Archive | September, 2012

What are your favourite sounds?

25 Sep

Since I am a photographer you might think I am a visual person, and I am.  But I am also very much an audio person and I love sounds, not only music but all sounds – well, perhaps not literally all ;)!!  Many years ago I listed my favourite sounds so I thought I would share some of them with you.

The sound of surf washing over shingle


This is such a beautiful relaxing sound, especially at the end of a long walk as the evening light settles over the coast and everyone has gone home – the time when in the words of the poet, ‘All is left to darkness and to me’.  Sitting in the solitude on one of Dorset’s shingle beaches with the gently washing surf is special.

The sound of the skylark singing on a warm summer day

To me, this is a quintessentially Dorset sound when walking the chalk uplands and it just typifies summer.  I will never forget the evening at the end of a great day when I was walking along the coast with the skylarks singing on one side of me, the surf washing gently across the shore on the other, and a fantastic sunset straight ahead of me.  Magical!  Just lay on the grass and listen to the skylarks singing.  I love it so much that I wrote a song about it once – perhaps I’ll share it one day.

The sound of children playing

What a cheerful sound this is!  Children have such a sense of wonder and adventure, it is such a shame we lose it as we get older……not that I have ever lost mine as I am still a child at heart and I deliberately try to keep my sense of wonder and passion as you will probably have sensed from my blog.  The innocence of children as they play is one of the wonders of the world.

The sound of a steam train


Maybe it reminds me of my youth.  We don’t see them so much now but fortunately we have enthusiasts who still run preserved steam railways like the Swanage Railway in Dorset or the Toddington Railway in the picture above.  I know they were slow and dirty but I can forgive all that for the wonderful sound they make!

The sound of a finely tuned bicycle wheel

This may seem a strange one but when I was younger I was a racing cyclist and I had lightweight aluminium wheels and tubular tyres on my bike and when you got up a good speed whilst racing, the wheels would just sing with the friction of the road and the air through the spokes.  It was a great sound and a great feeling……but you would probably have to be a cyclist to understand it!

Sounds that travel on a very still summer evening

This is another ‘end of walk’ favourite.  Occasionally we have those very still, balmy summer evenings and it is really great to be walking the hilltops just listening to the sounds that travel across the valley, sounds like dogs barking or cows mooing in the far distance.  Normally you wouldn’t notice it but sounds travel a long way in the still summer air and they have a different quality.

The sound of push/pull lawn mowers


Its strange how whenever you sit down in the garden for a quiet read, there’s always someone who decides to mow their lawn!  These days nearly everyone has either an electric or a motor mower, the former makes this stress inducing whine and the latter just makes a din!  The old push/pull mowers like the one in the picture above have such a lovely relaxing sound……..when the neighbours are using them of course ;)!

The singing of the blackbird

Always the last to sing as darkness falls, and usually from a favourite perch high in the tree.  Such a beautiful sound!

The crackling of a blazing log fire


In the freezing cold depths of winter, there is nothing better than a blazing log fire that crackles and makes all sorts of strange patterns and pictures as you gaze at the flames.  No need for a television or music, a log fire is entertainment all by itself.  If its not in the hearth, a bonfire is equally good, or as in my garden, a chiminea!  Wonderful…….even if everything does smell of smoke after – well, I can’t smell it anyway!  When I was young, I used to take my dog Rex out for long walks and then together we would sit beside a blazing fire with the lights out and the room being lit by just the dancing flames.

The plaintive cry of the curlew

Walking through the mudflats at low tide with a myriad of different waders is fantastic, and there is no better sound than the lonely, plaintive cry of the curlew.  It sends shivers down your spine!

The sound of seagulls


I guess they remind me of holidays long ago spent at the west country seaside or harbours.  The sound to me just takes me back to holiday time when I was young.

My wife’s singing

She has a beautiful voice although she doesn’t think so!

So what are your favourite sounds?  Have you listened to what is around you recently, I mean, really listened?

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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


A picture is worth a thousand words……..or is it?

