Tag Archives: trees

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.

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

29 Aug

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

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

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Rough path, great view!

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

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A ‘quiet’ country lane

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

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Traffic one side, unexploded shells on the other ;)

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

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

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Refurbishment in progress

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

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Nearly autumn!

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

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The Rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep

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

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Beneath the yew tree’s shade

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

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

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Down the tram lines

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

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A fabulous panorama

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

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Lunch time view

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

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The ‘amphitheatre’

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

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Bare foot path

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

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Dust to dust

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

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

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

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Down the valley

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

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Standing proud

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

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Ashes to Ashes

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

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

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

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Along the ridge top

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

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Evening light across the hilltop

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

 

Of sights and sounds, aerial acrobatics, and angelic singing!

8 Jul

This walk started and finished in one of those beautiful Dorset villages that you know so well because you drive through it so often, but you don’t actually know at all because you drive through it so often!  It is only as you explore the little streets and lanes on foot that you really discover those special hidden beauties, those little corners of Dorsetness…..and this one had a major surprise.  But more of that later :)!

Leaving the village, the path climbed steadily upwards out of the valley and up to the ridge top.  I just couldn’t help turning round to take in the views that were already emerging, and these wonderful views were to stay with me all day.  It seemed that there was to be wildlife with me all day too as first a hare raced across the field in front of me and then a fox crossed the track.  The latter was definitely a well fed country fox – they always look so much healthier than the town foxes that scavenge on dustbins.  Foxes and hares are not rare but seeing them always adds to the enjoyment of a walk.

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Emerging views

Having reached the ridge, my route took me through a woodland area, a forestry plantation, not quite so interesting as mixed deciduous woods but nevertheless an area that plays an important part in this world.  Not only does it provide much needed timber but it provides much needed oxygen to repair that damaged ozone layer, so I guess it can be forgiven any perceived lack of excitement ;)!  Actually I think any woodland is a delight to walk through.

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Fruits of the Forest!

Overhead came the drone of a bi-plane and amazingly as I watched it looped the loop as part of an aerobatic display.  It was interesting watching this plane – it seemed like it would stall as it tried to fly upwards to turn over but somehow, despite its age, it managed the loop and flew on.  This genuinely was an old plane – it was like watching Biggles all over.  Later in the walk, I was to get an even more impressive display of flying!

At this point, there was one of those slightly off-putting moments when I heard gunshots just across the field.  It could have been someone shooting pigeons or it could have been a deer stalker but either way, I wondered if they knew I was around.  I took comfort from the fact that I couldn’t see them so can’t have been in range but it did highlight that when you walk in the country, you trust that anyone out there with a gun knows what they are doing and observes the code.  Fortunately the gun laws in the UK are stringent.

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Ridge top meadows

There were some beautiful meadows along this walk and not only that but they were meadows with a view too.  It is interesting to just count the variety of grasses so elegantly waving their heads in the gentle breeze, seemingly trying to dodge the many butterflies…..or flying flowers as I call them :)!  They seem to have no aerobatic skills at all, as they flit to and fro in a seemingly random pattern.  Someone once said that butterflies are in fact expert fliers because they use warm air currents to get around and thus avoid wasting energy.  I don’t know if this is true but what I do know is that with the combination of waving grasses, the myriad wild flowers, and the ‘flying flowers’ the meadow is a place where you just want to sit and soak it all in.  And of course. with the skylarks singing over head you could almost think that heaven must be like this.

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A Fritillary in the meadow

And on the subject of skylarks, how do they manage to produce such an ethereal song whilst flying?  Surely that must be like me running up hill whilst singing at the top of my voice.  Amazing creation!

This was definitely a walk to be savoured as the paths are so delightful and so inviting.  I actually didn’t plan my route in advance this time, preferring to go where my mood took me and with paths like these, there was no shortage of beckoning sights.

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One path, both ways

Did I mention aerobatics?  Well there was a treat in store that would knock spots off the biplane, butterflies or even the Red Arrows had they been around.  This was the house martins out looking for food.  Their agility is legendary as they swoop and climb at amazing speeds, doing hand brake turns, ducking and diving, and never flying into each other.  What a sight, and it is free to all who want to stand and watch.  Which I did :)!

