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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

14 Mar

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

I thought I would try something new on my blog to see how it might work, and that is to post an entry a day on a theme which will last for the week. It is partly because it is sometimes difficult to find enough time to write a full blog post with 15 or so photos which means that my blog entries can be quite sparse at times. It is much quicker of course to just post one picture with some words, so spreading my posts over the week.

I will still put up my walk descriptions with lots of pictures but they will be interspersed with these shorter posts for a time, just to see how it works.

Let me know what you think.

So my first theme is:

Walking the Streets

Dog Walking

Those of you who follow me will know that I love to walk in the wild countryside, surrounded by nature. However, I also like to include a village or two in my walks because there is so much to be seen in our ancient villages and hamlets which can tell us much about the way people lived……and people are interesting.

Taking that a bit further, I also enjoy town and city walks and taking pictures there is a lovely contrast to my more usual landscapes. So this week’s theme is about a field of photography known as ‘street photography’ and this is all about capturing the moment. These are mainly candid pictures and I will say straight away that I would never post pictures of children or anyone doing anything embarrassing or stupid. I will also say that if anyone ever saw any pictures of themselves and wanted them taken down, I would do so immediately.

Now English law is somewhat vague on this subject but generally it is perfectly legal to take pictures of anyone doing anything in a public place, with some exceptions. However, is there a moral dilemma here? Well, maybe that is something we will discuss in a future post.

This picture was taken along the sea front and what caught my eye was the couple’s characterful faces and the way they were walking together with their lovely little dog. I held the camera near to the ground in order to set them off against the sky, and then I toned the picture to suit the mood. To me, this picture just sums up the sea front in winter, and people ‘taking the air’ and isn’t that something to encourage?

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next 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.

The Sandbanks Ferry

7 Mar

The Sandbanks Ferry is an icon of Poole Harbour and a mode of transport that has featured in my life since I was a babe in a pram and my parents used to take me across to the beach at Shell Bay where the whole family would gather. Even now, all those years later, I feel I have a connection with this somewhat quirky way of crossing the harbour entrance, and any walk I take that involves this ferry is still richer for the experience.

Bramblebush Bay

The Bramblebush Bay

Poole Harbour is one of the largest natural harbours in the world with nearly 15 square miles of water and 100 miles of coastline but the entrance is just 300 meters wide.  The peninsulas either side of the entrance were originally just sand spits without roads but now the situation is considerably different, and totally contrasting too. The southern peninsula, South Haven Point, comprises just heathland and beaches whilst the northern shoreline, unsurprisingly known as North Haven Point, is made up of some of the most expensive real estate in the world – you would need to be a multi-millionaire just to buy a plot of land here!

Between the two is that short stretch of fast flowing water as the tide fills and empties the harbour, much as a tap fills a bottle.

On the Sandbanks Ferry

On the Sandbanks Ferry

It was in the early 1900’s that the first suggestion for a harbour entrance crossing was muted, in order to avoid a road trip of some 25 miles around the inland perimeter of the harbour.  The suggestion was that this should be a transporter bridge although the proposal failed, as did several other schemes.

From the early 1900’s, foot passengers were catered for by a rowing boat ferry that operated during the summer, carrying passengers across to and from the wild and remote Shell Bay. This must have been really hard work for the oarsman especially when the strong tides were running through that narrow harbour entrance.  This rowboat ferry was eventually changed to a motor boat service.

Looking Out to Sea

Looking Out to Sea

It was just before the First World War that the suggestion was made that a vehicle ferry should be set up and some 9 years later, the Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road And Ferry Company was formed to progress this.  Roads needed to be built and slipways formed with Purbeck Stone being brought in from the Dorset coastal quarries either overland or by barge.  With some of the land being boggy marshlands, copious amounts were needed.

On 15th July 1926, the first ferry, a small coal fired, steam driven craft carrying up to 15 cars, commenced service.  This continued to operate for over 30 years, although the service was suspended during World War Two as the whole area was taken over by the military.

In the mid 1950’s, a new and larger ferry was installed.  This carried up to 28 cars and again operated for some 35 years before being taken out of service.

The current ferry, The Bramblebush Bay, came into service in 1994 and was larger again with a length of 244 feet and a beam of 54 feet.  This carries up to 48 cars but when fully loaded still has a draught of only 3 feet 9 inches – despite its size, the average depth of the water in the harbour is just 48cm.

In Transit

The Poole Harbour Entrance

The ferry operates on two hardened steel chains, each 1,235 feet long, anchored at either side of the harbour entrance.  Wear and tear on the chain causes it to stretch and two links have to be taken out each fortnight in order to maintain the optimum length.  Although there are two chains, the ferry actually drives on one side at a time only (the side farthest from the flowing tide) in order to make it easier to manouvre at the slipway and to reduce cost.  There is a tremendous strain on the chains, especially when a strong tide is flowing and a chain has been known to break.  The chains are replaced every 15/18 months and the old ones sold off, often for use as weights for lobster pots or boat moorings etc.

The Evening Ferry

At the End of the Day

To travel on the Sandbanks Ferry is a delight and there is no better way to start and finish a walk.  It is still one of my regular haunts and I thoroughly enjoy both the quirkiness and the amazing views, especially at sunrise and sunset.

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 Avenue – Old and New

3 Mar
The Golden Glow of Autumn

The Beech Avenue

This avenue of beech trees is extremely well known, in fact it must be one of the most famous in England and it is a popular spot for photographers. But this is an avenue with a past, and also a future, but one that is perhaps different than you might expect.

The trees stretch for two and a half miles either side of what was originally the approach road to Kingston Lacy, a beautiful and substantial local manorial estate which is now in the hands of the National Trust. At the time it was owned by the Bankes family and the trees were planted in 1835 by William John Bankes, a rather colourful character, as a gift to his mother…….well, they weren’t of course planted by him personally – in fact one of my wife’s ancestors was involved in that. The numbers were very specific because there were originally 365 on one side of the road, one for every day of the year, and 366 on the other, to represent a leap year.

Unfortunately time has taken its toll and the future does not look bright for this magnificent avenue, partly because the trees are nearing the end of their normal life span which is around 200 years, but also because of the English weather and, more importantly, the huge volume of traffic that now uses this road. Beech trees don’t cope well with exhaust fumes. Many trees have already had to be felled because they had become unsafe, and in fact as you drive down the road, the lines of trees in places are reminiscent of a gap-toothed smile which is sad to see. Careful pruning has been used over the years in order to preserve as many of the trees for as long as possible so for the time being at least this landmark continues, but for how long, especially with present day health and safety requirements?

Old and New

The New and the Old

However, although the future may not look bright for the beech trees, there is a future for the avenue itself as the National Trust has planted a second avenue outside of the first. This avenue is made up of hornbeams which deal with modern traffic much better and it will of course be a lot wider than the original avenue. Now I’m not an expert on trees and the new trees probably had to be planted where they are in order to give them room to breathe and grow without being swamped by the current beeches, but there is just a small cynical part of myself that wonders if it was deliberately planned that way so that the road could eventually be turned into a dual carriageway!

 

The Avenue

Light Trails

Whether beech or hornbeam, this ‘twin’ avenue is truly a spectacle, and one that is totally worth preserving. The old will undoubtedly see out my generation, and the new will prove a delight to future generations. I wonder if photographers of the future will still be capturing images of the then famous hornbeam avenue at Kingston Lacy? In fact I wonder what form photography will take when that day comes?

Keep LEFT

Keep on the Right Side

At least for now, we can continue to enjoy this quintessentially English avenue, to drive through it, walk beside it, and of course to photograph it……..which I will to do for as long as I am able!

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.