Tag Archives: nature

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.

Of bright sunshine, eerie woodlands, raining lead shot, and a very DARK walk back!

2 Dec

What a gorgeous morning this was!  Bright sunshine on a crisp autumn day and this time I had made sure I had my gloves with me before I started out.  Not that I got very far before I stopped to get the camera out – I parked in a rough lay-by with a very nicely placed puddle to reflect the autumn trees.  But soon, I headed out along that country lane for a short distance before turning off onto open fields.

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A well placed puddle

The day was chill and the grass still wet, and even though the sun had risen, the shadows thrown by the trees were long.  These cold days are so much better for photography than the warm summer hazy days as the light has a clarity that really brings out the shades and shapes of the landscape.  Today, I had the pleasure of the company of both sun and moon at the same time as the latter was clearly working the day shift.  As lovely as it was to see the soft moon in the daytime sky, this was a pleasure that was to have consequences later!

After a short time, my route left the open countryside and I walked through a doorway into some woodlands.

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The woodland doorway

The path descended into a deep valley filled with trees that had once formed a thriving coppicing industry although activities here had ceased long ago.  This was an eerie valley, always dark, always damp, decaying wood everywhere, lots of moss, and with hardly a sound in the very still air.  Little did I know it then, but this would be an even more eerie place later in the day as I made my way back!

Eventually my route took a left turn and I walked along a path, carpeted with golden leaves, that climbed up the hillside into a more light and airy woodland.

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A golden carpet of leaves

It is always a pleasure walking this stretch of woodland with the rustling of the leaves and the plaintive cry of the buzzards being the only sounds.  It seemed like I was the only person out, but not quite – I passed an elderly couple walking their dog and we greeted each other as we passed.  The old gentleman could walk no further so was taking a rest as his wife walked a little further along the path.

At the edge of these woods I passed through the old gate in the picture below.  I pass it regularly and yet each time I find myself taking yet more pictures of it.  I never could resist an old wooden gate, especially with that lovely sunshine streaming through the trees!  It could easily have been the gate that inspired Hardy to write, ‘I leant upon a coppice gate, when frost was spectre grey….’!

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The old gate

A little further along, my path dropped down into what is one of my favourite valleys with the rather wonderful name of Shepherd’s Bottom.  Normally there are sheep grazing which always seems appropriate in this place.  Today there were none but it was still a lovely place to be.  

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Shepherd’s Bottom

Dropping down into the valley, I passed through a small area of woodland before climbing up the other side to yet more woodlands.  At one time of course the whole of Dorset comprised of woodlands or heathland and with so much of the land having been cleared for farming, it is good to see these pockets of wild countryside still remaining.  This however was a working forest and signs warned of the danger from large machinery.

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The forest track

By the time I had come out of the woodlands and onto the open hilltop again, it was time for lunch so I found a suitable seat……which was actually a relatively dry stile!  The views from my lunch ‘table’ were amazing and even in the cold, I was happy to sit and look out across the valley beyond.  

My peace was disturbed however by men with sticks that had what appeared to be carrier bags tied to the end.  They were walking the hillside waving their sticks and I quickly guessed their purpose.  One of them, a young man with two spaniels in tow, passed by me.  As he lifted his dogs one at a time over the stile that had been my seat, I asked him if there was a shoot, to which he replied, ‘Yes’.  Apparently the guns were at the bottom of the valley and soon after I heard the first shot.  As I packed up and walked on, gunshots echoed out constantly, and frequently I was rained on by lead shot.  

Although having lead shot falling on me out of the sky didn’t concern me, it did make me wonder what the long term effect would be on the farmland and the crops.

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My lunch time view

After some time, I moved away from the shoot onto a neighbouring hillside.  My route was to take me down the side of the hill and through a delightful village.  This is one of those places that you would normally not stop at but that really reaps rewards if you are prepared to walk and explore.

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The village in the valley

It has an old school, an old church, numerous cottages and farmhouses…….

