Tag Archives: rambling

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.

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

31 Dec

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

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Grassy paths and autumn colours

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

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The morning light

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

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Down into the valley

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

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A peaceful Dorset farm lane

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

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Bloody Shard Gate

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

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A graveyard of the coppicing industry

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

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From hunting ground to farm land

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

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Shadows and light

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

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The village street

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

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Beside the pub fire

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

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Not the railway station

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

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The hamlet

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

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The parkland

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

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Inside the village church

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

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The day’s end

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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

2 Dec

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

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A well placed puddle

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

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

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The woodland doorway

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

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

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A golden carpet of leaves

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

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

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The old gate

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

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Shepherd’s Bottom

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

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The forest track

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

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

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

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My lunch time view

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

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The village in the valley

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

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The old farmhouse

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

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The old mill

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

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In the spotlight

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

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The view from the beacon

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

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A warming drink as the sun goes down

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

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Enjoying the sunset

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

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The sun dips his toe into the horizon pool

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

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

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The eerie darkness

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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

20 Nov

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

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

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Evidence of autumn

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

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

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

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

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The village in the valley

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

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The forest track

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

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Beautiful autumn sunlight

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

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I hope not!

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

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Tree top colours

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

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Shadows shaking hands

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

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The old coppice woods

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

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Autumn berries and foliage

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

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Old Man’s Beard

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

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Smuggler’s Lane in autumn

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

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Ruts and hedgerows

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

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

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

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The end of the lane

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

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The old barn

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

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From one hill fort to another

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

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The valley bonfire burns in the late sun

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

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Shadows on the old barn

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

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Sunset and silhouette

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

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

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Sunset on the ramparts

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

A walk on the wild side…..with the camera!

7 Nov

It seems to me that there is often a bit of tension between walking and photography!  By that I mean that sometimes photography spoils a good walk.  Why?  Simply because you can become so engrossed in trying to capture the ultimate competition winning shot and almost miss what is going on around you.  And then when you get home and you haven’t got the prize picture you were hoping for, the day seems fruitless.

At some point I decided that I would either walk and focus on the countryside and surroundings, just taking the compact camera to capture memories of the day or I would go out specifically to take photographs and take the DSLR.  That way I enjoy walking or I enjoy taking ‘real’ pictures rather than trying to do both on the same day and getting neither.  In reality it rarely works and I often end up trying to do both because I find it difficult to switch off from thinking ‘photography’ and there is always that nagging feeling that today just might the day when the light, the scene and the conditions are perfect……..and you haven’t got your camera!

Well on this day I did go out specifically to capture pictures……although I still managed to walk nearly 10 miles!

I was heading for the coast as I really wanted to capture something of the ruggedness of the Dorset coastal quarries and the somewhat grey, overcast and even stormy day was perfect for the purpose.  My outward route started in a small village and then followed an inland path known as The Priests Way, so called because in olden times it was the route taken by the priest as he covered the two villages at each end.  On the way I passed the rather strange tiny bus stop below – clearly meant for little people ;)!

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A bus stop for little people ;)

Near the end of the track I turned south and headed towards the Dorset Coast Path, passing the rather unusual wall below.

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Getting ahead ;)

Having reached the coast, I first headed for my favourite quarry.  I think the reason I like it is that it is tiny and little known, in fact you could easily walk past it and not even realise it is there.  But climb down into it and you find yourself half way up the cliff face, all alone and with just a sheer drop below you – the picture below was taken on an earlier visit.

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On the quarry ledge

Sat on that ledge is a great place to eat lunch whilst watching the waves crashing onto the rocks below.  I wanted to get a picture that illustrated a quarryman’s view so I set up the camera and tripod to do some long exposure pictures to bring out the contrast between rocks and water.  At the processing stage I turned the image into a sepia toned picture as it seemed to suit the subject and my intention.  The result is below.

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A quarryman’s view

From this point, my route took me along the coast path, passing numerous quarries of varying size along the way.  Rather than stop at each quarry, I chose the ones that I wanted to capture, each time setting up my camera, tripod, filters etc…….which of course I had to pack away again before moving on.

