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Theme for the Week – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 5

22 Apr

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

Just one final ruined Dorset church for this week and this is one to which the term ‘ruined’ can very definitely be applied! It has had quite a past and there has been some determination shown by the community to keep it going but eventually the battle was lost. This is St Andrew’s Church on the Isle of Portland.

St Andrew’s Church, Portland

St Andrew's Church

The Ruins of St Andrew’s Church, Portland

St Andrew’s Church stands, or rather stood, on the headland above Church Ope Cove. It was built in 1100 by the Benedictine Monks of St Swithin of Winchester who had had the whole of Portland bestowed on them by Edward the Confessor, and it was built on what was believed to be the site of a rather grand Saxon church.

The first damage to the ‘new’ church occurred in the 13th century when a fire broke out. It was rebuilt. Then twice, in 1340 and 1404, French raiders tried to destroy the church by setting fire to it, and twice again it was rebuilt. This was only the start of its problems however!

The doorway to nowhere!

The Old Doorway

Over the years, a detached tower was added and after a landslip caused damage in the 17th century, efforts were made to shore up the hillside on which it was built. Forty years later, there was a further large landslip which caused yet more damage. This was like fighting a losing battle and after yet another landslip in 1735, known as the Great Southwell Landslip and the second largest in Britain, half the graveyard slid down the hillside.

Some 20 years later, the decision was finally taken to close the church and to build a new one in the centre of Portland, part of it being demolished to provide stone for houses. However, this still wasn’t the end for this church as yet more damage was caused by bombing during WW2.

The smuggler's grave

The ‘Pirate’ Graves

One of the interesting features that remain are the so called pirates graves. Popular belief has it that these are graves of pirates because they bear the skull and crossbones but this is in fact not necessarily the case since it was fairly common practice to carve these emblems simply as a sign of death.

That’s not to say that there was no involvement with bad things along this coast as undoubtedly smuggling was an activity that would have taken place here, and the church was always under threat from foreign pirates.

Light of the world

The Light of the World

St Andrew’s Church stood on a beautifully rugged part of the Dorset coast and did its best to withstand attacks from above and below but ultimately the fight against erosion was one it couldn’t win. It is interesting that Portland is comprised of some of the best limestone rock that features in many of the UK’s major structures such as The Cenotaph in London, St Paul’s Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace. In fact, Portland is synonymous with the quarrying of solid, good quality rock. So maybe this church was just built in the wrong 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.

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 – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 4

21 Apr

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

Today we are looking at another ruined Dorset church, but this is one that doesn’t appear ruined until you look at its history. This just looks like a small village church but in reality, it is only half of a church standing in a village that now has two. But what happened to the rest of it and why is there now two? This is Fleet Church.

Fleet Church

Moonfleet Church

Fleet Church

Fleet is a small straggling village that sits near the banks of the brackish lagoon that shares its name. Across the other side of the water is the famous 18 mile long Chesil Beach, a long and narrow tract of shingle, and beyond that, the open sea. This was once the village’s sole church and it was built around the 15th century. Life went on as normal until one day in 1824 when everything changed!

Fleet Church

Fleet Church with its Small Cemetery

In November 1824, a huge storm blew up at sea, creating massive waves. The waves crashed onto Chesil Beach with such ferocity that despite the shingle bank being some 50 feet high, they breached the defences and swept inland, hitting the villages of Fleet, Chiswell, and other places farther along the coast. The devastation was huge with numerous cottages being destroyed or damaged, and Fleet Church itself being all but destroyed. A local boy who witnessed the scene wrote some 73 years later:

“At six o’-clock on the morning of the 23rd I was standing with other boys by the gate near the cattle pound when I saw, rushing up the valley, the tidal wave, driven by a hurricane and bearing upon its crest a whole haystack and other debris from the fields below. We ran for our lives to Chickerell, and when we returned found that five houses had been swept away and the church was in ruins.”

What was left of the nave had to be demolished and what you see today is just the chancel which was renovated. This no longer acts as a church, having been deconsecrated, although it still contains several monuments to the Mohun family who lived in Fleet Manor in the 16th to the 18th century.

Fleet Church

Fleet Church Interior

As was common in those days, collections were held in churches up and down the country to raise funds to help the devastated community and a new church was completed in 1829. This stands farther inland in order to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy.

