Theme for the Week – Dorset Mills

26 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

Time for a new theme for the week and this week I thought I would feature some Dorset mills. Every county had many of these, set up to harness the natural power that any river can provide and Dorset is no exception despite the fact that the county is not known for its mountains or raging rivers. This week, we will look at just a few.

White Mill

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White Mill

White Mill sits on the banks of the River Stour near Sturminster Marshall, and the current building dates from 1776 although it was built on a site where a mill had stood for hundreds of years. In fact, it is known that there was a mill on this site as far back as 1175. This ancient corn mill was driven entirely by water until 1866 when a severe flood damaged the water channels beyond repair. The miller, one of the Joyce family, was able to continue some milling thanks to converting part of it to be steam driven, but it never again was a commercial mill. He was also a baker and converting to steam at least enabled him to continue to bake bread using his own flour. It was in the early 20th century and on retirement of the last miller that milling ceased completely and the building fell into disrepair.

Fortunately for us, the mill was restored in 1994 although the machinery, constructed from Elm and Apple Wood, was just too delicate to ever run again. No milling therefore takes place here but it is still possible to see how the mill operated.

Gate to the Old Mill

The River Stour and White Mill in Winter

So why the name ‘White Mill’? As you can see, the building is of red brick construction although the wheel chamber is of stone and predates the building. It is possible that it takes its name from the chalk quarry which stands behind it, or the fact that it stands on a chalk island, or it is possible that previous incarnations might have been lime washed as was often the practice. The fact is, we shall never know.

This is a delightful spot beside a gently flowing River Stour, and one that always rewards a visit.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
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.

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 5

25 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

Another of those quirky things in Dorset relates to its bridges! The bridges themselves are normal but many of the older ones have signs on them such as the one below threatening transportation if anyone was found damaging them. This seems very harsh today but believe it or not, it was aimed at leniency in those days.

Lower Bockhampton

Penal Transportation was the banishment of criminals, political prisoners and prisoners of war to lands overseas. It started in the early 1600’s with boat loads being shipped to the Americas and continued until the American Revolution when the practice was suspended. It resumed again in 1787 when the first fleet departed from England bound for Australia. It is though a practice that had its foundations much earlier, dating back to Roman times when people were sent into exile.

It might seem harsh to transport someone for life for damaging a bridge but prior to its introduction, the penalty might have been death. Indeed, many who were transported for comparatively minor offences were originally sentenced to death but pardoned, their sentence being reduced to transportation. It was actually introduced as a punishment for crimes where the death penalty seemed too severe!

However, it had other benefits as well. It also had the effect of increasing the labour force in the newly set up penal colonies, so helping develop English colonies overseas. And it wasn’t limited to men either, as women and children could be transported as well. One of the problems though was that there were less destinations prepared to take women, children, or those who were infirm. Most wanted only fit young men who could work hard.

In the case of the sign below, the punishment was transportation for life, but sometimes it was just for a set number of years. The problem was that at the end of their term they had to pay for their own passage back and many could not afford this, choosing rather to stay on as free men in the country to which they had been transported. Thus, the colonies grew.

Beware!

Its amazing to think how the transportation system worked – no phones, no internet, no way of contacting the colonies, so the captains (for whom this became a commercial transaction) would have had to set sail not knowing whether their human cargo would be accepted. They would have had to choose from a selection of prisoners purely on their knowledge of who would bring in the most profit for them.

I guess the lesson is, if you fancy carving your initials on a Dorset bridge, think again as you might wind up in the ‘back of beyond’ somewhere serving in a penal colony 😉 !

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
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.

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 4

24 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

Our theme for the week is ‘Quirky Dorset’, which is all about unusual things that you might find as you are ‘exploring the countryside and lanes of Dorset’, and I could not possibly let this week go with out including these – the Dorset Holloways.

The Dorset Holloways

The Magical, Mystery of Dorset's Holloways

In a Dorset Holloway

I have written a number of blogs on these somewhat unusual occurrences which although not exclusive to Dorset, are found there aplenty. Holloways are ancient byways that have become sunken tracks after centuries of use has eroded the ground. They started life as normal footpaths but millions of feet, cart wheels, animal hooves, and water running off the land have gradually worn away the soft bedrock so that the paths have sunk deeper and deeper below the level of the surrounding land. By their very nature, they occur only where the bedrock is soft such as in the sandstone of West Dorset.

For me, these are just the most amazing places to walk and you can almost sense the different generations of people who used them over hundreds of years. The trees that once lined the path and marked its route now hang over the edge with their roots exposed. You almost feel that you are walking underground in a giant rabbit burrow as the trees arch overhead creating a tunnel effect. The depth varies but some go down as much as 30 feet with sheer sides making them more like gorges. Some, such as Hell Lane, have names that seem to suit them perfectly 🙂 !

 

Holloway

Hell Lane

Such is the effect of these paths on me, that I was inspired to write a poem about them, and I have repeated it below:

A world of mystery down below,
A place of doom where all fear to go,
Dark by night, eerie by day,
This is the Dorset Holloway.