21 Sep

A picture is worth a thousand words so they say, and I guess in terms of conveying an idea it probably is.  But can a picture, however great and however well executed, ever truly convey the full reality of a scene.  The picture below hangs on my wall and when I look at it, it brings back great memories of a wonderful walk and a wonderful evening, but does it convey that to anyone who wasn’t there?  Can you, the ‘detached’ viewer ever really grasp any true sense of that evening?

Man o’ War Bay at sunset

To my way of thinking, a picture should have at least four dimensions – it is of course a two dimensional thing and by careful choice of viewpoint and composition, you can introduce a sense of the third dimension, depth.  The fourth dimension is that indefinable extra, call it atmosphere, mood or whatever, it conveys something of what the photographer was feeling when he or she stood looking at the scene.  But this fourth dimension can only ever be partial.  For instance, when you look at this picture, you will not feel the stiff breeze that was blowing across my face, you will not feel the freezing cold of winter, you will not feel my very wet feet (the surf was washing in and out around my feet – I often stand in the water to get the right viewpoint, even in mid winter 🙂 ).  Also, you will not hear the wonderful sound of the surf washing gently across the shingle as the waves retract – what a beautiful relaxing sound that is.  You will not hear the calling of the seagulls or the children playing in the distance; nor smell the typical smells of the coast – although since I do not possess a sense of smell, that one is lost on me!

But there is yet another thing which you will never pick up from looking at this picture, and for me, it is probably the most abiding memory of that evening – it is the sound of a dog falling down the 100 foot cliff immediately to my right as I stood by my tripod!  It was a bizarre event and fortunately, amazingly, one that had a happy ending……although it did prevent me from getting any more pictures of this fantastic sky!

I was just setting up my next shot when I heard this noise of cascading stones to my right, not unusual along the Jurassic coast since minor ‘landslips’ occur all the time.  But when I looked, I was shocked to see a dog falling, and he hit the shingle beach with a thud and a loud yelp.  Naturally I left my tripod and went over to him, expecting to see him badly injured, instead of which he was just very badly winded and after a great deal of fuss from me, stood up seemingly none the worse for his ordeal.  Ten minutes later he was running around the beach as if nothing had happened.  But in the meantime, the all too short lived sunset had passed on its way.

The most bizarre part of this story and one of the things that sticks in my mind is the sound of the dog’s owners standing on the cliff top 100 feet above just calling the dog!  Clearly they had forgotten that the dog did not have his climbing rope and pitons with him, and neither did he have his OS map and compass with him so that he could work out his route some half a mile round the bay to find the footpath that winds its way up to the cliff top and then along the cliff top path back to his owners.  I think if it were my dog, I would have made that trip at superman speed to make sure my dog was ok rather than just standing calling for him to come.  I never did find out if dog and owners were reunited!

I think there were three things that saved the dog.  The first was that the cliff at that point is not quite vertical, the second is that the dog was a lurcher type with long legs so he could almost ‘run’ down the cliff, and the third was that mercifully he fell on relatively soft shingle rather than on one of the many rocks that also litter the beach.

So back to my original point, is a picture really worth a thousand words and can it ever really convey the whole picture?

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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

Of an island that’s not an island, quarries and more quarries, and wind instruments with no wind!

12 Sep

I had a fabulous walk last week, a walk I have done many times but one which always provides something new and different each time.  It was a circumnavigation around an island, The Isle of Portland, which is in fact not an island at all because it is connected to the mainland by a causeway and beach.  Whether you would describe it as pretty or scenic depends on your point of view but I would describe it as rugged, probably some of the most rugged coast you will find.  It is also probably one of the windiest and wild usually except on this day when I wanted it to be – but more of that later!

There is for me an amazing variety of interesting things on this walk, and it started straight away as soon as I parked the car at the highest point on the ‘island’ with amazing views straight down the causeway back to the mainland.

The view to the mainland

Having admired this spectacular view, I set off on my walk but within a mile I was ‘forced’ to detour off the track to take in the first of the interesting features of this rugged landscape, three of them in fact!  The first is the remains of the old quarrying industry in the form of two bridges spanning the incline that drops off the hill.  This is carved out of solid rock and as I stood looking down the rutway lines (grooves cut into the rock like railway lines), I could visualise the quarrymen working hard to get the heavy stone down to flatter ground – I wonder what modern health and safety consultants would have said about their practices!  There will be much more quarrying references throughout this post as it was a major industry here.

