Tag Archives: rain

Coast to Coast – Part 5

12 Jun

Day 8 – Keld to Reeth – 14.4 miles

I was up at 6.30am and peered out of the tent to see beautiful sunshine. It had been a really cold night in the tent and the morning was still cold despite the sun, partly because my tent was in the shadows. I had breakfast and was packed and out on the trail before 8am. The valley looked beautiful in the low early morning sun.

Early morning sunshine across Swaledale

Early morning sunshine across Swaledale

I made my way down the lane into Keld, a delightfully unspoilt village despite the volume of foot traffic that passes through – it stands on the intersection of both the Coast to Coast and the Pennine Way. Keld is a tiny village today but it hasn’t always been thus. In the mid 19th century it was a thriving and busy centre that stood in the heart of the lead mining district. There are many relics from that era littering the surrounding hills. Today though, those hills are quiet and still.

The path soon dropped down to meet and cross the River Swale before following the north bank of the river, passing a very full and flowing Catrake Force – a 17th century traveller was right when he once said, ‘The Swale rusheth rather than runneth’! This waterfall in fact has four levels as the river flows down the hillside.

One part of Catrake Force

One part of Catrake Force

Even this early in the day, I was already passing debris from the past, old barns, mine workings and even machinery. I paused to look back at Keld nestling in a hollow in the hillside.

Looking back at Keld

Looking back at Keld

There are two alternative routes to Reeth, a high level and a low level route – the former climbs over Melbecks Moor and is all about industrial archaeology with a myriad mine workings, and the latter follows the very beautiful valley beside the river. I really wanted to do both! I still wasn’t sure which to do so I compromised. Dropping my rucksack out of sight, I spent some time climbing up the high level route taking in the amazing views and passing the much photographed Crackpot Hall. The original building dating from the 16th century was a hunting lodge but the current ruin was in fact a farmhouse built some 200 years later. It may also have been used by the mining industry. Abandoned in the 1950’s, it is now cared for by the Gunnerside Estate to prevent any further deterioration.

Crackpot Hall

Crackpot Hall

Ultimately I retraced my steps, retrieved my rucksack and headed down the lower path to join the river. With the wide and comparatively dry path, this was easy walking and I was accompanied by many oystercatchers and lapwings with their cries blending with the rippling stream.

The River Swale

The River Swale

At times, the path left the riverside and crossed verdant meadows with a perhaps unusual request for walkers to cross in single file. I was walking alone so complied quite easily with the sign :) !

Single File!

Single File!

There are a few things that stand out in Swaledale and one of these is the number of dry stone walls and of course old barns! And after all the rain, the pastures within shone verdant green in the sunshine.

Dry stone walls

Dry stone walls

Another feature of this part of the route was the huge number of very small gated stiles that have to be squeezed through in order to pass the equally numerous dry stone walls. No easy matter when carrying a 20 Kg pack! But the route is undeniably pretty.

Swaledale

Swaledale

Following the riverside path eventually brought me to Gunnerside where the ever widening river passed under the road bridge. I joined the road and made my way into the village where I was pleasantly surprised to see a cafe. I stopped for lunch and while I was sat outside, Stuart, my walking buddy from yesterday arrived. We were to walk the rest of the day together.

Bridge at Gunnerside

Bridge at Gunnerside

Leaving Gunnerside, the route took us partly up the valley side where we could look down on the valley floor. The pictures below probably sum up this part of the walk with its now broadening and flattening valley, beautiful pattern of fields, barns, dry stone walls and small green pastures.

Field patterns

Field patterns

Swaledale

Swaledale

Looking back at Gunnerside

Looking back at Gunnerside

Still climbing, we eventually reached open moorland for a time although this was not the bleak open moorland of the Pennines. The views were just gorgeous, especially on a beautiful day such as this. I should perhaps mention here another thing that seemed to typify this valley and that is……dead rabbits :( ! There were literally hundreds of them all along this stretch of the walk, in various stages of decay. It was quite gruesome unsettling. Despite researching this since I have been home, I have not been able to establish the cause of this phenomenon. One possibility is that there has been a flare up of one of the rabbit diseases such as Myxomatosis or Hemorrhagic Viral Disease and another is that they are being shot for some reason. Even the local wildlife trust weren’t able to help me.