A path that once was above the ground,
Foot, hoof and wheel has worn it down,
For centuries man has come this way,
Creating the Dorset Holloway.

The walls each side show heritage clear,
Etched in their faces, year on year,
Through diff’rent ages the path worn away
The ancient Dorset Holloway.

With roots either side and branch overhead,
Trees arch above their arms outspread,
Creating a darkness, to keep out the day,
The shadowy Dorset Holloway.

Stuff of fiction as well as fact,
At times overgrown, with brambles packed,
A haven for nature’s pleasant bouquet,
The nature filled Dorset Holloway.

An underground warren of time worn ways,
A lab’rinth where birds, bugs, bats play,
With damp plants aplenty growing from clay,
The musty Dorset Holloway.

A secret world of hobgoblins rare,
Tricks of mind and raising of hair,
Such the effect, you fear to stray
In the spectral Dorset Holloway.

But explore these paths with open mind,
Follow the route wherever they wind,
Be amazed at the things that there lay,
The evocative Dorset Holloway.

(Copyright The Dorset Rambler)

I just love walking these quirky paths, there is always something new to find and photograph. It is the whole air of mystery and intrigue that makes them special and as I walk them, I often wonder who used them centuries ago and what their lives were like, as well as what the purpose of their journey was. These are special places indeed!

If you would like to read more about these ancient paths, just type ‘Holloways’ into the search bar and my other blog entries will come up.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
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.

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 3

22 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

So, continuing my ‘Theme for the Week’, we are looking at odd, strange, unusual, weird, puzzling things and there is none more quirky than this! It is the houseboats in a little bay known as Bramblebush Bay, a part of Poole Harbour.

Bramble Bush houseboats

Leaning Houseboats

So why is that quirky I ask you say? 🙂 Well, to start with perhaps we need to ask, ‘When is a boat not a boat?’ You see, these two so called houseboats that have been in the bay for as long as I can remember no longer float – and that is definitely odd for a boat! They happily bobbed on the water at one time but the timbers have long since rotted. In order to prevent further erosion, they have been encased in concrete and so are firmly attached to the sea bed. You might ask, ‘why bother?’ Well a few years ago I did a bit of research because that was something that puzzled me – why not just scrap it and buy another one?

The reason soon became clear because the original terms of the moorings as set out decades ago dictate that they can remain there permanently but they cannot be replaced, I believe because the owners would then only acquire temporary mooring rights under what would become a new agreement. Because of this, the boats are being shored up (no pun intended 🙂 ) almost with sticky tape and string in an effort to keep them going longer. What is particularly quirky is the fact that the boats lean at crazy angles and I did wonder how on earth people manage to sleep in there but I gather the internal floors have been levelled to make this possible.

Bramblebush Bay

Bramblebush Bay

I walk past these ‘boats’ regularly and for many years I assumed that they were just wrecks because to be honest that’s what they look like, but they are not. In the summer, these boats are occupied, and just for good measure, are joined by half a dozen more traditional houseboats (i.e. they float) for the summer months. These additional vessels are temporary visitors only unlike the two permanent residents above. I keep hoping I might meet someone living there so that I might be able to have a peep inside but I always seem to pass at the wrong time.

The Glow of Evening

A Floating Houseboat at Bramblebush Bay

I love Bramblebush Bay and I love the quirkiness of the two fixed ‘boats’. Italy might have its Leaning Tower of Pisa, but I reckon we in Dorset go one better with our leaning houseboats 🙂 ! Wonderfully quirky Dorset.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
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.

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 2

21 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

So our theme for this week is ‘Quirky Dorset’ which is all about things that are perhaps a bit odd or puzzling. And this is something that puzzled me all my life until a year or two back when I set myself a task to get to the bottom of it!

 

The Obelisk

The Obelisk on the Clifftop

In fact there are two things that are quirky here really. As an aside, the first is the weather conditions which you see in the picture above. It is quite normal along this part of the coast to see a mist that pours down off the headlands and into the sea, almost like someone has a giant watering can and is pouring water over the land and watching it run off into the sea below. It is quite a spectacle.

But the main thing, and the subject of this blog post, is the obelisk. In fact there are two of them, both identical, one on the coast path itself and one a quarter of a mile or so inland. They are clearly functional rather than decorative so are not a memorial to anything, but their purpose puzzled me all my life as this is one of my regular walking routes. One day, I placed myself between the two and using my walking pole as an aid, I lined the two up and worked out that in order to see one exactly lined up behind the other, you would need to be over the water somewhere near Portland Harbour. Now this was once a major naval port so I guessed that the obelisks must have something to do with the Royal Navy.

The Obelisk

The Inland Obelisk

So my search started there and the next day, I sat at my desk and made numerous phone calls to people who I thought would be able to help and each one added a little bit of information and suggested someone else to contact. Gradually a picture emerged from the various people and it all came together when I made contact with the Hydrographic Office in Taunton.

The Hydrographic Office is the trading arm of the Ministry of Defence and they provide information and data to mariners and maritime organisations throughout the world, and they were most helpful and enlightening. They did some research for me and they found a reference to the obelisks in a publication entitled The Channel Pilot Part 1 (I believe it is a sort of seaman’s guide to the British coast).  This dates from 1908 and the reference actually says, ‘Two white beacons, 24 feet high for the use of His Majesty’s ships when prize firing, have been erected on high land east of White Nose (now known as White Nothe)’.