At the next quarry, I stood looking out at the sheer vastness of the sea and sky and the perpetual motion of the waves and clouds, ever moving and ever changing.  In a feeble effort to record what I felt, I set up the camera again for another long exposure shot to give the feeling of movement and the ever changing scene.

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A vast, ever changing scene

Looking down, it was again the constant action of the waves pounding the coastal rocks below that spoke to me of the hard conditions that the quarrymen must have endured as they transported the rocks away from the cliffs in small boats before delivering them to the larger barges waiting further out to sea.  This must have been a seriously hazardous occupation and I cannot imagine what it must have been like manoeuvring huge rocks between vessels whilst both were being pounded by waves.

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Off the quarry ledge

And the waves are just relentless, like a giant perpetual motion machine, they never stop, never tire, but continue to pound the coast, gradually eroding the land.  Minute by minute, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, the waves come and the tide ebbs and flows, sometimes gently and sometimes powerfully but never ceasing.  It is a wonderful thing to watch….and frustrating to try to capture in a single image!

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Perpetual motion – the power of the sea

Eventually I left the quarry and headed up to another of my favourite locations, a barren and exposed headland with just a few stark buildings, buildings with a history.  And again, I wanted to capture the feeling of the barrenness, the exposure to the elements, rather than just the scene itself.  This is what I call the fourth dimension in a picture.  Not an easy task as the wind was whipping across the headland and the light was going fast.  I set up the tripod and shot the pictures below which I later converted to black and white as this really does help to bring out the mood well.  The first was taken using a wide angle lens to bring out the huge expanse of the sky whereas in the second I focussed more on the cottages them selves.

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On the barren headland

The row of cottages is in fact a group of old coastguard cottages built in 1895.  The coastguards and their families were originally housed at Chapman’s Pool, far below but moved to the top of the headland when these cottages were built.  These in turn were vacated in 1950 following complaints about the remoteness of the site and difficulties getting children to school. The building to the left originally housed the cart that contained all the life saving equipment.

I decided that I would do another long exposure shot which I gave a dated feel to in the processing.  The streaks are the movement of the clouds.

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From the dim and distant past

In addition to the cottages, there is a Norman chapel on the headland.  This square, squat building in fact contains features that indicate it may not have been built originally as a chapel and there are suggestions that it might have been erected as a watchtower for the nearby Corfe Castle allowing for early sightings of enemy ships.

However, it is built in the centre of a low earthwork of Christian origin and records show that there was a paid chaplain in the time of King Henry III which tends to contradict the earlier suggestion.  I guess we will never know for certain but either way, it is a wonderfully bleak and open place.

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The old chapel

With the light fading and with it my hopes for a glorious sunset, it was time to pack up and continue on my journey back to the starting point of my walk.  Walking along the cliff top in the gathering gloom is always special with the gusting wind in my face and the storm clouds overhead.  It was a fitting end to a glorious day out with the camera.

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Along the coast path with a backpack – Day 4

28 Sep

I had high hopes for a stunning sunrise visible from my tent on the headland but once again I was disappointed as the view below greeted me when I unzipped the flysheet.  Another misty morning, and in fact it was to stay with me all day.  Nevertheless I was looking forward to another great days walking.

It had been a strange night!  The ground I had pitched on that looked perfectly level yesterday in fact sloped making sleep difficult.  Only the careful placing of various items out of my rucksack stopped me from sliding down the tent ;)!

Eager to get out on the trail again, I had a quick breakfast and squeezed everything back into my tardis of a rucksack.

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Another misty morning

Setting out along the headland heading south, I quickly reached the point and turned west – well it was either that or walk out into the sea ;)!  The beautifully atmospheric scene below greeted me.  At this point there are two choices, to walk across the headland or to drop down and walk another undercliff path although a much shorter one than yesterday.  I chose the more interesting route and headed down the cliffside where the path wove through the contours of the collapsed cliff, passing gnarled trees growing out of rocks with seemingly no soil.

