Tag Archives: Dorset Coast Path

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

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.

 

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

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.

On the Wild Side – The Dorset Coast Path Day 1

2 Aug

Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know that I have just been on a short (well 50 miles) wild camping trek along the Dorset Coast – well I thought I would blog this amazing trip.  This is Day 1 when I walked from Weymouth to Abbotsbury.

The day was hot, really hot, and I got off the train and made my way to the seafront. I have completed this walk numerous times and each time the day starts the same – with a bacon bap and cup of tea on the seafront overlooking the beach. This sets me up well for the walk to come. I sat under the shade of an umbrella.

Breakfast

Bacon Butty Breakfast!

Leaving the beachside cafe I made my way around the beach to the harbour where my next transport awaited me – the rowing boat ferry that crosses the harbour entrance. This ferry saves a mile or more of walking to reach the nearest bridge but for me, it is much more about the quirkiness of being rowed across to the other side. Its just such a great start to the day and is worth more to me than the £1 it costs.

Weymouth Harbour

Waiting

The Ferry

Row Boat Ferry

Reaching dry land again, I made my way through Nothe Gardens and around the headland with views across Portland Harbour entrance. This was once a major Naval Base and still retains the features that were at one time so important to its operation.

Portland Harbour Entrance

Portland Harbour Entrance

Military connections continue for a time as the next feature on the walk is Sandsfoot Castle, built by Henry viii in 1539 to protect this part of the coast. The now derelict castle has recently been made safe so that visitors can walk around it, and it is surrounded by the most beautifully colourful gardens, including a tea room. Resisting the temptation, I walked on!

Sandsfoot Castle Gardens

Sandsfoot Castle

I joined the Rodwell Trail that follows the old railway that once ran from Weymouth to Portland. This was easy walking along a tarmac track until reaching Ferrybridge where I finally left civilisation behind and joined the winding track that follows the shoreline of The Fleet, a nearly landlocked tract of brackish water separated from the sea by the famous Chesil Beach.

The Old Gateway

The Start of The Fleet

The Fleet is fed by the sea at its eastern end and by a number of streams along its 8 mile length. It is therefore almost a lake but rises and falls with the tide. Its southern shore is straight and bounded by Chesil Beach, its northern shore winds in and out of various coves and inlets, as well as one or two military establishments including a firing range and a bridge building centre where the army practices building bridges. One of its most noted military connections from the past is that it was an early testing area for Barnes Wallis’ famous bouncing bomb.

The Old Jetty

Langton Hive Point

For the most part these days it is just the most beautiful and peaceful place to walk. The walking is flat and easy with much to take in along the route, including a number of old jetties. The most photographed of these is the one at Langton Hive Point which sadly now has few timbers remaining. I decided to stop here for an early lunch with lovely views out across The Fleet with numerous rowing boats moored along its shore.

The Fleet

Beside the Fleet

Lost in the Grass

Rowing Boats and Grass

The early afternoon sun was becoming hotter still and I was having to drink copious amounts of water to keep hydrated. With nearly 20kg on my back, the walk was tiring despite its flatness – I knew though that there were hills aplenty to come before my 50 mile trek would be complete but the forecast suggested that it was to cool over the coming days. I hoped so!

Moonfleet Church

Fleet Church

I always think one of the most interesting features along this stretch of the Dorset coast is the hamlet of Fleet which has an interesting and somewhat tragic past. In November 1824 there was an almighty storm and the sea breached Chesil Beach that had until then protected the tiny hamlet. The devastation was massive as huge waves washed inland destroying many cottages and most of the church. Only the chancel of the old church was left standing. A local boy observed the scene and wrote:

“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.”

The hamlet and what is left of the old church is delightful and I always stop here for a time of reflection. It is so peaceful that it is hard to imagine the events of 1824.

Aside from those catastrophic events, the village has been immortalised by J Meade Faulkner who based his book Moonfleet on the area.

Moonfleet Church

The Ever Open Door

Leaving ‘Moonfleet’ behind I continued along the shore and met another backpacker walking the other way. We fell into conversation and the girl, a young Swiss student, told me how she was walking the entire South West Coast Path having started some 5 weeks earlier. She was on the latter stages and was to finish the walk the following weekend after 630 miles and 6 weeks of walking. I was impressed, not only that someone so young should take on what is a serious undertaking alone, but that she chose to backpack it, sleeping in a tent each night. Most people choose to use hostels/B&B, and use baggage transfer companies.

We stood looking at the view below chatting for probably half an hour before parting to continue on our separate ways. These brief meetings along the pathways are partly what makes these walks so interesting. Common interests are shared albeit briefly and most people are so friendly, creating a real camaraderie that you find in few places. Afterwards I wished that we had swapped contact information as I find myself wondering whether she finished and how her last few days went.

The Fleet

The Fleet

Leaving my Swiss friend, I walked on, passing Fleet House, built in Georgian times, now the Moonfleet Manor Hotel. Skylarks serenaded me as I made my way around the last part of the Fleet Lagoon before reaching the point where the path turns inland.