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The old farmhouse

…….and even an old mill in a very picturesque position beside a beautifully still millpond.  Once a busy village mill, this is now in a private residence.

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The old mill

Leaving the village behind, my route took me beside the now slow flowing mill stream and out onto the narrowest of country lanes with high banks on either side.  The sun was streaming straight down the road, highlighting the fallen leaves as if it were a spotlight and the leaf a starring player in a stage production.  But this was better than any stage production!

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In the spotlight

Climbing out of the valley, I ultimately crested one of the highest points in Dorset.  With 360 degree views over countryside and along the ridge, this is a spectacular spot to just sit and gaze.  This is a place with a history as it was once the site of one of the chain of Armada beacons erected in the 16th century between London and Plymouth.  How communications have changed since then!

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The view from the beacon

I lingered a while to enjoy the view, lost in my own thoughts.  The breeze was gentle but cutting, with a sting in its tail and I was glad of my flask of hot Bovril to warm me.

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A warming drink as the sun goes down

With the light fading fast, I needed to move on and so followed the ridge of hills for a mile or more, bathed in the warm light of the setting sun.  Along this stretch I was not alone as I passed a group of people who were, like me, enjoying the sunset.

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Enjoying the sunset

Just as I reached the end of the ridge-top path and my route turned once again into woodlands, the sun dipped his toe into the horizon pool before diving headlong in and disappearing from view.  This was a beautiful but slightly concerning sight as I still had several miles to walk!

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The sun dips his toe into the horizon pool

With the sun went the light!  I entered the first area of woodland with just enough glow in the sky to enable me to find my way and avoid the huge areas of deep mud on the heavily rutted forest track.  However, very soon the light had gone completely so I took my head torch out of my rucksack……only to find that the batteries were all but dead!  The words of Thomas Gray came into my mind, ‘And all was left to darkness and to me’!

Normally at this point the moon would cast his gentle glow to aid me but of course he had been up when I set out this morning so was still fast asleep!  I entered a second area of dense woodland with only a glimmer of light with which to find my way.  By now, I had given up trying to find my way round the mud but rather just ploughed through the middle.  Being ankle deep most of the time, I slipped and slid my way slowly onwards along a track which in daylight would not have been easy to follow but in the dark………!

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The eerie darkness

Those eerie woodlands of this morning were even more so in the dark.  The stillness was tangible!  Owls hooted spookily all around me, leaves rustled, trees creaked like rusted door hinges, twigs cracked, broken by unknown feet, and the eyes of unseen creatures stared at me, caught in the slight glimmer of my head torch.  I could not tell what the eyes belonged to other than to guess by their height off the ground.

Every few yards game birds, spooked by my presence, panicked and took off noisily with thrashing of wings and screeching of voice.  I hoped that they would be able to find another roosting spot in the dark!

My way out of the woods was by the track I had come along earlier in the day but it was not an obvious track, especially with a heavy covering of leaf and mud, and the sign pointing it out was half hidden in the trees.  However, eventually I found it!  I made my way slowly up the side of the valley and after what seemed an age I reached the road from which I had started the walk.

What a day!  Fabulous sunshine, amazing views, interesting places and most memorable of all, a wonderful night walk in the deep, dark woods!

I sat and enjoyed the rest of my Bovril before heading for home and a hot shower :)!

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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

20 Nov

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

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

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Evidence of autumn

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

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

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

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

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The village in the valley

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

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The forest track

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

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Beautiful autumn sunlight

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

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I hope not!

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

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Tree top colours

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

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Shadows shaking hands

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

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The old coppice woods

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

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Autumn berries and foliage

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

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Old Man’s Beard

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

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Smuggler’s Lane in autumn

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

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Ruts and hedgerows

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

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

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

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The end of the lane

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

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The old barn

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

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From one hill fort to another

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

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The valley bonfire burns in the late sun

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

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Shadows on the old barn

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

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Sunset and silhouette

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

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

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Sunset on the ramparts

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Along the coast path with a backpack – Day 3

26 Sep

I looked out of the tent to once again see a grey, misty morning.  In my mind I had seen myself waking up early to beautiful misty sunrises, enabling me to take some wonderfully atmospheric pictures but so far that hadn’t materialised.  At least it wasn’t too windy and it wasn’t raining, although again the tent was soaked in dew.

