Tag Archives: rain

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 2

20 May

DAY 3 – STRUMBLE HEAD to TREFIN – 14.3 miles

I was up early to break camp and pack away my tent which was wet with dew.  By 7.30am I was on my way to the coast path again as I had had to walk inland yesterday to find somewhere for my night stop.  I soon passed the Strumble Head lighthouse which stands on Ynys Meicel (St Michael’s Island).  This was built in 1908 to replace a lightship, previously moored off shore, and was one of the last to be built in Britain.

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Strumble Head Lighthouse in the early morning light

The path was once again winding and full of ups and downs but the scenery was spectacular, especially on this glorious sunny day. On this part of the walk, I passed various wartime relics, the remains of barracks, lookout posts and other paraphernalia, and the peak of Garn Fawr was ever present.

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Military remains with Garn Fawr in the background

Once again, I passed very few walkers along this stretch although there were a few people on the various beaches I crossed.  The day was ‘energy sappingly’ warm and the path was rough and rocky for much of the way which meant that my feet became sore despite all the miles that I regularly walk.  But the coast was beautifully rugged and there were stretches of flatter, easier walking.

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Beautifully rugged

I passed a long dry stone wall that was apparently labelled by the builder, ‘The Great Wall of China’!

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The Great Wall of China?

After some miles I dropped down into Abercastle, another of those inlets that provided a harbour for trading vessels over a great many years.  It was a delightful place with its cluster of cottages and remains from its past, a derelict lime kiln, an old granary and the remains of a lime-burners cottage.  It was a place to linger awhile!

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Abercastle

But I still had more miles to walk so after a short break I continued on my way, rounding the Pen Castell-coch headland with its soft grass and spring flowers, and skylarks singing overhead.   Eventually I reached Aber Draw, the beach for Trefin, my stopping point for the night.  This is a mainly rocky beach but it has an interesting ruin in Trefin Mill, a once thriving corn mill that served the farming community in the 19th century.

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Trefin Mill at Aber Draw

From this point, I made my way inland to find my campsite in the village of Trefin.  I arrived at the campsite mid-afternoon and made the most of my time catching up on some laundry and drying of wet things.  At this overnight stop, I had the benefit of a village pub so went there for a meal and to charge my phone.  Whilst there, I met a coupe who were doing the same walk as I was although they were using B&B and baggage transfer rather that backpacking.  Apparently we had passed each other on the trail yesterday!

What a great day this has been with glorious sunshine and great views all day.  Little did I know what was to come!

DAY 4 – TREFIN to WHITESANDS BAY – 12 miles

Wow, what a night!  Pouring rain and gusty gale force winds, my little tent got pummelled! Sleep was just impossible as there was so much noise from the trees and the flapping tent.  I felt quite cut off in the sense that to get out of the tent, to go to the toilet for instance, would have been impossible without getting soaked and letting rain into the tent.  In the dark, I wondered, ‘What if I haven’t pushed the tent pegs in enough, what if the tent leaks?’!  But all was well and when morning came everything was still in place……and dry!  In fact, after the awful weather of the night, I woke to sunshine………..but it wasn’t to last!

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Cyclists pass me by at Aber Draw in the early morning sunshine

I had breakfast, broke camp, packing away a very wet tent, and set off walking at 7.30am, retracing my steps initially down the road to Aber Draw.  I didn’t have the road to myself as I was passed by lots of cyclists – this was the weekend of The Tour of Pembrokeshire.  I decided that walking was easier as they struggled up the hill against the stiff wind!

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Soon I was out on the coast path again in glorious sunshine and I paused to look back at my route yesterday.  The walking was good and after just a couple of miles I dropped down into Porthgain one of Pembrokeshire’s really interesting places.  With lots of industrial activity in the area, the little harbour was once used to export roadstone, slates and bricks and includes a large disused brickworks as well as lime kilns and other derelict buildings.  I stood by the harbour wall taking pictures just as the rain began to fall again!  If you look carefully you can see the rainbow in the picture below.

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Porthgian Harbour……with rainbow!