Fleet

Moonfleet Manor Hotel

On the Fleet Path

Beside the Fleet

From here, the route took me across farm land to climb steeply onto the inland ridge which would take me the remainder of the way into Abbotsbury. As I climbed higher, the views opened up all around me.

Turning Inland

Turning Inland

Abbots bury is a town that sits at the west end of The Fleet and it is a delightful town with honey coloured buildings. I passed the entrance to its world famous swannery, its ancient tithe barn, its derelict abbey, its tropical gardens, and its beautiful church, dedicated to St Nicholas. I paused for a moment of reflection at the gateway before entering the town itself as I was nearing the end of my first days walk.

St Nicholas, Abbotsbury

St Nicholas, Abbotsbury

With the exceptionally hot weather, my water was spend so I called at one of the pubs to buy some bottled water and to ask if they would fill my water bladder. One of the problems with wild camping is that there is often no water supply so I knew I would have to take enough with me to last overnight and through the next day. I carry an emergency water filter which is so useful but the streams I was passing on this walk were all low level and on farm land, making them less than ideal.

Having replenished my supplies, re-hydrated myself and splashed some water around my face (there would be no washing facilities where I would be sleeping), I made my way on through the village. I still hadn’t any idea where I would spend the night. One possibility was to climb up to the ridge inland of Abbotsbury and look for a flat grassy area there, another was to continue along the coast path and hope I would find some flat grass there, a third was to spend the night on Chesil Beach although I was not sure how comfortable shingle would be to lie on! Ultimately I decided anyway to climb up Chapel Hill to have a look at St Catherine’s Chapel before deciding which way to head.

On Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill with Strip Lynchets

With the sun now getting low in the sky, the chapel looked absolutely beautiful standing proud high on its hill like a beacon of hope to the world below. The slanting sunlight picked out the strip lynchets that run along the hillside which would once have contained crops. Half way up I turned to look back to the town with its own church tower standing sentinel over the surrounding cottages. Around me were sheep and cows grazing the hillside. It was such a delightful scene and it entered my mind that maybe that would make a good stopping point.

Abbotsbury

Abbotsbury

I continued to the top to look around this stunning chapel, standing seemingly solid against all the elements that had been thrown at it over the centuries, its delightful warm coloured stone standing out so clearly against the deep blue of the sky. I went inside the empty and disused chapel with its equally solid door – I say empty although it was in fact occupied by a dole of doves (yes, that’s the group name). It seemed totally fitting that this place of peace should now be occupied by doves, the symbol of peace.

There are no records of the construction of the chapel but it is thought to date from the 14th century. It was built as a place of pilgrimage and retreat by the monks of the Benedictine Monastery that once stood in the village far below and it seems to have survived the Dissolution although the abbey itself did not. It was dedicated to St Catherine, the patron saint of spinsters, and became a place of prayer for those seeking a husband. Occasional services are still held there.

St Catherine's Chapel

St Catherine’s Chapel

The Old Church Door

The Church Door

Outside, I settled myself down on the grass in the still warm evening sun and over the next couple of hours I passed the time of day with a number of visitors to my lofty bed place. One couple, strangely also from Switzerland, spend the evening picnicking there. They told me they were on holiday travelling around the UK and that they were staying in Abbotsbury.

There was a lovely cooling breeze gently blowing across the hilltop and there were amazing views in all directions. In addition to human visitors, I shared my hilltop with sheep, cows, doves, rooks, and mayflies – there were hundreds of them flying about.

St Catherine's Sunset

Sunset at St Catherine’s

I watched the sun set, with the sky turning gradually orange, then pink, then deepening red until the light finally faded. I was left alone on my hilltop and the words of the poet, Thomas Gray, came to mind, ‘And all was left to darkness and to me’. I spread out by sleeping bag and with the chapel sheltering me from the now cooling breeze, I lay watching the nearly full moon rise across the valley.

A Bed for the Night

A Bed for the Night

Moonrise

Nightfall

Today has felt like a pilgrimage and this ancient holy place seemed a fitting place to end my day. The moon provided a little light and the stars were a canopy over my head. What could be better than spending the night in this awesome place on a balmy night such as this. I drifted off to sleep, contented and wondering if tomorrow could possibly better this!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed today’s pilgrimage and that you will join me for another great day tomorrow.

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.

At the Seaside

27 Jul

Anyone who regularly reads my blog will know that I love to walk in the countryside with the grass under my feet and greenery all around, or in the mountains or coast where there are rocks, ruggedness and remoteness. There are times though when I love to walk the more ‘cultivated’ parts of our coast, the seaside, where there are characters and much to occupy my camera.

This is just a selection of alternative seaside shots and these are my attempt to capture something of a different view.

Most of these shots have been taken with the same lens, a very old Tamron SP 500mm Cat Lens. This manual focus, fixed aperture lens has the effect of separating the subject from the background because of its shallow depth of field and also throws some ‘marmite’ doughnut shaped highlights – ‘marmite’ because you either love them or hate them :)!