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The undercliff walk

Eventually, having reached sea level, the path climbed up again and over the next headland before dropping down a gentle grassy slope into Branscombe Mouth.  Despite the grey morning and lack of people, there was a cafe open by the beach and I was tempted to call in for breakfast, but I chose to continue walking.  As I headed up the next climb though I looked back and wondered if I should have stopped ;)!

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Branscombe Mouth

Once again I disappeared into the mist and once again dropped down into another bay, this time Weston Mouth.  The walk down was similar to the last one, gentle and grassy but the climb up is somewhat different!

Having reached beach level, a long and steep series of steps took me through the trees and shrubbery to reach the steep, grassy hillside above.  Here I paused for elevenses beside Weston Plats, an area that could be described as 19th century clifftop allotments.  The micro climate was conducive to producing early flowers and vegetables, notably the Branscombe potato, and the position above the beach kept the village fishermen occupied whilst enabling them to keep an eye on the sea.  The Plats are now owned by The National Trust.

In the 1800′s the villagers used donkeys to transport their produce and as I struggled up the steep slope I wished I had one to transport me ;)!

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Weston Mouth with Weston Plats in the trees the other side

It was interesting walking over the flat, grassy headlands!  Usually route finding on the coast is fairly simple – just keep the sea on your left and the land on your right.  However when you can see neither, that adage becomes somewhat inappropriate!  With dense mist and low cloud, visibility was minimal and for much of the time there were no clear paths to follow.  Now I’m usually a map and compass sort of a guy but it is at times like these that I am grateful to the smart phone app designers and for the inbuilt GPS :)!

This kept me on track and ultimately I dropped down into Sidmouth, one of the larger seaside towns along this part of the coast.

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Sidmouth

As I walked down another gentle grassy slope I could hear the sound of jazz music wafting up on the breeze and I looked forward to sitting and listening to it as I had some lunch.  Annoyingly though when I reached the town all was silent!

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The beach at Sidmouth

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that the red cliffs would become a feature of this walk and this was very evident as I reached the seafront and looked back.  This red sandstone would stay with me for the rest of the walk.

Sidmouth is a popular tourist spot even on a day such as this.  Normally this would make me pass through quickly but I needed sustenance so I stopped for lunch before ambling along the sea front passing empty deck-chairs, a reminder of a summer now seemingly gone.

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Sidmouth sea front

Eventually I left the town, passing the well known Jacob’s Ladder, a promontory that was once a lime kiln, now converted to a cafe.

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Jacob’s Ladder

Ahead of me was the last real up hill section of the walk.  Climbing up along the Monks Path I crossed High Peak, once an Iron Age hill fort although part of it has long since collapsed into the sea.  High Peak was a somewhat sad sight as the last time I walked there it was covered in a wonderful woodland.  Now though the top is bare.

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High Peak in the mist

I dropped down the other side into Ladrum Bay with its amazing red sandstone geological features.  Many sea stacks stand proud along the shoreline which is rich in Triassic fossils, indeed it is one of the most important sites in the world for these remains.  Ladrum Bay is also home to a large caravan site and as I passed through, there was one incident that made me chuckle out loud!

Beside the cliff top I passed a man with a controller in his hand nonchalantly gazing out to sea.  Just along the coast there was a radio controlled helicopter ducking and diving and doing all sorts of fast aerobatics and I was amazed that the man controlling it could do all that whilst not even looking at it…….until I realised he wasn’t!  Far out at sea I could just make out a silent radio controlled glider – someone else was clearly operating the helicopter :)!

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Ladrum Bay

The coastline along this part is more gently undulating that the switch back of previous days and it was a very enjoyable easy walk for my last afternoon.  Despite the constant mist, there were still lovely atmospheric views in all directions.  As usual the path became slightly busier along this stretch, a clear outcome of having a nearby caravan park.  What I think is great though is how everyone says ‘hello’ as they pass, or stops to pass the time of day.  I thought it would be good if this practice could be extended to our towns where people pass by anonymously.