Climbing out of the delightful harbour, I passed the old pilot house and came across lots of remains from the industrial past with a large slate/shale quarry, including numerous derelict buildings and a deep tramway cutting.  It was a place I would love to have explored but by now the rain was falling heavily!

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Derelict quarry buildings and old tramway cutting at Porthgain

This again was a day of deep inlets that meant weaving a very crooked path as I walked around the various headlands.  Visibility deteriorated considerably – it was perhaps a typical Welsh day!

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Deep inlets and a circuitous route

Occasionally the sun came out briefly and I took the opportunity to grab a few shots of this spectacular coast.

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The sun makes a brief appearance

But all too soon it was gone again and the weather closed in around me again.  And what weather! The most appalling weather imaginable, pounding rain, powerfully gusting winds that were so strong it was difficult to walk against.  Losing my footing constantly on the wet muddy and rocky path with its steep climbs, I fell numerous times despite being extra careful how I trod.  The rain cover on my rucksack was ripped off time and again by the wind!

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St David’s Head in poor visibility and driving rain

As hard as it was, the weather seemed to suit this coastline perfectly, bringing out its deep character.  St David’s Head is in many ways reminiscent of the mountains of Scotland, North Wales and the Lake District – numerous rocky outcrops like mini mountain peaks.  The only difference was that you had the sea on one side.  Unsurprisingly I passed no other walkers until the welcome sight of Whitesands Bay appeared as I rounded the last headland of the day – this was to be my stopping point for the night.  A day walker passed me by, shouting above the noise of the wind, ‘The forecast for the next couple of days is better’!  I hoped so!

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Whitesands Bay appears out of the gloom

After hours of struggling to put one foot in front of the other against what was a solid wall of ferocious wind and rain, it was wonderful to drop down into the relatively sheltered Whitesands Bay………and there was a cafe there………and it was open despite the weather :)!  I gladly sat down and ordered a pot of hot, steaming tea!

Refreshed, I walked up the road to the little campsite that was to be my home for the night.  Being slightly inland, this was a little more sheltered and I put my tent up in the rain.  Later that evening, the rain stopped and I went for a stroll around the beach to check my route out tomorrow morning.  The waves and surf rolling up the beach were a sight to behold.

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Waves and surf and my route out tomorrow

As I wandered back to my tent, the wind finally abated, the clouds began to clear and there was a beautiful sunset.  What a difference an hour or two can make!

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A beautiful sunset across Whitesands Bay

I laid in my tent wondering what tomorrow would bring!

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.

Rain, Rain, Rain…….and more Rain!!

13 Feb

It’s amazing how much rain seems to fall out of the UK skies at the moment!  Most of you will know from the news that there is massive flooding throughout the south coast, including the whole of Dorset.  The picture below is typical of Dorset footpaths at the moment – impassable!

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Impassable

A combination of this and also a hospital visit for a minor op has somewhat curtailed my activities over the last month or so……but not entirely :)!  There is always somewhere to walk and I have a few places that usually manage to stay dry enough and one of these is the Dorset sea front where the prom kind of stays dry.  It is often covered in thick sand from the storms and/or sea spray from the howling winds and high tides, but at least there is no MUD :)!!

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High tide breeches the sea wall!

In fact it is quite civilised and makes a change from the countryside as there are no hills to climb, food and drinks on tap all along the route, and dry seats to sit on in the various cafes etc that stay open in winter :)!  And you can walk for miles!  It’s not necessarily a walk that makes for an interesting blog entry but I thought I would put up a series of pictures taken on my various wanders over recent weeks………a sort of pictorial blog!

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I hope you enjoyed this brief visit to the sea front with me………and I am really hoping that normal service will be resumed in the very near future.  Now where did I leave my umbrella!

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.

A great llloooonnnnnggggg walk – Part Two :)

22 Apr

For anyone who hasn’t read my previous post, this is an account of my first end to end long distance walk.  I recently came across my journal written during the walk so I thought I would post it here.  So here goes with part two of my first end to end long distance walk :)

Day 3

Another fantastic day!  I left the B&B before 9.00 – well I was glad to be out of it to be honest……..having ‘filled up’ on my continental breakfast.  The B&B couldn’t run to a full English despite the £40 price tag!  The first thing I did was to go to the local outdoor shop as I thought I would treat my shoes to some new laces, but they were closed (unlike my shoes) – so I had a wander round the Cobb and harbour taking pictures instead.  It was a lovely morning, but very windy – I nearly lost my hat several times, and my head!

