Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 9

13 Apr

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

My ninth quirky thing about Dorset is in fact a natural phenomenon that occurs in various places and in various conditions throughout the world, and we have one such place right here in Dorset. This phenomenon is known as Beach Cusps.

Beach Cusps

Beach cusps occur in places along the coast and are patterns on the beach consisting of regularly shaped small ‘bays’ separated by horns of higher sand or shingle which point out to sea. They are most noticeable as the tide washes in and out with the surf separating into tongues as it washes up into the ‘bays’. This gives the appearance of cog wheel teeth. On the Dorset coast, Man o’ War Bay is a good place to spot them.

Man o' War Bay

Beach Cusps

The cause of Beach Cusps is something that has been debated for 50 years with no definite resolution. There are two main schools of thought. One suggests that they are caused by the action of two sets of waves coming together, the main waves coming into shore and secondary waves that are created and run across the shoreline. It is the meeting of these two opposing forces that creates the cusps. The second school of thought suggests that any beach has natural undulations and the effect of the waves on these exaggerates and evens out these undulations, making them more regular.

Man o' War Bay

Man o’ War Bay with St Oswald’s Bay Beyond

Whichever theory is right, the phenomenon tends to occur on steeper beaches of coarser material such as shingle and grit, and where the waves are reasonably sizeable. Usually the cusps are a few meters long as in these at Man o’ War Bay, but they can be much larger. And once they are there, they become self sustaining as the waves continue to drive the coarser material onto the horns and then erode the finer material of the ‘bays’ as they flow out again. I think the picture below gives a fairly clear illustration of this.

Man o' War Bay

Horns and Bays Clearly Defined at Man o’ War Bay

I find the effect of these Beach Cusps fascinating. It is not something that you see everywhere and even along this part of the Dorset coast they are not evident in many bays. It seems almost as if Man o’ War Bay has something unique about it which allows these to form. As you can see in the middle picture, even the next bay along, St Oswald’s Bay, doesn’t have them.

Now that’s quirky 🙂 !

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 8

12 Apr

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

Continuing on the theme of ‘Quirky Dorset’, today we feature something rude 🙂 ! This is ancient graffiti, a hillside carved up, and X-rated to boot! This is the world famous Cerne Abbas Giant.

The Cerne Abbas Giant

The Cerne Giant

The Cerne Abbas Giant

This figure carved in the hillside above Cerne Abbas is shrouded in mystery……actually, maybe he should be shrouded in a cloak 🙂 ! There is considerable divergence of opinion on where he came from and how old he is, as well as why he is pictured thus!

Some say he is ancient with opinions varying between Saxon, Roman, Celtic and so on but in fact the first mention of him dates from the 17th century. That doesn’t mean he is not older, just that there is no documentary evidence. He stands 55 meters (180 feet) tall and almost as wide and he wields a club which itself is 37 meters (121 feet) long. His…….um, how shall I put it…….’manhood’ is 11 meters (36 feet) long. Studies over the years have shown that he once had a cloak draped over his left arm and that he possibly held or stood over a severed head but these features, if they were ever there, have been lost to erosion.

Again, there is much divergence of opinion on who he represents. Some say he is the Roman god Hercules, some say he is a Celtic god since a similar picture was found on a skillet handle at a nearby hill fort, others say that he could be a parody of Oliver Cromwell and that he was carved during the English Civil War. In truth, we shall probably never know and perhaps that is a good thing because maybe the mystery that surrounds him just adds to the intrigue.

On Giant Hill

The View from Giant Hill

Naturally, there is always a bit of folklore around such things 🙂 ! It has been said that he marks the outline of a real giant, possibly from Denmark, who was beheaded by brave locals as he slept on the hillside. And of course there is folklore around fertility, such as the belief that making love whilst laying on one particular part of his anatomy can cure infertility……….the mind boggles! Oh, and of course, he gets up now and then and walks to the stream at the bottom of the valley for a drink. Well, its thirsty work laying on a hillside 🙂 !