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The view back to Ladrum Bay with High Peak beyond

There was one particular young couple – we passed each other probably four times, each leapfrogging the other as we stopped at different times.  We had met earlier in the day when they were struggling to find the route with their map and my smart phone app came to the rescue.  We chatted several times along the way and they passed me once more along this stretch of the coast.  I didn’t come across them again and it seemed almost sad – who were they and what were their stories?  Our paths had crossed momentarily and probably never will do again.

My route continued over Brandy Head, so named because of its connection with smuggling which was rife all along this coast.  Kegs of Brandy were one of the main commodities and gave the headland its name.

It is also known for the somewhat innocuous building in the picture below.  This was the observation hut used in World War II to test new aircraft mounted canon and gunsights.  Local boys from Otterton used to sneak out on to Brandy Head and watch the aircraft whilst hiding in the shrubbery – somewhat dangerous but fun!  Apparently divers would collect gun cases from the sea bed and sell them at Ladrum Bay.  This headland has quite a history!

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Brandy Head Observation Post

I was nearing the end of my walk now and before dropping off the headland I took at last look back the way I had come.  There was a distinctly autumnal feel in both the colours and the mist as the coast faded into the distance.

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Autumn on the coast

Turning to continue my journey, I had a first view of Budleigh Salterton, my finishing point.  Not that the walking was over as this is yet another place that necessitated walking a mile or so inland to cross the River Otter and marshes before walking back out the other side to reach the town itself.

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Budleigh Salterton

At 5.15pm, after walking just under 16 miles, I walked onto the sea front.  It was a fitting place to end my four day ‘pilgrimage’ as one line of my ancestors came from there.  I therefore have Budleigh Salterton blood in my veins :)!

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Budleigh Salterton beach

What a fabulous four days!  Sunshine, gale force winds, pouring rain, mist, low cloud, what a variety of conditions – it was impossible to get bored with the weather.

I wish I had been able to take my DSLR so that I could have done more justice to some wonderful views that my little compact camera couldn’t handle but there literally wasn’t a square centimetre of space in my rucksack.  Nevertheless, I hope the pictures have given you a flavour of a fantastic walk and that you have enjoyed walking with me.

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler (or should that be The Devon Rambler).

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

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

Along the coast path with a backpack – Day 3

26 Sep

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

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

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The Cannington Viaduct door

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

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Betwixt and between

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

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

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

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

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

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Lyme Regis and The Cobb

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

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

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Warning!!

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

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Deep in the woods – Hart’s-tongue ferns

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

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Derelict cottages in The Under Cliffs

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

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The way opens out ahead

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

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The River Axe

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

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The Pedalabout

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

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Looking back at Seaton

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

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Diversion!

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

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Looking towards Seaton and Axe Cliff

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

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The first view of Beer

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

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

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

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

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Can’t you read?!!!

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

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Evening on Beer beach

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Along the coast path with a backpack – Day 2

25 Sep

I unzipped the tent and peered out to see a dull but dry day although I knew from the forecast that it was unlikely to stay that way!  After a cup of tea and a quick breakfast snack, I packed everything into the rucksack and set about dismantling the tent.

Now one of the problems with backpacking in the autumn is that the tent gets very wet overnight even if there has been no rain and this morning was no exception.  The call to get out on the trail early does not allow time for it to dry so there is no choice but to roll it up wet.  Since I would be putting the tent back up again in less than 12 hours time, this is not a problem……except it weighed twice as much as yesterday :(!

The early part of the walk took me back through the village of Puncknowle and back up onto the ridge I came along yesterday.  After a short time on the ridge, I dropped down the other side to rejoin the coast path at the end of Chesil Beach where I turned west.  After a short time I turned around to look back at the beautiful sunlight catching the hills I had just walked over, but there were already ominous signs in the dark clouds gathering above!

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An ominous sky over the coast path

I continued walking westwards into what was a gathering wind and soon dropped down into Burton Bradstock.  For the next few miles I would be walking in Broadchurch land – the series was filmed along this stretch of coast.  It is a standing joke in our house when we were watching that series that every 5 minutes I would be saying, ‘I’ve walked there’, or, ‘I been to that place’!