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Seaside colours!

I picked up the coast path at around 10.00 and the first few miles were great as I walked through a nature reserve created out of the cliff falls.  The birds were singing and I was sheltered from the sun so the walking was good.  I think the best part of this coast walk is the variety – ridge tops, beaches, headlands, cliffs, woodlands, just about every type of habitat you could think of, and on this particular stretch, even some abandon buildings that have become ruins over the years.

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Ripe for renovation?  The Lyme Regis under-cliff

It’s strange but I passed a lot of people on this stretch.  Each time I had to step up my pace to convey the impression that I was a fit, rugged, Bear Grylls type when inwardly I was just waiting to get out of sight behind a tree so that I could collapse back to my normal pace ;)!  The trouble was that I would then meet someone else and have to go through the whole process again ;)!

I was thinking as I walked that I hadn’t met any serious walkers so far, just lightweight strollers whose car would be parked somewhere nearby.  You can usually tell them by the size of their backpack and the way they walk…….and the fact that they have car keys in their hands ;)! But on this section, I met two serious walkers, and they put me to shame!  One who I got talking to said he had walked from Boscastle and had covered 400 miles in 22 days.  I can’t remember where the other one had started but it was a similar story.  It made my 4 day walk seem a bit tame!  But then, they were both younger than me and they had lighter packs too.  I’ve obviously got a few things in mine that they haven’t – must check my packing list but I’m sure I didn’t put in the kitchen sink!

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A great place for a fried egg sandwich :)!  Beer beach.

After 7 or 8 miles I dropped down into Seaton, and quickly passed on through!  I hit Beer at 9 miles – the place not the drink – and I had a great fried egg sandwich and a cup of tea on the beach :)!  I passed a B&B there with sea views and outside was a sign saying ‘vacancies’ but 3.00 seemed a bit early to be bedding down for the night so I walked on.  And I’m glad I did as there was more great walking to come.

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The way up

The walk from Beer to Sidmouth was great!  It was quite cloudy and there was a strong wind but it was mostly on my back.  It was mainly along flat, high cliff tops but unfortunately it was punctured every now and then by a number of river mouths.  Each time I hit one it meant dropping down to sea level and then climbing all the way back up the other side.

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What goes down must come up

Some kind soul had even written the number of steps on the stiles before and after these big dips!  Very helpful and encouraging!!!  It’s funny but as the day goes on, I’ll swear the climbs get steeper ;)!

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Useful information……or not!

As always, the last climbs are the toughest, especially when they are not expected!  Going up that last climb, I had to go through several fields of cows, all annoyingly gathered around the stiles that I had to cross.  But I walked on through them – they can’t frighten me any more!  By this time my little toe was complaining, as was my left knee, although that seemed to come and go – the pain that is, not my knee!  It’s strange but there have been times when I have felt really tired even to the point where I have considered stopping early.  But then by keeping going, I seemed to push through the bad patch and regain some energy from somewhere.  Well, with this fabulous scenery, who wouldn’t.  Anyway, after nearly 20 miles I was relieved to see Sidmouth come into view and I headed down off the headland after that last climb.

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Sidmouth appears out of the mist – just one more climb!

Mind you, it wasn’t over yet as I had to spend an hour wandering round the town looking for a B&B.  I thought for a while that I was going to have to sleep rough on the beach but eventually I found one, which was a relief as I really needed a shower and a cup of tea :)!  And not only did I get my shower and cuppa but I got a turkey sandwich, fruit cake and a beer too, thanks to some lovely B&B owners who went way beyond the call of duty and took pity on me.  And I was able to watch the football as I ate :)!  It was a great end to a great day!

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Sidmouth

Day 4

Today I woke up to a wet, dreary morning…….so I had an extra half hour in bed!  After a good cooked breakfast I left the guesthouse and wandered along a damp sea front, although by now the rain had stopped.

