Tag Archives: new life

Beneath the Tree

9 Jun

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

BENEATH THE TREE

Image

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

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

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

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

Be blessed!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Of literary giants and characters, bluebells and blossom, and some strange sights!

4 Jun

Sitting here in my office on a dull, dreary day, gazing out of the window across the local park, my mind wanders back to a delightful walk that I took recently.  It was in many ways a literary walk taking in some wonderful Dorset countryside and several wonderful old Dorset churches.  It was a walk to inspire the imagination!  Join with me and we will walk together.

It started in a delightful area of woodland, made all the more special by the dappled light and amazingly fresh spring colours in the trees.  Verdant new life that just takes your breath away!  As I walked along the track that wound its way through the woodlands accompanied by the bird song all around, I could not help but think of Thomas Hardy’s Tess.  I could picture her walking these ancient tracks with her friends as they made their way to church in their Sunday best dresses with Angel Clare not too far away.  It was sad that the event that led to her demise came in a similar glade at the hands of Alec d’Urberville!  Thomas Hardy wrote of such tragedy that seems to contradict the joy of this location.

Image
The countryside of Tess

With these typical Hardy woodlands and the nearby open heathland that once covered the whole of Dorset, it is not surprising that his novels come to mind because sandwiched betwixt wood and heath stands Hardy’s Cottage.  Built by his great grandfather, this is where Hardy was born in 1840 and where he started his writing career so it is fitting that he wrote of the area that surrounded him.  The cottage, now delightfully preserved by The National Trust, could have easily jumped out of one of his novels.  Looking across the garden, you can just hear Gabriel Oak’s voice drifting out of the open window saying to Bathsheba, ‘And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be – and whenever I look up, there will be you’.

Image
Thomas Hardy’s Cottage

Passing on down the narrow lane that seems little changed since Hardy’s day, I passed the first of several orchards, beautifully adorned with blossom and bluebells.  It would have been a great place to ‘stand and stare’ awhile…….but there was a walk to complete :)!

Image
A beautiful orchard

Not that I got very far because just down the lane I came across a very friendly lamb who needed a bit of fuss!  So I obliged :)!  Well, it is unusual to find a lamb who comes towards you rather than running away.

Image
A very friendly lamb

In fact it was one unusual sight to another because I hadn’t gone half a mile further before I saw the nest box below.  It seemed a somewhat random place to hang a nest box.  Needless to say, it was empty.

Image
A random nest box

But there was more to come because just a little further along the track I passed the sheep below – for some reason all clustered together under a small clump of trees despite having a whole field of lush grass!  I wondered if they knew something I didn’t :)!

Image
A ‘cluster’ of sheep

All along this walk you can see the ‘Hardy factor’.  Passing through a tiny village I passed thatched cottages along either side of the narrow country lane, including the old school house and the old post office.  These would have been two thriving gathering points in this small community in Hardy’s day but no longer.  As with a lot of villages, these ‘centres’ are no more as they have been converted to private houses.

Image
The Old Post Office

This was a spring walk and that was very evident too in this village with one of my favourite plants, the wisteria, growing over some cottages.

Image
Wisteria

Passing on through the village, my route took me over a lovely old bridge which had the usual warning notice about transportation if anyone caused damage to it – these are often seen in Dorset although it seems a harsh penalty – and onto a delightful causeway between two streams.  This really was a lovely part of the walk with the rippling stream on either side and a spectacular display of beautifully delicate cow parsley, not to mention a swan with a family of tiny cygnets.

Image
The riverside walk

This was such a varied walk as the river led on to some lovely water meadows, rife with buttercups and with many relics from the past, including the old sluice gates and channels that would have been used to flood the meadows in spring.  This was the method used to raise the ground temperature ready for the planting of seeds to ensure a speedy germination.  Although derelict, these sluice gates are still in place, part of the heritage of past generations.  I often wonder what life was really like back in those days – I would love to visit but I fancy I would want to come back to this century!

Image

Image
Sluice gates and buttercups in the meadow

Fortunately the weather has been drier so the meadows were easy walking.  Before long, I found myself passing Hardy’s other home, Max Gate, currently shrouded in scaffolding as the National Trust carry out renovations.  From here, my route took me down a lovely track that Hardy must have walked many times when visiting his friend and fellow author William Barnes.  They were near neighbours when Barnes was resident at the Came Rectory.