Focus on Blue

Focus on Blue

A simple shot of a row of beach huts.

Gormley

Gormley

I called this ‘Gormley’ because this paddler just reminded me of the Gormley statues that were placed at the seaside.

Ducks and Drakes

Ducks and Drakes

An action shot grabbed just as the stone was about to fly.

On a Lonely Shore

On a Lonely Shore

I felt this shot needed a romantic feel so processed it appropriately.

Through the Fence

Through the Fence

A different view, using the fence as an unusual frame.

On Board!

On Board!

Another action shot although the action didn’t last long as the surfer ended up in the water shortly after.

Forever

Forever

A beach wedding.

Watching

Watching

Just a watcher watching waves.

The Bench

The Bench

I tried a different approach by focussing on the bench and also by using some different processing.

Sitting Pretty

Sitting Pretty

What caught my eye with this one was the lovely rust colour of the groyne top.

Wheee!

Wheee!

I would have normally got the kite in as well but it was way too high so I just focussed on the surfer silhouetted against the sea.

Rocks 'n' surf in the sun

Rocks ‘n’ Surf in the Sun

An abstract shot that illustrates well the doughnut shaped highlights. I was trying to create a very summer sunshine feel with this.

Resting

Resting

Two young runners take a break whilst people walk by on the promenade.

Waiting!

Waiting

A young bather watches the waves. I felt this had an air of threat about it with the young girl picked out by the late afternoon sun against the darkness of the waves.

Journey to the Unknown

Journey to the Unknown

A tall ship rounds Old Harry Rocks having just left Poole Harbour.

A Helping Hand

A Helping Hand

A young cyclist gets a helping hand as they cycle into a stiff wind.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed this little trip to the beach.

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 two ridges, the devil and heaven, amazing views, and an old mill but no stream!

15 Apr

It was a cold but beautifully sunny and clear winter’s day when I set out on this wonderful walk! I left the car at the top of one Purbeck ridge and to the accompaniment of birdsong, I immediately dropped down the side of the hill heading for a second Purbeck ridge. I had hardly started the walk when I was greeted by the spectacular view below and I just had to stop and gaze!

The view goes straight down the valley across the distant, deserted village of Tyneham and on to the coast at Worbarrow Bay. The reason Tyneham and Worbarrow Bay have been deserted by the inhabitants is because the military took over the whole area to create a firing range in 1943 – but that’s a story for another day!

Creech View

Down the valley to Worbarrow Bay

Dropping down to the country lane, I followed the road for a time. This is no hardship as it is a quiet road and the countryside is beautifully picturesque. Plus of course, there is no mud🙂 ! Passing the tiny hamlet of Steeple with its church, manor house and small cluster of cottages, I continued up the other side of the valley towards Kimmeridge. This hill, in the picture below, goes by the somewhat dubious name of the Devil’s Staircase – in fact on this day, with the shadows of trees being thrown across the road, it did look like a staircase! It was a name that was to contrast strongly with another strange name that I would come across later!

A Purbeck Valley

The Devil’s Staircase

Reaching the top of the ridge, I looked down into the village of Kimmeridge where the unusual presence of a crane told me that construction of the new museum and visitor’s centre was underway. My route today didn’t lie in that direction so I left that scene and climbed again higher along what I call the inland coast path.

Kimmeridge

Kimmeridge

The inland coast path is the path that runs parallel to the coast and with sea views but is in reality slightly inland of the coast path proper. I like to walk this path because it gives an alternative view of this beautiful Dorset coastline. Looking down one side, I had amazing views across Kimmeridge Bay with Clavell Tower standing proud on its headland (and the sheep standing proud on theirs)……

Above Kimmeridge Bay

Across Kimmeridge and the Bay

…..and down the other side, an equally impressive view across the valley towards Corfe Castle with Poole Harbour beyond that – and of course more sheep!

The Corfe Valley and Poole Harbour

Corfe Castle and Poole Harbour

On such a clear day as this, those views were particularly special! The path was flat and easy to walk with a traditional dry stone wall atop the steep slope down to the coast. It reminded me of a poem I wrote whilst walking some time ago:

THE DRYSTONE WALLER

One on one on one on one,
The drystone waller’s day’s begun,
Stone on stone on stone on stone,
Lots to do ere he goes home.

A solid build as ‘fits his trade,
Every stone securely laid,
Sweating brow and breaking back,
Another stone goes on the rack.

Perfect symmetry, line on line,
Locked together, looking fine,
From random stones, different shapes,
A cohesive whole he creates.

The master’s hand the holding glue,
Nothing more, forever new,
Come wind come rain ’twill strongly stand,
And remain a part of this ancient land.

These scattered stones have become a wall,
So solid, dependable, standing tall,
For years to come ere he’s gone home,
An epitaph to a job well done.

Kimmeridge and the Dorset Coast

Kimmeridge Bay and the drystone wall

Just a little further along the path, I passed a gate with the name ‘Heaven’s Gate’ inscribed on it – with those breathtaking views, it could easily be the gate to heaven! Why it bears that name, I am not sure but I certainly prefer this to the devil’s staircase I climbed up earlier!