Now we British are obsessed with the weather as you may know, but this was a hot day so I needed to move on and find a bit of coolness and a clump of trees provided the ideal spot to take in the view again, and to take in some fluid too.

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Welcome shade

Ah, but it was time to move on again so it was out into the sun to continue my way along the ridge surrounded by trees and distant views.  Whenever I walk, I seem to run out of superlatives to describe the beauty of this wonderful county and this amazing countryside.  Sometimes I just stand and watch in awe as the breeze ripples through the vibrant green foliage and the words of the poet come to mind, ‘I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree’.

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

The next part of the walk took me down one of those gorgeous Dorset avenues that invariably speak of manor houses, lords and ladies.  This is because most of them were planted many years ago as the drive way to some stately home.  This is one of the most beautiful, especially with the dappled light of evening, and my path went right down the middle.

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The Avenue

It is another of those parts not to be rushed but eventually the avenue ends and I find myself on the hilltop again, crossing a field of crops……..and it is one of those ‘good farmer’ fields :)!  The law says that if a farmer ploughs or plants a field with a footpath running through it, the footpath must be reinstated within 24 hours.  Good farmers, as in this case, do that, but ‘bad’ farmers don’t which means you have no idea where the footpath goes which is a pet hate of mine.

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A reinstated footpath

Evening was upon me as I crossed the field and started to drop down off the ridge back to the village.  It was a beautifully still evening when sounds seem to travel across the valley.

Have you ever stopped and specifically listened and tried to pick out all the different sounds that surround you?  So often we miss things because we are just not aware of what is around so sometimes I stop and listen!  Standing looking across the valley in the picture below, these are the sounds I heard in just a minute or two – the wind, rustling grass, trees creaking, crickets, sheep bleating, many birds but particularly the strong song of the wren, a distant tractor, children’s happy voices, gunshots, wood pigeons cooing, buzzards, the buzzing of bees and flies, cows mooing, the crowing of a cockerel, rooks with their rasping voices, a barking dog, church bells in the distant valley, and so much more.  Try it when you are next out walking.

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The sounds of an echoing valley

But there was something even more surprising awaiting me in the village as I reached the end of my walk.  Walking through the narrow lanes between delightful cottages, a single female voice was drifting out into the open.  I could hear it down the street and as I drew closer to the cottage the singing was coming from, I could not help but stop and listen.  It was unexpected, beautiful and mesmerising, one of those special moments that will remain in my memory always.  I wanted to knock on the door and say how lovely it was but I didn’t intrude but continued on my way.  A beautiful end to a beautiful day!

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A delightful Dorset village

Thanks for walking with me.  I hope you have enjoyed the sights and sounds of our wonderful countryside.

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.

Beneath the Tree

9 Jun

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

BENEATH THE TREE

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

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

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

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

Be blessed!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

A great llloooonnnnnggggg walk :)

10 Apr

I was clearing out my office today when I came across the journal I wrote during my first end to end walk……….so I thought I would post it :)!

Most of my walks are circular day walks but I like nothing better than just taking off with a pack on my back and walking wherever the mood takes me.  No car, just my legs………and hopefully a B&B at the end of a days walking (not as easy as you might think!).  This walk was quite some time ago now and the pictures are therefore quite old.

Day 1

It’s here at last! Something I’ve always wanted to do – an end to end walk over several days.  Someday perhaps I’ll walk the whole of the South West Coast Path, but for now, this is great – a 4 day walk along the Dorset coast starting from Osmington and reaching wherever.  Around 15/20 miles a day, can I do that for four days whilst loaded up?  We will soon know!

Early in the morning my ‘taxi’ arrived as a friend was giving me a lift to my starting point.  I was ready and waiting although still debating which waterproofs to take, how many layers I needed, whether to wear boots or shoes – it’s so difficult to know in this country!  It was 11.30am by the time I actually set off walking.

Osmington is a really nice village, very unspoilt and pretty with lots of cottages.  The first part of the walk took me through the village and along a lane which became a farm track where I caught my first glimpse of the famous white horse etched into the downs above the village………actually ‘grey’ horse was probably more accurate as it had lost some of its whiteness!  It’s strange but when I actually reached the top and stood by the horse, it looked like nothing, just some unrecognisable bare patches in the grass.  I guess life is a bit like that – things often look clearer from a distance!

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Here’s looking at ewe!

