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Family Outings…….Old Style :)

22 Jun

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

Those of you who read my last blog post about the Hardy Monument will remember that I reminisced a little in that post about my days as a child in Dorset. Well today I thought we would continue in that vein and that I would share a picture or two with you 🙂 ! This is the childhood of The Dorset Rambler…….well a little bit of it 🙂 !

If you didn’t read my previous post, there is a link to it here.

Scan 18-4

Nine of us picnic at the roadside – how did we all fit in that van!

As I said in my earlier blog entry, we had no car when I was a child and we couldn’t afford to bus everywhere……can you hear the violins 🙂 ! So walking was something that was just part of everyday life, and we walked miles to the beach or to the Purbeck Hills or wherever, sometimes with aunties, uncles, cousins, grandparents; in fact the whole wider family.

But for two weeks of the year, during my father’s annual holiday (he only got two weeks off each year), my uncle would offer us the use of his old Morris 10 and we would drive for miles at what today seems like a walking pace as it was like most cars of the day, painfully slow! But then, there were quite a lot of us packed into it! On the odd year when for some reason my uncle couldn’t lend us his car, another uncle would lend us his even older, and even slower, van.

It is this van that you see in the picture above, and my, was that an interesting holiday! To start with, there were even more of us packed in there…….nine of us to be exact, which included my parents, grandparents and brothers. Us two younger boys sat in the luggage compartment at the back because of course it was only a 4/5 seater van. Oh, and the van couldn’t climb hills so for anything greater than a 10% incline, some of us would have to get out and walk up, climbing on board again when we, and the van, reached the top 🙂 !

Smaller hills were less of a problem but even then it wasn’t straight forward! I well remember the back of the van flying open as we struggled up one hill and although my brother and I managed to avoid falling out, the same can’t be said of our picnic which went rolling down the hill. Naturally, we managed to round it all up again 🙂 !

Scan 17 copy 4-1

Sausages! Picnicking beside the old Morris 10.

Of course, the picnic was not just any picnic! No, this was a full blown meal of sausages, eggs, bacon etc etc cooked on a primus stove beside the road. For seats, there was either the grass verge or the car seats that could be removed. We had no water carrier so in order to have a cup of tea, we would simply knock on the door of a house and ask if they would mind filling the kettle for us. Everyone was very willing to help in those days.

We had a funny experience one day……well most days really…..but on this particular evening, we needed petrol urgently but didn’t know where the nearest garage was. So we flagged down a passing bubble car to ask the driver for directions and he promised to lead us to a petrol station that would be open. The problem was that the old Morris 10 couldn’t keep up with him and he got further and further ahead of us until we could barely make out his rear lights as he disappeared into the distance. Fortunately it turned out ok, but the event reminded me of the Bubble Car Song (Beep Beep)……and if you are not old enough to remember that, you must Google it 🙂 !

Unlike today, there was no form of entertainment in the car or van so we made our own entertainment by singing at the top of our voices as we drove. I have very happy memories of our sing songs, especially late at night as we were on our way back. Usually there would be a quick stop at a pub for a drink, hopefully one with a playground for us youngsters, and then very often the day would finish with a midnight drive along the Bournemouth sea front to look at the illuminations, and maybe even a paddle in the sea by moonlight! Of course part of the fun for the young Dorset Rambler was staying up late as we would often not be home till the early hours!

Ah, happy days!

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.

 

A Lifetime Ambition Achieved :)

19 Jun

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

Today we are visiting one of those places that has always been part of my life. We used to come here regularly when I was a child, travelling in my uncle’s old Morris 10, often loaded up with at least 7 family members……in a 4 seater car! These were the days before seat belts and health & safety regulations took hold, and in any event, the car would barely travel at more than 30 mph with all that weight up. And of course, there was all the picnic paraphernalia that had to be strapped to the luggage rack in an old suitcase, a primus stove to cook on, paraffin, kettle, frying pan, plates, cutlery, water, and a myriad other things; and all for a day trip 🙂 ! The place in question is the Hardy Monument.

