Tag Archives: wildlife

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

31 Dec

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

Image
Grassy paths and autumn colours

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

Image
The morning light

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

Image

Image
Down into the valley

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

Image
A peaceful Dorset farm lane

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

Image

Image
Bloody Shard Gate

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

Image
A graveyard of the coppicing industry

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

Image

Image
From hunting ground to farm land

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

Image
Shadows and light

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

Image
The village street

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

Image
Beside the pub fire

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

Image
Not the railway station

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

Image

Image
The hamlet

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

Image
The parkland

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

Image
Inside the village church

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

Image
The day’s end

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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

2 Dec

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

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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….’!

Image
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.  

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
The village in the valley

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

Image
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.

Image

Image
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!

Image
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!

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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!

Image
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………!

Image
The eerie darkness

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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

20 Nov

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

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

Image
Evidence of autumn

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

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

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

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

Image
The village in the valley

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

Image
The forest track

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

Image
Beautiful autumn sunlight

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

Image
I hope not!

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

Image
Tree top colours

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

Image
Shadows shaking hands

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

Image

Image
The old coppice woods

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

Image

Image
Autumn berries and foliage

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

Image
Old Man’s Beard

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

Image

Image
Smuggler’s Lane in autumn

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

Image
Ruts and hedgerows

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

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

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

Image
The end of the lane

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

Image
The old barn

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

Image
From one hill fort to another

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

Image
The valley bonfire burns in the late sun

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

Image
Shadows on the old barn

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

Image
Sunset and silhouette

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

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

Image

Image
Sunset on the ramparts

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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.

Image
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.

Image
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 ;)!

Image
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 ;)!

Image
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.

Image
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!

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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 :)!

Image
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.

Image
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!

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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 :)!

ImageImage
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 1

24 Sep

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

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

Image
Weymouth Beach

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

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

Image
The shoreline of The Fleet

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

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

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

Image
Fleet House, now a hotel

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

Image
The rolling landscape of Dorset

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

Image
Across to St Catherine’s Chapel

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

Image
Abbotsbury

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

Image
Abbotsbury in its valley with the coast beyond

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

Image
The Fleet, Chesil Beach and Portland

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

Image
The beacon

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

Image
Amazing views from Wears Hill

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

Image
Abbotsbury Castle ramparts

Image
Yet more views

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

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

Image
The local pub

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Holloways – walking Dorset’s labyrinthine paths!

17 Sep

Image
Hell Lane

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

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

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

Image
A network of tree roots hold up the walls

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

Image
Another West Dorset holloway

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

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

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

………………………………………………

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

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

8 Jul

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

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

Image
Emerging views

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

Image
Fruits of the Forest!

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

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

Image
Ridge top meadows

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

Image
A Fritillary in the meadow

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

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

Image

Image
One path, both ways

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

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

Image
Welcome shade

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

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

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

Image
The Avenue

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

Image
A reinstated footpath

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

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

Image
The sounds of an echoing valley

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

Image
A delightful Dorset village

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Beneath the Tree

9 Jun

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

BENEATH THE TREE

Image

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

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

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

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

Be blessed!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

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

Of literary giants and characters, bluebells and blossom, and some strange sights!

4 Jun

Sitting here in my office on a dull, dreary day, gazing out of the window across the local park, my mind wanders back to a delightful walk that I took recently.  It was in many ways a literary walk taking in some wonderful Dorset countryside and several wonderful old Dorset churches.  It was a walk to inspire the imagination!  Join with me and we will walk together.

It started in a delightful area of woodland, made all the more special by the dappled light and amazingly fresh spring colours in the trees.  Verdant new life that just takes your breath away!  As I walked along the track that wound its way through the woodlands accompanied by the bird song all around, I could not help but think of Thomas Hardy’s Tess.  I could picture her walking these ancient tracks with her friends as they made their way to church in their Sunday best dresses with Angel Clare not too far away.  It was sad that the event that led to her demise came in a similar glade at the hands of Alec d’Urberville!  Thomas Hardy wrote of such tragedy that seems to contradict the joy of this location.

Image
The countryside of Tess

With these typical Hardy woodlands and the nearby open heathland that once covered the whole of Dorset, it is not surprising that his novels come to mind because sandwiched betwixt wood and heath stands Hardy’s Cottage.  Built by his great grandfather, this is where Hardy was born in 1840 and where he started his writing career so it is fitting that he wrote of the area that surrounded him.  The cottage, now delightfully preserved by The National Trust, could have easily jumped out of one of his novels.  Looking across the garden, you can just hear Gabriel Oak’s voice drifting out of the open window saying to Bathsheba, ‘And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be – and whenever I look up, there will be you’.

Image
Thomas Hardy’s Cottage

Passing on down the narrow lane that seems little changed since Hardy’s day, I passed the first of several orchards, beautifully adorned with blossom and bluebells.  It would have been a great place to ‘stand and stare’ awhile…….but there was a walk to complete :)!

Image
A beautiful orchard

Not that I got very far because just down the lane I came across a very friendly lamb who needed a bit of fuss!  So I obliged :)!  Well, it is unusual to find a lamb who comes towards you rather than running away.

Image
A very friendly lamb

In fact it was one unusual sight to another because I hadn’t gone half a mile further before I saw the nest box below.  It seemed a somewhat random place to hang a nest box.  Needless to say, it was empty.

Image
A random nest box

But there was more to come because just a little further along the track I passed the sheep below – for some reason all clustered together under a small clump of trees despite having a whole field of lush grass!  I wondered if they knew something I didn’t :)!

