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.

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