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A wet sea front at Sidmouth

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Alone on the beach

The day started with an immediate climb from the end of the promenade over Peak Hill.  It started on the road, and then onto a disused road, parts of which were practically going over the edge of the cliff, and then on through the woods, upwards into a damp sea mist!

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The way onwards

It’s funny but I hadn’t been looking forward to this as the headland looked daunting from sea level but I was pleasantly surprised as I went over the top much quicker than I had expected.  I was looking for yet more climbing, not realising that I was in fact already at the top.  From here, there was just downhill, lower level walking, which was just as well because you couldn’t see much from the high headlands!

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Up into the misty forest

I headed down towards Ladram Bay, which basically comprises a massive caravan site which rather spoils what is a lovely bay with many red sandstone stacks just off shore.  Two things spoiled this part of the walk – one was having to walk through the caravan site which went right up to the cliff edge, and the other was the stiles!  I had a real struggle to squeeze me and my rucksack through some of the gates – clearly Devon is a bit meaner on space than Dorset for some reason ;)!

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Looking back at Ladram Bay

From here, it was quite a flat, easy walk into Budleigh Salterton which was just as well as my left little toe and my left knee were complaining quite loudly – in fact I was limping a little by now!  On a positive note, the weather was brightening up quite nicely by now and it was becoming quite warm out of the breeze – in fact, the last part of the walk was a breeze :)!  I even took a self portrait by balancing the camera on a post – well, why not :)!

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TDR on the trail :)

I was in sight of Budleigh Salterton much earlier than I had expected.  I stood within touching distance of the town……and yet, still had another mile or two to walk!  This was because there was an estuary separating me from it and I had to walk inland to reach the crossing point before walking back out to the coast on the other side – a one and a half mile walk to gain just 20 yards!

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Budleigh Salterton beach

My walk finished on the sea front where my pack suddenly became four stone heavier – I picked up four stones from the beach, a memento of four fantastic days of walking!

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The End!

Budleigh Salterton seemed a fitting place to end my walk as my ancestors came from here.  Although I am 100% Dorset born and bred, I guess there must be a little bit of Devon blood in there somewhere.

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, um, a slight breeze ;), a ‘drunken’ rambler, and hat that takes off!

10 Jan

So what do you do when there are heavy storm clouds outside and a howling gale gusting them threateningly across the sky?  Stay in the warm with a nice cup of tea?  Hibernate?  No, you head for the coast of course :)!  And that is just what I did on this day towards the end of last year!

The walk started quite straightforwardly with a gentle downhill stroll from a small village towards the coast.  In fact, it wasn’t really straight forward at all because, as has been usual in Dorset over recent months, there was thick and slippery mud everywhere, not conducive to safe downhill walking.  So it was out with the walking pole just to try to avoid the ‘wet, muddy bottom’ syndrome ;)!  Now if I had had a pair of skis with me……..!

I came out onto the coast at one of the many disused quarries that litter this stretch of Dorset and for a time the sun actually made an appearance.

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Rolling waves

The wind was working itself up into a frenzy and the waves were powering their way to the shore, only to come to an abrupt halt on the rocks at the foot of the ledge.  They almost seemed to display their annoyance at being stopped by launching themselves as high as they could into the air.

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Angry waves

Conditions for photography were dire because the spray coming up from the rocks below was enormous – in fact it may as well have been raining!  Cameras and salt sea spray do not make a good mix so the only way to get pictures was to hold the camera landward of my body to protect it, and then very quickly bring it up, grab the picture and then tuck it away again.  There was no time to properly compose the shots.

Very soon, the sun disappeared as the clouds continued to build ominously.  Normally this would be disappointing but in fact it was perfect because it really brought out the ferocity of the stormy weather and the real ‘personality’ of this rugged coast.  It is a very changeable area, seemingly incongruently tame and innocent in the sunshine but taking on a whole new sinister character as the storm rolled in.