Image
A ‘cluster’ of sheep

All along this walk you can see the ‘Hardy factor’.  Passing through a tiny village I passed thatched cottages along either side of the narrow country lane, including the old school house and the old post office.  These would have been two thriving gathering points in this small community in Hardy’s day but no longer.  As with a lot of villages, these ‘centres’ are no more as they have been converted to private houses.

Image
The Old Post Office

This was a spring walk and that was very evident too in this village with one of my favourite plants, the wisteria, growing over some cottages.

Image
Wisteria

Passing on through the village, my route took me over a lovely old bridge which had the usual warning notice about transportation if anyone caused damage to it – these are often seen in Dorset although it seems a harsh penalty – and onto a delightful causeway between two streams.  This really was a lovely part of the walk with the rippling stream on either side and a spectacular display of beautifully delicate cow parsley, not to mention a swan with a family of tiny cygnets.

Image
The riverside walk

This was such a varied walk as the river led on to some lovely water meadows, rife with buttercups and with many relics from the past, including the old sluice gates and channels that would have been used to flood the meadows in spring.  This was the method used to raise the ground temperature ready for the planting of seeds to ensure a speedy germination.  Although derelict, these sluice gates are still in place, part of the heritage of past generations.  I often wonder what life was really like back in those days – I would love to visit but I fancy I would want to come back to this century!

Image

Image
Sluice gates and buttercups in the meadow

Fortunately the weather has been drier so the meadows were easy walking.  Before long, I found myself passing Hardy’s other home, Max Gate, currently shrouded in scaffolding as the National Trust carry out renovations.  From here, my route took me down a lovely track that Hardy must have walked many times when visiting his friend and fellow author William Barnes.  They were near neighbours when Barnes was resident at the Came Rectory.

Image
En route to visit William Barnes

And of course this part of the walk would not be complete without a short detour to take in the old church where William Barnes was rector.  Standing in this church, you could just imagine Barnes preaching from the pulpit.  He must have had a broad Dorset accent as he wrote in the same dialect – not easy to read even for a Dorset born and bred man like myself.

Image

Image
Memories of William Barnes

And in the churchyard, another literary giant comes to mind – Thomas Gray in his Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard wrote, ‘Beneath those rugged elms, that yew tree’s shade……..Each in his narrow cell forever laid’.  Such a great descriptive poem, and death is so final……..or is it?

Beneath that yew tree's shade
Beneath the yew tree’s shade

And almost right outside the church was the loveliest display of ramsons and bluebells.  A fitting tribute to a famous Dorset author.

Image
Ramsons and bluebells

It seems that I am forever passing strange sights…..or maybe it is just that I am always on the lookout for quirky and unusual things.  The picture below is no exception :)!  This is something I have seen a number of times before where the corner of the field containing horses is essentially blocked off.  I can only surmise that it is because horses fight if trapped in a corner so any potential areas are blocked off but I don’t know if that is the case.

Image
A strange fence

Having walked cross country for a time, I reached civilisation again when I came to a lovely unspoilt hamlet with just a cluster of cottages, a tithe barn, a manor house, and a delightful little church.  This is of course the make up of many Dorset hamlets.

Image
A delightful unspoilt Dorset hamlet

The church, dating from the 12th century and of unknown dedication, is set apart from the hamlet in the middle of a field.  It really is a beautiful sight and is another church being cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust who do a great work.  The scene below is just so typically English, but the sign always makes me smile – it seems to be somewhat stating the obvious :)!  Even here there are literary connections as it was in this little church that William Barnes preached his first and last sermon.  For me, the peaceful churchyard made a great place for lunch in the company of birds and sheep.

Image
A delightful church

Having had my late lunch in the churchyard, it was time to press on along country footpaths, accompanied by skylarks singing their sweet lilting songs overhead – isn’t it amazing that they can make such glorious music whilst flying (it must be like us trying to run and sing at the same time).  Such a lovely sound that just lifts any stresses away and takes you into another place.  The sound is so joyful you feel that they belong in church.  And it wasn’t long before I came across the next church on this walk.  Another lovely unspoilt village with a very old church that had been modernised inside to create a lovely light, airy worship space – a real ‘ancient and modern’.

Image
Ancient yet modern

My route after leaving the village took me across farm land and quiet country lanes with verges that were breaking out with a myriad of different spring flowers, eventually crossing a railway line.  Here I thought I’d try something different so I crouched down in the gateway and waited for a train to come along, which it did very soon……..and very quickly too!  In fact as it passed, the air pressure created almost knocked me over :)!  Well, it had to be done :)!

Image
Whoosh!

I was nearing the end of the walk now but there were still more interesting things to see, such as the old King George post box buried in the hedge below.

Image
A King George post box

And as I approached the end of my walk, Thomas Hardy returned as I negotiated a particularly muddy section of the track.  It brought to mind the scene from Tess of the d’Urbervilles where Angel Clare carries Tess and all her friends one by one over the mud so that they didn’t get their clothes dirty.  What a gentleman!!!

Image
Where is Angel Clare?

And yet another scene came as the forecasted rain began to fall – I’m sure that is Joseph Poorgrass’ horse wandering free on the heath.  He’s probably at the inn again!

Image
Joseph Poorgrass’ horse?

Before we finish, let me take you back to a meadow near the end of the walk – what a lovely relaxing sound.

What a great walk!  So much to see and hear, and so many connections with our literary giants.  I hope you 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.

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.

Image
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!

Image
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!

ImageImageImage
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.

Image
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!

ImageImage
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.

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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!

Image
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’!

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
The Training Bank

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

Image
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!

ImageImageImage
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 :)!

ImageImage
Watershed wonder

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

Image
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!

Image
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.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 211 other followers