Walking along the top of the ridge was lovely, there were lots of lambs, and the skylarks were out in force – it was beautiful to hear them.  The day was perfect, quite balmy and still, and although the sun wasn’t out, it was a bright day.  The only downside was that it was hazy so I couldn’t fully enjoy the amazing views.  I took my life into my hands a couple of times as I had to walk through some fields of cows.  Now sheep, they are lovely, friendly, cuddly things, but cows, they are a different kettle of fish altogether ;)!  Anyway, I survived the ordeal!!

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Mist in the valley

I had lunch near Bincombe and then dropped down into the village to have a look round the old church…..and to take some photos of course!  It was a lovely old church but a bit of a nothing village, so I passed on up the hill.  I must say I had no problem route finding, with my map/book and the clear waymark signs it was straight forward.  In fact I surprised myself!

Leaving the village, I could see my next target in the distance, about 7/8 miles distant.  It was The Hardy Monument and I set myself a goal to not stop until I reached it.  This was a goal my head had set but my feet hadn’t necessarily agreed with!  And they started to complain about it too – not verbally of course, but in every other way!!  Note to self – set shorter goals in future!  But as always with me, a goal once set cannot be changed or it means FAILURE ;)!  So I trudged on – and it was a bit of a trudge towards the end!  But I was determined!  And I made it, too, without too many sore places, and no blisters.

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Hardy Monument

I rewarded my feet by letting them have some air as I sat beneath the monument – i.e. I took my shoes and socks off.  I could hear my feet audibly sigh with relief!  It was funny how all the other visitors disappeared at that point ;)!  Ah well, its one way to get the place to yourself.  I was really pleased as I had covered 10 miles in 4 hours and I was ahead of schedule.  I could afford to take my time a bit more for the last 4/5 miles.

Having aired my feet for half an hour and taken on some energy, aka food, I set off again.  After a mile or two the promised rain came but it was a bit of an apology of a downpour, thank goodness.  I didn’t even need waterproofs so they had the luxury of being taken for a ride without having to work for it.  I eventually dropped off the hill through yet more sheep with lambs, some clearly called Shawn as they had no wool, and into Abbotsbury, my stopping point for the night.  It was 6 o’clock when I checked into a B&B.

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A bit of a sunset!

What a fantastic day!  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  And I thoroughly enjoyed my hot shower and cuppa too :)!  In fact, in the evening I was so energised that I went out for a walk, climbing up to  St Catherine’s Chapel that sits at the top of a hill overlooking the village.  By then, the haze had cleared and there was even a bit of a sunset, although the emphasis was on the ‘bit’!  When the sun had gone down, it was time to retreat to the local hostelry for a well earned drink.

A great end to a great day!

Day 2

Surprisingly after a poor nights sleep, I was up early.  I was dressed and down for breakfast at 8.00 and a great breakfast it was too – full English with toast, marmalade and tea.  Just what I needed to set me up for the day.

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St Catherine’s Chapel

I was out and walking before 9.00, first of all climbing back up to St Catherine’s Chapel before dropping down the other side to Chesil Beach.  It was a fabulous sunny morning.  I expected my first few miles to be nice and easy as they are flat but I forgot they followed the edge of Chesil Beach which means walking on shingle – hard work!  It’s just the greatest place though and I spent some time trying to capture the essence of the place with the camera.

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On Chesil Beach

All along this part of the walk through West Bexington and on to Burton Bradstock, there was a fantastic display of wild flowers of all colours and they were picked out beautifully by the bright sunlight.  The footpath after Burton Bradstock was lovely too.  There were only minor climbs and lots of nice flat, wide grassy paths – very kind to feet and knees :)!  They didn’t complain a bit even after yesterday’s exertions.

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A myriad of wild flowers

After a few hours I dropped down into West Bay, which was just as well as I was hungry and also had no water left – this hot weather exhausts the water supply very easily.  Mind you, I had to take quite a detour before West Bay, going inland through a caravan site just to get across a narrow stream – it would have been quicker to have taken my shoes and socks off and paddled across rather than walk all the way to the bridge and back on the other side.