The Fleet and Chessil Beach

Looking Across Fleet Lagoon to Chesil Beach

The village of Fleet, its manor house, and its old church have been immortalised in J Meade Faulkner’s book Moonfleet which was published in 1898. Perhaps because of this, it is always intriguing to visit the ‘half’ church. As you stand there in that peaceful churchyard with just the gentlest of breezes and the cry of gulls, it is really hard to imagine the devastation of that fateful day in 1824. It never happened before and it has never happened since but this now tiny church stands as a monument to a day that changed many lives!

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 – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 3

20 Apr

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

Continuing our theme of ruined Dorset churches, and by that I mean churches that no longer fulfil their original purpose, we pay a visit today to a very beautiful little chapel in the Lyscombe Valley.

Lyscombe Chapel

Lyscombe Chapel

Lyscombe Chapel

This chapel stands in a broad and beautiful bowl of a valley which is surrounded by chalk downs. It is known as Lyscombe Bottom, the name Lyscombe coming from ‘lisc’ which is Saxon for reeds, and ‘coombe’ meaning valley. Running down through this valley is a small stream, a tributary of the River Piddle, and in front of the chapel, this stream broadens out to a sheep wash pool.

Lyscombe Chapel and Cottage

Lyscombe Chapel and Priest’s House from the Sheep Wash

Lyscombe is a tiny hamlet comprising very few buildings, including the chapel and beside it the ruined priest’s house. The chapel itself dates originally from the 12th century although it has been restored and rebuilt over the years. It was an out-chapel owned by Milton Abbey which is some 5 miles away, and was probably on a monastic route since it is half way between Milton Abbey and Cerne Abbey. This would once have been a stopover place for pilgrims. With the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Milton Abbey grounds were taken over by Henry VIII who passed them to Sir John Tregonwell, who in fact was heavily involved with the Dissolution on the king’s behalf.

The Priest's House, Lyscombe

The Ruined Priest’s House at Lyscombe

At some point, probably during the 17th century, the chapel was converted to a cottage and bake house, probably for farm workers. It was still in use in 1950 although it subsequently had to be protected by a Dutch Barn type building that was erected over it. It ultimately failed completely in the 1990’s when the roof collapsed. In the latter half of the 20th century, the cottage also became derelict.

Lyscome Chapel Interior

Lyscombe Chapel Interior

This was not the end of the story for this tiny chapel though because in 2005 funding was obtained by the then land owner for its restoration, with walls being renovated and a new thatched roof being fitted. Such was the quality of this restoration that it has been recognised with several awards. Sadly, the priests house was beyond repair so this was just made safe.

The Lyscombe Valley

The Lyscombe Valley from the Downs

Lyscombe is a magical place! The chapel retains much of its original charm and perhaps unusually has remained small and simple when most churches have been extended and enlarged over centuries. With the ruined Priest’s House standing beside it, this place has a real sense of history that conveys something of its purpose and heritage. It stands in the most beautiful surroundings, remote, with no roads running through, and just the gentle rippling of the stream and bleating of sheep for company.

It’s purpose has still not ended since Lyscombe Chapel now forms a community space and doubles as bunk house type accommodation for walkers. It seems to me that this is an appropriate use for it, restoring it to a stop over place, albeit for modern day ‘pilgrims’. It is just the loveliest place to spend some time and any walk is made richer for visiting this diminutive chapel in its idyllic setting.

Oh yes, and one more interesting fact – apparently the rent originally paid for this site was 12 fish per year!

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 – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 2

17 Apr

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

So, today we continue our theme of Dorset’s ruined churches, or at least, a selection of them. These are places that have impacted peoples’ lives for centuries but now for one reason or another are not able to extend that legacy. And today we are considering a strange, mysterious, and somewhat melancholy church, a church that some say is just the last of many that were built on the same site but disappeared overnight! Today we are looking at Knowlton Church.

Knowlton Church

Knowlton

Knowlton Church

The reason for my description above is not so much down to the church itself but rather its position, for this church was built in the centre of a Neolithic ritual henge earthwork. This has become known as Church Henge, a one time pagan worship centre complete with its circle of standing stones.