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Burton Bradstock

Only a short distance further and I reached Burton Freshwater, the next beach along.  In reality though I had to walk twice the distance because the River Bride drains into the sea at that point.  The only way to cross it is to detour inland to the nearest bridge and then walk back out on the other side – probably a mile long walk to reach 20 feet!  I guess I could have paddled across :)!

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Burton Freshwater in the gloom

Burton Freshwater is home to a large caravan park, so as lovely as it is I don’t linger there, preferring to continue along the coast.  This took me up onto the cliff top where I thought I was going to have a nice flat walk into West Bay – wrong!!  I had forgotten that along the short stretch of coast there was one of those annoying dips in the cliff that necessitated dropping right down to sea level only to climb back up the other side!  There will be many of those to come over the next few days!

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Feeding the poor and hungry ;)

At 10.30am I walked into West Bay where I intended to stop for breakfast as I knew there would be kiosks selling bacon and egg baps – mind you, I hadn’t anticipated having to share it with a hundred starving starlings ;)!  They were so tame that they were eating off my plate and out of my hands.  The two girls sat at the next table thought it was really funny.  Just to continue the TV theme, I noticed that the kiosk also sold Broadchurch Burgers, a smart marketing move :)!

It was very pleasant sat beside the harbour with its myriad boats and as a bonus, it was sheltered from the wind which had increased.  However, whilst sat there I felt the first drops of rain!!

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Looking back at West Bay

Climbing back up to the top of the headland, I turned for a last look at the town to see the wind really whipping up the waves along the shore.  It was becoming increasing difficult to walk against the ever strengthening westerly wind!  I continued along to the next bay, Eype Mouth, another Broadchurch location with the little cabin part way up the cliff path.  Even on the leeward side of the hills there was little protection from the wind which was like an enemy trying to beat me back.

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Eype Mouth

Ahead of me lie another of the steep climbs of the day, up to the top of Thorncombe Beacon.  At the top, the now gale force westerly wind buffeted me, constantly changing direction and knocking me off balance.  The rain was now pouring down but at least I still had a view from the top.  But much worse was to come!

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The view east from Thorncombe Beacon

As I descended towards Seatown the weather really closed in on me.  So much so that my next major obstacle, Golden Cap, was not even visible.  That particular headland is the highest point on the south coast of England so is no easy feat in any conditions, but today…….!!!!???  It would be fun ;)!

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Seatown with Golden Cap beyond…..somewhere  ;)

Starting my climb upwards from Seatown I passed a couple walking in the other direction with the wind on their backs, ‘Its clearing from the west’ they said.  It didn’t!  Well not for some time anyway.  Shortly afterwards I passed the cows in the picture below – even they were trying to find refuge from the severe conditions, trying to shelter under what flimsy trees there were.

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Sheltering!

By this point, my walking pole, normally reserved for the end of the day or emergencies, was off my rucksack as I needed it just to make progress.  Every step, even on the flat, was like walking up a near vertical hill.  I passed the time of day with another couple dropping down off the headland but the conditions weren’t conducive to conversation as the wind just whipped the words away.

I continued my slow upward progress, for a short time gaining some respite from the wind as the path skirts round the back of the headland before climbing up to the top.  The respite was all too short though and ultimately I reached the top and walked again into the teeth of the howling gale.  Normally this is a place to linger and take in the amazing views but today there were none so I headed straight back down the other side!!

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The view of what is to come!

Only when I was half way down did I drop out of the mist and low cloud and could see the way before me.  I wiped the rain from the camera lens for the hundredth time before trying to grab another picture.  Three miles to go to reach Charmouth where I hoped I would find a tea rooms to dry out and perhaps ride out the storm.  I pressed on with yet more ups and downs, yet more wind, yet more dense mist, yet more teeming rain in my face!  The final climb before Charmouth, whilst definitely not the highest, always seems the hardest, probably a case of ‘so near and yet so far’!  But eventually I made it!

Reaching the top, I could at last drop off the exposed headlands and get out of the constant buffeting wind.  I walked down the lane into the town where I found just what I was looking for :)!  It was with relief that I sat down in peace and stillness and enjoyed a cream tea.  Never had a cream tea tasted so good :)!

