill
A waving sea of blue

There was more tactile to come but unfortunately not so positive – the path beyond the blue hill was overgrown with stinging nettles; shorts and nettles are not a good combination!  I picked my way carefully through and eventually reached clearer ground as the path skirted along the edge of some woodland with some lovely dappled sunlight filtering through.  It was like a fairyland and I tried to capture it with the camera.

If you go down in the woods today......
A fairyland

Another picturesque village, and a lunch stop, followed before I once again made my way out into the countryside.  The crops in the fields were already ripening and the paths through them were narrow and once again I walked with outstretched fingers feeling the touch of the full seed heads.  The golden grain swayed in the breeze as I walked.

Against the Grain
Golden grain

And naturally a poppy or two joined in.

A Beautiful Cliche!
Poppy

More fields followed with contrasting crops, the delicacy of oats to the touch and the robustness of barley.  The feel of these is so different, and the look too of course with the barley field seeming to impersonate the sea as wave after wave rolls across the field ahead of the breeze.  Narrow paths and high crops, I couldn’t resist running my outstretched fingers through the heads once again.

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The Way Through
Contrasting crops

I stopped in the middle of the barley field, watching the ‘waves’ and listening to the rustling of swaying stalks.  It was a delight and made me think of W H Davies words, ‘What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?’  We should, indeed, must take time to stand and stare, and to touch and feel too, to fully take in all that is around us.

But I needed to move on, as the day was ticking by, and leaving the field behind me, I joined a wonderfully picturesque path along a ridge top, again not a high ridge but with lovely views on each side.

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Along the ridge

Eventually I neared the end of my journey, but there was more to come.  For the last stretch, I joined a rampart and ditch that had once formed the fortification along the county boundary.  I sat for some time with the long meadow grass waving around me, drinking in the scene.  What history there is in these ramparts, what blood must have been shed on their flanks that are now covered with the most delightful wild flowers and butterflies – a beautiful place of peace after centuries of strife.

Rampart
On the rampart

The final part of my walk was back through the meadows that I had started out from.  Still with skylarks serenading me overhead, and a myriad wild flowers to welcome me back, I took some time to capture the scene, and to try to capture the essence of the meadow which I love so much.  In reality, this is an impossible task since the meadow is a place that needs all of your senses to take in its joys and a camera can only do the visual.

In the Meadow
In the MeadowSummer in the Meadows
The essence of a beautiful meadow

God gave us all our senses to enjoy but so often we neglect to use them, rushing through life hardly noticing what is around us.  The sense of touch is particularly not associated with walking as much as sight and sound but it can really add another dimension to a good walk – so next time you go out walking, make it a tactile walk.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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

31 Dec

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

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Grassy paths and autumn colours

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

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The morning light

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

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Down into the valley

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

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A peaceful Dorset farm lane

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

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Bloody Shard Gate

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

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A graveyard of the coppicing industry

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

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From hunting ground to farm land

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

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Shadows and light

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

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The village street

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

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Beside the pub fire

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

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Not the railway station

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

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The hamlet

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

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The parkland

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

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Inside the village church

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

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The day’s end

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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