Looking for the Decoy

2 Dec

Recently I have spent some time exploring Wareham Forest. Its not an area I have walked extensively because I thought it was mainly coniferous woodlands which are not as interesting as mixed woodlands. However, I was surprised at how much open heathland there was, and one particular heath that grabbed my attention was Decoy Heath.

Now anyone from Dorset will probably know that in wartime, fires were lit on remote Dorset heaths to lure enemy aircraft away from the towns and munition works, acting as a decoy for their bombs. However, that is not where Decoy Heath gets its name. In fact, it gets its name from ducks.

Back in the day, ducks were trapped for food and feathers and in order to do this, new ponds were created or existing ponds altered in order to attract ducks and draw them into the traps. These ponds were known as decoy ponds and there were in fact two on Decoy Heath, hence its name.

Decoy Heath

Decoy Heath with the Old Decoy Pond

I visited one day this week on a beautifully sunny day and walked around the larger, and more obvious, pond. This is known as Old Decoy Pond but is not technically a ‘decoy pond’ in the accepted sense as its shape is irregular and there is no evidence of its being used to actually trap ducks. It is in fact thought to have been used to attract ducks to the general area and its size would have facilitated this.

The second and smaller pond where the actual trapping took place is known as Decoy Pond and is much less obvious, being smaller and somewhat hidden amongst trees and marshy land to the south of the larger pond. I returned on another very misty day to search that one out. This smaller pond, together with its associated but now derelict decoy man’s overnight shelter, is a Scheduled Ancient Monument as there are few remaining in this country in any recognisable state.

Decoy Pond

The way through marshy land

Just reaching the old overnight shelter was like something out of the Hound of the Baskervilles, with mist and marshy land all around making it difficult to reach the old shelter. The simple single roomed building with one door, one small window and a corner fire place was once probably thatched but the roof has long since disappeared. Only the remnant of the walls remain standing. The stream that feeds the decoy pond circles round three sides of the cottage, almost like the moat of a castle and it is hard to know where it is safe to tread.

Decoy Pond

The decoy man’s overnight shelter

It was fascinating finding this old relic especially on a day which seemed ideally suited to emphasise the mystery of the place. It was built in 1724 by the Drax family of Charborough Park, together with the pond and nearby Decoy House (now demolished) which was where the decoy man lived. It was used for over 100 years until 1856 when shooting rights were granted over the surrounding land, creating too much disturbance to make duck trapping viable.

So what about the pond itself? Well unfortunately the whole area was so marshy that it was impossible to walk farther in than the old shelter. The pond’s shape is still visible on the overhead satellite view but this appears to indicate that it has become considerably overgrown with reeds etc so that clear water is not now visible. However, it is still waterlogged and in better condition than most – it is in fact one of only two remaining in Dorset.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-00-19

Satellite view showing the pentagonal pond in the trees

I was interested to read how decoy ponds were used. The practice dates back to medieval times in more simple forms but the more complex design seen here was introduced from Holland in the 17th century. Most were star shaped, a main pond with tapering ditches known as pipes running in a curved shape outwards, with netting over the top. In the picture above, the remnants of some of these ‘pipes’ can be seen stretching out from the pentagonal shaped pond.

It was down these ‘pipes’ that ducks would be lured by either using strategically placed food or by using dogs. The latter method relied on the ducks’ natural inclination to follow predators such as foxes to keep them in sight – thus the dog mimicking a predator led the ducks up the pipe. Carefully placed screens would be used to hide the dog but allow sufficient glimpses to maintain the ducks’ interest. When they reached the point of the pipe, they would be captured by the decoy men and have their necks wrung.

The images below give an idea of how the decoy ponds were used. They are by Sir Ralph Frankland-Payne-Gallwey, 3rd Baronet (1848-1916) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons from his book ‘The book of duck decoys, their construction, management, and history (1886)’.

decoy_5_pipe

decoy_in_action

It has been fascinating exploring this little corner of Dorset and the old custom of duck decoying. I am sure there is much more to learn but I hope you have enjoyed this little taster.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

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

Amen Corner

7 Oct

It’s an interesting name isn’t it. It immediately conjures up images of the Welsh rock band with Andy Fairweather Low of ‘Bend Me Shape Me’ and ‘Half As Nice’ fame but that is not where the name comes from. It goes back much farther than that.