Image
En route to visit William Barnes

And of course this part of the walk would not be complete without a short detour to take in the old church where William Barnes was rector.  Standing in this church, you could just imagine Barnes preaching from the pulpit.  He must have had a broad Dorset accent as he wrote in the same dialect – not easy to read even for a Dorset born and bred man like myself.

Image

Image
Memories of William Barnes

And in the churchyard, another literary giant comes to mind – Thomas Gray in his Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard wrote, ‘Beneath those rugged elms, that yew tree’s shade……..Each in his narrow cell forever laid’.  Such a great descriptive poem, and death is so final……..or is it?

Beneath that yew tree's shade
Beneath the yew tree’s shade

And almost right outside the church was the loveliest display of ramsons and bluebells.  A fitting tribute to a famous Dorset author.

Image
Ramsons and bluebells

It seems that I am forever passing strange sights…..or maybe it is just that I am always on the lookout for quirky and unusual things.  The picture below is no exception :)!  This is something I have seen a number of times before where the corner of the field containing horses is essentially blocked off.  I can only surmise that it is because horses fight if trapped in a corner so any potential areas are blocked off but I don’t know if that is the case.

Image
A strange fence

Having walked cross country for a time, I reached civilisation again when I came to a lovely unspoilt hamlet with just a cluster of cottages, a tithe barn, a manor house, and a delightful little church.  This is of course the make up of many Dorset hamlets.

Image
A delightful unspoilt Dorset hamlet

The church, dating from the 12th century and of unknown dedication, is set apart from the hamlet in the middle of a field.  It really is a beautiful sight and is another church being cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust who do a great work.  The scene below is just so typically English, but the sign always makes me smile – it seems to be somewhat stating the obvious :)!  Even here there are literary connections as it was in this little church that William Barnes preached his first and last sermon.  For me, the peaceful churchyard made a great place for lunch in the company of birds and sheep.

Image
A delightful church

Having had my late lunch in the churchyard, it was time to press on along country footpaths, accompanied by skylarks singing their sweet lilting songs overhead – isn’t it amazing that they can make such glorious music whilst flying (it must be like us trying to run and sing at the same time).  Such a lovely sound that just lifts any stresses away and takes you into another place.  The sound is so joyful you feel that they belong in church.  And it wasn’t long before I came across the next church on this walk.  Another lovely unspoilt village with a very old church that had been modernised inside to create a lovely light, airy worship space – a real ‘ancient and modern’.

Image
Ancient yet modern

My route after leaving the village took me across farm land and quiet country lanes with verges that were breaking out with a myriad of different spring flowers, eventually crossing a railway line.  Here I thought I’d try something different so I crouched down in the gateway and waited for a train to come along, which it did very soon……..and very quickly too!  In fact as it passed, the air pressure created almost knocked me over :)!  Well, it had to be done :)!

Image
Whoosh!

I was nearing the end of the walk now but there were still more interesting things to see, such as the old King George post box buried in the hedge below.

Image
A King George post box

And as I approached the end of my walk, Thomas Hardy returned as I negotiated a particularly muddy section of the track.  It brought to mind the scene from Tess of the d’Urbervilles where Angel Clare carries Tess and all her friends one by one over the mud so that they didn’t get their clothes dirty.  What a gentleman!!!

Image
Where is Angel Clare?

And yet another scene came as the forecasted rain began to fall – I’m sure that is Joseph Poorgrass’ horse wandering free on the heath.  He’s probably at the inn again!

Image
Joseph Poorgrass’ horse?

Before we finish, let me take you back to a meadow near the end of the walk – what a lovely relaxing sound.

What a great walk!  So much to see and hear, and so many connections with our literary giants.  I hope you enjoyed walking with me.

Be blessed!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Sometimes the smallest waves make the biggest splash!

4 May

Originally posted on The Dorset Rambler:

Image

It took me ages to get this picture!  There were huge waves rolling in and I had my camera focussed on this rock just waiting for an almighty splash, silhouetted against the sunset………and they all just fizzled out like damp fireworks.  Every big wave which promised so much in the end was found wanting as it failed to deliver.  In the end I took my camera down – well my arms were aching ;) – as I could only see this tiny ripple heading towards the shore.  And yet that insignificant wave created this huge splash.  Fortunately I managed to get my camera up again and grab the shot just in time, and I could go home satisfied :)!