And not only that but in the half hour I sat there, the storm did finally clear from the west and the sun came out :)!

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Welcome sunshine :)

The walk wasn’t over and the wind hadn’t abated completely but my it was pleasant walking in the sunshine again.  Not that the route is great from here as due to cliff falls some years ago, the path follows the main road for some distance before diverting into the countryside again.  For the second night I headed inland, walking down a lovely country lane with beautiful dappled sunlight filtering through the trees.

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The old mill near Uplyme

The last two miles were particularly lovely, as I passed first a beautiful old mill and then followed the path through the trees beside the old mill stream into the village of Uplyme where I would stay the night.

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The path beside the millstream 

At 5.30pm, after nearly 17 miles walking and 1,500/2,000 feet of ups and downs in gale force headwinds, I pitched my tent and had a welcome cup of soup.  It was too early to eat and there was still daylight so what did I do?  I went for a walk :)!  Actually I knew that there was a disused railway viaduct nearby and I wanted to find it.  After what was a very pleasant stroll in the evening light, I once again retired to the local pub for a meal.

Retracing my steps back to the tent at the end of the evening by the light of the almost full moon, I reflected on the day.  And what a day it had been, what a GREAT day :)!  Sometimes it is wonderful to walk in really bad conditions and I’d certainly done that.  I climbed into my sleeping bag a contented walker.

Oh yes, and I did sleep reasonably well last night, and hopefully will do again tonight :)!  It is one of the benefits of walking long distances :)!

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Along the coast path with a backpack – Day 1

24 Sep

The day I had been looking forward to arrived :)  I had packed and repacked my rucksack numerous times, several rucksacks in fact, and I ended up with a hard choice – one that was big enough to take all my gear for a four day trip but was old and uncomfortable or one that was not big enough but was easier on the shoulders!  I chose the latter!  It just meant that the tent, and ultimately several other things, had to be attached to the outside.

The 7.20am train took me to my starting point at Weymouth and at 8.10am I was off walking……..but not very far :)!  Well it was breakfast time :)!

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Weymouth Beach

Walking along the seafront at Weymouth with its pristine, newly raked beach, I spied a beachside cafe advertising bacon baps so I sat down :)!  Not for long though, just long enough to eat breakfast and drink a cup of tea and by 8.30am I was off walking, really off walking this time.  The first part of this walk is quite novel really as it involves crossing the harbour entrance which is normally possible by rowing boat ferry, probably something of a rarity these days.  Unfortunately though, I was too early so had to detour some way inland to cross by the bridge and then walk back out on the other side.

Passing the 19th century Fort Nothe and then the much earlier Sandsfoot Castle, built by Henry VIII, both to protect the entrance to Portland Harbour, my route took me along the track bed of the old Portland Railway, some lovely flat, easy walking to start the day.  After an hour or so I reached Ferry Bridge and the start of the footpath that skirts round The Fleet.

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The shoreline of The Fleet

The Fleet is a well known tract of water between the mainland and the famous Chesil Beach, an 18 mile long barrier of shingle and pebbles.  The water trapped between the two forms The Fleet and is salt at one end, becoming more brackish towards the other.  Almost to echo this, the size of the pebbles on Chesil Beach also varies along its length from large at one end to much smaller at the other, caused by the action of the tide.

The footpath winds in and out of every bay and inlet and on this occasion even around the military rifle range that was operating, thus closing the shorter route.  It is a beautiful place to walk with myriad geese and wildlife, and later even more famously swans.  The noise from the geese was deafening!

Part way along, I passed what was once Fleet House, seat of the Mohun family immortalised by J Meade Faulkner in his book ‘Moonfleet’ (a book which I have always loved), now a hotel.  Nearby also are the remains of Fleet church which was all but destroyed in the huge storm of 1824 when a massive tidal wave broke over the top of Chesil Beach destroying much of the village.

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Fleet House, now a hotel

As the footpath nears the famous Abbotsbury Swannery, it turns inland to cross farm land and climb up onto a ridge.  The views across The Fleet and also inland are beautiful and it is a walk to be savoured rather than rushed.

