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But Who is Old Harry?

12 Aug

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

In my last post, we paid a visit to St Lucas’ Leap, an interestingly named gap off Handfast Point in Purbeck. If you missed it there is a link here. Since we are on the subject of the Old Harry Rocks area, I thought we would continue our visit but this time by another possibly hazardous route so that we can get a slightly different viewpoint.

Chinooks over Old Harry Rocks

Chinooks Fly Over Handfast Point and Old Harry Rocks

In my last post we approached Old Harry via the cliff top path but today, we are approaching via the shoreline from Studland Beach. The first thing to say is that in order to take this route, you need to have a knowledge of the tides and to be very aware of the tide times as the headland is normally being lapped by waves. To get out to the base of Old Harry Rocks the tide needs to be out, and not only that but it needs to be a very low spring tide, nothing else will do because with some low tides, you would still need to paddle or swim to reach the point.

Naturally, once you reach the point, you still need to maintain an awareness of the tide because it is all too easy to get engrossed in taking pictures only to find that the tide has crept in behind you and you are stranded. Care is needed on the walk out too, because the shoreline is littered with very slippery seaweed, and it is nearly a mile from the beach to the base of Old Harry.

But despite the hazards, it is a walk that is so well worth doing as you will see the famous Old Harry up close, a view not experienced by many.

Just to give the global view first, in the picture at the top of this post, you see from left to right (ignoring the Chinooks 🙂 , of which more later), Old Harry and his wife, the two large chunks of No Man’s Land, the gap known as St Lucas’ Leap that featured in my previous post, Handfast Point and to the right, Ballard Down.

Old Harry and Wife

Old Harry and the Remains of His Wife

The reason for the numerous stacks is simply the action of the sea; this is an ever changing place. No Man’s Land has already divided into two, and as you can see, there are holes appearing in both parts. These holes will grow as erosion takes its toll and eventually there will be more and smaller stacks. Old Harry, on the left in the picture above, still stands but his wife, on his right, crumbled into the sea in 1896 and she is now a shadow of her former self. Eventually these two will both disappear, to be replaced by a new Harry and wife as No Mans Land erodes further.

Through the Arch

The Haystack and The Pinnacle

These are not the only stacks along this part of the coast. There are two more just a short ‘walk’ away if you dare risk trying to reach them 🙂 ! The first of these is known as the Turf Rickrock or Haystack, the other more pointed stack is known as The Pinnacle. It is fairly obvious where their names come from. The same can’t be said of Old Harry though!

Old Harry at Sunset

Old Harry and No Man’s Land

There are various tales of how Harry got his name, and several legends around how he came into being. Some say that he is named after the devil himself who fell asleep on the headland, others say that he is named after a notorious Dorset pirate called Harry Paye, whose vessel is said to have lay in wait for merchant ships, hiding behind the stacks. Yet another tale is that he is in fact a ninth century viking called Earl Harold who drowned in the area and subsequently turned into a pillar of rock.

However it got its name, Old Harry Rocks is an absolute icon of this area and a lovely spot to visit. It is certainly popular with locals and visitors alike.

Below the Cliffs

A Glimpse of The Haystack Through One of the Headlands

The massive white cliffs are full of caves that have become ‘tunnels’, almost as if some giant creature has burrowed through and come out the other side. In between the various headlands, small coves have been formed with normally unreachable beaches. This feature is nowhere more obvious than along the cliffs as we make our way back towards Studland Beach. This is like a corrugated coastline created by the sea.

And make our way back we must as the sun is setting, the light is fading and the tide is coming in again. As the saying goes, ‘Time and tide wait for no man’, and that is never more evident than here and now.

The Way Back

The Way Back – a Corrugated Coast

But what of those Chinooks? Well this is a regular training area for the military so these helicopters, looking like weird giant insects, often fly out on exercises, sometimes filled with troops, sometimes landing on Ballard Down, sometimes picking up boats off the sea. They might disturb the peace of this area at times but they are awesome to watch.

Any visit to the foot of Old Harry Rocks is by necessity short so time spent there needs to be measured in terms of quality not quantity. It will likely be time that you will spend on your own as not many make the trip on foot. This for me makes it a special place.

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.

Mind the Gap

8 Aug

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

Towns have names, villages have names, headlands have names, hills have names, in fact most things have names……but how often is a gap given a name? It is just an empty space after all, so why would it need a name? But on the Dorset coast, there is a gap and it has a name. The gap I am referring to is the empty space between the mainland coast and the next bit of land which has become an island, and it has a somewhat unusual name too. This is St Lucas’ Leap.