The moral of this tale is that we all feel like little waves and that everyone around us is making a so much bigger splash than we are, having so much…

View original 121 more words

Sometimes the smallest waves make the biggest splash!

8 Mar

Image

It took me ages to get this picture!  There were huge waves rolling in and I had my camera focussed on this rock just waiting for an almighty splash, silhouetted against the sunset………and they all just fizzled out like damp fireworks.  Every big wave which promised so much in the end was found wanting as it failed to deliver.  In the end I took my camera down – well my arms were aching ;) – as I could only see this tiny ripple heading towards the shore.  And yet that insignificant wave created this huge splash.  Fortunately I managed to get my camera up again and grab the shot just in time, and I could go home satisfied :)!

The moral of this tale is that we all feel like little waves and that everyone around us is making a so much bigger splash than we are, having so much more impact in this world.  But don’t fret, small waves often make the BIGGEST splash!  I know someone whose work on this earth only lasted 3 years but my, what a massive splash He made!  So to every little wave, just keep rolling and keep splashing, you may never know the impact you are having!

Be blessed!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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

21 Feb

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

Image
Repairing the foreshore

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

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

Image
Wide open spaces

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

ImageImageImage
The beauty of the sand dunes

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

Image
Three in a row

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

ImageImage
Whipping the wave tops

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

Image
A hovering airship!

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

Image
Freedom

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

Image
Snowdrops in the churchyard

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

Image
What a view

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

Image
A bird of a different kind

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

Image
Old Harry Rocks

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

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

Image
The Training Bank

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

Image
Red seaweed

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

ImageImageImage
Patterns in the sand

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

ImageImage
Watershed wonder

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

Image
Sunset in the dunes

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

Image
A twilight journey back

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

Be blessed!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

 

A walk of contrasts, of new birth, of a disappearing ghost, and a jar of chutney :)!

24 Aug

Well it’s a grey day outside as I look out of my office window – definitely a day for blog writing, and a walk I did a couple of weeks ago.  It was a walk that took me past a number of lovely Dorset churches but the first one as I trod my way through the first village was one that I couldn’t visit.  There had been a fire in the church earlier in the year and damage was caused to the roof rendering it unsafe.  The good news is that it should be re-opening soon.

So having left the village, my route took me alongside the little stream that runs through the valley and past some historic machinery, relics and reminders of bygone days.   These were the remains of sluice gates above the tunnel in the picture below.  This was part of the 200 year old irrigation system that was used to flood the meadows, raising the temperature of the land early in the year to ensure a richer crop.  Even without the flooding, the land around this area is still a relic in itself as it always seems muddy whenever I walk it!

Image
The tunnel and the old irrigation system

The water meadows are delightful, with many wild flowers, bugs and bees around and it is lovely to walk with the chattering of the stream beside you, almost as if it was trying to talk to me about ‘the old days’.  But all too soon, I had to leave its company and strike out further ‘inland’ to reach one of those lovely little hamlets with its own church.  A picturesque and peaceful place and a church with an added bonus – there was a stall inside selling cakes, jams and chutneys to raise funds for the church.  Well, naturally I had to support it even if it did mean carrying it around all day!  I like these stalls though, they are part of Dorset life, and you often find some unusual chutneys on them :)!

Image

Image
A beautiful church with a chutney stall at the back

Image
A picturesque cottage in the hamlet

Having left the hamlet (and returned 10 minutes later because I had left my hat in the church!), I continued along one of those very old ‘roads’ that always intrigue me.  I wondered who had gone that way before me in years gone by – was it a drove trail to the local market, was it just a link between villages or farms?  There are many of these routes in Dorset, probably busy byways in the days before cars but that have never been converted to modern roads.  I’m glad of course because they make me think about what life might have been like in those days, and they make great walking routes too with lovely hedgerows on either side.

A few miles further on, I passed a beautiful old manor house and another puzzle – what was it now?  I was to find out more a little further on in my walk :)!

Image
Image
A lovely manor house and a grand entrance – but what is it now?

It was actually in the nearby village that I found out more, a village that goes by the delightful name of Frome St Quintin.  This village has a beautiful remote church that I have blogged before and I found out more about that too :)!  The church, in the picture below, has a rather strange tower which looks like some afterthought; that is because it was – the somewhat squat tower was added after the main church was built but what makes it so incongruous is the fact that the tower is rendered.  The rendering is a much more recent addition, necessitated by severe damp problems.