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The rolling landscape of Dorset

After a few miles, the path took me down into Abbotsbury but before dropping into the village, I just had to stand and enjoy the wonderful view across to St Catherine’s Chapel, high on its hilltop.  This chapel was once part of Abbotsbury Abbey and was built by the monks as a place of pilgrimage and retreat.

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Across to St Catherine’s Chapel

Amazingly in the 5 hours since leaving Weymouth I had walked 14 miles……and I was now hungry so I decided to stop off at the local pub for a sandwich :)!  Unfortunately there was no room in my rucksack even for food!  Abbotsbury is a beautiful and unspoilt village with honey coloured cottages and the lovely surrounding hills.  It is a popular place with its swannery, tropical gardens, chapel, abbey ruins, tithe barn and so on, and especially so in the spring when the cygnets hatch in the swannery.

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Abbotsbury

All too soon I had to move on and climbed up onto the ridge that runs just inland of the coast path.  Part way up the side of the hill I turned for another view of the village nestling in the valley.

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Abbotsbury in its valley with the coast beyond

It wasn’t the last I would see of the village as there are fabulous views all along this ridge and in the picture below, you can really get a feel for the way The Fleet has been created by the long barrier that is Chesil Beach or Chesil Bank as it is sometimes known.  Beyond those, you can see the Isle of Portland stretching out to sea.

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The Fleet, Chesil Beach and Portland

Continuing along the ridge, the path crosses Wears Hill with its beacon marking the spot of a much earlier version last lit over 400 years ago.  This is one of a series of beacons all along the south coast.

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The beacon

The site is most noted for its amazing 360 degree view across the coast and inland.  When I got there, the cows were all sat down which is a worrying sight – well my grandmother used to say that it meant rain was coming!  It didn’t – not this day at least!!!

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Amazing views from Wears Hill

Yet another feature along this part of the walk is Abbotsbury Castle, an Iron-age hill fort.  Its double ramparts cover around 4 acres but the weather, and probably feet, have over the years caused some erosion.  When I passed through, the wind was whipping across the hilltop and I wondered how the people would have coped there in the winter.

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Abbotsbury Castle ramparts

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Yet more views

By now, I was reaching my destination and the first night’s stop near the village of Puncknowle (pronounced Punnel) which stood just inland from the ridge top.  I walked into the village at 4.30pm after walking nearly 19 miles.  The evening was bright and dry as I pitched my tent but I was slightly relieved that the village was on the leeward side of the ridge!  I was somewhat relieved too that my ankle that had been giving me problems recently was giving me nothing more than twinges at the moment :)!

I spent the evening exploring the village and then retired to the local pub for a welcome meal – the dog in the picture is not mine by the way.

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The local pub

What a great first day :)!  Now how well will I sleep……..

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Holloways – walking Dorset’s labyrinthine paths!

17 Sep

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Hell Lane

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

Well the name Holloway comes from the anglo-saxon word which literally means ‘sunken road’, and they date from at least 300 years ago, many going back as far as the iron age.  They started life as either drove trails used to move cattle and other animals from farms to markets, routes from inland to the sea ports, pilgrimage routes, or simply boundary ditches.

Centuries of use by cattle, carts and people gradually eroded the soft surface creating a ditch which was then deepened and widened by yet more ‘traffic’ and also by water running off the surrounding land as the ditch became at times a river.  Eventually, many have become as deep as 20 or 30 feet creating in effect gorges rather than paths.

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A network of tree roots hold up the walls

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

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Another West Dorset holloway

I have a number of regular walks that take in one or more holloways and they are always a delight to walk.  On a grey, stormy day you could almost fear to walk them as the gloom and darkness created by the high walls and overhanging branches creates a feeling of shadowy threat.  On a bright sunny day with lovely dappled light filtering through the trees, they take on an altogether different feel!

They are ever changing, ever different, but always delightful!  And as is often the case when I walk, I travel along them wondering about those who have trod that way before – were they early drovers, were they pilgrims heading for one of the Dorset abbeys, were they just ordinary people making their way to the port perhaps to emigrate to other lands!

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

………………………………………………

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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