Swaledale

Swaledale

Continuing on our way, the route dropped gradually down to the road and through the village of Healaugh where I saw a somewhat unusual sight, coal being delivered to houses. This was once a common sight but now is much rarer especial as it involves lifting hundredweight sacks of coal on the shoulders. Maybe this is still a feature in the northern parts of England.

Coal Delivery

Coal Delivery

From Healaugh, the last couple of miles followed the river bank again, a lovely flat, grassy walk in the most picturesque countryside. One interesting feature of this last part was the suspension bridge that provides a crossing over the Swale. The original bridge built in the early 20th century was damaged in a storm in 2000 when the level of the river rose by 3 meters in 20 minutes.  It was rebuilt by the National Park Authority although in reality, there is no public right of way over the river and no-one has claimed ownership of the bridge.

Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge

From the suspension bridge, it is a very short walk into Reeth itself, and a delightful town it is too, with houses clustered around a large green. The first thing I did was to go to the post office and pick up the map covering the second half of the C2C walk – I had inadvertently left it at home so my wife posted it to me. Then I headed for the local camp site where I was very kindly offered the use of a caravan to save putting my tent up. This is something the owner does regularly and bearing in mind how cold it was last night, it was an offer gratefully accepted :) !

I sat in the caravan drinking a welcome cup of tea with the late sun streaming through the windows thinking back over the day. What an amazing day, one of the most enjoyable so far, with fabulous scenery, great walking, and beautiful weather. I wasn’t sure that tomorrow would be as good!

Reeth

Reeth

Day 9 – Reeth to Bolton-on-Swale – 20 miles

Despite being in the caravan, it had been a cold night with below freezing temperatures again. I was glad I hadn’t slept in the tent! I was out on the trail again before 7am and made my way out of Reeth, stopping at the local shop for food on the way. It was a beautiful morning again although I knew that the forecast wasn’t promising!

Morning Light

Morning Light

The first part of the walk was a gentle stroll beside the river before crossing the road to climb partly up the valley side. The river look beautiful in the early morning sunshine and it was quiet and peaceful.

River Reflections

River Reflections

The valley had a very different feel now from when I first entered it. Back at Ravenseat it was a deep, steep-sided gorge but now it was flatter and broader, giving a very spacious feel to it. The grass was wet with dew but the walking was easy and in the distance I could see the next point of interest on my walk, Marrick Priory.

Wide Open Spaces

Wide Open Spaces

This was to be a continuation of yesterdays obstacle course though. In fact the stiles seemed to be getting ever thinner, so much so that it was difficult to even squeeze a leg through :) !

Stile!

Stile!

Marrick Priory was a Benedictine Nunnery established in the 12th century. It was closed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, the nuns being evicted and given pensions. The church continued to be used for worship by the local community until 1948 after which it became a farm building. Ultimately the Priory was renovated and extended to become an outdoor education centre for young people.

Behind the priory is a series of 375 steps known as the Nun’s Steps as they were said to be used by the nuns as a walkway down to the abbey. These climb steadily up through Steps Wood to reach the village that gave the abbey its name. With the sun filtering through the trees, this was a lovely walk.

The Nun's Steps

The Nun’s Steps

I passed through the lovely quiet village along the road before once again branching off cross country, crossing yet more small pastures and gates to reach the hilltop in the picture below. The countryside ahead of me was much more like my own Dorset, rolling hills and shallower valleys. It was very pleasant walking.

Across the Farm

Across the Farm

One interesting feature was that at the bottom of the valley was a renovated cottage which was now lived in but which unusually had no road or farm track for access. The only way to get to it was across fields…….which maybe explains the use of the old railway sleepers across the field in the picture below. Clearly, in wet weather or snow it would be difficult to get up that hill :) !

Sleepers

Sleepers

The route eventually took me out onto the country lane and quite a long road section through the village of Marske before crossing more fields and climbing steeply up to the foot of Applegarth Scar, a craggy outcrop on Park Top. I sat and rested awhile beside the cairn just enjoying the view across the flatter land that I had just walked. It was a lovely spot. Behind me were the sheer cliffs enjoyed by climbers but my route onwards was along the ‘shelf’ below the cliffs.