Continuing a short distance, I passed the old military barracks dating from the late 1800’s.  You can visit this, or at least the people who live there, but not as a tourist as it was converted to a prison in 1949!  Opposite this, and once part of it, is another military establishment built around the same time and which you can visit, and a fascinating place it is too.

This is High Angle Battery.  Built in a disused quarry in 1892, this fort once protected Portland Harbour far below, but was in the end only operational for 6 years.  Being below ground level, it gets its name from the fact that the shells were fired high into the air to drop onto the decks of any attacking ships.  I always enjoy exploring this fort with its gun posts and underground ammunition dumps and can imagine the busyness of the place when it was operational.

Part of the High Angle Battery ammunition dump with rails still in place

Leaving the fort behind, I continued my walk along the cliff top on the east side of Portland, with views over the extensive old quarry workings that run all along the coast, passing the Young Offenders Institution on the way – this is a Dorset walk with a difference!  After a while, I dropped down into the quarry to continue my walk along a ledge part way down and that once formed the tramway for the quarry.

Looking back along the tramway

This path eventually took me to one of my favourite places, Church Ope Cove, a place with a real air of mystery and so much of interest.  The first sight is of the old castle, one of three on Portland, known as Rufus Castle or Bow and Arrow Castle which stands proud on the cliff above the cove.  Built for William Rufus, hence its name, this is very much in ruins now.

Rufus Castle

Beyond the castle and part way down to the cove my route passed the remains of St Andrew’s Church, once the main place of worship for the islanders.  Destroyed by landslips and invasion by French pirates, the church is said to have smuggling connections and has some smugglers’ graves.

Smugglers’ graves with the skull and crossbones

Passing through the old churchyard, I was again ‘forced’ to take a detour to look at some other remains!  Difficult to access because of erosion, this is the remains of John Penn’s Bath – a rather quirky Dorset curiosity!  John Penn, previously governor of the colonial Pennsylvania and part of the family after whom the state was named, owned Pennsylvania Castle which stands on the cliff top above the cove.  In the early 19th century, sea bathing was becoming very popular but John Penn didn’t fancy climbing all the way down to the cove so had a ‘bath’ cut out of the rock just below his castle.  The idea was that his servants would carry sea water up in buckets from the cove to fill the bath each time he felt like bathing and he would then sit and soak happily whilst looking out through the window onto the sea.  Unfortunately he made the mistake of building his bath on common land and was forced by the local community to pay to use it.  It is said that he was so outraged that he abandoned it!!

John Penn’s Bath

A short distance away was another distraction from my walk, and one that was even more inaccessible!  This was an old underground reservoir.  It has been suggested that this might date from Roman times although this has not been proven.  It may well have served the old cafe that once existed on the beach in the early 20th century but this also is just speculation.  It is a fascinating, and dangerously fragile, place and one that is not easy to find if you did not know it was there.  I did venture through the narrow entrance into what was a pitch black and very muddy interior to grab one or two pictures using flash.

The interior of the old underground reservoir

So, detours over, I continued to make my way down to the cove itself, and as I walked I thought about John Penn’s servants carrying hundreds of buckets of water up that path – I bet they were relieved when he abandoned the bath :)!  The cove itself is a wonderful place, and one I love to visit.  It was once a sandy beach but remains of the quarrying industry has turned the beach into a stony one.  There are remains of the fishing industry too in the form of an old winch, and some interesting old beach huts with their pebble wall surrounded ‘front gardens’.

Church Ope Cove – the old winch and beach huts

I sat on the beach and ate my lunch listening to the gentle and relaxing sound of the surf washing over the rocks before I continued on my way, following the cliff top quarry path above the sea to eventually reach the southern most tip at Portland Bill.  Here too there are remains of quarrying with old derricks on the cliff top, once used to lower stone into the waiting barges below.

An old cliff top derrick

And they are not all disused either – well, there is no other way to get the boats into the sea!

A newer cliff top derrick

Strangely, despite the fact that it is almost impossible to reach the sea from this point without some serious climbing, there are still beach huts here and if you have around £20,000 in spare cash, you could buy one!  As you can see, it is basically a shed :)!