The church is of unknown dedication and so is a ‘church with no name’. It was built in the 12th century and is of flint and stone construction, with some of the stone said to come from the broken up standing stones. These days, it is very isolated but in its earlier days, it was the centre of a thriving community known as Knowlton Village. The village itself was decimated by the Black Death in the 15th century when all the villagers either died or left for pastures new. Even so, the church continued to be used for several hundred years until the roof collapsed in the 18th century.

Knowlton Church and earthworks

Knowlton Church and the Earthworks

 The area surrounding Knowlton Church is part of Cranborne Chase and is rife with ancient remains. Church Henge itself is just one of four earthworks in this immediate vicinity and surrounding these is one of the greatest clusters of round barrows in Dorset. This includes Great Barrow, which is the single largest round barrow in the county. In addition, the mysterious and largely unexplained Dorset Cursus, a 6 mile long ceremonial ‘road’, runs nearby. Plus of course there is the old village itself. Sadly, much of this history has been destroyed over the centuries to all but the expert eye by people looking for grave artefacts and by farming. However, if you take to the skies during a dry spell in summer when some of the grass is yellowing, many of these features reveal themselves again.

Of course, as with most places like this, it is said to be haunted! In fact, it is said to be the most haunted place in Dorset with people describing a horse and rider galloping right through the church, a nun kneeling and weeping, and faces appearing in the windows of the tower.

Knowlton Church

The Church Tower

However you look at Knowlton Church, it has an air of mystery and intrigue as well as a presence about it that nudges your curiosity to know more. It served the local community for centuries and certainly witnesses to the transition in this country from Paganism to Christianity. And it continues to do that. For me, this is a beautiful place, being isolated and surrounded by open countryside with birds and wild flowers in season.

Knowlton Church and earthworks

Wild Flowers at Knowlton

One small part of the church continues to serve in any event as the font stands inside a nearby Victorian chapel. In addition, a ‘Wishing Tree’ has somehow been created on the edge of the earthwork simply by word of mouth. This has all manner of objects such as ribbons, notes, scarves, prayers and so on hanging on it. This site still proves to be a draw to local people as well as those farther afield!

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 – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 1

16 Apr

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

Its that time again; time to start a new theme for the coming week, and our theme this week is Ruined Churches in Dorset. These are all remote and damaged in some way, some more so than others. But all have a magnificent heritage and have contributed to peoples’ lives down through the years. Its this impact on people’s lives that I like to celebrate even if the buildings are no longer used, because life is about people. Our first church stands on a high hill top like a beacon for all around – this is St Catherine’s Chapel.

St Catherine’s Chapel

The sun sets on St Catherine's Chapel

St Catherine’s at Sunset

St Catherine’s stands on a hilltop above Abbotsbury village. There are no records of its construction but it has been dated by experts to be from the 14th century, and it was built as a place of retreat and pilgrimage for monks from the Benedictine Abbotsbury Abbey that sat in the valley below. The hill on which it stands is some 260 feet high and there are fantastic views across Chesil Beach and Portland. Because of its prominent position, it was used as a navigation aid by seamen and it may be that this is why it still exists today because it was saved whilst the abbey itself was destroyed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century.

St Catherine's Chapel

St Catherine’s Chapel

The chapel is not unique but is one of very few that were built by monks outside of the main abbey grounds. It is constructed of this lovely golden coloured ashlar limestone and although it was renovated in both the 18th and 20th century, it is largely unchanged apart from the missing stained glass and interior furniture. This is a truly magnificent building with heavily buttressed walls that are 4 feet thick. Even the roof is constructed of stone. Both of these things have enabled it to stand up to the elements down through the centuries. It really does have a solid feel to it!

Peace

The East Window Minus Stained Glass

The chapel is dedicated to St Catherine which is a rare dedication. She was, though, a very popular figure in medieval times and she was the patron saint of spinsters, especially those seeking a husband (the Catherine Wheel firework was named after her because of the nature of her execution). Traditionally, young women would come to this chapel to pray to her for a husband and there are niches carved in the east jamb of the south doorway for the knees and hands especially for this purpose. These are known as ‘wishing holes’. One of the specific prayers goes:

“A husband St Catherine, a handsome one St Catherine, a rich one St Catherine, a nice one St Catherine, and soon St Catherine.” 