There are numerous places that bear this name, including thoroughfares and literal corners such as this. The name is thought to date from the 19th century in America where it was often used to describe the corner of some protestant churches, usually beside the pulpit, occupied by a group of people who led the responsive ‘amens’ of the congregation. It was also used to describe a corner of a church where a group of particularly ardent worshippers sat.

In this country, it is often used on processional prayer routes where monks would have walked the streets praying and say their final ‘amen’ at a particular corner. This applies to several places in London. On a more gruesome note, it is thought sometimes to relate back to the days when gallows were erected at a particular corner and where people uttered their last ‘amen’!

Down a Country Lane

This particular Amen Corner is a crossroads at the end of the delightful village of Gussage All Saints in Dorset. This is an ancient settlement that dates back to the Bronze Age with Ackling Dyke, that ancient super-highway running nearby. There was once a chapel at Amen Corner, originally of timber construction but subsequently of cob. It was a meeting place and a place of prayer and Henry III is said to have called here in the 13th century.

The truth about the name here is probably a lot more mundane than some of the others and it may simply refer to the fact that this is the last house in the village – and it is appropriately named Amen Cottage.

I pass through here on a regular basis, either on foot or on two wheels. This visit was near the end of a 75 mile bike ride on a beautiful evening as the low sun slanted through the trees. I could not help myself but had to stop and take this picture of what is a particularly lovely part of Dorset.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

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

Cycling………Freedom!

22 Sep

As you will know if you follow my blog, I walk many, many miles every year and I just love this activity, not only for the amazing countryside and views that can be enjoyed, but also purely for the business of putting one foot in front of the other. I enjoy the process of walking. I have written blog entries on what walking does for me so I won’t repeat that here.

However, there is perhaps one slight shortcoming with walking and that is whilst it keeps you generally fit, it doesn’t give much of a cardiovascular work out unless you are climbing strenuously in the mountains, and Dorset doesn’t have mountains. Because of this, I decided a year or two back that I would power-walk/run at least twice a week in order to get my heart rate up. The problem I discovered with this is that running and arthritic ankles don’t make good bedfellows because running tends to be high impact.

I needed a solution, and that solution was provided by cycling. Now I’ve been a cyclist all my life and in fact I used to race at an amateur level when I was younger but over recent years I have done less, preferring to get out on foot. So a few months ago I dusted off my old racing bike (in fact I have replaced it now) and started to get out on the road a bit more, whilst still maintaining my walking in between of course.

Cycling not only gives you a good workout but it also enables you to cover more ground whist still being in the countryside and in the fresh air. It gives you a great sense of freedom.

So I wrote a poem about it🙂 !

CYCLING

Rest and Be Thankful

Cycling – freedom – on the road,

Cycling – freedom – without load,

Cycling – freedom – in the air,

Cycling – freedom – gets you there,

Cycling – freedom – through the trees,

Cycling – freedom – feel the breeze,

Cycling – freedom – down the lanes,

Cycling – freedom – dodge the rains,

Cycling – freedom – not too fast,

Cycling – freedom – make it last,

Cycling – freedom – without strife,

Cycling – freedom – healthy life,

Cycling……………FREEDOM!

(Copyright The Dorset Rambler)

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

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

The Walk Home

3 Sep

Another of my poems which was inspired by a late evening walk on a night when the moon became covered by heavy cloud, throwing everything into darkness. Suddenly sounds of animals and rustling leaves became more mysterious as the imagination took over. I wrote the poem in my mind as I walked.

Shadowyman!

The Walk Home

Gravel crunched in the inky darkness,
Path glowed softly in the light of the moon,
Owl hooted eerily in the distance,
Nervous, wished to be home soon.

Cow lowed deeply in the meadow,
Cat screeched out in the neighbouring barn,
Rat, I thought, had met its maker,
Shivers ran up spine and arm.

Bats flew up high above my head,
Wheeling around to catch their prey,
Crows gave out their last loud ‘caw’,
Marking the end of a winter’s day.