View from Applegarth Scar

View from Applegarth Scar

The ‘shelf’ gently drops down towards Richmond and it was along this section that I met two other walkers, the only ones I had seen all day. They were a lovely elderly local couple who were out looking for wild flowers. We chatted for a while before I continued down through Whitcliffe Woods into Richmond passing the interesting long eared lamb in the picture below. This was in fact a Mule, a cross breed from a lowland ram (usually a Bluefaced Leicester) and an upland ewe (probably a Swaledale in this case). It combines the strong points of both.

Mule

Mule

Although Richmond is a delightful town, it came as a culture shock! After nearly 10 days away from civilisation, this was a busy and bustling town with lots of people and traffic around. I bought lunch at a cafe in the square and made use of their Internet before hurrying on – I wanted to be out in the quiet of the countryside again!

As I left the town, I looked back to see the church and castle standing guard oner the river.

Richmond across the River Swale

Richmond across the River Swale

Most walkers tend to overnight in Richmond as there is much to see with its cobbled streets and interesting buildings. That means a long day of over 22 miles the next day though as there is little accommodation along that part of the route. I knew of one farm that the guide book said offered camping facilities so I continued on my way. What I did know was that the next 20 miles or so were mainly across what I call ‘triple F’ – flat farm fields :) ! Wainwright himself states that unless you have an interest in rural scenes and farming, you will find this section ‘tedious’. It is the flattest part of the whole route crossing the Vale of Mowbray from Swaledale to the Cleveland Hills. For that reason, I thought it best to get some of those miles done today.

I hadn’t reckoned though on two things. The first was a detour that was to take me for some way along a very busy A road, and the second was the almighty downpour that was about to hit me! They coincided! The drains were unable to cope with the deluge and the roads flooded which meant that in addition to the rain that was pounding me from above, I got drowned in spray every time a car went past…..and this was a BUSY road!

A rape field shines out of mist and rain!

A rape field shines out of mist and rain!

I only passed one person, a local, who knew of no nearer accommodation so I continued, crouching to avoid the wet which seemed to be coming at me from all directions. Eventually I reached Bolton-on-Swale where the church was open. I went in to shelter for a while. It is in fact a walker friendly church that provides snacks and drinks for passers by and the vicar’s telephone number was there. I rang her and asked if it would be possible to spend the night sleeping on the church floor or even in the porch but unfortunately because of insurance restrictions, it wasn’t.

I headed back out into the rain, tramping across sodden fields to reach the farm and I knocked on the door. ‘Do you still do camping’ I asked. ‘No, but you can’, came the reply. The farmer took me round the back to the old camping area and showed me where the disused shower room and toilet were. I looked outside to the flooded grass and looked inside to the somewhat cluttered and dirty shower room…..and I chose the latter! ‘Can I just crash in here?’ I asked.

And so I spent the night amongst farm debris, spiders and goodness knows what other creatures! But at least it was dry :) !

My Des Res for the Night

My Des Res for the Night

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Coast to Coast – Part 4

5 Jun Walls, Gates and Barns

Day 6 – Shap to Kirkby Stephen – 22 miles

As I have been typing this blog from notes made at the end of each day of the walk, I find myself thinking, ‘I didn’t have very good weather did I’! I seem to be regularly talking about wind and rain and cold. Well today is no different! I woke to the sound of…….RAIN! However, as they say, the walk must go on……or should that be ‘show’ :) ! By 7.30am I was packed up, had donned every bit of waterproofing I had, put on my rucksack and was out on the trail.

I wasn’t really looking forward to the day as I was leaving the wonderful Lakeland mountains behind for a 20+ mile walk across the much flatter ground of the Westmoreland plateau. The guidebook describes it as, ‘A grassy stroll across well-drained limestone bedrock’. Wainwright puts it thus; ‘As every walker knows, a limestone footing invariably means easy travelling on velvet turf’! Hmmm, clearly neither of the writers had walked it on a day like this :) !

Shap had not been a particularly inspiring town. In fact the things that stay in my memory are the granite works and quarry, the mainline railway, and the M6 motorway, all of which had to be passed, crossed or circumnavigated in the first few miles of the day.

Shap Granite Works

Shap Granite Works

Mainline Railway

Mainline Railway

Motorway

Motorway

As I left the final obstacle and started out across the first tract of moorland, the conditions became even worse with driving rain, gale force winds and of course mud, mud, mud and mud! Route finding was not easy although this was perhaps more down to the conditions as everything got soaked whenever I took out the guidebook or map. I was grateful for a weather proof GPS. It was also very difficult to keep the camera reasonably dry.