I also had quite a detour in West Bay too, but that was of my own making as I kept going up walkways only to find there was no way across the harbour entrance and having to retrace my steps – should have checked the map first…….but that is far too easy and sensible, and after all, I am a man ;)!  Anyway, my spirits lifted when I saw a sign over a kiosk saying ‘bacon rolls and tea’, so I just about ran over to it – and got them to fill my water bottle as well.  I sat and ate beside the harbour wall with just the starlings for company – they kept landing on the table right in front of me and looked longingly at my roll.  I almost felt guilty at not giving them some – almost, but not quite!  I figured my need was greater than theirs!

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Give me some food!

It was time to get on the road (or path) again so I said a cheery goodbye to the starlings - and they just ignored me.  Well they were probably put out with me!  With lunch inside me and 10 miles behind me, I walked with a new spring in my step – until I saw Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast of England, in the distance.  I would have to climb that later, but there were numerous others before and after as well.  Its funny how sights like that can suddenly sap your energy ;)!  Anyway, I ignored it and carried on.

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Do I really have to climb that?

The views from the top of each peak were amazing…….but why do they have to make them so difficult to get to?  Why can’t someone invent an eco friendly country escalator?  Golden Cap, when I reached it, was a difficult climb, especially after 15 miles of walking.  My feet and legs were now complaining in unison!  My body was soaking up water like a sponge too and I had very little left.  But when I reached the top, it was worth it…….because I could sit down ;)!  The annoying thing was that there were people on the top which meant I had to pretend to be climbing it easily – well it wouldn’t do to let people know I am not a superwalker ;)!  There is a need to create the impression that I am strong, energetic and young.  Vanity, vanity!!

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From Golden Cap

The disappointing thing was that having reached the pinnacle on this days walking, I still had another three and a half miles to walk…..and more climbs!  In fact the last climb of the day was the toughest, with a heavy pack and virtually no water, I was relieved when I reached the top.  I just kept telling myself that all I had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time and I would get there.  Simples!  Yeah right!!

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Showing the way

From this point, my route took me down hill into Charmouth where because of cliff falls I would have to follow the road into Lyme Regis, my stopping point for the day.  Walking along a road with noisy traffic flying past is not my idea of fun but I was determined that I would still walk it even though I had already walked 20 miles.  And then, after a mile or two of torture I spied……..a bus stop!  And not only that, but a bus was due in 5 minutes :)!  It was just meant to be, so I did!

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The Cobb, Lyme Regis

Tired but happy, I checked into a B&B – which was no easy task as they were all fully booked!  It was something of a disappointment after last night’s accommodation but I was so tired that I didn’t care!  After a refreshing shower and cuppa, I went off for……..you guessed it……..a walk!

Day 3 – to follow next time :)

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.

Twas on a cold wintry day……

23 Dec

Ah what a fabulous walk this was!  For almost the first time this year I could walk on solid ground, not because there wasn’t any mud but because for once the mud was frozen.  After the rain we have had seemingly all year, it was such a refreshing change to have seasonably cold, frosty weather which froze even the deepest puddles.  So it was hat and gloves on, and a hot drink to have on the way!

Mind you, before I even got to walking, the camera came out as I passed the beautiful valley in the picture below – I thought it looked as if Santa had passed by in his sleigh on his way to deliver presents to all the lovely children ;)!

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Where is Santa ;)

I arrived at the starting point of my walk and parked in a delightfully picturesque village with its picture postcard cottages and leafy lanes.  With the dappled sunlight, it made a beautiful start to the walk – but later, the darkness would reveal something even more special!

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Dappled light on a village street

Leaving the village, the first mile or two took me down one of those quintessentially timeless Dorset country lanes.  With the crisp frost and the dancing sunlight, it seemed that I was walking in an age more familiar to my grandparents and I almost expected to see a horse and wagon come by on their way to market.  It is truly wonderful how some things just don’t change, especially in this fast moving 21st century technological society that we live in.  How grateful I am for these timeless places, these quiet moments, and for the ability to enjoy them.

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Timeless

Turning off the lane, my route took me onto a farm track, passing the farmhouse on the way.  Seeing this farmhouse bathed in sunshine on this crisp day made me understand afresh the pleasures of living in a rural area.  I know there are ‘disadvantages’ to being a farmer like having to get up at 4.00 am every day but, hey, as they say, ‘every silver lining has a cloud’!  Hmm, or is that the other way round ;)!