The Hardy Monument

The Hardy Monument

The Hardy Monument on Black Down

So why does this place mean so much? Well, when I was a child, we had no car and no way of reaching the monument, or anywhere else that was too far away from where we lived for that matter. The exception was for one period in the year when my father would borrow my uncle’s old car for his annual holidays….in return for his maintaining it for the rest year as my uncle knew nothing about engines! But for those two weeks each year, we were able to go and visit our favourite places, and this was one of them.

For a child, the excitement of having a car for a short time was immense and we absolutely loved it. All of us would pile in it and travel for miles, very slowly, even sometimes having to get out and walk up the hills because the car just couldn’t make it with so much weight on board! In these days of motorways and speedy travel, it seems hard to imagine how far we travelled back in the 1950’s, making it to places like Regent’s Park Zoo, a 200 mile round trip, all driven at 30mph, or maybe 40 on downhill sections 🙂 , and all on country lanes.

Top of the Tower

The Way Down

Anyway, enough reminiscing 🙂 ! Some might think that the Hardy Monument might have been erected in memory of arguably Dorset’s most famous son, the author Thomas Hardy, but in fact it was erected in memory of a different Thomas Hardy altogether. This monument was erected in memory of Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy who was a commander at the Battle of Trafalgar and served on HMS Victory. He is famed for being asked to kiss Nelson as he died. Admiral Hardy lived in the nearby town of Portesham and his family owned the Portesham Estate, including Black Down on which the monument was erected.

The monument stands just 72 feet high but Black Down itself is 850 feet above sea level, making the monument visible from as far as a 100Km away. Its visibility was key because Hardy’s family wanted it to be used by seamen as a navigation aid. Its shape is also deliberate since it mirrors the shape of the telescope that Hardy used…..although some still say it resembles a factory chimney! Octagonal in shape, its corners are directed towards the main compass points.

Top of the Tower

At the Top

As with all ancient monuments, this one has fallen into disrepair at times and was restored by Hardy’s descendants in 1900 and again in 1908 before being passed into the hands of the National Trust in 1938. At some point it became derelict again and certainly when I visited in my youth I was unable to climb to the top. Fortunately the National Trust carried out a refurbishment programme in 2011, safeguarding it for future generations.

View from the Top

Amazing Views

View from the Top

Looking Towards Dorchester

One other interesting fact is that the stone to build the monument came from a quarry at the bottom of the hill. That quarry though had been closed for years because it wasn’t economically viable, so it was re-opened just to extract the stone for this building and then closed again.

Hardy Monument sunset

The Hardy Monument at Sunset

The Hardy Monument, or Hardy’s Monument as we knew it, is one of those places that held an air of mystery about it when I was a child and as I was growing up. This was perhaps in part because it was closed to the public at the time with dangerously crumbling steps inside. And I remember always wishing I could climb to the top but never being able. When it was restored and opened again after many many years, I still did not quite get round to climbing those 122 mysterious steps into the unknown until on a recent walk when I finally made it to the top and fulfilled a childhood dream.

Was it worth the climb and the wait? Well, in truth the views from the top are simply amazing, but then, the views from the bottom are equally awesome. For me though, it was much more personal than that, so for me, it was definitely worth it!

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.

 

Turning the Clock Back!

15 Jun

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

This week, there was a turning back of the clock…….by some 45 years! I was a part of it 45 years ago, and I was a part of it this week, and what a great day it was. You see, something that was abandoned as being not needed all that time ago is now back in place because people wanted it so! What is it? It is a branch line railway that closed way back in 1972 but this week was reopened. But that is not all of the story.

The line in question was the Purbeck line that ran from the mainline station at Wareham through to the Dorset coastal town of Swanage. It operated until 1972 and I remember traveling that line as a child and teenager, but the powers that be decided that it didn’t pay and they closed the line. In the short space of just 7 weeks in 1972, despite protests from local people, most of the track was torn up in what now seems a gross act of vandalism. But fortunately some people had a vision to restore the line and this week they achieved a massive goal. What took 7 weeks to destroy has taken 45 years to rebuild!

