Happy Christmas

24 Dec

The Cottage Window

 

A Very Happy Christmas to you all. May you have a joyful and peaceful festive season and every blessing for the new year.

This picture was taken in a small Dorset village and the lovely nativity scene was in the window of a beautiful thatched cottage. It was an idyllic scene.

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.