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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

Leaves

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 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 – 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

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 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 – 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 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 – 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 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.

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.

P2100075-75

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.

P2100044-44

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.

P2100055-55

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.

P2100057-57

Clumps!

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.

P2100063-63

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.

P2100059-59

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.

P2100062-62

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.

P2100068-68

Sunburst

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.

P2100078-78

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

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – 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.

Of a short winter walk, spring sunshine, ancient paths and feathered friends

12 Jan

The year has not started well as unfortunately I went down with a horrible virus that has curtailed my walking somewhat. However, on this day, there was glorious sunshine – something that has been rarely seen over the British wet winter months. So despite feeling rough, I was determined to get out and enjoy a gentle stroll.

My walk started with one of those great Dorset sights, the famous and much photographed avenue of beech trees near Kingston Lacy. This avenue started life back in 1835 when trees were planted either side of what was then a turnpike or toll road that led to the mansion that was the home of William John Bankes. Bankes did not only own Kingston Lacy but seemingly half of Dorset, including Corfe Castle. There were originally 365 trees on one side of the road, one for each day of the year and 366 on the other for a leap year but sadly they are nearing the end of their life span and many have had to be removed.

The Avenue

The Beach Avenue

Part of the problem is that the trees and modern motorised traffic do not sit well together. These were planted in an age of more sedate forms of transport. In an effort to preserve this wonderful avenue however, the National Trust has planted a new avenue of hornbeams outside the original avenue. The new trees will provide similar autumn tones to the beech but are more suited to the current environment. It can never replicate the beauty of the beech and the cynical part of me thinks that they have been planted so far apart so that the road can be converted to a dual carriageway.

It is sad to think that these 180 year old trees may not be there much longer but for the time being at least, these magnificent elder statesmen can be enjoyed still.

The Old and the New

The Old and the New

It is possible to walk beside the avenue but the road is very busy and noisy with traffic so my route today takes me straight across the road and on up the hill towards my next historic landmark on this short walk. Following ancient trackways, my route takes me through farmland and past old cottages hidden in the trees. I often wonder what it would be like to live in these remote dwellings that seem so idyllic on a beautiful sunny day such as this. Certainly there are views to be enjoyed, but much more besides…..

The Farm Track

The Farmstead

Photography and blogging have secondary benefits – they make you think about your surroundings and notice things you might otherwise just walk past like the picture below. A small remnant of autumn leaves picked out by the sunshine with its shadow being cast on the trunk of the tree – somehow that tiny detail grabs my attention as the branch, and its shadow, gently sways in the breeze, an ever changing picture.

Leaf, Branch, Trunk and Shadow

Leaf, Branch, Trunk and Shadow

Before long, I reach my next historic landmark, Badbury Rings. This ancient hill fort dating from the Iron Age was developed in two phases, with the second phase virtually doubling its size. Its ramparts form an almost perfect circle and although it is only 100 metres above sea level, there are glorious views all around. The picture below was taken at a slight dogleg in one of the ramparts and shows the well known Point to Point course surrounding the brown field below and beyond that, the now disused Tarrant Rushton Airfield.

The latter mentioned was built during the Second World War and its main action during that conflict was to be the take off point for troop and tank carrying gliders heading for France, towed by planes. After the war its main purposes were the development of drones and the conversion of planes for in-flight refuelling. It officially closed in 1980 and has been returned to agriculture, although its old hangers and some of the runways are still visible.

Walking the Ramparts

View from the Ramparts

There is nothing better than a walk around the full circle of one of the ramparts. Being exposed, the walk is always bracing and there are views in all directions. Once part of the Kingston Lacy Estate, this hill fort is now owned, along with the house itself, and indeed Corfe Castle mentioned earlier, by the National Trust and it is a popular  walking area. There is always a great feeling of spaciousness and freedom which I love.

Walking the Ramparts

Rampart Walk

Around the hill fort itself there are areas of ancient woodland and a stroll through these trees is always rewarding. In the spring there will be bluebells aplenty and there are piles of rotting wood, a haven for bugs of all kinds as well as lichen and fungi. I walked through these woods surrounded by a myriad long tailed tits and these are always a delight to watch as they frolic together like happy children just out of school. I spotted a tree creeper running up the bark of the tree nearest me – these often join with groups of tits. Winter is a good time of year to spot birds such as this as the bare trees make them so much easier to spot.

The Log Pile

Rotting Log Pile

All too soon, it was time to make my way home. I love watching birds, or indeed wildlife of any kind, even if it is just the humble robin or long tailed tit, but my constant coughing tends to give my presence away! I made my way down the path in the picture below and crossed the avenue once again.

Through the Shrubbery

The Way Home

This was such a great walk even if it was so short. Just to be out in the sunshine after so many wet, grey days was invigorating and I made my way home a happy man. There is just so much to be enjoyed in this amazing county that I call home.

Thank you for walking this way with me. Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – 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.