Fox rushed by with pheasant in mouth,
Deer stirred softly in the trees,
Rabbits shuffled through the grasses,
Geese gabbled sleepily at other geese.

Moon disappeared behind a cloudscape,
Stars no longer seen by eye,
Blackness like a cloak descended,
Ground just merged with far away sky.

Shapes mysterious and shadows loomed,
Atmosphere of eeriness gripped,
Path no longer visible,
Feeling my way lest my foot tripped.

Heart raced swiftly in tightening chest,
Ears picked up mysterious sounds,
Imagination carried away,
What threats are near waiting to pounce.

Dog approached me barking wildly,
Gate hinge creaked, and latch did too,
Front door opened there before me,
Glad to be home, I stepped through.

(Copyright The Dorset Rambler)

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

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

Beside the Weir

20 Aug

This poem was inspired by an evening walk along the banks of the River Stour. The river flows gently and peacefully above and below the weir that sits beside the old mill, but for just a brief interlude it becomes a raging torrent. This is what I wrote as I sat beside the weir.

Beside the Weir

Beside the Weir

Calm and tranquil flows the stream,
Peace personified, as in a dream,
Gentle waters seem crystal clear,
Until it reaches the ancient weir.

Suddenly that peaceful flow,
Becomes a torrent, rushing below,
Thunderous sounds of crashing flood,
Whipped up white, in angry mood.

Beyond the weir it slows its pace,
Once more flowing with amazing grace,
Peace restored, it rolls lazily on,
Seeming no rush for it to be gone.

That interlude of power and rush,
Only short lived, one quick push,
Breaks up the peace of my waterside walk,
Interrupting my quiet thoughts.

And yet there is wonder in that short space,
As water rushes down as if in a race,
The effect on me made me want to be near,
And I returned again and sat by the weir.

(Copyright The Dorset Rambler)

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

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

But Until Then……

16 Aug

On a Dorset Hillside

He stands there high on the hillside, alone, with a valley of trees below. He has been there many, many years, longer than I can remember and the evening sun picks him out against the dark stormy sky beyond. He stands in a commanding position, he commands respect – but what is he?

He is an old, battle worn chief watching over his people. The scars of war are etched on his countenance, trophies from many successful skirmishes as he protected his people. His best fighting days are behind him now but he still sits in council. He knows that he will one day be replaced by someone younger, fitter, but until then, he will continue to lead his people with authority.

He is an ageing actor, the player of many memorable parts over countless years, highly respected by his peers and public. He stands on stage in the spotlight, shakily delivering his lines with all the authority he can muster to the appreciation of those around him. He knows that his best is behind him and that one day he will perform no more. Younger men will take his place but until then, he will proudly perform.

He is a keep, solid and strong, standing sentinel over his castle below him. Many have lived there, the king has visited, and he has provided protection whilst battles raged all around. The battles have now ceased and knights come and go no more. His strength is no longer needed! He knows that one day erosion will take its full course and dereliction will set in but until then, he will stand firm.

He is an ageing stag watching over his herd. He has seen off many young pretenders over the years but remains master of all he surveys…….for now. He knows that one day his failing strength will be his downfall and a stronger stag will defeat him but until then, he will guard his harem.

He is a once strong shelter, a canopy under which over the centuries, all manner of creatures have sought refuge from the elements. Herds of cows, sheep, deer, have found protection from storms, rain, wind and sun under his strong, spreading limbs and lush foliage. Bugs and birds have made him their home. He knows that one day his arms, weakened by age, will crumble but until then, he will stoically spread them as wide as he can.

He is a one time training ground for young climbers who gained early confidence by scrambling up his stout trunk to sit on his strong branches whilst he stood still and allowed them. He played his part well in their developing years, protecting them carefully. They have grown up now and moved on with children of their own. He knows that one day his trunk will be too frail to take the rough scrambling of children but until then, he will still be there when needed.