In fact, I think on a day of good weather this would have been a very pleasant days walking as there was some lovely moorland scenery including lots of limestone pavements, and much to explore.

Limestone Pavement

Limestone Pavement

Understandably, with the conditions, I passed few other people. One, in the picture below, was riding a quad bike which had two guns laid across it. The rider was obviously out hunting but for what I do not know – initially I thought perhaps it was grouse but it wasn’t the season for that so it might have been deer or rabbits. Whatever it was, I heard no shots fired.

Out Shooting

Out Shooting

Just after passing the ‘hunter’ I passed two other walkers coming in the other direction along a farm track looking like drowned rats. I figured I must look exactly the same! They had stayed in Kirkby Stephen last night and had been given a lift for the first few miles to shorten the day. We stood for a while in the rain and compared notes before putting our heads down and heading off into the wind again.

Down the Farm Track

Down the Farm Track

There were actually quite a few things of interest along the way, such as Robin Hood’s Grave (not Robin Hood’s Grave at all :) ), stone circles, limekilns and so on but it wasn’t a day for lingering or exploring – apart perhaps for the last mentioned which provided some brief shelter from the elements :) ! It was a day to just keep walking, and yet in a strange masochistic way, it was still an enjoyable day. But then, I always enjoy walking whatever the weather.

Walls, Gates and Barns

Walls, Gates and Barns

In addition, there were a lot of dry stone walls…..and I love dry stone walls, even if they do mean lots of gates and stiles to negotiate. The field in the picture above was inhabited by lots of Shetland ponies who were most inquisitive as I walked across their patch.

Eventually, I emerged from the fields onto the moorland road below – I think the picture probably conveys well the conditions I was walking in :) ! Down to the right was Sunbiggin Tarn which Alfred Wainwright describes as, ‘Little more than a large reedy pond in the middle of a morass’! He also describes it as a popular picnic spot since the road is nearby, and I can certainly imagine that it would be very busy in warmer, dryer weather. More importantly though, it is an important bird sanctuary and wildlife refuge.

Long Lonely Road Across the Moor

Long Lonely Road Across the Moor

Skirting round the tarn being driven along by the fierce wind on my back, I continued across more of the Ravenstonedale Moor and before long things started to improve. First of all the rain eased and then stopped, and shortly afterwards the sun made an appearance……and what a difference that made as I gradually dried off. It was a pleasure to reach Smardale and to shelter from the wind by yet another dry stone wall looking down into the valley.

Smardale

Smardale

And what a pleasant surprise the valley was with its disused railway, nature reserve, river (Scandal Beck), old viaduct, abandoned railway cottages, and its now defunct limestone quarry. It was a fascinating place and I would love to have spent an hour or two exploring but the day was drawing on and I had some miles still to walk so I continued on my way.

Smardale and Viaduct

Smardale and Viaduct

Smardale Limestone Quarry

Smardale Limestone Quarry and Abandoned Railway Cottage

Finally I dropped down off the moor and onto farm land where I could see Kirkby Stephen below me. I had already made a decision to stay at a hostel for the night to enable me to dry everything out and I walked into the village looking forward to sleeping in a bed.

Approaching Kirkby Stephen

Approaching Kirkby Stephen

At the hostel, a disused Methodist Chapel, I was greeted by Denise who immediately asked, ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ – after 22 miles of tough walking in wintry weather, this was the best thing she could have said :) ! Whilst I was sat enjoying my drink on the sofa, an equally wet Stuart, my walking buddy from a few days ago, walked in. It was good to catch up and we agreed to walk together again tomorrow.

I hoped the weather would improve by then!

Day 7 – Kirkby Stephen to Keld – 13 miles

I was up at 6.30am after a great night and I looked out of the window to see SUNSHINE :) ! Sigh, it wasn’t to last!

After a continental breakfast, Stuart and I left the hostel at 8am and almost before we had left the town, the rain started again. In fact we were to walk in gale force winds, driving sleet and below freezing temperatures for most of the day, often knee deep in water – it could easily have been a mid-winter day, such were the conditions. The last mentioned was not really a surprise as the guide book warns that the one thing most people remember about this day is the peat bogs that have to be negotiated!

