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A L—-o—-n—-g Walk (well, VERY long really)……

20 Aug

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

……..42.6 miles to be exact, in one go, from sunrise to sunset, and what a fantastic day!

Five years ago I walked 35 miles in a day. This is not my usual way of walking as I am very much with the poet who said, ‘What is life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’ – I like to have time in my walks to do just that, to take in all that is around me. But this was different, a one-off marathon, just to see if I could do it really. But this year I decided that I would see if, now 5 years older, I could still do it. Five years ago I managed to complete the 35.3 miles in 12 hours and I wondered if I could keep up anything like that pace with more creaky joints.

So I sat down with the map and prepared myself a route. This would be open ended insofar as I thought I would walk for as long and as far as I could and if I didn’t make it back to the start point, my wife would come and collect me. I figured that she would have to!

Long Walk

Sunrise on the Heath

I had planned to start out at 7am but in fact I was up and about earlier, and out on the trail by just after 6am. The sun was rising as I made my way across the first tract of heathland on a beautiful morning with a pleasant cooling breeze and the promise of a bright and lovely day. How wrong I was…….but more of that later 🙂 !

Long Walk

The Promise of a Good Day

The first part of the walk was necessarily a bit ‘towny’ as I skirted round the perimeter of a golf course. These take up a lot of our open space but if there are footpaths around them, they make pleasant places to walk, especially on an early morning such as this with the sun streaming through the trees, highlighting the heather.

Long Walk

Skirting Round the Golf Course

 

I had set myself a target of repeating my 3 mph walking pace of five years ago and I walked with a GPS in order to keep track of my progress. I don’t like walking against the clock as it means that you have no time to stop for long and the emphasis has to be on keeping walking but I knew that this was going to be a different kind of day. If I was to get to the end before dark and achieve my goal, I knew I would have to keep walking, especially as I didn’t think I would be able to maintain that pace all day.

Leaving the golf course behind, I made my way along an old railway line and a took a circuitous route on local paths to reach the river meadows with gently grazing sheep and cows. They stared longer than I! I crossed the River Stour at the old, wooden Eye Bridge and climbed up the hill to reach the delightful avenue at Pamphill. My route took me the length of the avenue and not a car in sight 🙂 !

Long Walk

The Pamphill Avenue

Following a combination of quiet country lanes and gravel tracks, I skirted round the National Trust owned Kingston Lacy, a huge country estate once owned by the Banks family, and crossed the even more famous avenue planted by that family nearly 200 years ago. This much photographed avenue of steadily dying beech trees is currently being regenerated as a new avenue of hornbeams as these are able to stand modern traffic conditions better.

As I crossed this busy road, I checked my progress, 7.5 miles in and on target. I climbed up the hill away from the noise of the traffic and passed another great landmark of Dorset, the Badbury Rings hill fort.

Long Walk

A Gravel Track Near Badbury Rings

More gravel tracks followed and I was grateful for these as they do enable you to stride out and keep up a good rhythm. It is very satisfying simply to enjoy the walking process of one foot in front of the other over and over again continuously for mile after mile. But of course, it doesn’t last for long before you are faced with another section of overgrown pathway.

Now here, I’d like to praise horse riders as they do much to keep our paths free from undergrowth as their steeds plough through nettles and brambles, breaking them and trampling them down to make it easier for walkers like me. Now, unfortunately they do have a down side in that they also churn up the paths, creating a muddy morass for us to slip slide through……but we won’t focus on the negatives 🙂 ! Some of my paths today were not bridleways so it was left to me to push my way through as best I could, being constantly tripped as brambles grabbed hold of me. I was glad I had chosen to wear trousers and not shorts!

I was glad too when I made it though onto clearer paths and could walk easily again, especially when I came across a hare, or fox, or deer as in the picture below. I passed through the villages of Gussage All Saints and Wimborne St Giles, joining the Jubilee Way for a time.

Long Walk

Deer on the Path

Eventually, I neared my halfway point as Cranborne Manor came into view through a gap in the trees. This massive estate was in fact originally just a hunting lodge for the Marquess of Salisbury, a kind of holiday home I guess, as his main residence is Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. Cranborne Manor is now occupied by the heir who carries the title Viscount Cranborne.

