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When is Grass not Grass?

8 Jul

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

Well, the answer is when it is Cotton Grass!

Cotton Grass

You see, Cotton Grass with its beautiful fluffy white heads is actually not a grass at all, but rather is related to the sedge family. It grows on boggy moors and heaths, and at first glance looks like a load of cotton wool blowing across the landscape as it waves its head in the breeze. In summer, this ‘grass’ can really bring a barren heath to life!

Cotton Grass on Bursdon Moor

These pictures were taken on Bursdon Moor in Devon on a somewhat dull day, and the fluffy heads just gave the moorlands a bit of interest and life. Standing there watching the Cotton Grass blowing in the strong breeze was a delight and the overcast sky seemed to bring out the character of this barren area.

Just as an aside, there is a very quiet country lane crossing this area of moorlands but there was nowhere to park without risking getting stuck in the boggy ground, so I left my car in the road while I quickly ran across the moor to get my pictures. Of course, Murphy’s Law kicked in and at the moment I was farthest from the car, a van chose to also drive across the moors. So I had to run back to the car again as there was no room for him to pass me.

The things we do to get a picture 🙂 !

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is – 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 – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

Theme for the Week – Dorset in Spring Part 5

29 Apr

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

So there is time for one last post on the subject of Dorset in Spring, highlighting some of the sights and sounds of this lovely season. We have looked at things from a landscaper and walker’s perspective, picking out rape fields, bluebell woods, spring green foliage, and colourful blossom, but of course there is much more to spring than this. The trees are not solely about the spring greens you see in the picture below.

Foliage of Spring

Spring Greens

There are many trees that have much more autumn coloured leaves in this season of new growth. Surely, aside from the ornamental trees, the copper beech must be king of the colours. Admittedly, the picture below was taken from the underside and the leaves are backlit by the sun which has exaggerated the redness, but this foliage is undoubtedly beautiful and bright, and provides a great contrast to the greens.

Copper Beach

Copper Beech

Other trees may not have the same degree of redness, but still have autumnal tints to their spring clothes. These would include the oak and hazel as their leaves unfurl under the warming sunshine. Especially good over a carpet of bluebells.

Spring Leaves

Oak Leaves in Spring


Hazel Leaves

Beyond the woods, there are many other events that shout of spring. I still include lambing in this bracket even though it has become much more of a year-round event. To see new born lambs gambolling around the fields is just classic spring to me. And as an avid walker, I have been privileged to watch lambs being born in the fields. It is just an awesome sight and so natural.

And what about the birds, busy building their nests ready for the next generation to appear. In my garden I have blue tits and great tits nesting at the moment, and either in my garden or a neighbour’s are robins, blackbirds and pigeons. Butterflies are emerging daily too as well as other bugs and bees. There is so much activity.

Great Tit

A Nesting Great Tit

Out on the hillsides, cowslips are blooming, providing a yellow carpet. In amongst the trees, ramsons or wild garlic is flowering with its heady scent…….or so I’m told – it means little to me as I have no sense of smell. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes not! But wild garlic is lovely to look at as well as it lines the paths.

On Cowslip Hill

Cowslips on a Dorset Hillside

Spring is about so much, but if I were to pick out one thing, it would be new birth. Everything is about new beginnings in the lifecycle of nature and that includes us as, after the comparative doldrums of winter, we come alive again. I guess my tortoises are an extreme example of this cycle as they hibernate in winter and awaken in the warmer months. People don’t hibernate, but in some ways we do!

The countryside is fantastic at any time of year, but there is something special about the spring and I would just encourage you to get out and explore. It will clear all the winter cobwebs away that’s for sure.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is – 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 – Dorset in Spring Part 4

27 Apr

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

So far this week we have talked about rape fields, bluebell woods, and spring green foliage, all things that typify this season of new birth. Plus of course the enigmatic cuckoo. Today we continue the theme of spring with some pictures of another spring event, the blossoming of the trees.

Cherry Blossom

Cherry Blossom

Everyone loves to see the trees in blossom, its like putting decorations on a Christmas tree – it makes it come alive and brightens up the area. Technically, in botanical terms, blossom occurs on stone fruit trees only but we tend to see any flowering tree as being in blossom. But it is in the fruit trees that it provides a vital role in supplying pollen to attract pollinators so that cross pollinating can occur. This is essential for the tree to produce fruit.