St Lucas’ Leap

Sunrise at Old Harry Rocks

Handfast Point and St Lucas’ Leap at Sunrise

In fact there are numerous names surrounding this area. Overall it is known as The Foreland or Handfast Point but it is more commonly referred to as Old Harry Rocks. In fact, Old Harry refers to one particular rock, a stack that has separated from the mainland. It stands beside the remains of Old Harry’s Wife who crumbled decades ago. And they both stand seawards of a much larger ‘island’ of rock which has in fact split into two separate parts, which is known as No Man’s Land.

I think it is fairly clear where No Man’s Land got its name, but that is not the subject of this post. This blog post concerns the gap between it and the mainland because that gap has been given the name St Lucas’ Leap. So who was St Lucas? Well the first thought might be that he was some great saint who did wonderful things centuries ago, maybe set up a monastery in the area, Lucas being a form of Luke. But as far as we know that is not the case. St Lucas was in fact………a dog! Hmm, dogs seem to be a bit of a theme in my blog at the moment.

Old Harry - up close and personal!

No Man’s Land

So why name a gap after a dog? Well it is a sad story but it seems that St Lucas was a pedigree greyhound and when he was being walked on the coast path, he took off after a rabbit and not being aware of the dangers of clifftops, he plunged off the end of Handfast Point and fell to his death on the rocks beneath. Since that day, the gap between the very tip of Handfast Point and that huge stack of rock known as No Man’s Land has been known as St Lucas’ Leap.

I’m not sure if the name was intended as some kind of tribute to a loyal friend or whether it was some kind of joke since it was hardly a leap, more a fall, and a sad one at that! Actually, thinking about it, who names these places anyway? Was this named by some civil dignitary who stood up in a council meeting and spouted, ‘I decree that hereafter and from hence forward, in recognition of fine service given during his life, this place shall be known as……’? Or was it some local joker who started it off one day and it just caught on 🙂 ? I’m guessing the latter and that it just became local custom.

old Harry - up close and personal!

St Lucas’ Leap with No Man’s Land beyond

Now one of the interesting things about St Lucas’ Leap, besides its name, is actually reaching it. If you time it right and know your tides well, you can reach it along the shoreline, but that is a post for another day. You can, or maybe that should be could, reach it from the clifftop but that required a serious head for heights as it meant walking a tightrope of a very narrow ridge of chalk with sheer drops on either side. Even when I walked it some years ago, you wouldn’t have attempted it on a windy day. Today, you would have to be very foolhardy to attempt this short walk at all as a cliff fall a year or two back has eroded the ‘path’ away almost completely.

A Sharper Knife

The Ridge Leading to St Lucas’ Leap

You might say, ‘Why walk there at all as it doesn’t go anywhere’, but I guess my response would be, ‘Because it is there’, and also perhaps because not many people have been there. It is a kind of inviting path and you just get the feeling that you want to see what is down there. I still get that feeling even though I have already been there several times but age and wisdom prevents me from making that walk again. Besides which, there really isn’t much to see that can’t be seen from the main clifftop, apart perhaps from getting a different view of the coast as you climb back up that narrow, exposed path.

Old Harry view

Looking Back from St Lucas’ Leap 

So, tribute to a dog, or sick joke? Who knows! I’m glad I’ve been there several times and captured these shots but if I feel the need to repeat the experience, I’ll buy a drone and have a virtual walk along the ridge! I think St Lucas can keep his leap for himself!

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 Smugglers’ Cave

18 Jul

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

Continuing our theme of quirky things in Dorset – I think this must be Quirky Dorset Part 25 🙂 – we return to the coast, and a very hidden part of the Jurassic Coast too. And we are visiting another part of Dorset with a really adventurous past……..ah, if only rocks could talk! This is the Smugglers’ Cave.

The Smugglers’ Cave

The Smugglers' Cave

The Smugglers’ Cave

The Smugglers’ Cave is situated in a tucked away position in Mupe Bay, or to be more exact, Bacon Hole, which is a tiny bay just west of Mupe Bay. It is rugged and remote, miles away from the nearest town or road. The only way here is on foot and that is no easy walk either, and there is no way down from the cliff top above other than to continue east to access the beach at Mupe Bay and then retrace your steps back along the rocky shore.