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The farmhouse

But just standing there gazing at the view…….well, you couldn’t help but sigh and drink it all in.  With the frost in the foreground echoing the shape of the fence, and the gentle mist settled over the valley in the early morning light, it was magical  What a morning, what a view!  Stand there with me and realise afresh the truth of the poets words, ‘What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’!

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‘What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’

But, move on we must, before the cold freezes us to the spot!  From here, the route winds its way across farmland…….and loses its way a little!  A lack of signposting and some poor stiles can make it difficult to follow the path, especially when one field looks much like the next, but this is all part of the enjoyment of a good walk, creating some small challenges along the way and making the compass and map worth carrying.

We have a good system here in Dorset, a system that allows any problems with the footpath to be reported to the local authority – you can love or hate the Internet, but how did we manage without it?  Within days of my sending through the report, I received an email advising me that the corrective works had been commissioned so next time I walk this way, the path should be clear again :)!  I bet they love me!!

One of the things I love about this county of Dorset is the variety of habitat and terrain.  After the farmland, the path gently winds down into a lovely area of woodland with the frost clinging to the trees and shrubs creating a fairytale land.  If you let your imagination go, you could almost expect to see little snowmen running free.  And then, it is out into the open hillside again to be greeted by the most wonderful view.

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Across the open valley

Lunch time was beckoning and I knew that there was a lovely village church not far away.  That is significant because it is always nice to sit down to eat but that is not something that is straight forward in the winter when the ground is so wet.  However, most churchyards have a bench or two which solves the problem :)!  I often think it would be nice if more farmers would provide a seat or two beside footpaths crossing their land – it doesn’t need to be a padded sofa, just an old log or two will do ;)!  But on this day, it was a churchyard, and a beautifully peaceful one at that, and as I sat there, the weak winter sunlight falling on the delightfully coloured gravestones caught my eye.

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In the graveyard

On these cold days, it is always nice to have a hot drink so I usually carry either a flask or my small camping stove which in many ways is even better because it means I can brew a hot drink whenever I want to.  And today I wanted to!  Sat in that peaceful churchyard with food and a hot drink reflecting on life is one of the pleasures even on a cold day like this.  And so often, these country churchyards are a haven for wildlife too.

The second half of the walk crosses some pristine parklands, with two old stately homes to pass, with the usual array of cottages.  I think the one below with its mansard roof and country garden must be the perfect place to live.

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The country cottage

And then a little further on, another old and now disused but beautifully positioned building which probably housed farm workers in time gone by.  Its days of usefulness are long gone and it looks forlornly out across the land that its inhabitants once served.  And yet it still has a picturesque beauty that enhances the distant view, and a heritage that stretches even further.

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Empty but beautiful

Climbing up onto the ridge just as the sun was setting, my route took in some amazing views across the valley.  The evening mist was creeping stealthily across the low lying land creating a mystical atmosphere which was lit by the gentle pastel colours that are typical of a Dorset winter evening.  And the frost that had lingered on the ground all day, grew crisper as the temperature dropped even further.

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The evening mist settles across the valley

And as I dropped down off the hillside again, the village of Evershot was sat in shade with the blue mist creating a winter wonderland.

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A winter wonderland

Passing through the village and out into the countryside again, I looked back to see the last vestiges of the milky sunset reflecting off the smoke from the bonfires in the cottage gardens.

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Bonfires in the sunset

The last two miles took me across the most perfect parkland with its landscaped grounds and beautifully laid out trees.  One in particular seemed as if it was standing out from its peers, like a lookout on the ramparts of a hill fort.

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The lookout

And as darkness fell and the frost grew heavier and whiter still, I walked on alone apart from the many deer that roamed free.  They were my company for what I often think is the best part of the day.

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The parklands

And of course past the old mansion itself, now looming out of the darkness.

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The old mansion

Eventually, I walked back into the village I had started from and it was there that the darkness brought to light that ‘something special’ that I mentioned at the start.  It was a beautiful nativity scene set up in the window of one of the old cottages, lit up and glowing with its warm light shining out into the cold, darkness outside.  I stood and looked, and thought what a great message, light shining into darkness, and a what a wonderful reminder of what this Christmas time is all about!

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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 ishttp://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.

 

The long and short of it…..!