But that is still not the whole story of this blog. You see, I thought I’d like to be part of this historic day and I came up with a plan to get to Wareham Station, by train of course 🙂 , and catch the first train of the new service to Swanage. Then I would spend the day walking. But you know that expression, ‘The best laid plans of mice and men…..’

Wareham Quay

Wareham Quay

I arrived at Wareham Station only to find that the first two trains were already fully booked out to staff and volunteers! So I put into place Plan B, which actually I didn’t have prior to that moment, and decided to walk the 15 miles from Wareham to Swanage and then catch the last train back. At least that way, I would still be part of that first day, if not the first train 🙂 ! Oh, but just to make sure, I phoned ahead and pre-booked my seat!

So, I set out on a beautifully sunny day, walking through Wareham initially to reach the quay beside the River Frome. This is a great start to any walk because the first mile or so follows the river, with lovely dappled light spreading across the path and boats and swans bobbing on the water.

On the Riverside Path

The Path Beside the River Frome

As with a lot of walks, my route did involve some country lanes but I enjoy walking these at this time of the year because there is so much to see in the hedgerows, and anyway, the lanes soon gave way to open heathland. I knew that the railway crossed the heath and I wondered if I would reach the line before ‘my’ train went through but, Murphy’s Law, the train went through literally minutes before I crossed the line. I heard the throaty diesel but I couldn’t see it.

From town, to riverside, to country lane, to open heath, and now to woodlands, dense and ancient with ponds and rivulets. Birdsong accompanied me as I walked and I could hear, but not see, deer rustling through the trees. It was delightfully shady and cool under that overhead canopy on this warm day.

Dappled Woodland

Dappled Light and Cool Air in the Woodlands

Eventually, my route brought me out into the open again as Corfe Castle, standing proud on its hilltop, came into view across the valley. You can see why it was built at that particular point at a break in the Purbeck ridge that stretches out both sides of the castle. And in the dip to the left of the castle, I could see the railway line that would be my way back……if I made it in time to catch the last train!

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

I continued straight through Corfe and climbed up the hill the other side to reach the top of the Purbeck Hills that stretch for miles in both directions. The hills are not really that high but the climb up is long and slow, and I sat down part way for lunch. Skylarks were singing their hearts out overhead, and the views were just awesome. What could be better. These hills are special to me as I ‘cut my walking teeth’ on them when I was a child, and I have walked them ever since.

On the Purbeck Ridge

On the Purbeck Ridge

Much of the rest of my walk was along this lofty ridge, along mostly grassy paths, and as the afternoon drew on, I reached the point where I could look down and see Swanage below me. At this point, I knew I had about an hour to get down off the hills, walk along the seafront and through the town to reach the station. With the still glorious weather, it seemed a shame to be ending my walk and I was tempted to just keep on walking into the evening, but the draw of the train on this memorable day was too strong.

Now I have to say at this point that I am not a steam buff nor a railway geek, I just enjoy train travel, and enjoy revisiting our past heritage.

Swanage

Swanage Comes into View

I joined the Dorset Coast Path, and dropped down off the hilltop into the town and made it to the station with 20 minutes to spare. The platform was crowded, the train was waiting and of course, the BBC were there filming. This was an occasion!

So how did this project reach this landmark after the devastation that was left in 1972? Well, that very same year, the Swanage Railway Society was formed, and those involved ‘had a dream’! In practical terms, it all started 4 years later when the group were granted a one year lease over the, by then, near derelict Swanage Railway Station. A few hundred yards of track were laid and by August 1979, diesel trains were running along it, followed the next year by steam. Little by little the track was extended until in 2002, exactly 30 years to the day after its closure, a temporary connection was made again with the main line.