Today was to be a shorter day, just 11 miles although it turned out to be longer.  I lingered for a while over my cup of tea and breakfast snack before once again squeezing everything into my too small rucksack and heading off.  Walking back through the village of Uplyme I passed the cottage below with a stained glass window depicting the nearby viaduct.  For a moment it took me back to my lovely stroll in the fading light of yesterday evening.

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The Cannington Viaduct door

For a time I retraced my steps from yesterday to reach The Old Mill again, where I turned south to follow the River Lim down into Lyme Regis.  This was a lovely walk, part of which goes through the town along a ’causeway’ with the river on one side and the mill stream on the other and with some delightful old cottages.

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Betwixt and between

Lyme Regis is nicknamed ‘The Pearl of Dorset’ and dates from Saxon times although it developed more as a port in the 13th century.  The town was once served by a railway but the line closed as part of the Beeching axe of the 1960’s, hence the disused viaduct two miles up the valley.

It is probably most famous for its fossils and for The Cobb, the harbour wall built around the 13th/14th century which featured in the film ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’.  It is a delightful place to explore although it is also a popular tourist destination.  For me, the perfect time to visit is in the early morning as I did today.

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Yesterday’s walk with the distinctive shape of Golden Cap left of centre

I reached the sea front and immediately spotted a cafe advertising bacon baps so I sat outside and enjoyed breakfast looking out across Lyme Bay to the coastline I had walked yesterday.  In the picture above, Golden Cap, now clear of mist, is  visible with its distinctive flat top.  What a great place to sit and enjoy breakfast :)!

I had only walked two miles so it was time to move on and turning west, I headed off along the sea front with The Cobb ahead of me stretching out to sea.

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Lyme Regis and The Cobb

Having explored The Cobb, well no visit to Lyme Regis is complete without walking out on the old harbour wall, I climbed up to the coast path which follows the under cliff.

The next few miles would be deceptively difficult as despite having no major headlands, the route unceasingly climbs and falls, weaving in and out of the trees along the winding, muddy footpath with slippery rocks, tree roots and other hazards, not to mention a million steps ;)!  It is not a place to relax as you have to watch your feet constantly.  Near the start I passed the sign below warning that it is 4 hours of arduous walking and no escape routes.  But it is a wonderful place to walk!

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Warning!!

The Axmouth to Lyme Regis under cliff was formed by a series of huge landslides in the 18th and 19th century that created a middle ground between the cliff top and the beach.  It stretches for some 7 miles and it was a fashionable place to visit in victorian times.  There was even a cottage built there where cream teas were sold to the tourists.  At one time it was grazed by sheep, keeping the undergrowth in check but over the years it has become more overgrown.  It is now a National Nature Reserve and is a haven for wildlife.

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Deep in the woods – Hart’s-tongue ferns

The under cliff is quite an eerie place with the dense undergrowth, overhanging trees and the constant dampness, especially noticeable after yesterday’s rain.  It feels almost like a forgotten place, like some remote rain forest where no-one goes.  This feeling is emphasised by the few derelict cottages that lie amongst the trees.  I often wonder who lived there and what their lives were like!

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Derelict cottages in The Under Cliffs

There is a video of the walk on the web entitled, ‘The Path Goes on Forever’ and it can seem that way!  Beautifully cool on a hot summers day but perhaps a little dark on a grey autumn morning such as this, so I was pleased when at last the way opened out a bit more and I could see the Beer headland ahead of me.  My bed for the night was on that far headland and I had crossed the border into Devon.

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The way opens out ahead

I was not out of the woods yet though as there was still more under cliff to go through but ultimately the path climbed up and out onto the cliff top with just the sky above me.  And just for good measure, that was the moment the sun chose to come out.  I sat on a seat and enjoyed a rest for a few moments before continuing up and over the headland and dropping down through a golf course to reach the River Axe..