15 Oct

As you will know by now, I like L L o o o o n n n n g g g g walks ;)!  Anything from 10 to 20 miles a day is good, and I even did one walk of 35 miles earlier this year.  It’s great to be able to stride out and spend a whole day on the trail.  I’m not sure if that makes me strange, in fact I’m not sure why I like long walks so much really.  Is it the challenge, that sort of ‘man against the elements’ sort of thing?  I guess you could ask, ‘Why climb Mount Everest?’ or, ‘Why skydive from 24 miles up?  There isn’t really an answer, except for me, I love being outdoors in this wonderful countryside, close to nature and creation, and I like to keep fit at the same time :)!

There was a time when I used to search the book shelves for walking guides that covered longer distances, but I found virtually none!  Oh, some books paid lip service to long walks by including the odd 8 or 10 mile route, but nothing substantial.  So I started to plan my own routes, originally using paper OS maps, and now OS map software, and I have to say, I have really enjoyed doing it.  There is something special about walking a route that is ‘all your own work’!

Well, I then had a thought – why not publish a book myself??  Now, I’m not really a writer, although I have been known to get the odd article in print, but that is exactly what I am doing, and have been for some time.  Thus far, it has been very much down to route preparation and design and I have over 30 routes now.  I also have a potential publisher and am looking at my options because these days it seems that self publishing is the way to go.  The book will cover some spectacular walks and include maps, route descriptions, lots of information on interesting things along the way, and of course lots of photographs!

Anyway, as much as I love long walks, I really enjoy shorter walks too and often of an evening or weekend, you will find me walking in the local area where I live.

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The local nature reserve

It is great to be able to walk straight from my front door without the need for the car, and although I live in an urban area, it is possible by linking footpaths, stretches of urban woodland, heath, parklands etc to feel like you are actually out in the countryside.  One of my favourite sunday walks takes in a small nature reserve, a lovely oasis in the middle of suburbia where there is so much wildlife to see.

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The log pile – a bug high rise!

After the nature reserve, my route takes me into an area of woodland known as Delph Woods.  It isn’t a large woodland and it is surrounded by houses, roads and a golf course but when you are in amongst the trees, you forget you are in the middle of a town.  I have been walking these woods for many many years and I can well remember how I used to take my children there on a Sunday.  There is a disused railway line running through it and I used to tell them tales of the ghost train that still travels through on a moonlit night ;)!  I don’t think they believed me then, and they definitely don’t believe me now that they are grown up!!

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In the autumn evening light

One of the challenges for me is to capture some good landscape pictures and undoubtedly the early morning or late evening is the best time to do that – the so called ‘golden hour’.  Somehow, it is easier to take notable landscapes when at the well known landmarks that have featured in books and magazines the world over, but to repeat that in your local woodlands is a new challenge.  And I like a challenge :)!

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At the end of the day

The walk also takes in a small pond or two and it is always magical standing there in the fading light watching the setting sun reflecting off nature’s mirror.  You may be in the middle of a town, but with the singing of the birds, the hooting of an owl, the sight of a deer in the dusk light, you could be anywhere.  Long may these local havens be preserved for us to enjoy and escape into when we have just a little time to spare.

So the long and short of it is……enjoy both!  Just enjoy the freedom of being outside in God’s creation, drink it in, it will refresh and renew you, it will reduce the stress levels created by modern life, it will improve your heart and your mind.  It always does mine!

And if you need a guide book to help you, I know where you can get one….. ;)!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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

24 Aug

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

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

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The tunnel and the old irrigation system

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

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A beautiful church with a chutney stall at the back

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A picturesque cottage in the hamlet

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

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

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

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

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

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The isolated church and beautiful carving of the last supper

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

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

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


Who will win!

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

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

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Amazing new life

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

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Waiting for the new playmate

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

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‘Attractive’ cows!

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

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The village church and its porch fireplace

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

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Golden hour sunbeams

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

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A delightful last look into the valley

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

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A ‘working village’

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

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

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

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

7 Jul

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

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

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Through the dappled forest

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

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The forest’s ferny trees

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

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Smuggler’s Lane

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

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Meadow Brown

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

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

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Hogweed

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

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Common Spotted Orchid

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

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Across the ramparts

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

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The poppy field

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

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On the hill fort

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

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

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

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The old mill

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

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The barley field

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

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Down the tramlines

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

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

Your friend

The Dorset Rambler

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

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