A Spring Walk on an Autumn Day

21 Nov

I am sat at my desk today listening to the rain falling yet again against my window and thinking back to sunnier days and the great walking I have been able to do again this year, and I decided that I would blog a walk that I did in the spring. This will be a virtual spring walk on a dull autumn day and I hope you will enjoy it with me!

The walk started on the high North Dorset downs on a hill known as Spreadeagle Hill….although there are no eagles here! The views across the valley with villages nestling beneath the downs are fantastic and there are many paths to choose from. The path below with its distant views always looks inviting but today, I ignored it.

Spreadeagle View

Great views from Speadeagle Hill

I chose instead the route that leads out across Compton Down, but first I had to walk the narrow path beside the road. This was a surprisingly beautiful path that was lined with Cow Parsley on both sides and with distant views across to the hilltop town of Shaftesbury. My walk would take me there and back.

Flower Strewn Path

Flower Strewn Path

After a short distance, I left the road and made my way over Compton Down. This is a wonderful grassy path that is easy to walk which means that you can take in all the views without fearing that you might trip over some rock – it is what I call a ‘bare foot path’ because you could easily kick off your boots and walk bare footed which is a rare pleasure.

Passing over the hilltop and dropping down into what I call ‘the saddle’, I was amazed by the awesome display of beautiful, bright buttercups and I used my iPhone panorama facility to capture the scene. It was truly glorious on this spring day with just a gentle breeze, bright sunshine and soaring skylarks.

On Melbury Hill

On Compton Down

I felt almost guilty treading across the flowers, as if I was trampling roughshod across someone’s garden but the path goes that way. Reaching the bottom of my ‘saddle’, I turned and headed down the hillside through a field of sheep towards the village of Melbury Abbas – such a great Dorset name – and headed towards the village church. I always find that churches are good for lunch stops as they invariably have benches in the churchyard and places to shelter if its raining. This was far too early for lunch though! I stopped for a snack anyway, and gazed at the beautiful valerian growing out of the wall.

St Thomas' Church, Melbury Abbas

St Thomas’ Church, Melbury Abbas

The church stands high on the hillside and below it is an interesting path that climbs down the steep embankment to the road that runs through the village. The path is usually overgrown now through lack of use but I love walking it because you almost get a sense of ancient times and the people who once walked it regularly as they made their way to worship on a sunday morning. Those would have been the days when villagers could safely walk through the village – with the increase in traffic, the village has now become a very busy rat run on the route from Blandford to Shaftesbury. But on this day, I knew there would be no traffic!

There's a Path in there Somewhere

There’s a Path in there Somewhere

Walking through the village today was a rare pleasure thanks to the local authority. You see, the road leaves the village and makes its way up the hill through a Dorset Holloway known as Dinas Hollow. Two years ago the local authority closed the road to traffic because the steep sides had become unstable and were in danger of collapsing. I think the villagers must have thought all their birthdays had come at once to have the road clear after many years of traffic thundering along this very narrow lane and headlights blazing in through their windows at night. Now all was silent – it was like a deserted village!

Never would you normally risk walking this road, it would be far too dangerous as even heavy trucks use this route. This was a pleasure that I was going to enjoy on this day, and Melbury Abbas is a village that does reward anyone who takes the trouble to walk its lanes as it is totally unspoilt and uncommercialised.

As a footnote, the local authority has since re-opened the road having carried out very little work apart from trimming a few trees, albeit with some traffic management in place.

The Empty Road

The Empty Road – Dinas Hollow

Climbing up through Dinas Hollow with its steep sides and overhanging trees was a delight. I have driven up this ‘tunnel’ thousands of times without really having a chance to look around – this was a chance to linger and look and I made the most of it.

Reaching the next village, East Melbury, I passed an interesting old cottage going by the name of The Old Glyn Arms. The names of these old cottages, and indeed roads, always intrigue me as they often convey something of their history. This one certainly did. It was built in the 17th century and was once the village pub but it was converted to a private house in the 1950’s. Once again, I wondered about the people who had frequented this lovely old thatched building – who were they and what would they be like if you could meet them today? So much history in a single cottage!

The Old Glyn Arms

The Old Glyn Arms

Leaving East Melbury, I struck out cross country passing a much more modern development on the way, in the shape of a new pipeline. This pipeline runs for several miles and is being laid to improve the water supply between Blandford and Shaftesbury. It seemed to be carving up so much of the countryside and the bright blue pipes were so garish echoing the colour of the sky but I knew from experience that in a year or two you will not even know that the pipeline exists because nature will have reclaimed its own.

The Pipeline

The Pipeline

On this pathway, there was in any event plenty of nature’s own to be enjoyed with a wonderful array of campions and cow parsley to enjoy. The pipeline was soon forgotten.

Campion

Campion

Campion

The Lush Green Hills

The Lush Green Hills

There was plenty of evidence of farming too with haymaking already taking place, making the most of a warm dry spell. As a photographer, I do love the lines that farming often creates through the crops.