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The River Axe

Crossing the river, it was then just a short walk into Seaton, a seaside town with rather an interesting roundabout, or ‘Pedalabout’ as it is known :)!

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The Pedalabout

I didn’t linger in Seaton as in my view, its near neighbour Beer is much more attractive but I did take a last look back before climbing once again towards the next headland.  Looking back across Seaton, I noted a change in the geology from white chalk to red sandstone.  This red rock would become a feature of the walk later.

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Looking back at Seaton

Theoretically, at this point I had just a mile and a half to walk but I hadn’t reckoned on yet another cliff fall until I came across the sign below.  I diverted inland for an extra mile or two before rejoining the coast path near the top of the headland.

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Diversion!

I always like walking over this headland as the path is easy, meaning that you can enjoy the beautiful views in both directions.  This is a welcome change from the under cliff where I had to watch my every step.  Looking east, I could see Seaton with Axe Cliff beyond…..

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Looking towards Seaton and Axe Cliff

…..and looking west I had my first view of Beer.  This beautiful coastal town gets its name not from the alcoholic beverage but from the Anglo-Saxon word for grove, as the area was heavily forested then.  It grew up around what was a smugglers’ cove with caves that were once used to store contraband.  Its main legitimate trades were fishing and lace making, with the former benefitting from the fact that Beer Head protects the cove from the prevailing westerly winds making it a very sheltered spot.  Fishing still goes on today but tourism is probably the main industry now.

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The first view of Beer

As my camp for the night was on the headland, I continued up the hill to Beer Head and pitched the tent.  It was only 4.15pm and there was plenty of warmth in the sun, giving a good opportunity to dry the tent, waterproofs and other clothes still damp from yesterday.  And of course to chill over a cup of tea outside the tent :)!  I was particularly pleased that I had now walked for three days with a heavy load and my ankle was still holding up well.

Evening came and I walked back down into the village where there is a great pub, with an even better beer garden overlooking the beach.  I sat in the evening light and had a beer in a Beer beer garden ;), and of course something to eat!

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A beer in a Beer beer garden – taken with the iPhone

Oh, and I spotted the photographic opportunity below :)!

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Can’t you read?!!!

Beer is such a delightful village, one of my favourite places and it was great to have reached camp early enough to be able to spend some time here.  Strolling along the beach lined with fishing boats which had been winched up out of the water made a very peaceful end to a great day.  The sun had set behind the headland, the gulls were wheeling around overhead and the air was still.  Later as I walked back to the tent by the light of the moon with the village lights flickering below, the words of the poet came to me, ‘All was left to darkness and to me’.  Perfect!

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Evening on Beer beach

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.

Holloways – walking Dorset’s labyrinthine paths!

17 Sep

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Hell Lane

There are thousands of paths criss crossing Dorset’s wonderful countryside but none as fascinating as 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 the southern counties of England where the bedrock is soft – West Dorset is predominantly sandstone.  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.

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.

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A network of tree roots hold up the walls

Holloways 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.  And 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!

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Another West Dorset holloway

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!

They are ever changing, ever different, 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 just ordinary people making their way to the port perhaps to emigrate to other lands!

There is always so much to discover as I walk through this lovely county of Dorset.

………………………………………………

I cannot end this blog entry without thanking those who have sent good wishes on my recent ankle problems.  I have now had the results of the X-Ray and it apparently shows that I have osteoarthritis as well as a slightly skewed joint.  This is normal in a joint that has had trauma in the past.  The words I didn’t want to hear were, ‘The more you walk, the more it will wear‘!  However, she did also say that as walking is good for you, and as it is not an exact science, I should keep on walking :)!  To use the doctor’s words, ‘The pain will tell you when it is time to stop’!  Hopefully that won’t be anytime soon :)!

So I am off to test the ankle later this week :)!  I am packing my rucksack with tent and everything else and heading off for a four day backpack along the Dorset and Devon Coast Path :)!  A blog entry will no doubt follow :)!

