Tag Archives: weather

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 2

20 May

DAY 3 – STRUMBLE HEAD to TREFIN – 14.3 miles

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

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Strumble Head Lighthouse in the early morning light

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

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Military remains with Garn Fawr in the background

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

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Beautifully rugged

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

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The Great Wall of China?

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

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Abercastle

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

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Trefin Mill at Aber Draw

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

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

DAY 4 – TREFIN to WHITESANDS BAY – 12 miles

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

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

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

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

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Porthgian Harbour……with rainbow!

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

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Derelict quarry buildings and old tramway cutting at Porthgain

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

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Deep inlets and a circuitous route

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

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The sun makes a brief appearance

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

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St David’s Head in poor visibility and driving rain

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

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Whitesands Bay appears out of the gloom

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

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

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Waves and surf and my route out tomorrow

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

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A beautiful sunset across Whitesands Bay

I laid in my tent wondering what tomorrow would bring!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Rain, Rain, Rain…….and more Rain!!

13 Feb

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

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Impassable

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

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High tide breeches the sea wall!

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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.

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.

A great llloooonnnnnggggg walk – Part Two :)

22 Apr

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

Day 3

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

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Seaside colours!

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

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Ripe for renovation?  The Lyme Regis under-cliff

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

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

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

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

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The way up

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

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What goes down must come up

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

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Useful information……or not!

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

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

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

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Sidmouth

Day 4

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

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A wet sea front at Sidmouth

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Alone on the beach

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

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The way onwards

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

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Up into the misty forest

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

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Looking back at Ladram Bay

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

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TDR on the trail :)

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

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Budleigh Salterton beach

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

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The End!

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

Be blessed!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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

21 Feb

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

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Repairing the foreshore

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

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

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Wide open spaces

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

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The beauty of the sand dunes

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

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Three in a row

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

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Whipping the wave tops

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

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A hovering airship!

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

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Freedom

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

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Snowdrops in the churchyard

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

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What a view

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

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A bird of a different kind

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

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Old Harry Rocks

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

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

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The Training Bank

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

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Red seaweed

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

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Patterns in the sand

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

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Watershed wonder

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

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Sunset in the dunes

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

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A twilight journey back

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

Be blessed!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

 

Happiness is snow shaped :)

3 Feb

Now Dorset and snow don’t usually go together, especially South Dorset!  We get the occasional light scattering, just to tantalise us and remind us of what we are missing and it has usually gone within hours.  But recently we actually had a fall of snow that was worth walking in……and I did just that :)!  Now I don’t like snow for what it does to the community, the slippery roads that can make driving difficult, and the effect it has on the elderly who can’t get out, but I love it for the effect it has on the landscape, turning it into a magical fairyland, a delight to walk in!

This walk started from a wonderful Dorset village, probably one of the prettiest you could wish to see, a designer village that exists simply because one man didn’t want the view from his manor house spoilt by houses and cottages!  But more of that later.

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A designer village cottage

The village nestles in a valley with its single street lined on both sides with identical cottages and with its almshouses and church part way down.  These cottages are always picturesque but with the myriad icicles hanging from the eaves of each one, they took on a real fairy story look – you could almost expect to see Hansel and Gretel appear from the doorway!

I have said that the cottages are all identical, and they are from the outside, but internally they now differ.  With their single front door, you would imagine that they were all built as substantial single dwellings but in fact they were semi-detached – inside the front door of each was a lobby with secondary front doors into separate cottages on each side.  There was much overcrowding in the days when these were built and it is said that at one time as many as 36 people lived in one of these small cottages……with two bedrooms!  Many have now been knocked into one single larger cottage.

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The post office and shop

As I walked down this street, I met one of the villagers and we fell into conversation – I was to bump into him again later in the walk.  He had lived in the village for 14 months and was undertaking a project to film the village through the year.  Naturally with rare snow on the ground, he was making the most of this as he captured the scene!  As I left him and continued down the road, I wondered if he was still filming and if I would feature in his production!

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A beautiful lane

From the village, my route took me down a lovely lane with parkland on each side and past one of the many manor houses that stand in the area.  High on the side of the hill, this manor house had commanding views across this beautiful valley.

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One of the manor houses

But this manor house would pale into insignificance compared to the main feature in this part of Dorset, the magnificent Milton Abbey and House.

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Milton Abbey and its grounds

The abbey was originally founded in 925 by King Athelstan although those buildings were destroyed by fire in 1309.  The current abbey dates from the 14th and 15th century and as huge as the church is, it is only a fraction of what it was meant to be as the eastern chapels have been demolished and the main nave was never built.  An interesting story is told of John Tregonwell who at the age of 5 fell from the tower……and lived!  It seems that his petticoat which was the fashion of the day acted as a parachute, enabling him to ‘land’ safely!