It seems strange to think that this area which is so quiet and peaceful now was once fairly densely populated. Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age remains have been found, indicating that people have lived here for over 6,000 years although now, the nearest habitations are just a farm or two.

Heaven's Gate

Heaven’s Gate

There is one particularly visible Bronze Age barrow that stands at the tip of Swyre Head. Rounding this headland brings even more views, this time across the beautiful ‘bowl’ that is the Encombe Valley. I say ‘bowl’ because that is what it resembles as it is surrounded by a curving ridge apart from a small portion that opens out to the sea. In the distance is St Aldhelm’s Head jutting out into the channel like the head of a serpent.

Across the Encombe Valley

The Encumber Valley and St Aldhelm’s Head

Sitting in the ‘bowl’ is Encombe House, one of a number of old Purbeck Mansions. This privately owned mansion could have been yours a few years ago for the princely sum of £25M! Beyond the house is a series of lakes that drain into the sea at Freshwater Steps. For a long time it puzzled me where this water came from since the Encombe Valley has no rivers so I made some enquiries and I was told that the water supply comes from a neighbouring valley, with the water being diverted via underground channels that run through the hillside. Apparently, some lucky person has the job of walking through the tunnels once a year to make sure they are clear of obstruction! Of course the valley itself does hold some water of its own due to its bowl shape and springs.

Encombe House

Encombe House

Skirting round the top of the valley, my route took me out onto the ridge top road which I needed to follow for a mile or so. Again this is no hardship as the views across to the castle in the valley are again grand. Here, water running off the hillside has created a tiny stream and as I walk, I wonder how deep that would be if you were able to walk this route in hundreds of years time. It could be a ravine – such is the power of water! I often think strange things when I am walking🙂 !

Castle View

Corfe Castle across the ‘stream’

My normal route when I walk from here would be across the common to reach Corfe Castle but today I decided to follow a track that leads through a farm in the valley. It is always great to try new routes, especially when you come across old ruins like those below! This huge waterwheel is part of old farm workings and once drove farm machinery in the attached barn. The water still pours on despite the wheel itself having died, frozen with corrosion!

On a technical note, what I found interesting is that the water falls from the tank you see in the picture below in order to drive the wheel, although there is in fact no visible entry point for the water into that tank. It seems that the water runs down underground channels beneath my feet and then rises inside that tank only to drop again immediately into the wheel. The millpond itself is at a higher level up the hillside which of course, remembering my school science lessons, is essential for this system to work.

Water Wheel
Cascade

Feeling quite pleased with myself for having solved the riddle of how the water got there, I continued on my way, with the castle getting ever closer.

Corfe Castle Across the Common

Corfe Castle

Just as I reached the edge of the village of Corfe, I bumped into a man standing by his very old car. As I owned a 40 year old MGB myself until recently, I was particularly interested to hear his story. His car was a MGPB dating from 1935 so it was twice as old as my own and yet was in superb condition. He had just repainted the wire wheels and wanted a picture of himself with the car – I duly obliged. We chatted for some time about our respective cars and he told me that he had been a spitfire mechanic during the war and that they used to make model spitfires out of metal during their down times – he had one attached to the radiator cap.

As he drove away into the low afternoon sun, I grabbed another quick shot. Had I sepia toned it, you could easily think it had been taken 80 years ago.

Driving into the Sun

On the Road

I always enjoy walking through Corfe, especially in the late afternoon when it is quieter. As I left to cross the field, the low sun picked out the church tower beautifully as it stood almost like a guardian of the village.

Corfe Village

Corfe village and church

The true guardian of the village was of course the castle itself and that too was picked out by the last rays of sunlight. This once magnificent castle, built in Norman times, was ruined in the 17th century, not during a battle but after the battle had been won. It had been one of the few remaining Royalist strongholds and had been under Parliamentarian siege for some time but defended gallantly by Lady Bankes and her garrison. One of her men betrayed her however and let in Parliamentarian troops disguised as Royalists. The castle was thus attacked both from outside and inside and the day was lost. To prevent it ever being used again, it was deliberately blown up although fortunately for us, it had been built too well to be destroyed completely.

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle in the evening sun

With the sun disappearing below the horizon, and several miles still to walk, I left the castle behind and once more climbed up onto the ridge that had been my starting point. In the coldness of the night and with the fading light, I made my way along the ridge top path with the distant twinkling lights across Poole Harbour and to the accompaniment of owls hooting in the valley below. Wonderful and eerie shapes appeared silhouetted against the ever darkening sky.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It became increasingly difficult to see my way along the sometimes uneven path but despite this, it was a delightful end to the day. I love walking in the dark! That may seem strange but there is always a lovely atmosphere and an air of mystery at this time of the day, and I had the ridge top all to myself!

What an amazing day this has been, cold maybe, but such clarity of light and such awesome views. I hope you have enjoyed walking it with me!

Thanks for stopping by.