Often the prayer would end with, “Arn-a-one’s better than narn-a-one” which in Dorset dialect meant, ‘any one is better than never a one’.

On Chapel Hill

St Catherine’s on its Hilltop

St Catherine’s has a long heritage but it has still not been completely retired as some informal services are still held there on occasion. It also provides a good home for doves as you can see in the picture above and it is an amazing place to spend a few hours just drinking in the fabulous views.

It was built on its hilltop site to be impressive and some 700 years later, although semi derelict, it is still as impressive as ever!

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.

On the Wild Side – The Dorset Coast Path Day 3

10 Aug

The following morning at just after 5 am I was up and about. It must have been a warm night as the inside of the tarp was damp with condensation despite all the air movement that using a tarp allows. Next time, I’ll raise it higher so that there is even more space for ventilation.

The moon was still up and there was just a hint of pink in the sky – the sun was still in bed – and there was a slight sea mist across the bay. I wondered if the mist might account for the dampness of the tarp! It was a peaceful morning again as I sat having breakfast watching the light gradually grow.

4.30am

In the Early Morning Light

By the time I had finished breakfast, the sun had appeared and it threw the most beautiful light across the headland and across Golden Cap in the distance. It was a fleeting light that I had to make the most of so I tried to capture the unique early morning atmosphere as best I could. It was truly, truly beautiful and I felt totally inadequate to even try to capture either in words or in camera something of what it felt like that morning!

Sunrise on Stonebarrow

Sunrise on Stonebarrow

Early Morning View from Stonebarrow

Stonebarrow with Charmouth and Lyme Regis Across the Bay

I decided to try to get a view down into the valley that Charmouth sits in and leaving my gear where it was, I headed down the western slope of the headland in order to get clear of the trees and shrubbery that covered that side of the hill. I was very quickly treated to the most amazing sight, a cloud inversion that completely filled the valley below me and washed out to sea almost as if it was water running down a channel and spilling out at the end.

Charmouth Cloud Inversion

Charmouth in the Mist

On Stonebarrow

Dropping Down Lower

I wanted to get clear of the shrubbery so I dropped down further still in an effort to get some better shots although by the time I managed to get a clear view, I was a little too low. But still the sight was amazing!

Cloud inversions are caused when the temperature in the valley is lower than the temperature above causing the air in the valley to become denser. It is one of those awesome natural phenomena that creates beautifully atmospheric scenes……which of course photographers love.

Charmouth Cloud Inversion

Cloud Inversion

I was conscious that all my worldly possessions, well some of them, were still up on the headland so I headed back up the hill. The sun had by now risen fully, and the warmth had at least partially dried my tarp. The problem with wet equipment is that it weighs more but often when you are up and out on the trail early, you have no choice but to pack everything away still wet.

Cloud Inversion at Sea

Mist Rolls out to Sea

Wild Camp

My Drying Camp

Although I was reluctant to leave my headland, I wanted to see if I could get some more pictures so I quickly stowed my gear in my rucksack and headed back down the hill I had just climbed up. In the short time it had taken me to climb up and pack my things however, the mist in the valley had completely lifted. The River Char was totally clear and reflected the blue of the sky and beach huts beautifully. I wondered what this scene would have looked like had the cloud inversion lasted a little longer.

Charmouth

Blue

The next few miles were unfortunately the low point of this walk. Cliff erosion necessitated the coast path being closed many years ago so there is no choice but to walk through Charmouth and follow the main road most of the way over the next headland and down into Lyme Regis. The powers that be have tried to find more interesting paths and there are short stretches away from the road but overall it is not a great section.

It was again an extremely hot day and I stopped for a time in a small wooded section just to get some shade. It was something of a relief when I finally arrived at Lyme Regis sea front.

Lyme Regis Beach

Lyme Regis Seafront

I continued my usual pattern of following a snack breakfast with a more substantial brunch and stopped at a seafront eatery. The day was still young so there were not many people about in this normally popular resort and it was pleasantly relaxing sitting looking across the bay. Normally my route from here would take me around the bay and past the famous Cobb which I could see in the distance but on this occasion, my route was to take me inland.