Now, to be contentious for a moment! If this were modern and was carved anywhere, or if a piece of graffiti was drawn like this, there would be a public outcry and undoubtedly the local authority would obscure the offending image quicker than you could say, ‘The young people of today’! So how come this one is perfectly acceptable? One wonders what would happen if a graffiti artist was up in court for producing lewd images and pleaded the acceptance of the Cerne Abbas Giant as a defence 🙂 ! In fact, in 1921 someone raised this issue, possibly a bit tongue in cheek, and his suggestion that part should be covered with a giant leaf gained some support, ultimately going all the way to the Home Office. Their reaction was that since the giant is an ancient monument, it could not be interfered with!

So that is the Cerne Abbas Giant, which I think fits the description of quirky 🙂 ! All things aside though, this is real Dorset history and the giant resides on a beautiful Dorset hillside where you will find some great walking and some fabulous views. Always worth a visit……..but probably don’t try the so called fertility cure, you might get arrested 🙂 !

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 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 – Dorset Hills with a View Part 5

8 Apr

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

For the fifth ‘Hill with a View’ this week, we are coming back to the Purbecks, in fact to the highest point in the Purbecks, and some fabulous views to go with it. Today, we feature Swyre Head……but have a care, there are two!

Swyre Head

Across the Encombe Valley

Swyre Head Viewed from Houns Tout

Swyre Head stands at 208 meters (682 feet) above sea level at its highest point, and its highest point is on the top of the Bronze Age bowl barrow that sits atop it. This barrow is some 25 meters in diameter and has been modified to flatten the top. A large square stone slab surmounts this suggesting that it was once used as a windmill mound. It is thought that these modifications might have been made by Lord Eldon who owned Encombe House in the valley below back in the 19th century.

Swyre Head stands some half a mile inland of the coast path, not far from the village of Kingston. There is a second headland bearing the same name 11 miles to the west. In the picture above, our Swyre Head is the headland to the right which slopes steeply down to the cliff top.

Swyre Head View

The View Towards Kimmeridge and Mupe

The views from this hill are just fantastic, stretching to Kimmeridge Bay and beyond that to Mupe Bay in the west. To the east, there are equally spectacular views across the Encombe valley to St Aldhelm’s Head. This beautiful bowl shaped valley with its old manor house sitting at the bottom was once owned by Lord Eldon and changed hands just a few years ago for a sum nearing £25M.

The Encombe Valley,

The Encombe Valley

One of the strange things about Swyre Head is that it was once a Marilyn (a hill with a prominence of at least 150 meters), having been promoted in 1999, but it was demoted again from that list in June 2015. Clearly the hill hasn’t changed so I can only assume that more modern measuring techniques have changed its perceived prominence, which is now quoted as 148.3 meters.  The headland is therefore now a Sub-Marilyn, a category of hills aimed at those falling just below Marilyn status. It is of course also a HuMP and a TuMP!

Heaven's Gate

Heaven’s Gate

Whilst we are on the subject of hill classifications incidentally, we have this week only covered a fraction of the categories that exist. In the UK there are Munros, Murdos, Corbetts, Grahams, Donalds, Furths, Hewitts, Nuttalls, Wainwrights, Birketts, Marilyns, Simms, Deweys, Hardys, HuMPs, TuMPs, Sub-Marilyns, Sub-HuMPs, etc etc….. The list goes on! I said at the beginning of the week that it was complicated 🙂 !

Walking west from Swyre Head brings you to a gate bearing the name ‘Heaven’s Gate’. As you stand on this headland on a beautiful day such as this, with those views, and with the sound of skylarks singing and sheep bleating, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were indeed in heaven. It seems appropriate to end this week’s theme on this point.

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 – Dorset Hills with a View Part 4

6 Apr

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

Continuing the theme of ‘Hills with a View’, this one is slightly different. With this hill, you are much more likely to see pictures taken of it rather than from it. It is a hill that is small in stature and yet has charisma in spade loads. This is Colmer’s Hill.

Colmer’s Hill

Colmer’s Hill is in West Dorset near Bridport and it is diminutive in size, rising to not much more than 400 feet. And yet it is a hill that has a special affection amongst local residents and those farther afield. This hill has inspired artists and photographers for generations and it is an iconic landmark. It is hard to define why it is so popular. It could be its near perfect conical shape wherever it is viewed from. It could be its rounded top with that distinctive clump of Caledonian Pine trees. Whatever the reason, this is a hill that appears in many photographs, often with its head pushing up out of a mist filled valley.