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Of dappled sunlight, amazing views, ridges and valleys, and some lost cows!

29 Aug

What a difference to last year!  2012 was wet, wet, wet; 2013 has been sunshine and warmth, making for some wonderful walks and very pleasant evenings.  Despite my ankle problems, I managed to get out on the trail again this week although I trod with care.  The X-Ray is done and I now just have to wait for the report…….and in the meantime I will continue to tread carefully, and walk on :)!

This walk started on a ridge top although my route immediately took me down into the valley along a stony track which definitely needed care as the last thing I needed was a twisted ankle.  The problem with these rough tracks is that you have to watch where you are walking, and with views ahead like the one below, it is hard to watch the ground.

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Rough path, great view!

It wasn’t long though before I came out onto a country lane.  Now I really like walking along country lanes because the walking is easy and you can fully take in all that is around you.  However, that is provided the country lane is quiet…….which this one normally is…….except in the school holidays!  I found myself stepping into the hedge with monotonous regularity to get out of the path of passing cars.  With beautiful dappled sunlight and amazing views ahead, it was still lovely despite the traffic.

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A ‘quiet’ country lane

In fact, with signs like the one below, you wouldn’t want to step too far into the hedge :)!

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Traffic one side, unexploded shells on the other ;)

The lane led me into one of those typically Dorset hamlets, with a manor house, a farm, a church and a cottage or two, nothing more.  Most of these settlements date back to manorial days before transport was easy and people needed to live near their work, and their lordly employers.  I was pleased to see the cottage below being re-thatched.  I have walked past it many times and have always felt sad at the poor state of repair into which it had fallen.

These cottages are so typically Dorset and they look so picture post card perfect but with those tiny windows, they must be quite dark inside.  As someone who loves light and the outdoors, I am not so sure that living in one would suit me.  And I’m not so sure I would want the huge capital cost of re-thatching either as it has a limited life span, not to mention the high cost of insurance!

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Refurbishment in progress

Continuing through the hamlet, my route took me along a wonderful quiet lane with dappled light filtering through the patchwork of leaves and branches above, highlighting the colours in the foliage.  With the ladder leaning against the tree it was like a Hardy scene and I almost expected someone in a smock to be picking apples.

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Nearly autumn!

And on to the church with its graveyard where in Thomas Gray’s words, ‘Each in his narrow cell forever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep’.  I wonder what this hamlet was like in their day!  Who were they and what stories could they tell?

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The Rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep

And of course, yet more dappled light with the sunshine filtering through the overhanging branches of the ever present yew trees.  Just beautiful!

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Beneath the yew tree’s shade

Leaving the village behind, I continued across the fields and past one of my successes :)!  In amongst the trees there is a small wooden bridge which once was broken and impassable and which badly needed replacing.  There is a system in Dorset whereby you can report problems with footpaths and I do this regularly – the bridge has now been replaced :)!

I have spoken before about good farmers who reinstate paths after fields have been ploughed up or planted, as opposed to ‘bad’ ones who don’t.  This little wooden bridge leads onto the field of a good farmer who always reinstates the path by driving his tractor diagonally across the field.  I stopped part way and turned to look back down the ‘tram lines’ to see the church now far in the distance.

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Down the tram lines

One of the highlights of this walk is undoubtedly the section that traverses the ridge just inland of the coast path – often I would walk along the coast path itself but sadly due to the many serious cliff falls last year, that path is still closed.  As sad as that is, the inland route is equally beautiful with a fabulous panorama which covers 360 degrees.  Just gaze in wonder with me for a moment, feel the sea breeze on your face and smell the countryside.

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A fabulous panorama

One of the good things about this walk is that when you leave one view, the next is not far away.  Walking round to the next valley brought another vista to be enjoyed and as it was past lunch time, I sat on the hillside and ate looking out onto the scene below.  Where better to eat!