You could easily miss this cave as it is not easily visible from the coast path and even from the waters edge, it is still not obvious. It is sited a couple of miles east of Lulworth Cove and village and it is fairly clear why this would be a good choice for smugglers to land and store their contraband ready for onward movement inland. Goods such as brandy, wine and tea would have been landed in this sheltered cove and moved swiftly into the cave under cover of darkness.

The entrance to the cave slopes at a forty five degree angle because of the way the strata has been crumpled and upturned along this part of the coast. As you enter the mouth, you can spot the false back wall with its small square door in the gloom. It was behind this wall that the contraband would have been stored, protected from the elements.

Smugglers' Cave

The Inner Chamber

Behind the door is a small but secret hideaway that would be even harder to spot than the cave itself, hidden in the shadows as it is. The only things stored here now are numerous plastic bottles, washed in by the tide, just another sign of a severe problem that besets this beautiful land of ours in this plastic age!

Stand at the door and look out, and you see Mupe Rocks, jagged and upturned like the cave itself. These rocks stretch in a line out into the bay, a result of coastal erosion that has worn away the land that once surrounded them leaving them isolated like mini islands. It is these very rocks that would have provided some protection from the elements as the small boats headed for shore.

The Smugglers' Cave

Mupe Rocks Viewed from the Smugglers’ Cave

This is a wonderful place to visit, wild, remote, often deserted, with just the sounds of the sea and gulls for company. At times however, there will be the sound of gunfire, not the historic echoing of the coastguards as they fire at smugglers in the dead of a dark night but the sound of modern heavy military guns. You see, this cave and the bay, along with much of this part of the coast sits in the middle of an M.O.D. gunnery range and so is only open to the public at certain times.

Have a care, if you want to visit this cave, make sure you do it at the right time otherwise you might get more of a smuggler’s experience than you bargained for!

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.

When is a Well not Well?

15 Jul

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

Well 🙂 its not when its ill that’s for sure. The answer is when it is a spring, because a well and a spring are two different things, and despite its name, this is technically not a well at all. We are back in Dorset today, and this is the Lepers’ Well at Lyme Regis.

The Lepers’ Well, Lyme Regis

Leper's Well

The Lepers’ Well, Lyme Regis

The Lepers’ Well is at Lyme Regis in West Dorset and it dates from at least the 14th century and possibly earlier. The well, and a small section of perimeter wall, is all that remains of a medieval Lepers’ Hospital that once stood nearby. Back in the Middle Ages, leprosy had a stigma attached. It was thought to be highly contagious and also believed to be a result of some curse or a punishment for sinful behaviour, so sufferers were outcasts and isolated away from society in places where they could be treated. The hospital and its associated chapel were dedicated to St Mary and the Holy Spirit.

Leper's Well

The Plaque at the Well

Today of course we are more enlightened and know that true leprosy is caused by a bacteria so is less contagious than was originally thought so such places as this were actually unnecessary and perhaps brought about simply by people’s prejudice.

In fact, in some ways, the Lepers’ Well fails on two counts as far as its name goes because not only is it not a well, but it wasn’t exclusively for lepers either as hundreds of years ago any skin disease would have been regarded as leprosy.

Surrounding the well is a small garden and it sits in a delightful position beside the River Lym (aka Lim) that runs for some six kilometres from source to sea. It is this river that gives Lyme Regis its name.

Leper's Well

The River Lym Viewed from the Lepers’ Well Garden

I always enjoy walking up the Lym Valley, following what is almost a causeway between the diminutive river on one side, and the mill leat on the other as this drove the Town Mill that still stands in Lyme Regis. The now gently flowing stream flows quietly past the Lepers’ Well in an altogether different scene than it would have been in the days when the hospital was in place. We can only wonder what this area looked like then.

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.

 

At Hartland Quay Again!

6 Jul

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

Continuing yesterday’s post, we are back at Hartland Quay again but this is really just a photographic post. I mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry that the rock strata and colours are amazing if we can just spend time simply looking at the detail, and here are a few pictures to highlight this.

Orange

Orange

Colours

Red Amongst the Grey

One of the amazing things is that although the rock is grey on the outside, when it splits, it reveals a whole rainbow of beautiful colours.

Rainbow Colours

Rainbow Colours

And its not only the rocks but the creatures that live on them too.