Obelisk

Portland and it’s Harbour Across the Water

So part of the puzzle had been solved, but what is or was ‘prize firing’?  Well it was the test of a ship’s proficiency for battle and on Admiralty orders this was to be carried out annually.  Basically it was a yearly competition to see if the naval gunners were any good – if they were then they went into battle and if they weren’t then it was back for more training. Interestingly, here is an extract from some 1902 minutes where Prize Firing was discussed:

‘I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that of the 127 ships that took part in the annual prize firing of 1901, while one ship made over 70 per cent, of hits and two ships made over 65 per cent, of hits, seventy-five ships missed the target eighty-five times out of every 100 rounds, and five ships never hit the target at all, and that one Admirals ship, the “Warspite,” was last of its squadron in heavy gun firing.’

Seems like more training might have been needed!

This doesn’t completely solve the riddle as I am still not sure exactly how the obelisks were used. I understand that with Prize Firing, the ship would be moving at 8 knots whilst firing at a stationary target about a mile away but how the obelisks helped that, I am not sure. Clearly, they had to be lined up when viewed from the ship, but that is about as near as I can get.

For my part, I am just happy that I have at least solved part of the conundrum 🙂 !

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
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.

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset

19 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

I thought we would start a new theme for the week today, so this week’s posts will all be about ‘Quirky Dorset’. These are all things that are a bit off the beaten track, and all a bit ‘off the wall’ too 🙂 ! They are all things that I have come across whilst ‘exploring the countryside and lanes of Dorset’, which is really what The Dorset Rambler is about.

So the first of these is……

John Penn’s Bath

John Penn's Bath

John Penn’s Bath

In the early 19th century, sea bathing was becoming very popular, and generally this meant taking a trip to the seaside. Fairly straightforward you might think, but one man decided that he didn’t want the hassle of having to travel to the shore, particularly as to get there from his home meant climbing several hundred feet down a steep hillside to reach his nearest beach.

This man was John Penn and he lived in a castle known as Pennsylvania Castle that stood on the clifftop above Church Ope Cove on the Isle of Portland. The name of his castle was no accident since it was his family that gave their name to the state of Pennsylvania when it was a colony.

John Penn came up with a somewhat quirky idea to enable him to bathe in sea water without the need to walk too far, and that was to build a private bath on the cliff top beside his castle. The idea was that his servants would do all the walking, carrying sea water up from the shoreline in buckets each time he fancied bathing – kind of bringing the beach to him rather than him going to the beach. He would then be able to sit and soak with minimal effort whilst gazing out to sea through his window……presumably while his servants crashed from the extreme effort of walking several hundred feet up and down the cliff carrying numerous heavy buckets of water!

John Penn's Bath

John Penn’s Bath

Unfortunately for John Penn however, it all went wrong because he made the mistake of building his bath outside his castle grounds on land he didn’t own and the local community insisted that he pay to use it. It is said that he was so outraged that he abandoned the idea and never got to use his bath.

It is however still there today if anyone fancies giving it a go 🙂 !!

Oh, but you won’t get the view because trees have grown up around it obscuring the view……unless you fancy it in midwinter when the trees are bare 😉 !

Oh, and you might need to clean it first 🙂 !

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
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.

 

Theme for the Week – Walking the Streets Part 5

18 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

Continuing the theme of ‘Walking the Streets’, I thought I’d put up another city street musician picture.

People at Work - The Violinist

I said in an earlier post that one thing that caught my eye was how people just hurry by these street performers without seeming to even notice them. On this day, my walk inspired me to more than pictures and I wrote a poem which I have posted below. To set the scene, my day was spent walking the city streets near Christmas when the Christmas market, with its many different stalls, was on. The streets were busy, bustling, and very cold! Here is the poem which I entitled……….

Only the Girl in the Poster Seems to Dance

The clothes seller sells her colourful wares,
To chilly people who are full of their cares,
Her cheerful smile adds light to their day,
As they shiver along on their wearying way.

The toy seller sits behind his stall,
Surrounded by toys, he made them all,
Which children will these things delight?
Whose tree be under on Christmas night?

People at Work - The Toy Maker

The artist sketches a beautiful girl,
All wrapped up against the winter chill,
It’s not complete, there’s more to do,
But already the likeness is coming through.

The crooner sings a smooth soothing song,
People rush by, they can’t wait too long,
But they walk away with music in ear,
To bring a bit of good Christmas cheer.

The hot-dog seller, a pretty young girl,
Hair tied back to tame her curls,
Provides some food to help shoppers shop,
And a little warmth from her burning hob.

The fiddler plays a bright merry tune,
I bet he wishes this was flaming June,
Is anyone listening I wonder perchance, as
Only the girl in the poster seems to dance!
(Copyright The Dorset Rambler)

As far as the main picture goes, I decided to use selective colour in order to highlight the girl in the poster and turn the rest of the scene to black and white.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
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.