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 new henge, priests and quarrymen, sunsets and spray, and a ledge that dances!

13 Feb

It was another of those rare crisp, cold, clear, Winter days and there was bright sunshine as I parked up near the recently erected landmark, Woodhenge, at Worth Matravers.

This monument was put up on a whim by the landlord of the local pub who had cut down a huge tree but local planners ordered it to be taken down as no planning permission had been granted. In the end, they relented and agreed that it could stay for a few months but such was the level of public support for the monument which has very quickly become a local attraction that planners have now extended this for a further two years. So Woodhenge stays……for the time being at least.

Woodhenge

Woodhenge

Starting out on my walk, I immediately passed the pub itself, the quirky Square and Compass, probably one of the best pubs in Purbeck, in fact in the whole of Dorset! It started life as a pair of cottages but was converted to an alehouse in the 18th century and specialises in pasties and cider.  It also has one of the smallest bars you are likely to see, just a hatch in the corridor!  It has an amazing beer garden with views down the valley to the sea and there is nothing better than to sit on a rock seat on a summer evening with drink in hand watching the sun go down.

But this was too early in the day for a drink so I passed swiftly by.

The Square and Compass

The Square and Compass

Making my way out of the village along the road, I passed something else that I always think is quirky – a bus stop which is just 2 feet high! It always strikes me as funny – was it designed for short people?🙂

I soon turned off the road and crossed fields, passing a farm drive that I seem to photograph with monotonous regularity – I couldn’t resist another shot with the bright sunlight picking out the straight track against the heavy cloud backdrop. It always reminds me of the album cover on the Best of the Eagles CD – well I always did have a good imagination!

Straight!

The Straight Way

The track I was following is known as The Priests Way and it was bounded on both sides by dry stone walls. It intrigues me how the style of these walls varies – on one side of me the stones were laid flat and on the other side they sloped diagonally. Either way, I think the way these walls stand up using nothing but gravity is testament to the skills of the men who built them. It is a classic example of making use of extremely local materials since they were originally built with stones cleared from the fields when preparing the ground for agriculture. Isn’t that just perfect!

Dry Stone WallDry Stone Wall

The Priests Way is a track that links the village of Worth Matravers to its larger cousin on the coast, Swanage. It takes its name from the fact that back as far as the 15th century, the priest who oversaw congregations in both localities would ride the route regularly to visit his parishioners or lead services. As you walk the trail which runs along the top of the ridge, you could just imagine raising your cap as the priest passed by, or passing the time of day with him on the road.

This is now a good route to walk at this time of year after so much rain because thanks to funding from Natural England the path has been improved and resurfaced. The dry and firm footing is welcome and frees you up to look around you as you no longer have to watch every step.

The Priest's Way

The Priests Way Sign

Part way along the track, I passed a hollow in the ground, but this is clearly no ordinary hollow as the sides are supported by dry stone walling. It is overgrown now but at one time this would have been a watering point for livestock using the route.

Drinking Place?

One of the things this area is noted for is its Purbeck and Portland Stone that has been quarried extensively for many years. Most of the quarries have ceased their operations long since but there are still some that continue to work the stone. The path passes by one such quarry and I stopped to watch the heavy machinery doing tasks that were once performed laboriously by many men with simple tools. How times change!

A Working Quarry

This track really is a delightful route to walk, indeed it is one of my regular walks. The track winds its way towards Swanage with the distant sea becoming ever closer, and with beautiful views across the valley towards the Purbeck Hills.

The Priest's Way

The Priests Way

It passes by a lime kiln, reminding me of another of those ancient occupations, the making of quicklime to spread on the land to reduce acidity, or to make a whitewash for buildings. It could even be used as a disinfectant for cow stalls. These were in their heyday when land was being prepared for agricultural purposes and many farms had kilns of their own, manufacturing quicklime right where it was needed.  These days of course it is manufactured by much more efficient methods but it is good to see these ancient relics being preserved for future generations.

The Lime Kiln

A Lime Kiln Beside the Track

On the Priet's Way

The Priests Way with the Purbeck Hills Beyond

Nearing the end of The Priests Way, I stopped for elevenses overlooking the town of Swanage. This is such a lovely view and it is always a good place to sit. Not only that, but you get serenaded at the same time as behind me stands a metal gatepost with holes in it and when the wind is in the right direction, it plays the gatepost like a flute🙂 !  I remember the day I first heard this eerie sound – it took me a while to work out where it was coming from.

Swanage

Swanage

I dropped down into Swanage which I always think is a bit of a ‘Marmite’ town. People either love it or hate it! I really like it and always enjoy wandering through the streets passing some interesting sights like the old and derelict Pier Head Cafe on the sea front. The building was actually erected as a temporary mess hall in the late 1940’s and has had various uses since then, until it was declared unsafe some 50 years later. It is now awaiting redevelopment and arguably has become even more iconic since its closure thanks to the murals that you see below.

The murals were painted by two local artists as part of Purbeck Arts Week in 2007 and are really effective. One thing I particularly like is that the Swanage version of Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawk’ has a Simpsons version hanging on the wall in the background🙂 !