What makes this such a lovely place is that the church is surrounded by fields and has no road access – tradition has it that there was originally a settlement immediately surrounding the church but that it was decimated by the Black Death, leaving the church isolated.  The church was restored in 1881 so many of its features are late victorian, such as the beautiful carving on the altar pictured below.

Image

Image
The isolated church and beautiful carving of the last supper

While I was there, I met a lady from the village and we fell into conversation – it was she who told me some of the history of the church and also of the old manor house.  So what of that magnificent old house?  Well the original house built in 1212 was owned by monks from Milton Abbey and it was rebuilt as this amazing mansion in 1612, passing into the private ownership of Sir John Strode.  It was said to be haunted by a ghost who on the same day each year would chant, ‘Search for Wat Perkins’ – many years later the skeleton of a murdered Scottish peddler was found in a ditch nearby and the ghost was reportedly never seen again!

In 1951 the Home Office acquired the house for use as a police training centre.  At that time a lot of ‘modern’ buildings were added such as accommodation blocks etc.  Being surplus to requirements, it was sold into private ownership again and has been used as a Christian retreat centre aimed at the American market, and for weddings etc.  The house has been described as the best in Dorset and it would be great to see it restored to its former glory – but somehow I suspect that is unlikely!

This was a walk of extreme contrasts in many ways!  As I climbed up to the ridge above the village I could hear the sound of many engines…..clearly the nearby Go-cart racing track was in use.  I stopped for a quick look at these tiny machines racing round the track at breakneck speed with just the sound of the high pitched engines speaking of tension.  Passing swiftly on down the other side of the ridge, their noise faded and I was able to walk in complete peace again.  And in this valley, I experienced a very special moment!


Who will win!

There were sheep on the hillside and one particular sheep was all on its own, laying on the ground.  I thought it looked unwell but it was also very big so I guessed it was heavily pregnant.  What I hadn’t realised was that it wasn’t only pregnant, it was giving birth at that very moment!  After a while as I stood and watched, she stood up and I saw the amazing sight of the head of a little lamb poking out as if it was just looking around surveying the scene to decide whether it wanted to come out!  With a head at each end, it looked like something out of Doctor Doolittle ;)!

It wasn’t long before the rest of the tiny lamb appeared and the mother then very lovingly licked it to clean it up whilst the little chap bleated at her – it was clearly a moment of mother/son (or daughter) bonding and it was very special to see.  With no midwife, no vet, no farmer, not even other sheep around, the ewe gave birth to a bonny baby.  Isn’t creation wonderful!  I felt very much like an intruder, as if I shouldn’t be there, so I kept my distance rather than get too close.  I did take a couple of pictures but the quality is not great because I have had to enlarge them quite a lot.

Image

Image
Amazing new life

After some time, I continued my journey and as I got to the bottom of the field there were more young lambs seemingly waiting for their new playmate.  It seemed strange – new lambs in August.  It once heralded the coming of spring!

Image
Waiting for the new playmate

Strangely, in the opposite field there were some really attractive cows with rather ‘wonky’ horns.  It seems strange to talk of a cow as being attractive, but I think these really were.

Image
‘Attractive’ cows!

I continued down the valley to the ever present sound of the buzzards and eventually came into another picture postcard village.  I have been to this village before and to the church but this time, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before.  It was a fireplace actually in the porch beside the entrance door – this is something I have never seen anywhere else.  Apparently, before the village hall was built, the porch was used for some village meetings, hence the fireplace!

Image

Image
The village church and its porch fireplace

The afternoon was drawing on and I still had a few miles to walk, so I moved on.  I climbed up out of the village through the trees and the beautiful light of the golden hour beamed down between the foliage creating an ethereal atmosphere that took my breath away.  I tried to capture the moment but the camera is a poor substitute for being there.

Image
Golden hour sunbeams

And as I reached the top of the ridge again I stole a last look down into the valley and the picture postcard perfect village in the distance.

Image
A delightful last look into the valley

My last couple of miles were down into the neighbouring valley and to the village I had started out from early that morning.  This too was a delightful village but in many ways contrasting with the village in the other valley.  A villager summed it up well when I stopped and chatted as I walked back to the car, this was a ‘working village’.  But to me, it was none the less beautiful for that!