Blossom and Blue Skies

At the end of spring when the blossom has served its purpose, the petals drop in their masses. Borne on the wind, they fall like snow and settle on the ground, providing a snowy carpet of colour, often pink but sometimes white or even orange. This is another stage in the lifecycle of the tree.

Fly Past!

Fly Past – Fluffy Rowan Blossom


Whether it be apple, pear, plum, cherry, peach, orange, or whatever, blossom brightens up the spring orchards, gardens and wood margins. And of course church yards as well.

Blossom in the Churchyard

Blossom in the Churchyard at Gussage All Saints

I guess the strangest of the flowering trees must be the rowan as there is so much folklore written about it. It seems it is very effective in use against witches and spells, with people planting them beside cottage doors, and shepherds even driving flocks of sheep through a circle of rowans to protect them! I just think they look great in their white garments of spring 🙂 !

Aside from Cherry Blossom Shoe Polish which we used when I was at school, the word ‘blossom’ just makes me think of spring, of blue skies and of sunshine. And what could be better?

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is – 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 – Dorset in Spring Part 3

26 Apr

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

The third thing to highlight in this mini series on Dorset in Spring is fresh spring foliage. After a dull winter with bare, sleeping trees, spring brings with it a wake up call as the trees start to stretch after their time of resting. Leaves start to gradually unfurl and they bear that beautifully crisp, vibrant and fresh lime green colour of new growth.

Spring Leaves

Spotlight on Spring

I love spring because everything is new and crisp and clean. I guess it is partly because everything seems quite barren and bare during the cold months so gradually as the trees wipe the sleepy dust from their eyes there is rebirth in the air. This has a psychological effect as we look forward to brighter days and wonderful walks in the warm sunshine again. The whole process speaks of new life as nature goes through its natural cycle. And our lives do the same.

Spring Greens

The Forest Puts on its New Coat

Spring is something that poets have waxed lyrical about for centuries. Shakespeare states, “When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim, Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing” – isn’t that just about right, a spirit of youth? And Billy Collins describes it as feeling like “taking a hammer to the glass paperweight on the living room end table, releasing the inhabitants from their snow-covered cottage”. As everything, including us, breaks out from the icy clutches of winter it is released again to blossom and bloom. And who can forget Tennyson’s words, “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” It is an awakening.

And it is not only poets who are inspired, composers of music have been inspired by this season for generations. Just listen to Vivaldi’s Spring from the Four Seasons, or Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony which was surely written in spring – just listen for the cuckoo. Bach’s Awake Thou Wintry Earth sums up this whole feeling of new life. The list is endless.

In the Green

Fresh Greens Beside the Path

In my garden, I have quite a few foliage plants and I like the evergreen ones that give me colour in the winter months. But I think the ones I like best are the Euonymus Emerald and Gold’s which in spring become almost bright yellow with their fresh foliage. Bright and beautiful to herald in the new season!

That’s not to say of course that all new spring growth is green as we shall see later! But there is nothing like the vibrant, verdant vegetation of spring with its message of new hope and new birth.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is – 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 – Dorset in Spring Part 2

25 Apr

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

Imagine taking a walk that took in fields of golden rape followed by woodlands carpeted with bluebells. What could be better and what could give a clearer sign that spring is here, especially if you hear a cuckoo as well. Well this was just such a walk.

In the Bluebell Woods

Among the Bluebells

A Gnarly Tree

Having left the rape fields behind, for the time being at least, I headed for a series of woodlands that I knew would be carpeted with bluebells. In fact, some woodlands were more advanced than others in terms of the density of bluebells, possibly because of their position and how sunny the aspect was.

The picture above was actually taken in quite a small area of woods but the flowers were quite thickly spread and the trees had a lovely coating of new spring foliage which always helps the overall picture. Bluebells, as with rape, are quite difficult to photograph well because they rarely make a good picture on their own. To be effective, a picture needs a focal point and in this case, I chose that rather lovely gnarly tree – but then, I’m a big fan of trees!

In the Bluebell Woods

Ah, Beautiful Lichen

One of the other things I love is that wonderful vibrant green lichen that often coats trees or fence posts. To me, it always adds something to any picture.

Now there is a problem with bluebell fields, and that is people! Well, some people anyway because so often when you walk through these beautiful woodlands, you find all the bluebells trampled down. I’m actually not sure who is responsible for this ‘vandalism’, for that surely is what it is. I guess photographers might be partly to blame as they are always looking for a better viewpoint but I like to think that it is not down to those who are more experienced or to nature photographers. Surely they would respect the countryside code.