Pier Head Cafe and Tea GardenPier Head Cafe and Tea Garden

Leaving Swanage, I climbed up the down at the southern end of the town and continued on my way. But not before stopping to look back at the town below.

Swanage

Leaving Swanage

For many years, the route from here has meant walking along the road before joining the coast path again. This is because the coast path was closed due to landslides. Recently, however, the coast path itself has been reopened so it is possible to take a much improved route.

The Undercliff

The Undercliff Walk

Even now though, the route through the trees and across the foreshore is very muddy and I wonder how long it will be before the route is closed again. However, I made it through ok and continued round the coast below Durlston Castle, looking back to Peverill Point across the bay, with Old Harry Rocks in the distance.

Peverill Point and Old Harry Rocks

Peverill Point and Old Harry Rocks

Durlston Castle was never actually a true castle, being built as a restaurant to cater for visitors to the Durlston Estate in the late 19th century. It is now a visitor’s centre for what has become a country park. My route took me below the castle and round the headland to Anvil Point where ahead of me I could see the lighthouse standing proud above the rugged coast. The lighthouse was built in 1881 and is now fully automated, the lighthouse keeper’s accommodation being turned into holiday lets. It must be a great place to stay……provided the foghorn doesn’t go off of course!

Below the lighthouse is the ledge of what was once Tilly Whim Caves. These were originally coastal quarries dating from the 18th century but when quarrying ceased, they were converted to a tourist attraction. From 1887 to 1976 they drew many visitors to the area until a rock fall forced their closure. Now they are home to bats so their usefulness continues, just in a different guise.

Anvil Point

Anvil Point and Tilly Whim Caves

Leaving Anvil Point behind, I entered a stretch of coast that I knew would not be easy to walk. This is ‘muddy mile’, well, several miles actually and in the wet season it is always muddy! I slipped and slid my way along the coast passing spiders’ nests in the shrubbery to the side.  Often there are sightings of dolphins, peregrines and many other creatures along this stretch of coast, as well as rare plants.

Spider's Nest

Spider’s Nest

Along this part of the coast also, there are two sets of ‘mile markers’, posts erected on the cliff top which can be used by ships to test their speed and performance. When viewed from the sea, these indicate a measured mile.

Mile Markers

Mile Markers

This is a delightful part of the Dorset coast, laden with old and disused quarry workings and normally some lovely grassy paths – when they haven’t been churned up into mud. The views are spectacular and there is much to explore.

The QuarriesThe Quarries

I couldn’t resist taking some cloudscape shots on this glorious day.

Along the Dorset CoastClouds

One of the smallest quarries is Whiteware Quarry in the picture below. I love to visit this quarry which is partially hidden away. Its diminutive size intrigues me and it is high above the sea, creating a very exposed feeling. The ledge is a great place to just sit and watch the waves crashing onto the rocks 30 metres below.

Whiteware Quarry

Whiteware Quarry

In total contrast to the Whiteware, the next quarry one of the largest. This is Dancing Ledge, a popular playground of climbers, coasteering groups, walkers and so on. So much so that the National Trust has recently announced that it will be restricting the numbers of commercial groups in order to reduce damage to the area.

There are various theories as to where the name Dancing Ledge came from. Some say that it is because the waves seem to dance across the lower ledge, others say that it takes its name from the fact that the ledge is the same size as a ballroom dance floor.  Either way, it is a very appropriate name and a beautiful place to while away a few hours.

It is well know for its amazing wildlife, including a colony of puffins, and for its swimming pool, visible in the picture below. This pool was blasted out of the rock in the early 1900’s so that the children from the local preparatory schools had somewhere safe to swim as the sea itself is far too treacherous. The schools have all now closed but the pool is still used by others and it is a great place to cool off during a hot summer’s walk.  But not on this chilly winter’s day!

Dancing Ledge

Dancing Ledge

The light was now fading fast but I climbed down to the lower ledge to capture some beautiful crepuscular rays and some great crashing waves. The evening was beautifully atmospheric and it was quite special having the place all to myself and watching the light fade. I could have happily sat and watched the sun disappear but I had further to walk so after some while, I climbed back up to the coast path.

On Dancing Ledge

Dancing Ledge

As I made my way towards the next quarry, I looked back the way I’d come, with Anvil Point in the far distance and some subtle pink tones appearing in the sky, the clouds reflecting the light from the setting sun.

Looking Back to Anvil Point

The Way I’d Come

The last quarry of the day was to be Seacombe and with the sun disappearing, I climbed up to the ridge above to capture the sunset over the old wartime gun post that once guarded this part of the coast from the enemy. This is an Alan Williams Turret, designed to be operated by one man with a machine gun or anti-tank gun. This rusting hulk is a happy reminder that peace reign’s in our land although it is also a reminder that sadly this is not true for many parts of this world we live in.

I stood looking at this scene with a mix of emotions!