Colmers Hill

Colmer’s Hill from the North

Its name was originally Sigismund’s Berg, after a Viking chieftain who rather liked it, Berg being Norwegian for hill. In fact the village in the valley below the hill was also named after the same chieftain although over the years, Sigismund’s Berg mutated to become Symondsbury. Sigismund landed with a raiding party near Bridport and it is said that the beacon at the top of the hill was burning at the time.

Colmer's Hill View

Symondsbury Viewed from Colmer’s Hill

The name the hill now bears is after the Colmer family who lived in the area in the 17th and 18th century – Rev John Colmer was Rector in the early 1800’s. It does have other names, being known sometimes by children as Pudding Basin Hill, for obvious reasons. It is also known affectionately by The Dorset Rambler as Clump Hill – for some reason I just have a blank spot when it comes to remembering the name Colmer’s 🙂 !

Colmer's Hill

Colmer’s Hill from the West

The Caledonian Pines that top the hill were planted during WW1 by the Colfox family who then owned the land. There is no official footpath to the top of the hill, although there is a permissive path which you can see in the picture above.

Although it might be difficult to come up with specific reasons, it is easy to understand the affection people have for this delightful little hill. It is so distinctive, and can be seen for miles around. There is an accessible friendliness about it. Whenever I walk or drive in West Dorset and I see Colmer’s Hill, it is just like meeting an old friend.

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 – Dorset Hills with a View Part 3

5 Apr

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

So, this week, we are considering iconic Dorset hills, hills that have amazing views and which just seem to typify Dorset. And today’s fits the bill well, and has a strange name to boot! This is Nine Barrow Down.

Nine Barrow Down

On Nine Barrow Down

Nine Barrow Down with Swanage in the Distance

Nine Barrow Down rises to 199 meters (653 feet) and is part of the Purbeck chalk ridge that stretches some 15 miles from Old Harry Rocks in the east to Lulworth Cove in the west. This ridge itself is part of a much larger system of chalk downlands that stretches across Southern England. Nine Barrow Down sits part way along the ridge with flatter land on either side giving spectacular views all along its length.

Walking the Purbeck Ridge

The View Across Poole Harbour

These views stretch all across Poole Harbour to the north, and across the Purbeck valley to the Dorset coast in the south. In the picture below, you can see the Purbeck Ridge stretching away into the distance.

Down a Purbeck Valley

The View to the South

So, why the unusual name of Nine Barrow Down? Well it has been given that name simply because there are said to be nine barrows, or burial mounds, along the ridge. These are mainly Bronze Age round barrows together with one Neolithic long barrow. The number is something that I have never been able to prove because whilst some barrows are obvious, others, due to erosion, are not. In fact I have read that there were probably double that number although it is possible that there were just the nine on the ridge top with the others being elsewhere on the downs.

The Barrows

Nine Barrow Down

One of the problems with this ancient barrow cemetery is that riders, both bike and horse, and walkers will often follow a route over the top of the barrows, causing even more erosion. In an effort to prevent this, some wattle fencing was erected for a time. This was intended to keep people to the footpath but I am not sure it worked terribly well.

The gold of evening

Evening on the Downs

In addition to the barrows, this ridge is also a great place to spot wildlife. There are butterflies aplenty, with species such as Adonis Blue and Common Blue inhabiting this area, and of course the ever present skylarks which for me just typify summer.

Common Blue

Common Blue

Nine Barrow Down, and in fact the whole Purbeck Ridge, has a very special place in my heart as I have walked it all my life since I was a young child. It is just a beautiful place with miles of great walking, many grassy ‘bare foot’ paths, and fantastic views. Because the paths are generally smooth, it is a place where you can walk and take in the views at the same time without fear of losing your footing, and that is always welcome.

So where does Nine Barrow Down fit in with the hill classifications that we have talked about in previous posts? Well it is actually a Marilyn, which is defined as a mountain or hill having a prominence of at least 150 meters (492 feet) regardless of its overall height. The reason for the name Marilyn is simply a pun on the famous Munro’s of Scotland. The latter all have an overall height of 914 meters (3,000 feet) so lots of Munro’s will also be Marilyns, making them Marilyn Munro’s!!

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.