Of course, children love to run through bluebell woods, as of course do dogs…..well, and wild animals. In truth, it is probably down to a variety of reasons but it is really sad to see these lovely flowers crushed and ruined by careless feet, whoever they belong to! It is because of this that it is always great to come across a less well known woodland which is unspoilt.

Just to finish this series of bluebell pictures, I have included one below that I took last year. This is a good example of timing being critical because I visited these same woods on this walk and the flowers are not fully open yet. The problem is, leave it too late and they will be past their best.

In the Bluebell Woods

An Amazing Carpet

Sometimes I think, ‘Does the world need yet another bluebell picture?’ but then I walk through a woods and the camera immediately comes out. They are just hard to resist, and so amazing to see, so I think, yes, the world can’t have too many bluebell pictures 🙂 !

If you haven’t yet got out amongst the bluebells, I would urge you to put it at the top of your to-do list. Just find a log to sit on and drink in the scene before you. I reckon its hard to be stressed in a field of these lovely spring flowers that bless us each year without fail.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is – 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.

If you go down in the woods…..

3 Mar

If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise…..or perhaps not so much of a surprise really!

At the end of the day with the sun slowly sinking towards her bed in the west, I paid a visit to a small woodland near to me and it was a magical, mystery tour, a garden of delights, with the late sun slanting through gaps in the trees, spotlighting all those wonderful shapes, textures and sounds.


A magical, mystery tour at sunset

The path to the woods was flooded with light, blinding light, and I had the place to myself. This was a cold, crisp winter evening and the dog walkers had long gone to their warm and comfortable firesides, but this was a night to be out.


Tangled Stems!

The low angled sun has a way of bringing out the twisted but beautiful shapes created by trees growing around trees, trunks around trunks. You almost feel that they might suddenly lift their roots and start walking like some grotesque monster that only comes alive at dusk. Grotesque and beauty blend together in nature.


Twisted Trunks

Clumps gather together like little cliques, each protective of their own patch, keeping their distance from their neighbours. They seem to huddle together to keep warm on this chilliest of evenings.



They congregate for a tete a tete and the evening breeze rustling through the branches above mimics their whispered words, words that don’t need to be understood, just enjoyed. They stand like night-watchmen clustered around a fire to keep warm, with the glow of the flames lighting their bark.


Tete a Tete

All around are the sounds of the day’s end. The last songs from serenading songbirds, the echoing caws of the rooks that seems to typify this time of year, the barking of a distant dog, the eerie cry of an owl about to set out to look for his evening meal, the far away faint lowing of cattle long since tucked up in their comparatively warm barns.

This is a lonely place, and the plaintive sounds of nightfall emphasise that feeling, that lovely feeling, of being alone in a wilderness, surrounded by wildlife. I feel like I am intruding, disturbing the night who is going about his business of wrapping up the day.


Bark and Creeper

Above me, the trees creak as the breeze bends the boughs, and the branches clatter together like deer locking antlers in their quest to be king of the herd. Below, the faint rustle of leaves as night beetles burrow, foraging for food.

These are gentle sounds of things that are in no hurry – nature never hurries. It seems to contrast starkly with our own normal busy, rushing lives. I wonder if we ever really need to rush, but somehow people find a comfort in rushing in a way that nature never does.


In the Spotlight

The light slants across bark, highlighting the amazing textures and throwing long shadows from tiny creepers striving to scale the vertical cliff face. Occasional bright green leaves stand out, revelling in the last light.

A Little Bit of Green

A Little Bit of Green

In the distance, the sun busts through another gap and translucent leaves glow briefly. Far off trees stand to attention, their silhouettes appearing as prison bars. Ah, but this is no prison, this is freedom, spectacular freedom, awesome freedom, and on this night, all for my enjoyment. I wonder why others aren’t there to witness these beautiful sights.



But ultimately, regretfully, I too must leave this paradise. The sun is now nearly gone. The Old Man’s Beard will soon be gathering frost as the night air chills even more. When the sun finally ends his day’s work, the cold will really descend like a frozen blanket on the land.


Bearded Sunset

I leave the woods behind and make my way home, lost in my thoughts, and changed in some small way from the experience. But I know I shall come again soon, and the woods will be waiting for me expectantly.

Thanks for stopping by and for joining me on this wonderful evening.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler


If you would like to contact me, my email address is – comments and feedback are welcomed.

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