He is a grandad. A once valued and useful member of the community who staunchly contributed to the world around him. Now retired, he sits on his hillside watching the world pass him by. Others have taken on the roles he once performed and seemingly he sits and waits for the end to come. But he has grandchildren now and he plays his part in their development, passing on his wisdom of age and relating to them tales of ‘the old days’ – ‘When I was young…..’ he begins. He knows that one day they too will grow and take on lives of their own but until then, he will be their strongest and most vehement supporter, watching eagerly for their approach.

In the end, the end WILL come, there is nothing more certain. But even in death he will have his usefulness, providing timber that will become furniture or floors or fences or…….. His legacy will live on! And even his crooked parts, his arthritic limbs, will become firewood that will provide warmth through the cold winter nights.

BUT UNTIL THEN…………

…………………………………………………………………….

This piece was inspired by the tree in the picture above, following a walk in West Dorset. The old tree stands alone on its hillside, picked out by the evening sun, above a valley that is filled with trees, . The end of the day is near. The storm is on the horizon. The best has gone. What more is to come? What do you see?

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

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

On the Wild Side – The Dorset Coast Path Day 3

10 Aug

The following morning at just after 5 am I was up and about. It must have been a warm night as the inside of the tarp was damp with condensation despite all the air movement that using a tarp allows. Next time, I’ll raise it higher so that there is even more space for ventilation.

The moon was still up and there was just a hint of pink in the sky – the sun was still in bed – and there was a slight sea mist across the bay. I wondered if the mist might account for the dampness of the tarp! It was a peaceful morning again as I sat having breakfast watching the light gradually grow.

4.30am

In the Early Morning Light

By the time I had finished breakfast, the sun had appeared and it threw the most beautiful light across the headland and across Golden Cap in the distance. It was a fleeting light that I had to make the most of so I tried to capture the unique early morning atmosphere as best I could. It was truly, truly beautiful and I felt totally inadequate to even try to capture either in words or in camera something of what it felt like that morning!

Sunrise on Stonebarrow

Sunrise on Stonebarrow

Early Morning View from Stonebarrow

Stonebarrow with Charmouth and Lyme Regis Across the Bay

I decided to try to get a view down into the valley that Charmouth sits in and leaving my gear where it was, I headed down the western slope of the headland in order to get clear of the trees and shrubbery that covered that side of the hill. I was very quickly treated to the most amazing sight, a cloud inversion that completely filled the valley below me and washed out to sea almost as if it was water running down a channel and spilling out at the end.

Charmouth Cloud Inversion

Charmouth in the Mist

On Stonebarrow

Dropping Down Lower

I wanted to get clear of the shrubbery so I dropped down further still in an effort to get some better shots although by the time I managed to get a clear view, I was a little too low. But still the sight was amazing!

Cloud inversions are caused when the temperature in the valley is lower than the temperature above causing the air in the valley to become denser. It is one of those awesome natural phenomena that creates beautifully atmospheric scenes……which of course photographers love.

Charmouth Cloud Inversion

Cloud Inversion

I was conscious that all my worldly possessions, well some of them, were still up on the headland so I headed back up the hill. The sun had by now risen fully, and the warmth had at least partially dried my tarp. The problem with wet equipment is that it weighs more but often when you are up and out on the trail early, you have no choice but to pack everything away still wet.

Cloud Inversion at Sea

Mist Rolls out to Sea

Wild Camp

My Drying Camp

Although I was reluctant to leave my headland, I wanted to see if I could get some more pictures so I quickly stowed my gear in my rucksack and headed back down the hill I had just climbed up. In the short time it had taken me to climb up and pack my things however, the mist in the valley had completely lifted. The River Char was totally clear and reflected the blue of the sky and beach huts beautifully. I wondered what this scene would have looked like had the cloud inversion lasted a little longer.

Charmouth

Blue

The next few miles were unfortunately the low point of this walk. Cliff erosion necessitated the coast path being closed many years ago so there is no choice but to walk through Charmouth and follow the main road most of the way over the next headland and down into Lyme Regis. The powers that be have tried to find more interesting paths and there are short stretches away from the road but overall it is not a great section.

It was again an extremely hot day and I stopped for a time in a small wooded section just to get some shade. It was something of a relief when I finally arrived at Lyme Regis sea front.