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The storm clouds roll in

Along this part of the coast, there are many old quarry caves so I decided to take refuge in one of those and to see if I could at least find some way of getting out of the constant spray so that I could try to get some better pictures.  I was carrying my tripod so I set this up in the entrance to one of the caves and stood between it and the sea so that I could protect it from the spray.  I was then able to get some long exposure shots in an attempt to convey the true power of the sea.

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On the quarry ledge

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The quarry cave entrance

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Stormy seas

My intention was to climb from here up over St Aldhelm’s Head so I repacked my rucksack and left the safe confines of the cave and walked out again into the teeth of the storm.  The route initially took me along the rocky ledge but all too soon I had to leave that solid ground and venture onto the very muddy footpath that climbs steadily upwards towards the top of the headland some 350 feet above the sea.  Any of my local readers will know that this mud is SLIPPERY and CLINGY so that your feet become heavier and heavier as you walk.  With the combination of the ever steepening path, the slippery mud, the sea spray, and the howling gale that was gusting powerfully off the sea, this was one challenging walk………and it was GREAT :)!!  The expression ‘blow the cobwebs away’ comes to mind.  It was only later that I learned just how strong the wind was!

There was one particular incident that was funny…….and you will need to use your imagination here.  As I was slip sliding up the hill, my hat blew off over a barbed wire fence and started bowling its way at a rate of knots across the field.  Now this was a hat that was bought for me by my daughter so I was rather attached to it (although thinking about it, maybe it would have been better if I had been literally attached to it ;)! ) and I wasn’t about to let it go.  So I climbed the barbed wire fence, tearing my waterproofs in the process, and complete with heavy backpack ran after it – hopefully you can picture the scene :).  I managed to catch up with it eventually and stowed it safely away before climbing back over the fence onto the coast path to continue my upward journey.

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The St Aldhelm’s Quarry ledge

I must have made a strange sight as it was impossible to walk in a straight line as I was buffeted and slipped all over the place.  In addition, to try to stay upright, I had to lean into the wind which then made a fool of me by momentarily dropping so that I nearly fell over.  It was a miracle that I kept my feet but to anyone looking on it must have looked like I was a drunken man!  At times, it was even difficult to move at all!  Eventually the path levelled out as I reached the quarry ledge just below the top of the headland.

This ledge has a lot of history with the remains of a once thriving quarrying industry, and also the remains of a Second World War Radar Research Post but I think that will need a separate blog entry to detail.

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The chimney

The remains include what I call ‘The Chimney’, a stack of stones left by the quarrymen when the work ceased – oh how I wish the picture could convey to you the strength of the wind gusting across that ledge.  Sadly, this is where a picture fails.  One of the quirky things about St Aldhelm’s Head is the effect on the sea and the many white horses that are seen here.  These are apparently caused by the fact that there is a ledge some 30 feet below the surface that stretches several miles out to sea.  It makes these waters quite dangerous and because of that, there is a National Coastwatch Lookout Post on the headland.

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White horses and storm clouds

From the quarry ledge, it is only a short hop up to the top of the headland……..but I think I gave the National Coastwatch Volunteers a bit of a shock when I climbed up the cliff beside their lookout post, they hadn’t expected to see anyone on a day like this!  I went into the lookout post for a few minutes to chat to the ‘Coastguards’ and the calmness and peace inside was tangible…..and a welcome respite!  Being wet and muddy, I dared not venture too far in though!  The volunteers had just been carrying out a reading of the wind speed and they told me that it was a Force 9 gale – OK, so a slight breeze ;), no wonder my hair was blowing about!!  The light was fading so I couldn’t stay long before I headed out into the wind again to take a last look west along the coast.

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Inclement weather and fading light

As I turned away from the coast to start my walk inland, I passed the row of old coastguard cottages that stand proud on the headland.  These once housed the officer and men with their families but are now in private ownership, mostly as holiday accommodation – and what a great place to stay!  With the heavy storm clouds above, I couldn’t resist taking one more picture.  It was an interesting experiment in how to hold a camera steady in the failing light with a Force 9 gale blowing!!  I could have used the tripod but that wouldn’t have stood a chance – well just ‘wouldn’t have stood’!!  As it was, I just crouched as low as possible and anchored myself as best I could.