Lyme Regis

Brunch

Leaving the coast, I followed the River Lim that winds its way down through the town past the old cottages and houses that line its banks. This is such a pleasant and interesting walk because it passes through the older part of the town before exiting into some beautiful woodlands. All the while, the gentle rippling of the stream was my ever present, and ever pleasant, company.

Lyme Regis

The River Lim

Part way through this wooded area, I passed Uplyme Mill, an 18th century textile mill with its overshot mill wheel still in place. It always amazes me how a little stream could be harnessed to provide sufficient power to drive the machinery that would have been within. These days of course it is silent and peaceful, its working life having long since ceased.

The Old Mill, Up Lyme

Uplyme Mill

Beyond the mill, and still climbing steadily up through the valley, I once again entered the woodland that was lit by the most beautiful dappled light. The stream still babbled along beside me as it made its gentle way down the route I had come up.

This was my third day without any opportunity to shower and I looked for a way of perhaps getting down into the stream to splash water over me in a crude form of bath, but unfortunately I could find nowhere suitable. My wash would have to wait till later!

A Walk in the Woods

Beautifully Dappled Woods

Eventually I cleared the mixed woodland and for a time I followed the road, catching sight of the old, disused Cannington Railway Viaduct in the distance. This was part of the Lyme Regis Branch line than ran down to the coast from Axminster main line station. The viaduct was built around 1900 using materials that were carried by ship to Lyme Regis harbour and then transferred by 1,000 foot cableway to the site. The line unfortunately fell fowl of the Beeching axe and was closed in 1965. So here I was some 51 years later having to walk inland to Axminster to pick up my train home as a result 🙂 !

Interestingly, there were proposals in 2002 to reopen the line as a narrow gauge railway so that the service to Lyme Regis could be re-instated, using some of the old track bed, but so far the plans have not come to fruition.

Holcombe Viaduct

Cannington Viaduct

I continued to climb, entering yet more woodlands and passing an interesting sign that read Prescott Pinetum. Carrying out some research later, I discovered that a pinetum is a plantation of pine trees and conifers for scientific or ornamental purposes. You learn something new every day 🙂 !

The final part of the walk was through a more recent conifer plantation, following wide gravel forestry tracks, not the most interesting scenery! And surprisingly, with the sun so high in the sky, with not much shade either! It was hot! From there, it was narrow country lanes to end my three day walk. I did pass one pretty sight over that last mile or two, and that was a pair of gates with the most delightful light filtering through the trees above. As a photographer, I am always looking for nice light!

The Gate

Beautiful Light

On reaching Axminster, the end of my three day pilgrimage, my first port of call was to a cafe for a cup of tea and some water to replenish my lost hydration! Then I walked to the church and sat on the grass in the shade of a tree and I had a ceremonial washing of my face, hands and feet. This felt as good as sitting in a spa bath in an expensive hotel – in fact, much better than a spa bath in an expensive hotel! I sat leaning against the tree just drying off naturally in the gentle, cooling breeze.

Welcome Relief

Ceremonial Washing

My final port of call and the one on which I ended this idyll before boarding my homeward bound train was to enter the church. Here, amongst other things, I gave thanks for the last three days and for the continued ability to walk these distances and the freedom that we enjoy in this country. I will always maintain an attitude of gratitude for comparatively good health, and especially that my ‘enemy’ Arthur Itis remains under control.

St Mary the Virgin, Axminster

Axminster Church

What a fantastic three days this has been. Glorious weather, awesome scenery, amazing wild camping spots, fabulous walking and another all round great experience. Writing this blog just brings back all the wonderful memories I have and I consider myself truly blessed!

Thanks for walking this way with me – I hope you have enjoyed it and that I have conveyed something of how awesome it was…..and maybe inspired you a little to try it if you haven’t done it before.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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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.

 

On the Wild Side – The Dorset Coast Path Day 2

4 Aug

I woke the next morning at 4.30am as the first light appeared in the sky and immediately leapt out of my sleeping bag, eager to start my day – it seems so much easier when camping than when at home in a soft bed. Half an hour later the sky turned a delightful shade of pink, red and orange as the sun broke through. The sheep on the hillside were already eating breakfast and there was a beautiful stillness. The scene before me was mesmerising and I captured it as best I could, wishing I had my tripod with me!