Long Walk

Cranborne Manor Comes into View

I followed the lovely, neat path through the field towards Cranborne, only to come across the sign below. Not that this fazed me – whilst I wouldn’t like to face an angry bull, nothing is going to stop me following my planned route or get in the way of a good walk. In any event, this is a good farmer who only puts signs up when the bull is present and only has the bull there when there are cows with him, as the law states. Sadly, not all farmers observe these rules. Whether I would have been quite so ambivalent if the bull had been just the other side of this gate, I am not sure 🙂 !

As it happens, the bull wasn’t the slightest bit interested in me and I crossed the field happily to reach the town, where I called at the local pub……….no, not for a drink, no time for that, I just needed them to fill my water bottles up, which they did gladly. I did check my GPS again though – 20 miles down and still maintaining a pace of just over 3 mph.

Long Walk

Oh Dear!

With replenished supplies, I left the town and headed out through several sections of lovely old woodlands, intermingled with occasional hamlets with quaint cottages, tiny churches, and an occasional manor house. Edmondsham is one such hamlet, with its old village pump, old postoffice, and little chapel. These are delightful places to walk through.

From Edmondsham, my route took me back into more ancient woodlands, with the inevitable stile to cross. Now I love stiles but when you have walked over 20 miles, a gate would be more welcome 🙂 ! At this point, things turned interesting! I heard a distant rumble but ignored it – well it was a sunny day wasn’t it. As I wound my way through the woods, the rumbles became more insistent, but its ok, the sun is still shining! When I reached another little hamlet, appropriately called Woodlands, and I finally exited the dense woods I saw what was heading my way……and it didn’t look good!

Long Walk

Yet Another Stile

Now this is going to look strange because there is a sunny picture above and a sunny picture below so you might be lulled into thinking that the storm past me by! It didn’t! I basically battened down the hatches, togged up in waterproofs, stowed everything in the rucksack and put its waterproof cover on, and I was ready when the first drops of rain fell. And boy did they fall! I actually, momentarily, considered sheltering in Woodlands Church which is a lovely little chapel, but in the end I decided just to keep walking.

For the next hour I walked, or more accurately squelched, in torrential rain, with thunder and lightening all around. I could follow the storm’s progress; first the distant rumbles to the west which came nearer and nearer, then directly overhead, and then gradually diminishing as it moved out the other side. You might think that it was a nuisance but actually, walking in a thunderstorm just adds a different dimension to a walk. I continued to push my way through woods and across fields and by the time I climbed to the top of the hill to reach Horton Tower, the sun was shining brightly again.

Long Walk

Horton Tower After the Storm

I de-togged and got the camera out again and took a picture of the tower in celebration 🙂 ! Of course the downside of the storm was that everything around me, trees, bushes, grass, fields, were all now soaking wet with rivulets running everywhere. On the open hilltop, the sun dried me, but only until I had to push my way through more undergrowth when I got soaked again.

Plus of course, many of the fields had been recently ploughed. This posed two problems! Firstly there was no path because it had been ploughed over – I know that the countryside laws state that if footpaths are ploughed over they have to be reinstated within 24 hours, but farmers don’t always seems to know this! Secondly, this wet, ‘cloggy’ soil stuck to my boots like glue. My size 9’s gradually increased to size 10 and then size 11 as I walked across the fields, getting heavier and heavier as I went. And then of course you have to try to climb over a stile…..or maybe that should be slip over a stile!

Oh, and there is one particular field near Horton Tower that has a large section of sweetcorn growing…..and no clear path through it. Pushing your way through densely packed sweetcorn that is over head height after a torrential downpour is no fun 🙂 !

Hopefully, you can picture the scene that I have been describing 🙂 ! It was with some relief that I found my way back out onto clearer paths again and could walk along solid country lanes and gravel tracks, banging mud off my boots, and everything else, as I went.

Amazingly, now some 30 miles into my walk, despite the conditions, I was still ahead of my scheduled 3 mph pace!

Long Walk

Lovely Paths Near Crichel House

The next part of the walk is lovely as it skirts around another of Dorset’s manor houses, Crichel House, so it is laid out almost as parkland with good paths, old carriage bridges, and a very attractive gatehouse. This brought me out to another lovely village, the village of Witchampton which is always a pleasure to walk through. I kept going, making my way out the other side and down a narrow country lane into open countryside again.

Here, was a reminder of the approaching season, with straw bales in readiness to be transported to the barns for winter bedding. These always make such a nice picturesque scene, especially with that summer sky as a backdrop. And in the distance, I could once again see Badbury Rings that I had passed nearly 12 hours ago on my way out.