There was still more to do however because a regular service could not be introduced due to essential signalling work being required. Finally this was carried out in 2014 along with other upgrading work to bring the line up to the required standard to make it permanent. All this work, at the cost of millions of pounds, was completed last year.

BBC at Swanage Railway

BBC South Today Filming

It just seems amazing that what took just 7 weeks to destroy, has taken 45 years to re-instate, and it is thanks to the tenacity of an increasing group of volunteers. It is thanks to them that I was able to board the train on Tuesday for my first journey to Wareham since I was a young man.

On the Swanage Railway

On the Newly Restored Swanage Branch Line

At this stage the trains are being pulled by diesel engines, double ended because there is nowhere for the engines to turn at Wareham. The current service is part of a two year trial which hopefully will be extended to make this a permanent feature of Purbeck again.

At Wareham Station

The Last Train of the Day Leaves Wareham

What a memorable day. It hadn’t worked out exactly as I planned but nevertheless, I had an amazing walk, taking in a whole variety of different terrains, and been part of a historic day in the Isle of Purbeck.

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.

The Remedy Oak, a Natural Cure!

11 Jun

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

Today we are continuing our theme of ‘Quirky Dorset’ and this is Part 23. As we have seen, there are lots of quirky things in Dorset if you just keep your eyes open, and some of them involve trees! This is just one such place, and it is a place that perhaps should have been part of the NHS 🙂 ! This is The Remedy Oak.

The Remedy Oak

Remedy Oak

Remedy Oak Beside the Country Lane

So, why the name? Well, it is an oak tree, and an ancient one at that, so that takes care of that part. Remedy suggest a cure for something, so perhaps the leaves had some special powers when boiled, or maybe the wood had healing properties? Neither of those. In fact the tree had no curative powers at all, it is something much stranger than that!

Way back in the 16th century, King Edward VI came to the throne at the age of just 9 years – he was known as The Boy King for obvious reasons. He apparently had special powers whereby he could cure people suffering from a skin disease known as scrofula, which was a disease that affected the lymph nodes in the neck, and which was commonly known as ‘King’s Evil’. It was believed that if you were touched by the monarch of England or France, you would be cured of this horrible illness. The process was known as being, ‘touched for King’s Evil’!

Remedy Oak

Remedy Oak, Now Hollow and Near Collapse

Apparently this miraculous power had been passed down from Edward the Confessor who himself had received it from St Remigious. So common was this healing process that a ceremony for it was included in the Book of Common Prayer. At the same time as the ceremony was carried out, it was tradition that the now healed person would be given a gold coin by the monarch as a memento of their healing.

So how does this involve this very old tree in order for it to be given the ‘Remedy’ title? Well, it seems that the Boy King used to sit under this oak tree in Dorset and touch local people for ‘King’s Evil’. Apparently there are no records of how many people were healed……..or whether the treatment was available under the NHS 😉 !

Truth or legend? Well, who knows! What we do know though is that this is a beautiful and very ancient oak tree which itself is now in need some serious need of healing as it is nearing the end of its life. Half has already rotted away and steel cables are now needed to prevent it collapsing into the road, and to prolong its life for as long as possible because it is part of Dorset’s ancient heritage. When that eventuality does come, as it surely must, another oak tree (son of Remedy Oak?) is growing nearby 🙂 !

Oh, and there is one other interesting point – it seems that the Boy King himself suffered from scrofula so its maybe a case of ‘physician heal thyself’ 🙂 !

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.

St Edwold’s Church – Dorset’s Smallest

8 Jun

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

So we are on the trail of a bit more ‘Quirky Dorset’ and today we visit another church. Tiny, insignificant, remote, and with an unusual dedication. This is St Edwold’s Church in the tiny hamlet of Stockwood.