Haymaking

Haymaking

When I plan my walks, I always try to include a village or two because I really enjoy walking through these old hamlets and looking at the cottages and cottage gardens. This one was no exception and I soon reached another delightful hamlet with an array of spring flowers both in and outside of the gardens. Wisteria climbing up the wall of an old cottage, and garden walls laden with spring plants seemings growing out of the stone.

Wisteria

Wisteria

The Garden Wall

The Cottage Garden Wall

At the top of the lane leading out of this settlement I came across what looked like snow covering the ground. This was in fact seeds from poplars, a myriad tiny cotton wool pieces of fluff that have been blown under the nearby shrubs. There was something beautiful and spellbinding about this simple thing.

Like Snow

Like Snow

I climbed up onto the ridge and dropped down the other side through a dense woodland and along yet another Dorset Holloway. This sunken path, worn by centuries of hooves and feet being surrounded by an ageing forest had an air of mystery about it as they so often do.

A Dorset Holloway

A Dorset Holloway

Soon, I came out onto open parkland at Wincombe Park, with its magnificent home high on the hillside overlooking a once beautiful lake. This area is now working farmland but it still had all the marks of stately home parkland with carefully planted trees and once well manicured lawns.

Wincombe Park

Wincombe Park

Passing through the woods that surround the park there was a lovely contrast in the spring foliage with autumnal tones of the copper beach trees standing out strongly against the fresh green leaves of other species. It was a delight to the eyes and the path itself must have been a delight to the nose too, being lined as it was with wild garlic in full flow. The latter was lost on me unfortunately as I have no sense of smell but I could appreciate the view.

Foliage

Foliage

Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic

I reached Shaftesbury, the hilltop town we saw in the distance earlier and I made my way through the town, walking down its most famous and much photographed street, Gold Hill. This wonderful cobbled street with its old cottages on one side and even older abbey wall on the other is always a pleasure to walk down. The views across the surrounding countryside are wonderful and the whole scene is picture postcard perfect. No wonder it is so popular. Normally I eat my lunch somewhere out in the country with a view to enjoy but today I made an exception. I ate my lunch in town, sat on a seat enjoying the view below.

Gold Hill

Gold Hill

I was fortunate to have walked down Gold Hill on such a quiet day but it was time to move on and I left the town and headed out across the meadows, accompanied by birds, butterflies and bees. We shared the enjoyment of the meadow together and I have to say I lingered a long time in these lovely surroundings. Well, as the poet said, ‘What is life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’! I stood and I stared! In the distance I could see my next objective, Melbury Hill.

Meadows

Meadows

Coming out of the other side of the meadow, I crossed the stile below and dropped down onto a very quiet country lane. With the dappled light filtering through the trees, even the stile with its embankment below was picturesque.

The Stile

The Stile

Over the next two miles, I passed three old mills that were once driven by the now small stream that runs though the valley bottom. Two of these are now private dwellings and the other has been modified but is still a working mill. The Domesday Book in fact describes five working mills within one mile, all being driven by the River Sturkel, a tributary of the larger River Stour – indeed the name Sturkel is thought to mean Little Stour.

Cann Mill, the one remaining working mill, continues to produce flour by old methods and even now is driven partly by water power. The building itself was sadly damaged by fire in 1950 and had to be rebuilt but its popularity continues thanks to the thriving artisan bakery movement in Dorset. Purchased by Norman Stoates in 1947, the current owner is the fifth generation of that family operating the business. It is very much part of history that still operates and serves the community today.

My easy walk along the valley bottom stream eventually ended and I turned to climb out of the valley, clambering up the steep side of Melbury Beacon. Once again, the views were amazing and I stopped often to look back across the valley towards Shaftesbury.

Across the Valley

Across the Valley

On Melbury Hill

On Melbury Hill

Once again I found myself amongst the buttercups which were also littered with other wild flowers such as Red Clover. Even an old water trough provided some interest with the skeleton of a leaf floating amongst other debris. There is beauty even in decay!

Red Clover and Buttercups

Red Clover and Buttercups

Leaf Skeleton

Leaf Skeleton

I was now reaching the end of my walk and I dropped down off the hill into my ‘saddle’ that I passed earlier in the morning. I could almost imagine a giant sitting astride this hill with a leg in each valley as if he was on some giant horse. The sun had now faded and in the evening light, I enjoyed once again walking on my ‘bare foot path’ with a lush carpet of gold at my feet. Even the best carpet manufacturer could not better this.

Melbury Hill and Compton Down

Melbury Hill and Compton Down

There was no-one around as I crossed Compton Down for the second time, save for a few nosy cows who were interested in what I was doing there. We passed the time of day!

Nose!

Nose!

What a delightful walk this was and reviewing it on this grey, wet autumn day has brightened things up. Wonderful walking, amazing views, lush countryside, interesting villages, and memories to take carry me.  I hope you have enjoyed walking it with me.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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