Long Walk

Harvest Time

Crossing King Down, I arrived back at the Kingston Lacy avenue again, and that busy road. This was my 35 mile point where I had been intending to stop. I was still ahead of my 3 mph schedule and feeling surprisingly good so I decided to keep on walking.

I circumnavigated the Kingston Lacy estate again and followed the Pamphill avenue, passing some lovely cottages on the way, as the sun was sinking in the sky. From there, I re-crossed the River Stour and its meadow, greeting the sheep and cows as I went. Needless to say, I received just blank stares in return 🙂 !

Long Walk

A Beautiful Cottage Picked Out by the Evening Sun

Forty miles came and went! At 41 miles, my left knee gave out and I started to limp, my water ran out, and my GPS switched to energy saving mode, its batteries all but dead. Mine were too!

Finally, as the sun faded, I reached my starting point again and the end of my epic walk – 42.6 miles and just under 14 hours of virtually non stop walking! I was a happy man 🙂 !

What a great day which I thoroughly enjoyed……well maybe apart from the last few painful miles! I consider myself very blessed that in retirement, I still have the good health and energy to walk these distances and to enjoy this wonderful county of Dorset.

I hope you have enjoyed walking it with me.

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.

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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.

A Picture with a Story 2……

31 Jul

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

The mysterious case of the flying dog!

Sunset at Man o' War Bay

Today, I am continuing my theme of pictures with stories attached. Yesterday, I put up a post about a ‘fake?’ picture, although that depends entirely on your viewpoint. Here is a link to that post.  Today’s post though is not about the picture at all as the picture above is 100% real and undoctored, as, I should add, are most of my pictures. This is about the events surrounding the picture!

This was another occasion where I had been walking all day, timing my walk so that I would arrive at a suitable spot to capture the sunset, and on this occasion I decided that Man o’ War Bay on the Dorset coast would be perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed my day even though I was carrying all my camera equipment, tripod and so on, and I arrived at the bay in good time to set up for my shot as the colour was building in the sky. I decided on a longish exposure to catch the movement of the water and to create a nice wet, reflective foreground and I set my tripod up and waited.

When all the conditions were right, I took the picture above, and I was pleased with the result and got ready to take more shots when I heard a noise to my right. I was stood next to a 150 foot high cliff and the noise I heard was the sound of stones and small rocks falling down the cliffs onto the beach. This is not unusual where there are unstable cliffs as you often hear the trickling of stones that have been loosened by the weather. As I looked to my right however, I got a shock because coming down with the shower of stones was a dog! He had plunged from the top of the cliffs and was seemingly ‘running’ down the cliff face.

It was over in a split second but seemed like it was in slow motion – it was one of those surreal moments. The dog hit the beach with a thud and a very loud yelp, and just laid there! I ran straight across to the poor animal to check him over and I comforted him for a long time whilst he recovered. Fortunately, and amazingly, he seemed to have suffered no ill effects from his fall apart from being seriously winded, and after about 15 minutes he stood up somewhat unsteadily and eventually ran happily off down the beach. Whilst he was recovering, I could hear his owners calling him from 150 feet above my head and I shouted out to them that he was ok. I’m not sure if they were expecting him to run back up the cliff but that’s the way it seemed! In fact, the only way for them to reach him was to run along the clifftop to reach the steps down to the beach which I assume they did.

I often wonder what saved that dog from death. It could be that dogs also have nine lives 😉 ! It could be the fact that the cliffs at the point he fell are not quite vertical. It could be that he was a long legged, athletic looking dog and was somehow able to at least partly keep his feet. It could be that he was fortunate enough to fall onto shingle rather than onto one of the many large rocks that also litter the beach. Who knows, but the happy fact is he did survive.

The problem for me of course was that since sunsets are fleeting, by the time I got back to my camera having done my vet impersonation, the sky had lost all its colour. So on that lovely evening, after humping my camera gear all day in order to get some competition winning shots, I in fact got just one picture. But, hey, there will be other sunsets and I’m just glad that this lovely dog was ok.

I guess the moral of this tale is that if you are a dog owner and you are walking the clifftops…….well I think you know what I am going to say………keep it on a lead! Otherwise you might just spoil some other photographer’s pictures 😉 !

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.