Lyme Regis Beach

Lyme Regis Seafront

I continued my usual pattern of following a snack breakfast with a more substantial brunch and stopped at a seafront eatery. The day was still young so there were not many people about in this normally popular resort and it was pleasantly relaxing sitting looking across the bay. Normally my route from here would take me around the bay and past the famous Cobb which I could see in the distance but on this occasion, my route was to take me inland.

Lyme Regis

Brunch

Leaving the coast, I followed the River Lim that winds its way down through the town past the old cottages and houses that line its banks. This is such a pleasant and interesting walk because it passes through the older part of the town before exiting into some beautiful woodlands. All the while, the gentle rippling of the stream was my ever present, and ever pleasant, company.

Lyme Regis

The River Lim

Part way through this wooded area, I passed Uplyme Mill, an 18th century textile mill with its overshot mill wheel still in place. It always amazes me how a little stream could be harnessed to provide sufficient power to drive the machinery that would have been within. These days of course it is silent and peaceful, its working life having long since ceased.

The Old Mill, Up Lyme

Uplyme Mill

Beyond the mill, and still climbing steadily up through the valley, I once again entered the woodland that was lit by the most beautiful dappled light. The stream still babbled along beside me as it made its gentle way down the route I had come up.

This was my third day without any opportunity to shower and I looked for a way of perhaps getting down into the stream to splash water over me in a crude form of bath, but unfortunately I could find nowhere suitable. My wash would have to wait till later!

A Walk in the Woods

Beautifully Dappled Woods

Eventually I cleared the mixed woodland and for a time I followed the road, catching sight of the old, disused Cannington Railway Viaduct in the distance. This was part of the Lyme Regis Branch line than ran down to the coast from Axminster main line station. The viaduct was built around 1900 using materials that were carried by ship to Lyme Regis harbour and then transferred by 1,000 foot cableway to the site. The line unfortunately fell fowl of the Beeching axe and was closed in 1965. So here I was some 51 years later having to walk inland to Axminster to pick up my train home as a result🙂 !

Interestingly, there were proposals in 2002 to reopen the line as a narrow gauge railway so that the service to Lyme Regis could be re-instated, using some of the old track bed, but so far the plans have not come to fruition.

Holcombe Viaduct

Cannington Viaduct

I continued to climb, entering yet more woodlands and passing an interesting sign that read Prescott Pinetum. Carrying out some research later, I discovered that a pinetum is a plantation of pine trees and conifers for scientific or ornamental purposes. You learn something new every day🙂 !

The final part of the walk was through a more recent conifer plantation, following wide gravel forestry tracks, not the most interesting scenery! And surprisingly, with the sun so high in the sky, with not much shade either! It was hot! From there, it was narrow country lanes to end my three day walk. I did pass one pretty sight over that last mile or two, and that was a pair of gates with the most delightful light filtering through the trees above. As a photographer, I am always looking for nice light!

The Gate

Beautiful Light

On reaching Axminster, the end of my three day pilgrimage, my first port of call was to a cafe for a cup of tea and some water to replenish my lost hydration! Then I walked to the church and sat on the grass in the shade of a tree and I had a ceremonial washing of my face, hands and feet. This felt as good as sitting in a spa bath in an expensive hotel – in fact, much better than a spa bath in an expensive hotel! I sat leaning against the tree just drying off naturally in the gentle, cooling breeze.

Welcome Relief

Ceremonial Washing

My final port of call and the one on which I ended this idyll before boarding my homeward bound train was to enter the church. Here, amongst other things, I gave thanks for the last three days and for the continued ability to walk these distances and the freedom that we enjoy in this country. I will always maintain an attitude of gratitude for comparatively good health, and especially that my ‘enemy’ Arthur Itis remains under control.

St Mary the Virgin, Axminster

Axminster Church

What a fantastic three days this has been. Glorious weather, awesome scenery, amazing wild camping spots, fabulous walking and another all round great experience. Writing this blog just brings back all the wonderful memories I have and I consider myself truly blessed!

Thanks for walking this way with me – I hope you have enjoyed it and that I have conveyed something of how awesome it was…..and maybe inspired you a little to try it if you haven’t done it before.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.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.