Image
A ‘working village’

What a great walk this had been!  Great weather, some interesting conversations, new birth witnessed, delightful villages and churches, and a jar of chutney :)!  What more could a man want!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

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

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

1 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image
The way to the church

Image

Image
The village church with its stained glass

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

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

Image
The Pound

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

Image
The old farmhouse

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

Image
The Cabbage White

Image
Meadowsweet

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

Image
Meadow grasses

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

Image
A beautiful country cottage

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

Image
The sunken lane

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

Image
Crossing the railway line

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

Image

Image
The church with its upside down font!

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

Image
The way to the church

Image

Image
The smallest church in Dorset

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

Image
A very gloomy evening!

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

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

Flying Crooked???

22 Jul

Image
Cabbage White

The butterfly, a cabbage-white,
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has- who knows so well as I?-
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the acrobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.
(Robert Graves)

I heard this poem for the first time on the radio many years ago when I was in my car and it struck a chord immediately.  So when I got home, I looked it up and subsequently used it as an opening to a sermon.  You see, to me, there is a message in it!  Most of the poem is about how useless the Cabbage White is because it just can’t fly straight – it just flies randomly in all directions with no direction at all.  It even compares it very unfavourably with the swift which has such amazing aerobatic skills.

But then right at the end it turns it around and says that far from being useless, it has a real gift for ‘flying crooked’ :)!  You see, its all about how you look at it – which led me to question, how do we look at ourselves?  You may not be able to ride a bike like Bradley Wiggins, or wield a tennis racket like Roger Federer; you may not be a Mother Theresa or a Martin Luther King – the Cabbage White is not a Swift……but he has his own gifts and strengths, as do we all!  Its all about how we see ourselves :)!

Image
Flying crooked!

Both pictures were taken on a recent walk – full blog to follow.  The second one was of course modified in Photoshop :)!

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

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

All photographs on this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and may not be used without permission.

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

16 Jul

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

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

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

Image
The Sandbanks Ferry

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

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

Image
Shell Bay

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

Image

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

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

Image
In the sand dunes today

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

Image
The Heather Trail

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

Image
The ‘swamp’

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

Image
Heavy skies but the sun shines on the righteous ;)

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

Image

Image
One goes on an adventure!

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

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

Image
The pill box – with a robin on the top

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

Image
Giving birth ;)

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

Image
On the cliff tops

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

Image
Old Harry Rocks

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

Image
St Lucas’ Leap

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

Image
The way back

Continue reading

A walk with great company :)!

15 May

This was a walk with a difference – I had company, and just the best company too :)!  Because I mostly walk during the week, I normally walk alone which is fine because I am quite happy in my own company and besides, you are never really alone out on the trail because you always bump into some interesting people along the way.  But this time my son Paul and his lovely wife Laura came with me :)!  Now Paul is a best friend as well as my son – we are kindred spirits, and the three of us make a great team out on the trail.  And what a great walk we had!

It started in some beautiful meadows, famous meadows in fact, with bluebells everywhere and even an orchid or two!  Plus of course lots of orange tip butterflies, so called because their wings have……..orange tips!!

Image

An Early Purple Orchid with bluebells

There were several ponds along this 16 mile walk, some man made and some natural…….in fact there were some ponds on the footpath itself because of all the rain we have had recently – but more of that later!  The pond below is actually part of a fishery and it is in a beautiful setting in a small hamlet.  Overhanging the pond and tied to a tree branch was a swing which just needed someone sat on it to create a prize winning photograph.  We tried to persuade Laura to pose on it for us but for some reason she declined ;)!

Image

The fishery pond

Image

A swing just begging for someone to sit on it ;)

After all the rain we have had recently, everything looked so beautifully clean, fresh and lush.  In fact we decided that the word of the day should be VERDANT because everything everywhere was just that!  At one point we dropped down through a valley and the light coming through the tress threw such lovely shadows across all the greenery – it was just magic!

Image

Verdant, the word of the day!

Mind you, that rain brought problems too as the paths in many places were extremely muddy or even impassable because they had ‘ponds’ of their own.  On occasion it meant detouring off the track and following an obstacle course over fences and through hedges just to get round the obstruction.  It was either that or take off the shoes and socks and paddle!!  I did suggest to Paul that he should do the gallant thing and carry Laura through the puddles, but we climbed fences instead ;)!