Beach hut for sale!

Of course, Portland is not only famous for its stone but also for its lighthouse, and no walk around this area would be complete without a picture, or ten, of it :)!  I always think these old lighthouses are so attractive, this one particularly so with its red stripe.

The Portland Bill lighthouse

It is also famous for its Pulpit Rock – named for obvious reasons.  It just begs to be climbed, and people regularly do, and in fact fish from the top too.  This is a long exposure shot, hence the blurred clouds and sea.

Pulpit Rock, Portland

So, it was on with the return journey, this time along the west coast of the island as the cloud started to form, obscuring the sun but providing some delightful light for me to photograph.  The walk along this coast is mainly along old quarry ledges, nice and flat, and being west facing, normally watched over by the setting sun – although not on this day!  I walked along here with barely a whisper of breeze, accompanied by seagulls and butterflies, enjoying the stillness.

Every cloud not only has a silver lining but produces interesting light too 🙂

Ah, but sadly that lack of wind was to spoil the next highlight of my walk.  This was a temporary art project called Inside Out Dorset with rather unusual events taking place throughout the county.  The event on Portland was an audio visual experience with many instruments, both wind and percussion, set out all around one of the old disused coastal quarries – except it relied on wind and there was little of that on this day.  There was though just enough to get a feel of what this project would be on a windier day and I think it would be amazing :)!

Part of the Inside Out Dorset project 

I was nearing the end of my walk now but there was yet another interesting feature to take in, and it is such a great one – and yet another old quarry!  This was Tout Quarry which is now being put to very good use as a sculpture park with lots of different artists and even classes on sculpturing.  It is a place to take your time exploring as every corner you turn brings another surprise be it a face, a fireplace, a boat, an animal or whatever, all carved out of the solid rock.  The most famous is undoubtedly Still Falling by Anthony Gormley.

Still Falling by Antony Gormley

Reluctantly, I had to leave the quarry as the light was fading and I completed my walk along the cliff edge accompanied by wheatear and the gentle sounds that drift across the still air.  And as I returned to my starting point, I once more stopped to take in the breathtaking view across the causeway with the famous Chesil Beach curving away to the west into the gathering evening mist.  What a delightful evening and finish to a great walk.

The causeway and Chesil Beach from the northern edge of the Isle of Portland

Portland is beautiful in a rugged way and although it is 100% Dorset, it has impacted many places in the world through its quarrying industry – Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, the National Gallery in Dublin, Casino Kursaal in Belgium, and even the United Nations building in New York are some of the places to have benefited from its limestone.  There are parts of this corner of Dorset everywhere, but it is still my Dorset and I love it!

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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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


3 Sep

Have you ever considered clouds?  They are truly amazing and beautiful, almost a landscape in themselves with their ever changing shapes and shades.  They are so mysterious and transient.  You can really let your imagination run wild and free, seeing all kinds of things – I once saw one that looked just like a crocodile.

Whilst I was walking, and taking photographs of course, it occurred to me how they are never still – in fact I waited for them to get into just the right position in my photograph below so that they echoed the shape of the hills.  Then, without stopping, they continued on their merry way.  Its amazing to think that someone else might have taken a picture with this same cloud formation, maybe someone from another county or even country.

Well it inspired me to wax lyrical and compose another poem as I walked so I thought I would post it today.  Hope you like it :)!



Little cotton wool balls, way up high,
The fluffy white clouds scud across the sky,
Leaving no trace, just the blue,
Of where they have been or where they go to.

Where do they go when they are gone
From my view, having moved along,
To another place, another scene,
To other eyes and lands so green.

They have no time for standing still,
But they go nowhere of their own free will,
Carried aloft on warmth and wind,
With never a thought, never mind.

Like ships afloat the changing tide,
They have no engines, they just glide,
Where do they come from? I cannot say,
Where do they go at the end of the day?

You and I can sit on a stile
To take in the view and rest awhile,
Clouds do not have that luxury,
They just move on, constantly.

To hidden places a secret from me,
Perhaps not England, another country?
Those clouds that have enhanced my view
May feature in others’ pictures too.

And when their journey is finally done,
Do they die or just fade with the sun?


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

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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