Seacombe

Seacombe Quarry

Finally I left the coast behind and with the sound of the waves gradually fading into the distance I made my way up the valley, once again tramping through mud, to reach Worth Matravers. I stopped to capture the last vestige of light across the duck pond that sits on the green in the heart of this picture perfect and unspoilt village. The ducks had long since gone to roost leaving the water like a mirror to reflect the sky, church and cottages, many of which are now second homes. This is another village that has to a large degree lost its working heart but it is beautiful nonetheless.

Worth Matravers

Worth Matravers

I made my way back to my starting point and to Woodhenge, now silhouetted against a beautiful late night sky. This was my starting point and it made a fitting end to a glorious day’s walking!

Woodhenge

Woodhenge

Thanks for joining me on this walk.  I hope you have enjoyed the sights and sounds of this wonderful part of Dorset.

Thanks for stopping by.

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.

On a Clear, Cold, Crisp Winter Day!

30 Jan

It was one of those wonderful winter days – you know, the ones we don’t get often! After all the wet, grey days, this one dawned to bright sunshine and a hard frost – I even had to scrape the ice off the windscreen. Perfect for a walk along the Dorset coast!

I set off from the small but popular village of Lulworth and headed up the road for a time before turning off onto what I call the inland coast path. This path runs along the ridge of hills parallel to the coast path proper. That will be our way back later. When I reach the farm gate at the top of the rise, I cannot help but lean awhile and look back the way I had just come to the sound of far away dull thuds from the MOD firing range in the distance.

On the Inland Coast Path

The distant thud of guns

Much as I like to just drink in this view, there is a chill breeze and I need to move on so I reluctantly turn to continue along the ridge. Not that I need to be reluctant as there are views aplenty all along this ridge.

I pass the first almost immediately, the wonderful valley that goes by the dubious name of Scratchy Bottom! I love this valley with its curving sides layered with lines of thick grass. It is like a boomerang that leads out to the sea.

Its name actually has nothing to do with our proverbial posteriors, or anyone or anything else’s for that matter (it is usually inhabited by sheep or cows) – it just comes from the fact that the valley bottom was once covered in scrub. Its main claim to fame is that in 2012, it came second in a poll of Britain’s worst place names. Wouldn’t you believe it, the place that came first, Shitterton, is also in Dorset! Oh, and the valley is also ‘famous’ for having been used as a film location!

Scratchy Bottom

Scratchy Bottom

Aside from the fact that a walk along this ridge is ‘bracing’, it is also fantastically exposed, open and spacious with a carpet of lush and well drained grass under foot. These are chalk hills. In summer, this is one of my bare foot walks………but not today! Today, my feet will stay tucked up warmly inside sock and boot! I walk with a great sense of freedom, looking across to the distant Isle of Portland.

Wide Open Spaces

Wide open spaces and a ‘bare foot’ path

One of the interesting and unexpected features of this remote place is a series of three shell sculptures, each sheltering in its own stone cupboard. I say three because that’s how they started, but in fact one is now conspicuous by its absence. These were carved by Peter Randall in 1985 at the request of the Weld Estates as part of Common Ground’s New Milestones project. The intention was to encourage small scale art works that would celebrate history and the natural world.

But these are not the only unexpected things on this walk.

Sculpture

Sea Shells

Just a short distance further along and a few hundred yards inland stands an obelisk. Below me on the cliff top stands an identical obelisk. They are functional rather than decorative and for years these puzzled me every time I passed them – why were they there and what was their purpose? I could find nothing in books or on-line. One day, I was determined to find some answers so I sat with phone in hand and made some calls…..which gave me the answer I was searching for.

The answer, or at least part of it, was found in a rather tasty tome entitled ‘The Channel Pilot Part 1’ dating from 1908 which referred to ‘Two white beacons, 24 feet high for the use of His Majesty’s ships when prize firing, have been erected on high land east of White Nose (now known as White Nothe)’. Prize Firing was an annual competition to test the skills of the various ships to see if they were ready to go to war so these two obelisks aided that competition.

Across Weymouth Bay in the picture below, you will see the Isle of Portland and just to the right of that stands Portland Harbour, said to be the second largest man made harbour in the world. This was a busy Royal Naval base until 1995 so in the early 1900’s battle ships would leave the harbour and steam up and down in a straight line whilst firing at targets moored out to sea. Clearly these two obelisks were used to enable the captain to steer his ship in a straight line across the water. Oh, and as you can see, the obelisks have long since lost their white coating.

Obelisk

The Obelisk

Moving on, I continued to follow the inland path, deeply rutted from farm machinery but still with some great distant views. After several more miles, my route took me along a track which curved round the head of the ridge, dropping down towards the coast path proper.

Ringstead

Rutted Paths

I passed through an unusual landscape, various hillside terraces, some old wooden shacks left to rot, and what appeared to be a derelict toilet block. Clearly, this was once a holiday park. It amazed me how nature so quickly reclaims its own!