St Edwold’s Church, Stockwood

The smallest church

St Edwold’s Church, Stockwood

There are two curious things about St Edwold’s, and the first is its dedication. St Edwold was the brother of Edmund, King of East Anglia who was brutally murdered in 870 AD by a Dane with the somewhat unusual name of Ivarr the Boneless. Edwold declined to take his brother’s crown, preferring to adopt a hermit lifestyle which eventually led him to Cerne Abbas in Dorset where he settled until his death. It is thought that Edwold, in addition to Cerne, had a cell at Stockwood, hence the church’s dedication. It is unusual in that it is the only church in Dorset, or indeed in the country, to be dedicated to him.

The second curious thing is the size of the church which is just 30 feet by 12 feet making it the smallest in Dorset and the second smallest in England.

The smallest church

The Simple Interior

St Edwold’s is a simple, single cell church which dates mainly from the 15th century with some later additions. Because of its dedication however, experts believe that it was built on much older foundations going back to Saxon times. The porch was added in the 17th century as was the delightful pillared bell turret. Internally, the font, altar rails, and pews all date from the 19th century. The church is now in the hands of the Churches Conservation Trust.

The Bell

The Beautiful Pillared Bell Turret

Stockwood itself is a tiny hamlet in North Dorset comprising just a few cottages and a farm. In fact, the church is situated right beside the farmhouse and when you visit it, you almost feel like you are trespassing on private land. Despite its centuries long heritage, the graveyard beside the church has just 10 graves and only four headstones.

The Church Door

The View from the 17th Century Porch

St Edwold’s Church was a delightful find which I came across whilst on a walk in the area. Its remote location makes it a peaceful place to visit, and because there are so few houses in the area, you cannot help but wonder at its past and about the people who worshipped here. It is another of those wonderful, mysterious Dorset places which I love.

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.

St Aldhelm’s Chapel…….or is it?

6 Jun

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

So, having looked at some Dorset places through the ‘lens of blur’ last week in order to get an alternative view, this week I thought we would go back to our series on ‘Quirky Dorset’ by visiting some slightly oddball or out of the ordinary places. This is Part 21 and we are starting off this set with a very old chapel…….or is it?? Well actually, no one seems to be certain! This is St Aldhelm’s Chapel that sits on the headland that bears the same name.

St Aldhelm’s Chapel, St Aldhelm’s Head

St Aldhelm's Chapel

St Aldhelm’s Chapel

St Aldhelm’s, also known as St Alban’s, Chapel sits atop a remote Dorset headland some 108 meters above sea level, a couple of miles from the nearest village. It is tiny, just 30 feet square, with thick walls, and a solid stone roof that is supported by a heavy internal rib-vaulted ceiling that radiates out from an overly stout central pillar. With just a single door and single window, this building is built like a fortress, set to withstand the elements that beat upon it in its exposed position. Externally, the chapel stands in the centre of a low circular earthwork which is thought to be pre-Conquest Christian. It is a chapel, and occasional services are still held there, but was it always?

Well that is a difficult question to answer even for the experts! There are a number of unusual features about this building, namely, it is square, it is not built to the traditional east/west orientation, and it has a huge central pillar which makes it less than ideal for gatherings of people. In addition, there is no evidence of a place for an altar or a piscina. All these suggest that it wasn’t originally intended to be a church. However, there is definite evidence to show that there was a chaplain here in the 13th century!

The age of the building is somewhat uncertain. Indications are that it dates from Norman times, but some say that the doorway is actually Saxon. The site itself is even older than that as it is in fact thought to have been built on the site of an earlier, possibly wooden, building.

St Aldhelm's Chapel interior

The Central Column and Rib Vaulting

That isn’t all that is strange about this chapel because, although it has a cross on top now, this only dates from 1873 and there is evidence that prior to that, there was a beacon at the apex of the roof. This could lead to the supposition that the building might have originally been some kind of coastal lookout, and this thought could possibly be supported by the fact that the construction is similar to parts of Corfe Castle which is several miles inland. Add to this the fact that the headland is on the ‘blind side’ of the castle and you have even more weight to its argument for being a lookout to aid and protect the castle. You could add to that again, that the parish is described in 1428 as having no inhabitants so arguably would not need a church, plus its description in 1625 as being a ‘sea mark’ – an aid to navigation used by seamen.