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The old coastguard cottages at St Aldhelm’s Head

And so, finally I made my way along the rough track that would take me back to my starting point.  As I walked, the Coastwatch volunteers passed me by in their 4X4 and stopped to offer me a lift to get me out of the wind – I thanked them but refused.  Well the wind may have been battering me all day and I might have been soaked with all the spray but I was enjoying my ‘walk’ far too much and I didn’t want it to end.

Be blessed!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Of summer and autumn, Dorset heathlands, memories of a hero, and a spider rescued!

5 Oct

Betwixt and between seems to summarise where we are at the moment and this was a betwixt and between walk!  In terms of flora and fauna, summer has not quite gone and yet autumn is here; in terms of weather, autumn is definitely here!  On this walk there was evidence of both seasons and there is such beauty in both and so much to be enjoyed if we just walk with our eyes open.

The walk started off by crossing some classic old Dorset countryside……although there is precious little of it left now – I mean that mix of conifer plantations and open heathland that was made famous by one of Dorset’s great authors, Thomas Hardy.  At one time, much of Dorset was covered with open heathland but gradually over the years it has either been built on or reclaimed for farming, making it a rare commodity in the 21st century.  Fortunately some pockets remain dotted around the county and this walk took in several.

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The beautiful Dorset heathland

Having crossed the high heathland in the midst of changing from its summer dress to its winter garb, my route dropped down into woodlands with ferns in a similar state of change.  These look delightful as they gently unfurl in the spring but are equally delightful as they change into autumn colours on the ‘forest’s ferny floor’ as Walter De La Mare describes it.

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The forest’s ferny floor

It was at this juncture that I rescued a spider!!  Well to be exact, I avoided destroying him and his web!  I was walking along the forest track just listening to the birds singing their myriad different songs – its strange really, who told the wren that he had to sing that particular tune, or the yellow hammer his particular tune?  The wonders of this wonderful creation!

Anyway, as I walked, I noticed something glistening immediately in front of me so I stopped for a closer look.  It was a single slender strand of web that stretched a full 10 feet from one side of the path to the other and that supported the web with the spider in the middle waiting for his prey to fly by (it conjures in my mind pictures of me walking into the web and being bound up by the spider like something out of a horror movie ;) )!  Well, I didn’t want to destroy his handiwork and it was at the wrong height for me to get over or under it so I detoured around it by fighting my way through the brambles and undergrowth to the other side, not an easy task!

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A very grateful spider with his lunch!

A little farther along the trail, I came across some evidence of summer, just to contrast with the autumn heathland that I had just walked through.  This was a hover fly on a corn marigold.  It was almost as if summer was saying, ‘I haven’t quite gone yet!’

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Hover fly on a corn marigold

For a time I left the heathland behind (although I would return to it later) as my route took me to the resting place of one of Dorset’s heroes.  To get there, I had to cross the river, and a beautiful river crossing it was too with its hugely long and thin bridge alongside what was a ford.  In fact whilst I was there, a group of cyclists thought it still was ‘fordable’ as they all rode into the river for a short distance before each in turn got stuck as their wheels sank into the shingle……and they fell off!

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A delightful river crossing

The goal was St Nicholas’ Church Moreton, famous for being the resting place of T E Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia.  It is a beautiful church with some spectacular windows, each engraved with lovely scenes.  The original church was badly damaged in the Second World War when it was hit by a German bomber and instead of repairing the windows, it was decided to commission Lawrence Whistler to create new ones.  They are beautiful and world famous!

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St Nichols’ Church, Moreton and its windows

Lawrence’s grave itself sits in a small detached part of the graveyard.

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Lawrence of Arabia’s resting place

For the time being, I left T E Lawrence but there would be more reminders of his life further on in my walk.  My route took me back across the long bridge and through another pocket of heathland.  This one was covered partly with wonderfully picturesque long, yellowing grass.  I love this grass and I sat and ate my lunch in the middle of it, just listening to the gentle sounds of the Dorset countryside.  It was a delightful place.

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The lunch stop

And here too was a reminder (or is that a remainder!) of summer, with a plethora of butterflies all around me.