Image

An unforeseen ‘pond’

Image

Part of the obstacle course ;)

Apart from puddles and ponds, something else we had aplenty was clouds, lots of fluffy white sky sheep swimming across the deep blue swimming pool of the sky.  Very photogenic!

Image

Fluffy sky sheep – or is that an airship?

Half way round our circuit we passed the lovely Manor House in the picture below.  It sits in an idyllic position in a tiny hamlet in a beautifully picturesque valley, and it was clearly well looked after.  We met the current ‘lord’ of the manor – although he is not really a lord any more, just a wealthy person.  He was another of those friendly country folk that I so often seem to get talking to on my travels and he told us a bit about the house and the hamlet it sits in.

It was once a village with around 100 inhabitants but with the declining manpower needed to run the farms, it is now down to a small hamlet of about 16 people.  The Manor House itself dates mostly from the 17th century and at one point it became almost derelict.  So much so that an underground spring actually ran through the lounge which was very useful to the local pig farmer who took his pigs into the lounge to be slaughtered so that the blood would be washed away by the spring!  A bit gruesome but it is part of the history and heritage of the now restored Manor.

The hamlet has its own church dating from the 1870′s and this too is now owned by the current ‘Lord’ of the Manor who paid the princely sum of £50 for it not long ago.  It has to be maintained in good order as a church so it’s great that he felt able to take it on and preserve a part of history that might have otherwise become derelict!

Image

The manor house

Shortly after passing the Manor, we came across another pond with some great photographic opportunities…….and Laura almost provided a great action shot opportunity for me, but she resisted ;)!  Paul is taking a photograph by the way so was oblivious to what she was doing ;)!!!

Image

Go on!  There’s a great picture to be had!

Now normally, I try to avoid any convenience food or drink when on a walk, preferring to have my sandwiches sat somewhere in the countryside.  This walk however took us through a town and when we heard the chimes of an ice cream van, we couldn’t resist!

Image

Ice cream time, even if it doesn’t go with the rugged outdoor image :)

This is another walk that takes in one of those sunken lanes and you can get a sense of scale from the picture below.  These lanes always intrigue me – it could be that it was formed simply by water running off the hills but I prefer to think of it as having been deliberately dug to make a route for smugglers carrying their contraband in unseen!  It really is an awesome place to walk!

Image

A smuggler’s route?

As always, there were many sheep with lambs on the route and for the third time recently The Dorset Rambler came to the rescue of one little lamb.  There was a tree in the particular field which had a fence around it and somehow the lamb had found its way into the fenced off area and it couldn’t get out.  It was bleating pitifully and was throwing itself against the fence in an effort to escape – sheep are a bit dense I think!  With some difficulty because it kept running away from me, I managed to get it out and ran happily across to its mum…….and a good feed!!Image

Happy families!

Shortly after, we met another interesting character!  He was the local farmer who was using a JCB to dig a hole in the middle of one of his fields.  It seemed a bit of a random thing to do so we stopped and asked him, ‘Why?’  Apparently there is a network of land drains running throughout the field and one had exploded and needed repairing.  Without it, a verdant green grassy field would become nothing more than a useless quagmire!  He told us all about his farm which was several thousand acres of arable, sheep and cows, all operated by 5 people.  In the past of course that one farm would have been split into numerous smaller farms, each of which would have employed many men.  And of course the huge field we were stood in would have been numerous smaller fields too.  How times change with the coming of more sophisticated machinery!  With the loss of all those hedgerows that provided cover for much wildlife, the change is not all good!

Image

Care, exploding land drains!

As evening settled over the countryside and the beautiful golden hour approached, we passed through another lovely wooded area.  How the scene changes at this magic time of day.  Even the conifers look picturesque with their new foliage uncurling!

Image

A lovely evening woodland walk

Image

Even the conifers take on a special beauty in the golden hour!

As we neared the end of the walk, the sun was setting and we dropped down off the hilltop and into the valley.  And there was just time for one more photograph, a reminder of a special day!  Memorable for great scenery and sun, memorable for lots of water and mud, memorable for fences climbed and lambs rescued, memorable for interesting and friendly country folk, but memorable most of all for the company of two great people who are close to my heart!

Image

Two special people!

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

Your friend,

The Dorset Rambler

Please note that all photographs on this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 196 other followers