Patterns

Camp Site for Limpets

There is an infinitesimal range of compositions for the camera, almost too many to take in. Often it is the simple way things relate to each other that makes the picture rather than anything extreme.

Rocks

The Circle

The rock strata is just awesome. The earth has crumpled at this point, creating vertical rather than horizontal strata like someone has just crumpled up a newly ironed sheet.

Strata

Crumpled Strata

And when you really look, you can see pictures in the rocks. I call the picture below, ‘Rock Tree’ 🙂 !

Rock Tree

Rock Tree

I must say, I really enjoyed just spending time wandering in and out of the rocks that were littered along the beach. For me, this was all about looking for the detail rather than the grand panorama, and maybe we could all benefit from spending time like this. It is certainly an engaging and rewarding practice.

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.

At Hartland Quay

4 Jul

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

So, continuing our theme for the week and a brief hop across the county border into Devon, we are today paying a visit to Hartland Quay.

Hartland Quay

At Hartland Quay

Hartland Quay was once a busy port on the Devon coast. It was built towards the end of the 16th century to allow the importing of lime, slate, coal etc and the exporting of local produce such as barley and oats. It was the coming of the railway that spelled the end for this small harbour as maintenance of the harbour wall ceased and nature was left to take its toll. By the end of the 19th century, the harbour had virtually been demolished by stormy seas!

Empty Tables

Empty Tables

The accommodation along the quayside comprising of workers’ cottages, malthouse and stables with haylofts above were converted to a hotel and so the face of this place changed to become what it is today.

At Hartland Quay

A Rugged Coastline

The coast here is rugged and rocky, with crumpled and upturned rock strata and even on a wet day such as this, it has a beauty. The colours and textures are delightful and it is a place that rewards time spent just exploring the detail, but that is a post for another day.

On the Rocks

Upturned Rock Strata

More of Hartland Quay tomorrow.

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.

What Is Life…….

26 Jun

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

‘What is life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’, says the poet William Henry Davies, and he had a point! Putting up my recent posts, reminiscing over the ‘good old days’ 🙂 just makes you think about how life has changed since the days of our Morris 10 trips out into the countryside. OK, of course there are a lot of changes that are for the better, but certainly not all……and of course I realise that to a degree at least, the ‘good old days’ only works because you have probably forgotten the bad bits.

Scan 17 copy 6-2

You see, the main way things seem to have changed for the worse is that these days, we have no time to ‘stand and stare’! Back in the Morris 10 days, we walked everywhere and if we did use my uncle’s car, even that went slow. There was no mad rushing about along motorways just trying to reach our destination. No, in those days we went slowly along country lanes and we had time to take in the things we were passing. To continue with the poet, such things as ‘sheep or cows’, woods, squirrels hiding ‘their nuts in grass’, ‘streams full of stars’, etc etc. Our forced slowness enabled us to SEE things that today we often miss. And we are poorer for it!

Back in the Morris 10 days, life was simpler. There was no internet, no computers, no mobile phones, no games machines to carry with you everywhere, so we weren’t trying to be in a dozen places at once as most people seem to be today, texting, checking emails, surfing the web, looking at Facebook, scanning through Instagram, Tweeting, and trying to keep in touch with everyone at the same time. Of course technology has its good points, making communication so much easier, especially with friends and family who are living away from us, but somehow this constant alertness to texts, tweets and tantalising Facebook topics is a stress that takes us away from where we are right now. And we lose something as a result!

Today, a walk in the woods is rarely just that as people carry all their contacts and friends with them in the form of social media which takes away from the immediacy of their surroundings. There is so much to see all around us but we need to maintain an awareness and focus on the NOW, to focus on our surroundings with eyes and ears alert to the bugs, bats, birds, bees, and a whole raft of other things. And life, or God, or nature, however you look at it, will reward us handsomely. I think this applies not just to a walk in the woods but whatever we are doing – if you focus on ten things, you get the best out of none! And if you rush around you get the best out of none!

Sometimes I think that technology, and especially social media, will go full circle and we will start to get tired of the way it complicates our lives, pulling us in a dozen different directions at once, and start to live more simply again; to live in the moment, concentrating solely on what we are doing NOW and on the people we are with NOW. If this were to happen, life might become a little freer, slower, less cluttered, and hey, even more rewarding.

So, how about it? Can we start to slow down again even if just for a bit of time out? Can we set aside our ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ and focus fully on where we are and what we are doing NOW. I fancy that every experience and every day will be richer for 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.