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A speckled wood butterfly

All too soon it was time to leave my idyllic surroundings and continue on my way to an altogether different area in more ways than one.  My route took me out of the heath and onto a country lane, but not just any country lane, this was the very place that T E Lawrence met his untimely death on 19th May 1935 at the age of 46.  Having achieved and survived so much during the Arab campaign, Lawrence finally succumbed on this stretch of Dorset road when he lost control of his motorbike whilst trying to avoid two boys who were cycling in a hidden dip.  It seemed fitting that as I walked this stretch of road, an army tank passed by.

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The spot where Lawrence died

Of course Lawrence was an author, famous for The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but that wasn’t his only legacy.  As a result of his accident, crash helmets were ultimately introduced for all motorcyclists.  Just a short distance away along the same road sits Clouds Hill, Lawrence’s cottage home for many years, now in the hands of that National Trust.

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Clouds Hill

Leaving T E Lawrence behind, I continued my walk, and crossed yet another pocket of heathland.  Here again there was a mix of summer and winter with the delightful Bell Heather still bearing its summer magenta-purple plumage whilst the equally delightful Bog Asphodel had changed from yellow to a wonderful autumn orangey red.

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Colours of the heathland – Bell Heather and Bog Asphodel

I was nearing the end of my walk now but there were two quintessentially Dorset villages to pass through, picture postcard perfect villages!  Apart from the usual array of delightful thatched cottages, the first village had a rather interesting village post office :)!  Sitting beside the old village hall, the shop was in what was at one time a granary with its arched foundations designed to keep unwanted visitors out!  This was a wonderful village to walk through although I suspect that there may be less residents there now with some of the cottages having been turned into second homes.  It is a shame that the soul has gone out of a lot of our lovely villages as local people are priced out by the ever increasing prices of these cottages!

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A delightful village

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The old granary

My final stopping point was another village of picture book cottages and the nice thing about this one was that although there is recent development, it has all been designed to blend in with the old.  It does give you some faith in the authorities that control the planning requirements and a greater hope that our wonderful heritage will never be lost :)!

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New and old alike

I started of by saying that we are betwixt and between and this wonderful walk contained much to prove that.  It highlighted the beauty of both summer and autumn – in fact every season has its beauty and this is never more true than in this county and country of ours.  With the changing seasons and weather, we never have a chance to tire of anything and I think that is a real positive………..unless it is rain, and I think we have had our fair share of that ;)!!!!!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

1 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The way to the church

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The village church with its stained glass

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

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

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The Pound

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

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The old farmhouse

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

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The Cabbage White

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Meadowsweet

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

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Meadow grasses

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

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A beautiful country cottage

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

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The sunken lane

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

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Crossing the railway line

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

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The church with its upside down font!

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

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The way to the church

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The smallest church in Dorset

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

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A very gloomy evening!

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

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

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

16 Jul

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

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

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

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The Sandbanks Ferry

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

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

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Shell Bay

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

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

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

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In the sand dunes today

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

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The Heather Trail

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

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The ‘swamp’

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

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Heavy skies but the sun shines on the righteous ;)

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

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One goes on an adventure!

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

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

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The pill box – with a robin on the top

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

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Giving birth ;)

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

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On the cliff tops

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

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Old Harry Rocks

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

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St Lucas’ Leap

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

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The way back

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

7 Jul

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

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

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Through the dappled forest

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

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The forest’s ferny trees

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

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Smuggler’s Lane

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

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Meadow Brown

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

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

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Hogweed

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

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Common Spotted Orchid

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

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Across the ramparts

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

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The poppy field

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

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On the hill fort

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

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

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

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The old mill

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

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The barley field

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

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Down the tramlines

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

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

Your friend

The Dorset Rambler

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

Of transport, of trees, and of waterproofs that are not!!

28 Apr

This was a walk of ‘wonderful’ ;) weather, wonderful Dorset scenery, and some really interesting people along the way!