Eventually I reached the coast and turned east to head back towards my starting point and after a short time, I stopped to look back towards Osmington Mills, a tiny coastal hamlet which once had a fishermen’s slipway until coastal erosion destroyed it. In 1927, the Minx, a coal barge, broke her moorings and was wrecked on Frenchman’s Ledge below. Parts are still visible today.

Osmington Mills

Looking Back Towards Osmington Mills

The Minx is not the only wreck here as along this part of the coast, there are many wartime relics. There is evidence of lookout posts, pillboxes, several bunkers, a communications centre and even the remains of wartime gun placements. At one time there was a massive radar station on the clifftop too. There is also a great deal of mud!

I stopped to chat to a retired man who was taking a short holiday at Weymouth and who had come out to explore the coast path. He was walking in the opposite direction to me so had already walked the most severely steep parts – I still had those to come…….but he still had several miles of mud to walk through. We compared notes🙂 !

Relic of War

Relics of War

Having slipped and slid for several miles – I was thankful for my walking pole! – I finally reached the beach at Ringstead Bay and stopped for a late lunch. This one time fishing village is a beautiful place to spend some time, especially on a gorgeously sunny day such as this and I sat and sketched whilst I ate, listening to the surf gently washing across the shingle – what a beautifully relaxing sound. The sea seemed almost determined to reach me, as if it wanted to shake my hand, but I outsmarted it – well I’m no Canute!

Ringstead Bay

Ringstead Bay

I was glad of my flask of hot drink as it soon became chilly sitting on a cold rock. To warm up, I wandered around with the camera looking for picture opportunities……like the one below🙂 !

An Exercise in Colour

An Exercise in Colour – Ringstead Bay

All too soon I had to move on, which meant some steep climbs! The first of these was up to the top of the White Nothe headland. Part way up I stopped to look at a quaint little wooden church at another small hamlet, Holworth. This wooden chapel still has regular services despite its remote location and in fact it has recently been extended. It stands right on the cliff edge with amazing views across the water.

My walks are often like pilgrimages as I pass many churches and I like to stop and pray in each one. On this occasion, however, with boots thickly coated with mud, I just sat on the bench outside. Well, with that view, who wouldn’t!

The Fading Day

St Catherine’s Chapel View

St Catherine's, Holworth

St Catherine’s Chapel

Onwards and upwards I went, eventually reaching the top of the headland, a beautifully rugged and wild wilderness of a place. I so enjoy exploring this remote headland. It has a real air of mystery and intrigue about it.

On White Nothe

On White Nothe

One of its features is its row of old coastguard cottages. Remote and unserved by any roads, these cottages have no mains services – the residents collect rainwater, heat by log burner, light by gas lamp or LPG generator, and drain into cess pits. These seven terraced cottages are not for the faint hearted but the largest changed hands recently for some £470,000! Recently the captain’s house has been brought more into the 21st century by installing solar panels on the roof. I have a feeling that the owners may have bought the house next door as well…….so maybe there are now only six?

They are quiet cottages now, mainly used as holiday or second homes, but at one time they were home to seven families with a total of 44 people living in them. The captain of course lived in the largest, three story house, and his 6 men and their families lived in the others. Together they tried to keep our coast safe as there was a thriving smuggling trade all along this part of the coast. And you can really picture in your mind the events that took place here with its remoteness and its secret paths.

When the coastguards vacated the cottages, they passed into private ownership and one of the early residents was the author Llewelyn Powis. A memorial stands nearby.

On White Nothe

A Remote Place to Live

Despite their remoteness, in fact because of their remoteness, and their lack of modern ‘trappings’, this would be an amazing place to live. And who could possibly not delight in the view below back down to Ringstead Bay?

Ringstead Bay

The View over Ringstead Bay

And of course that’s not to mention the view out to sea!

The End is Near

Sea Views

The sun was getting low in the sky by now and there was a definite chill in the air. Fingers were being numbed by the cold so it was time to move swiftly on. I left the White Nothe and continued on my way. Ahead of me I could see the switch back of headlands that were to be my route from here and I knew that I would once again, as I had done many times before, be walking in the dark before I reached my finishing point! But hey, that is often the best time of the day.

Bat's Head and Beyond

The Switchback Home

By the time I dropped down to Durdle Door, the sun had gone and the light had a definite blue tinge to it – this is the photogenic blue hour. I have a thousand pictures of the view below but you just cannot help but take more each time you pass this way. This really is a magnificent coastline, as good as you will see anywhere in the world!

Durdle Door

Blue Hour at Durdle Door

When I reached the arch, projecting out of into the water like some huge and fearsome sea monster taking a drink, it was virtually dark. Everywhere was still and there was just a faint tinge of orange in the distant sky. The only sound was the washing of surf on shingle. The lights of Portland and Weymouth twinkled in the far away lands and had it been summer, I would have sat and drank in the awesome atmosphere. But tonight was now icy cold!

Durdle Door

Last Light of the Day

I left the coast and climbed up the last hill of the day and in complete darkness with just the stars and a faint moon for company, and the ever diminishing sound of the waves, lost in my own thoughts, I made my way home.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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