Abbotsbury Sunrise

5am – Sunrise over Abbotsbury

I had a quick breakfast of cereal bars and tea watching the ever lightening sky and listening to the sheep and cows that surrounded me. I was still alone on my hilltop although the village below me was starting to stir.

I packed up my things – well there wasn’t much to pack really – and before leaving I went into the chapel again. The doves were also stirring for the day, and one conveniently posed for me in the east window. I think that picture with the dove in silhouette was a fitting picture on which to end my stay at that amazing place of peace and pilgrimage and I bade my farewell.

St Catherine's Chapel

The Interior of St Catherine’s Chapel

Peace

Peace!

Making my way across the hilltop, I dropped down the other side towards the coast path again, looking out across the Fleet with its swannery and the Chesil Bank that provides its  protective south bank. The day was already warm despite the clouds that had now gathered. It was to become even warmer later despite the earlier forecast of cooler weather!

The Fleet and Chesil Beach

The Fleet and Chesil Beach

Reaching the Coast

Joining the Coast Path

It was barely 6am and there was no-one else around apart from a few fishermen farther along Chesil Beach. From a distance, I could see them reeling in fish so it looked like it had been a successful night. The skies cleared once more and the early sun threw long shadows across the deserted beach. There was a lovely stillness in the air and it was wonderful to be out walking so early in the day.

Beach Walk

Early Morning Shadows

Along the Beach

Looking Back

On the Beach

Shingle and Surf

The first few miles of the day were hard going because they were either on hard but broken tarmac, or worse still, on shingle as the path follows the edge of the shingle beach. It was like constantly walking uphill and it was a relief when at last the path turned slightly inland to skirt along the edge of a nature reserve. Ahh, solid ground underfoot!

It was at this point that two walkers passed me – the first contact with humanity today. They waved a cheery good morning and continued on their way but we would meet again later in the day.

Solid Ground

Walking on Solid Ground

Gradually the day became busier! This was in part because the morning was drawing on but also because I was now entering a more ‘touristy’ section of the walk, with a number of towns, beaches and caravan parks. The first of these was Burton Bradstock, a popular beach with a caravan park just further along the coast.

Burton Bradstock

Burton Bradstock

It is at the caravan park that the River Bride enters the sea on its somewhat serpentine route. The river is not wide……but it is wide enough to need a footbridge to cross it, and that footbridge is half a mile inland. So at this point, my route detoured inland along one side of the river to reach the bridge, and then followed the other side back again.

Serpentine

The Serpentine River Bride

Generally though the walking along this section was not difficult as the headlands are not majorly high. That would all change later but for now, I could enjoy great views without too much effort.

On Burton Cliff

On Burton Cliff

There is one particularly interesting feature here though, and that is the Bridport Golf Club. Now I’m not a golfer but the hole in the picture below must be a challenge especially on a day when a stiff sea breeze is blowing. The tee off point is on the headland beside where I am stood and the hole is in the valley some 150 feet below! That must be difficult to gauge!

What Hole?

A Hole in One?

In terms of climbing, this was the first challenge of the day as I dropped down to almost sea level and climbed again up the other side. I stopped at the top to catch my breath….although it was of course in the guise of taking a photo. There are benefits to being a photographer 🙂 ! The view back was clear all the way to Portland, the ‘island’ that juts out into the sea.

An Awesome Coastline

Awesome Views

I arrived in a very busy West Bay in time for brunch – cheeseburger and tea which I ate sat along the harbourside. It always seems somewhat incongruous being in such a busy, tourist hot spot after walking along some remote coastal parts and it was only afterwards that I realised I didn’t take a single photograph there.

Having replenished my food and water supplies, I moved swiftly on, keen to be out on the wild coast again. I knew that the afternoon would be far more challenging than the morning with much higher headlands and steep climbs to negotiate, and the day was hotting up too! This was very quickly evidenced by the number of paragliders that habituate this part of the coast.

Freedom

Paraglider

Even on the lower headlands I often found myself looking down on them rather than up, as they swooped from almost sea level to soar over my head. I was entering Broadchurch land (for those of you who watched that series on television) and I dropped down into Eype Mouth. Ahead of me I could dee my first major climb up over Thornecombe Beacon!