However, a very strong argument against the lookout theory, aside from the fact that there was a chaplain, is that there is only one tiny window, which is hardly the normal way to design a lookout! How can you look out if there is nothing from which to look out!

On the altar!

One Tiny Window

One suggestion put forward is that this building was erected as a Chantry, a small chapel where an incumbent priest would pray for the souls of deceased benefactors to aid them through purgatory, or perhaps for the safety of those at sea. This was a common practice until the Reformation; until then, many small Chantry Chapels were built. Of course, none of the uses described here are necessarily mutually exclusive and it is possible that this was built as a chapel that doubled as a lookout/beacon.

The historical time line indicates that this was a chapel with a chaplain, at least from the 13th century but that by the 17th/18th century it had fallen into disuse and was in a ruinous condition. It was restored and re-opened in 1874 and was used for a considerable time by the coastguards who had a lookout and a row of cottages on the headland. They held weekly services here. Again, however, it fell into disrepair, and again it was restored in the 1960’s.

We still haven’t exhausted the strange and unexplained features of this site! In 1957, a 13th century grave was found on the headland as well as the foundations of a small building which might have been a tiny dwelling. Little is known about the person interred except that she was aged between 30 and 40 years. It is thought that she might have been an Anchoress, basically a Christian recluse, who moved there to be near the chapel. A second grave was also discovered near the chapel itself.

Oh, and for some unknown reason, the chapel was once known as The Devil’s Chapel! It has also been known as a Wishing Chapel, a place where girls could go to in order to pray for a husband, posting personal items such as hair clips into a hole in the central pillar!

St Aldhelm's Chapel

St Aldhelm’s Chapel and Earthworks

There seems no end to the mystery that is St Aldhelm’s Chapel. Despite the theories, no one really knows for definite when it was built, who built it, or what its original purpose was. However, as with most of these mysteries, there are some traditional explanations! One such story has it that a new bride and groom were sailing around the headland watched by the bride’s father when a huge storm blew up and both were drowned. It seems that the father built the chapel in their memory and had a beacon installed on the top in order to warn all sailors of the dangers of that part of the coast. Come to think of it, that story seems to be very similar to one relating to another such church about which I blogged recently!

Whatever the truth, this is a beautiful chapel, in a wonderfully exposed and wild position along the Dorset coast. It gives off an air of strength and dependability. Simple, and some would say functional, but with mystery and intrigue enough to keep you wondering. And we will have to wonder on, because this landmark still hides most of its secrets and it appears to have no intention of releasing them any time soon!

But isn’t that a part of its magnetic charm?

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.

 

Sea Mist

3 Jun

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

One more shot in our theme for the week which is all about using blur and movement to improve shots or simply to give a different effect. For this one, we are going to one of my favourite places, the quirky and rugged Church Ope Cove, on the Isle of Portland.

Church Ope Cove

Sea Mist

Sea Mist

Church Ope Cove gets its name from the fact that above the beach, Portland’s first church was built. Combined with this is the fact that the beach sits below an opening in the cliffs, allowing access to the shore, hence the Ope part of the name. The beach is in reality sandy, but quarrying debris has covered the sand so that the cove is now rocky, those rocks being worn round by the action of the sea. It is an area with a mysterious feel to it and one where there is much to explore, so I always enjoy a visit here.

On this occasion, there was a lovely surf washing in and out over the rocks and I wanted to capture the effect of that by blurring the water so I used a long shutter speed, holding it open for 65 seconds. The result was this dreamy, misty feel, although of course, it is not mist at all, just blurred surf. I decided on a simple composition, focussing on the only two rocks that stood above the surf level, and just including a small part of the headland beyond.

To me, this sums up the shoreline here, rocks being constantly washed and smoothed by the ever active, never ceasing waves. They roll in like a perpetual motion machine, an amazing wonder of nature. I never tire of watching it.

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.