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Lunch time view

This valley is truly amazing, a huge bowl with a ridge of hills round three sides and the sea on the fourth, and with another of the Purbeck mansions sitting in the middle, with of course its associated farm.  This whole valley and surrounds changed hands a few years ago for £25M.  What a place to live!  In the picture below, I have tried to capture the whole amphitheatre although it never comes across fully in a small picture.

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The ‘amphitheatre’

And all around the top of the bowl runs the path that forms my way onwards, and what a lovely path.  This is one of those paths that I call ‘bare foot paths’, beautifully grassy and flat and the sort of path that when I was young we used to take off our shoes and socks and walk bare foot along.  So refreshing on a hot summers day, and so liberating!  These days I keep my shoes on but it always takes me back to my youth :)!

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Bare foot path

Having circled the valley perimeter, my route took me on to another country lane – another normally quiet road that was not so quiet today!  Clearly some work was going on somewhere as trucks came past me kicking up dust.  Still, as someone once said, ‘If life throws you scraps, make a patchwork quilt’ – the trucks might be a nuisance but they provided some good photographic opportunities :)!

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Dust to dust

The lane eventually took me into the hilltop village with its lovely array of cottages and its well known church which is often referred to as the ‘Cathedral of the Purbecks’ because it is far too grand for a small Dorset village thanks to the generosity of the Lord of the Manor.

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A village cottage with the ‘Cathedral of the Purbecks’ behind

I said before that this is a walk with one view after another – well there was another just round the corner.  Walking down another of those old gravel tracks which seem to criss cross throughout Dorset, the view suddenly opened out and the famous old castle came into view far down in the valley.  Crossing the stile, I continued down the hillside and across the common towards what is probably one of the most popular towns in Purbeck.

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Down the valley

Although I love this town, when I am walking, I try as far as possible to avoid the busy places as I would rather be out in the wilds.  So I skirted round civilisation, just grabbing a closer shot of the castle standing proud on its hilltop.

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Standing proud

And a little farther on, there was a sad reminder of something that I had heard on the news earlier in the day.  The picture below shows the castle framed between two ash trees and I called it ‘Ashes to Ashes’ partly because of the two trees, partly because of the nearly destroyed castle, but also because sadly the Ash Dieback disease has come to Dorset.  Up till now, the county has been pretty much clear of it and these two ash trees have had a long life.  I wonder how much longer they have though :(!

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Ashes to Ashes

The final part of my walk involved a climb up onto another ridge, the Purbeck Hills from which the area takes its name, and yet more glorious views.  And yet more bare foot walking paths too :)!  Flat, wide and grassy, just what was needed with my bad ankle.

It was along this section that I had one of those odd experiences.  Half way along, the path drops down to a road that crosses the ridge and a lady approached me and asked, “Were there any cows up there?”.  I assured her that there hadn’t been and asked somewhat tongue in cheek, “Why, have you lost some?”.  In fact she hadn’t!  She was actually working for the county council environmental health department and apparently there had been a complaint about a cow with an eye infection – she was looking for that cow.  When she described where it was, I was able to point her in the right direction which was another nearby ridge.

It was interesting chatting to her – she had been doing this job for 20 years and it involved investigating complaints and visiting farms throughout Dorset.  Since it was a lovely warm summer’s day, I thought what a great job that must be…..until she pointed out that she does the same thing in freezing winter weather when she can be knee deep in mud and other farmyard materials!  It didn’t seem quite so idyllic then ;)!

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Along the ridge top

I was nearing the end of the walk now and the evening sun was setting, creating a beautiful warm glow across the hilltop and picking out the long grass which seemed to be aflame.  The evening was very still and balmy as I passed the castellated arch which stands on the ridge above yet another old Purbeck mansion.  The house itself sits in the valley below and the arch is in fact nothing more that a folly that can be seen from the house but it always adds a little bit of mystery in the fading light.  I sat a while and just drank in the scene, and some water too before heading back to the car.

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Evening light across the hilltop

What a wonderful walk!  So many views, such great paths, fabulous weather, and lots of memories to carry with me always.  I hope you enjoyed walking with me!

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

 

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