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 7

11 Apr

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

So this week, we are on the hunt for more odd and quirky things that you might come across when you walk my lovely county of Dorset. Yesterday we looked at the Smugglers’ Path that zig zags steeply down the face of White Nothe to reach the shoreline. But there is still another hazard to negotiate before you reach the safety of the rocks, and that is The Ladder!

The Ringstead Ladder

You see, the Smugglers’ Path finishes at the cliff top, but you still need to reach the rocky shoreline before you can get any further, and that is where the ladder comes in 🙂 ! The somewhat rickety looking contraption stretches some 20 feet from the shore to the cliff top and is not for the faint hearted!

The Old Ladder

In the picture below, you can see the view that greets you as you climb down these humble steps, a view that takes in the whole of Ringstead Bay……..and if you climb down the ladder, that is where you will be heading because there is nothing in the other direction as the tide covers the shore.

The Dorset Coast Ladder

The strange thing about this ladder is that it has no handrail. Now I think that is great but in this day of extreme health and safety laws, I’m surprised no one has put a stop to it. In fact, because of coastal erosion and rock falls, there are other ways down to the shoreline but as someone who loves oddball walks, why would anyone not want to use this ladder 🙂 !

Ringstead ladder

Of course, having reached the shoreline, you will still be quite some way from Ringstead and to get there involves trudging over a mile along the shingle beach. Oh, and part of it is a nudist beach! Its all a bit quirky here!!

If you are not up for a bit of adventure, then maybe stick to the main coast path 🙂 !

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 6

9 Apr

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

For our theme this week, I thought we would come back to ‘Quirky Dorset’ and feature a few more things in my lovely county that are perhaps a little bit ‘off the wall’ 🙂 ! And this is one of my favourites – it is The Smugglers’ Path.

The Smugglers’ Path, White Nothe

I love walking this path…..if you can call it a path! It runs from the top of the White Nothe  (aka White Nose) headland down to the rocky seashore some 170 meters (550 feet) below. The path is steep, very steep, and it zig zags its way down the cliff face with amazing views all across Ringstead Bay to the west. Below, there are just rocks which may be covered if the tide is high.

The Smugglers Path

The Smugglers’ Path, White Nothe

This is a breathtaking walk in more ways than one! The views are breathtaking, the steepness is breathtaking if you are not good with heights, and if you are climbing up, it definitely takes your breath away 🙂 ! Whether this path was actually used by smugglers or not seems unclear but the fact that a row of coastguard cottages was built at the top in the early 1900’s would seem to suggest that it was. Of course, the whole of the Dorset coast was used by smugglers to bring their contraband ashore under cover of darkness. With its wild remoteness, White Nothe would have been ideal for this practice!

This path, and its past, was immortalised by J Meade Falkner in his book ‘Moonfleet’ as it was the inspiration for Elzevir Block’s escape from the Excise men, accompanied by a very young John Trenchard. I have reproduced a short passage below.

The Smugglers Path

The Top of the Smugglers’ Path

‘Forgive me, lad,’ he said, ‘if I have spoke too roughly. There is yet another way that we may try; and if thou hadst but two whole legs, I would have tried it, but now ’tis little short of madness. And yet, if thou fear’st not, I will still try it. Just at the end of this flat ledge, farthest from where the bridle-path leads down, but not a hundred yards from where we stand, there is a sheep-track leading up the cliff. It starts where the under-cliff dies back again into the chalk face, and climbs by slants and elbow-turns up to the top. The shepherds call it the Zigzag, and even sheep lose their footing on it; and of men I never heard but one had climbed it, and that was lander Jordan, when the Excise was on his heels, half a century back. But he that tries it stakes all on head and foot, and a wounded bird like thee may not dare that flight. Yet, if thou art content to hang thy life upon a hair, I will carry thee some way; and where there is no room to carry, thou must down on hands and knees and trail thy foot.’

(From Moonfleet by J Meade Falkner – as young John Trenchard and Elzevir Block flee from the Excise Men)

White Nothe sunset

White Nothe at Sunset

The description by J Meade Falkner was perhaps a little exaggerated, but nevertheless, this path can still be scary to walk if the weather is stormy with the wind taking you off balance and the wet making the steep path slippery. But it is a path that I love for its sheer quirkiness…..and perhaps for the feeling that you are somehow following in the footsteps of some ancient smugglers! It is definitely not to be missed if you are walking this part of the Dorset coast!

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 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.