Broadchurch Land

Eype Mouth with Thornecombe Beacon Beyond

The day was by now extremely muggy with very little breeze to give any relief and I drank copious amounts of water as I made my way up the steep climb. The views were awesome and as I looked west I could see my next, even bigger, challenge in the shape of Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast.

From Thorncombe Beacon

From Thornecombe Beacon to Golden Cap

Before that climb though I had to drop down to sea level to reach Seatown, another popular beach with a nearby caravan site. For once I was happy about that though because I knew there was a shop there and that would be my last opportunity to replenish my supplies until tomorrow.

Climbing up out of Seatown I stopped to look back across Thornecombe Beacon.

Climbing Golden Cap

Climbing Golden Cap

The view from the top of Golden Cap makes all the hard work worth while and I dropped my pack and just sat drinking it in. For a time I had the place to myself although that rarely lasts long as many walkers pass that way, sometimes arriving from easier inland routes. I didn’t yet know where I would spend the night but it occurred to me that right there would be good. The day was still too young though so I continued on my way.

Golden Cap View

The View East from Golden Cap

Dropping down off the headland, I detoured slightly inland to walk through the almost deserted medieval hamlet of Stanton St Gabriel with its derelict church, dedicated to St Gabriel, and few remaining cottages. This was once a thriving fishing and farming community but making a living was hard and gradually people were lured away to the larger town of Bridport where there were mills and rope works. It became a smuggling area where contraband was stored and now provides holiday homes, even the old manor house being divided into flats.

I just find these villages so fascinating and I stood wondering what life, and the people, were like when it was in its heyday. If only Apple could add time machines to their phones so that we could at will go back and stand observing life then.

St Gabriel's Church

St Gabriel’s Church

Stanton St Gabriel

The Old Manor House, Stanton St Gabriel

I was woken from my reverie by the first drop of rain! And in many ways, it was welcome rain to cool me from the warmth of the day. I continued on my way knowing that there were no higher climbs to come although this part of the coast is still a switchback of ups and downs. Behind me Golden Cap gradually faded further into the distance.

Golden Cap from the West

Looking Back to Golden Cap

The day was drawing on and I started looking for somewhere to stop for the night. Nothing suitable materialised though until I summited the last headland before Charmouth which was flat and grassy. Here I would spend the night. There was even a seat there for me!

I sat alone in my ‘bedroom’ eating the food I had carried and brewed a cup of tea thinking that I would be able to sit and read for a time before settling down for the night…..but that wasn’t to be! First of all four people arrived carrying picnic chairs and settled on the cliff top. Then over the next hour others arrived until I was sat on my headland with a hundred or more people – it turned out that the Red Arrows, the RAF aerobatic team, were giving a display that evening as part of the RNLI celebrations in Lyme Regis across the bay from me. So I spent the evening chatting to various people and enjoying a display that I had known nothing about 🙂 !

Two of the people I chatted to were the two walkers I had passed at the beginning of the day. They told me that they were walking to Land’s End to raise money for charity. They had started as a trio but the third member had taken a tumble and broken his ankle so the two were continuing alone. I bade them good luck and they continued on their way.

 

Red Arrows

The Red Arrows Display

After the display had finished, people gradually drifted away and ultimately I had my lofty bed place to myself again. Almost as if I had given a cue, it was at that point that the clouds parted again and I was treated to the most amazing late light display that bettered even the Red Arrows. The sun slanted across the top of the headland where I would sleep, picking out the brightly coloured heather on the cliff edge.

Stonebarrow

Stonebarrow  with Golden Cap in the Distance

Stonebarrow Sunset

Stonebarrow Sunset

The sun soon dropped below the horizon and as the light faded, I set up my bed for the night. With the clouds still lingering and the recent rain, I decided to set up my tarp in case it rained in the night.

Stonebarrow Sunset

The End of Another Perfect Day

In the darkness, the lights of Charmouth and Lyme Regis twinkled below me. I would be passing through both of those places tomorrow but for tonight, I was content to be once more sleeping right in the midst of nature. What better place is there to sleep? I drifted off to the gentle sound of distant waves below me.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed walking with me again today and that you will join me for another great day tomorrow.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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