The parkland around the abbey, designed by Capability Brown, is truly magnificent and my walk took me through this beautiful countryside.

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Through the parkland

Coming to the end of the lane in the picture above gives us a chance to turn and look back at not only the church itself but also the impressive mansion that is attached to it.  This was the home of Joseph Damer, later Lord Milton.  He bought the estate from the Tregonwell family who had acquired the abbey after the dissolution of the monasteries to use as their private residence.  Joseph Damer had the ‘new’ mansion built in 1774.

At the time, the village, then known as Middleton, was below it in the valley but Joseph Damer did not like his view being ‘spoilt’ by the cottages so he had them all demolished and built a new village out of sight round the corner!  As hard as that was for the then villagers, one of whom refused to leave and had to be literally flooded out, I guess we have him to thank for the picturesque 18th century designer village we now see.

The abbey and house, as is often the case with old mansions, has now been turned into a private school.

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Across the Capability Brown parkland

But we must move on!  For a short time, our route takes us along a quiet country lane where I again bumped into my friend with his camera filming a different view of village life.  And in the distance we can see the next unspoilt village on this walk.

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Down the country lane

But we don’t stay on the road long before detouring across the fields and footpaths to reach that village.

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Across fields and footpaths

Eventually the path brings us out to another of those quintessentially Dorset villages with its delightful thatched cottages and its church standing proud in the centre.

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An unspoilt Dorset village

It is always a pleasure walking through this interesting village whatever the time of year but all too soon, we have to head out into the country again to climb up to one of the highest points in Dorset with its amazing views over the Blackmore Vale and across four different counties.

The route up will take us through varied scenery.

Through beautiful woodlands…….

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……..through lovely open farmland…….

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…….and out onto the open hillside with another of my favourite views back down the valley.  Amazingly, the gorse here was still in flower and provided a lovely splash of yellow in a monochrome landscape.

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On the open hillside

Reaching the ridge of the hill, my route took me along the country lane which was a blessing because the views are spectacular and walking on the road means that you can enjoy the scenery to the full without having to look where you are walking……..well, apart from the occasional patch of ice ;)!  Now I know why I carry a walking pole – it has saved my backside several times :)!

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The Blackmore Vale

Soon though I had to turn off the road and drop down into another snowy valley and along this section, it was 12 inches deep in places………apart from where the sheep had worn it away in their quest to find grass.

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Snow grazing!

And I even managed to find some virgin snow, not yet walked upon, it almost seemed a shame to spoil it.  I never could resist a gate or stile and in the virgin snow, this gate looked particularly attractive.

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The gate and the virgin snow

So I spoilt the snow by walking across it :) and then continued down the valley along a lovely farm lane.

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Looking both ways!

As I was walking down this section, the clouds produced a spectacular display and it seemed like it was just for me as it added a different dimension to the pictures.  Eventually I had to climb up the side of the valley again and spoil yet more virgin snow which came up to my knees making it hard work climbing up what wasn’t really a very steep hill.  But there is always something special about being the first person to walk in the snow :)!

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Almost too lovely to spoil!

And it was the same as I crossed the next field; and looking back with the snow, the sunshine and the blue sky, it was quite breathtaking.  Just stand with me a moment and admire the creator’s handiwork.  ‘The fool has said in his heart there is no God’.

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Rolling hills of snow

And so it was on down the farm track again where I could feel less guilty because the tractors had already christened the snow ;)!  It was along this section that there was a sad sight – animal tracks in the snow with drops of blood at regular intervals :(!  I wondered what had made the tracks and whether they had survived……..I hope so!

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Tractor tracks

We are nearing the end of the walk now but there is yet another valley to drop into and a view made all the better by the foreground stubble that has managed to poke through the layer of snow on this more sheltered side of the hill.  With the patchwork quilt of snowy fields on the opposite hillside, it made a delightful view as the light faded into evening.

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In the fading light

And so my route brought me full circle as I dropped into the designer village again to pass the now redundant old school with its streetlamp shining brightly out into the gathering gloom.  And the rows of cottages in the distance seem to welcome me back.

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The old school

As I look back at this walk, it brings back such great memories, memories of post card perfect views across not only a designer village but also a designer landscape with its natural beauty enhanced by a heavy fall of snow.  It was a 12 mile walk that felt more like 20, but it was 20 miles of heaven on earth :)!  But aren’t all walks in this amazing creation like that?

I have put up more pictures than I normally would but I hope you have enjoyed walking with me!

Be blessed!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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