Leaving Kirkby Stephen

Leaving Kirkby Stephen

This was to be the day we were to climb up over the Pennines and move from Cumbria into North Yorkshire and I had really hoped to pass Nine Standards Rigg, the series of cairns at the summit, on the way. As it happens, I was once again foiled by the conditions! Battling against the strongly gusting wind and stinging sleet, and with freezing hands, it just didn’t make sense to climb over the high point with poor visibility.

Rigg Beck

Rigg Beck

Dropping down to the road, we had some easier walking for a time…..at least, there was solid ground under foot :) ! I paused for a photograph – well this was something of a milestone as I was entering Yorkshire and this evening I would be at the half way point of the walk.

Spring Weather!

Spring Weather!

This area is of course the Watershed where many rivers spring so there were becks aplenty. In fact the map shows a whole spiders web of blue lines. It was also an area of disused and abandoned buildings such as the one in the pictures below. I often think it is such a waste when there are homeless people, but in these conditions, maybe no-one would want to live there.

Beck Meetings - The Pennines

Beck Meetings – The Pennines

Beck Meetings - The Pennines

Beck Meetings – The Pennines

Unfortunately, the comparatively easy walking came to an end all too soon and we had to leave the road again to strike out across the moors. It probably goes without saying that route finding across the moors was not easy and at times, well most of the time, it was difficult to tell the indistinct paths from streams. We often found ourselves just trudging across open moorlands knee deep in water trying to follow the little line on the GPS. Two heads are better than one though and we managed to avoid straying too far. I did wonder though what would happen if the mist came down!

The birds seemed to have less problems than us :) ! Lapwings were everywhere, as were grouse – strange and funny creatures aren’t they! They always make me smile as they rise up from the ground making comical noises. Clearly they were unaware of what the grouse butts were for otherwise they would have made their escape. We could hear many waders too, including the plaintive cry of the curlew.

Crossing the swollen becks was fun at times!

Wot, No Bridge!

Wot, No Bridge!

There were other less comical creatures too, like the Swaledale sheep. These are totally functional – tough like the earlier Herdwicks, and great for keeping on these high moors with the sparse vegetation.

Swaledale Sheep

Swaledale Sheep

As with yesterday, things improved as the end of the day neared. Firstly the rain stopped and the day brightened up, and then Ravenseat came into view, but best of all, at the farm there was a sign advertising cream teas :) ! After all that the weather had thrown at us, how could we resist :) !

Ravenseat

Ravenseat

It was a delight to sit in the barn out of the wind with a hot drink and a scone laden with jam and cream. Despite the weather, there were others there although not walkers.

Ravenseat is a sheep farm at the head of the Swaledale valley run by Amanda Owen, the Yorkshire Shepherdess, and her husband. Amanda, a TV presenter and author as well as farmer and cream tea provider :) has written a book about her life and how she changed from city girl to shepherd. She told us that she had recently sold the film rights to her book. In addition to all the other things that she does, she has found time to give birth to seven children with number eight due soon. She was a great host and talked non-stop while we were there, telling us all about life on the farm.

Cream Teas!

Cream Teas – Amanda Owen on the right!

It was almost with regret that we left Amanda’s company to continue on our way. What was to come though was one of the most beautiful parts of the whole walk, the Swaledale Valley with its myriad deserted barns and farmhouses. I don’t think I have ever seen so many! The old farmhouse below would make such a great place to live!

Deserted

Deserted

We made our way along the side of the valley in beautiful sunshine. What a transformation from the wild and wintry weather earlier as we crossed the Pennines.

And what an amazing valley this is too. In places it is like a deep gorge with steep sides and with a very full river flowing along the bottom. Add in the great views all around, and you have a delightful evening walk!

Swaledale

Swaledale

Gradually the path took us lower until we were walking along the valley floor beside the River Swale, brown from the peat. There were numerous waterfalls along this section – the power and noise after all the recent rain was immense.

Wain Wath Force

Wain Wath Force

Catrake Force

Rainby Force

I pitched my tent right beside the waterfall above and later that night would drop off to sleep with the sound of rushing water in my ears. What a great lullaby!

I dropped off to sleep replaying the days events and thinking about tomorrow – there were two alternatives, a high level or a low level route, and I wanted to do both! Sigh, which to choose…..?!

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.

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