You know, the more I walk, the more I look forward to meeting people on the path.  There is something about being in the countryside – everyone you pass has a nod and a ‘hello’, and often they will stop for a chat as well, whether it be a farmer, the local vicar, the postman, or just another walker.  Isn’t that really what life is all about!  There is a lovely camaraderie in the country that you don’t find much in the towns, and people are just so interesting.  One of the tings all the people I meet have a view on is the weather – well we’re English aren’t we!

On this walk, it was a truck driver.  He was parked up at a country crossroads in a somewhat difficult position and I thought he had broken down.  We fell naturally into a conversation.  Apparently he had come from Poole, picked up a load at Corfe Mullen, driven 100 miles to deliver it, picked up another load near his drop off point, driven 70 miles to where I saw him dropping off half the load.  He was then going to drive another 50 miles to drop off the other half, picking up another load, and was then going to drive 500 miles to the Scottish border to drop that off!  What a crazy life!

The crossroads he was parked at is called ‘Four Ashes’, because there are four ash trees, one on each corner.  He was trying to deliver 12 bags of fertiliser to the local farm, but articulated lorries and country lanes don’t go together!  The only way to deliver it was to park up at the crossroads and for the farmer to bring his tractor and trailer up to collect it – which he finally did, and I moved on.

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Four Ashes crossroads

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Delivering, or is it collecting, the load

The scenery on this walk was simply stunning, that typical Dorset rolling countryside.  It was a walk that took in a number of hill forts and the picture below shows one hill fort as viewed from another.  In fact on top of one of the hill forts was a bull!  He was on his own except for the hill sheep and I was a bit surprised because the land is owned by the National Trust and is open access land popular with walkers.  As I have blogged before, that is technically not legal!  I had my red cape with me but he didn’t seem very interested ;)!!

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One hill fort to another

Part of this walk took me through the most fantastic area of woodlands and at this time of the year with the sunlight slanting through a gap in the trees, the colours and tones of the Spring foliage really come alive.  New life, and new growth, is everywhere!  Don’t you just love the fabulous greens of the moss and lichen that cover these trees and bank!  It is an interesting area and and as you walk through it, you just wonder about the millions of people who have passed that way before over the centuries since the line of trees and the bank are clearly an ancient boundary of some sort.  If trees could talk!

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The wonderful Spring greens of Dorset

And speaking of trees, don’t you just love them!  You could almost hug them…….and some people do!  I love that well known poem by Alfred Joyce Kilmer called ‘Trees':

I think that I shall never see,

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest,

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree!

How true that is!  (Just as an aside, as I am writing this, I am listening to the duet from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers – what a spine tingling piece of music that is!)

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

In that poem, Kilmer speaks of trees ‘living intimately with rain’ – well at the moment, The Dorset Rambler does too!!  The weather for much of this walk was beautiful, but it was interspersed with really heavy bouts of rain and hail – it’s what I call ‘interesting’ weather ;)!  Now I had my waterproofs, but I have discovered that they are not…….waterproof that is!  The consequence was that I got literally wet through!  So at the end of the walk I decided to reproof my walking gear, and I’m sure it won’t be long before I check to see if it has had the desired effect!!

One of the side effects of all this rain is BIG boots!  They start off a normal size 9 but some of the fields on this walk were MUDDY, and it was that thick clingy mud so that by the time you get to the other side your feet are size 30 and you have a job to lift them off the ground!  Picture the scene – this silver haired man, soggy and wet through, unable any more to lift his heavy feet, on his hands and knees dragging himself across the field to reach the sanctuary of drier land on the other side ;)!  Once there, there is usually a handy gate post ‘scraper’ nearby so they are soon back to normal size.  Note to self – in future if it is wet, head for the chalky well drained hills ;)!

And talking of hills, there were a few of them on this walk too….steep ones!  I climbed up this near vertical slope to reach the top of one ridge and just as I got there, a fighter plane on a training mission went over.  He was clearly practising low level flying and I reckon he must have been only 10 feet above my head (well, that might be a slight  exaggeration ;) ) – it was deafening!

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Some good waterproof testing weather coming!!

Ah, but the sun always shines again – and you can’t fully enjoy the sun unless you get the rain!

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The sun shines on the Dorset landscape

Thanks again for visiting and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler!

The Dorset Rambler

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