Tag Archives: Dorset

Quirky Dorset – Part 13

11 May

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

Today, we are looking at another Dorset curiosity, and one over which several theories have been put forward. It is something which is totally incongruous with its surroundings and which seemingly cannot be totally explained, which just adds to its air of mystery. This is the Agglestone.

The Agglestone

Agglestone - a Dorset curiosity

The Agglestone

The Agglestone is a massive lump of ferruginous sandstone, weighing some 500 tons and it stands on a flat topped conical hill in the middle of Black Heath near Studland. The mystery is caused by the fact that, apart from a much smaller neighbour known as the Puckstone, this rock is totally out of keeping with the boggy heathland which surrounds it.

Tradition has it that the rock was hurled by the devil one night when he stood at the Needles on the Isle of Wight and was intending to destroy Corfe Castle. He missed his target by some way, the stone landing harmlessly on the heath.

On the heathlands

Black Heath with The Agglestone

In truth, no one has been able to properly explain why the stone is there but there are several theories. One says that it was a remnant of the last ice age and that it was a ‘one-off’, deposited by a glacier on the heath and that it stands on a hilltop because the surrounding heathland has been eroded around it, much in the way that tors stand on their hilltops on moorlands. Another theory suggests that there was much more of this stone in this area but the rest has all been quarried away, theorising that this heath was once one massive quarry. This theory suggests it was the quarrymen who left the Agglestone deliberately as a relic as they sometimes did.

Either way, this stone is clearly natural and has not been put in place by man. However, there are suggestions that its shape has been modified by human intervention. This becomes more clear if you look at older pictures because at one time the rock stood higher and had a flat top, making it very much like an anvil. In addition, there were at one time quite a few smaller and neatly square blocks of similar stone surrounding it. These appeared to have been cut, but why were they left?

Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 12.07.02

The Agglestone Long Before its Collapse (Published by Climenson in 1906)

Some years ago, probably in the 1950’s, its base eroded and the rock tipped over on its side, leaving it sloping as we see it today.

It would seem that whether it was a large quarry or just a single massive stone,  some quarrying activity was carried out, modifying the shape of the Agglestone. Suggestions that the undercutting might have been natural and caused by sandblasting by the wind seem doubtful since there are no large areas of sand in the vicinity. It is possible though that the lower rock is perhaps softer and has just been eroded to its anvil shape by rain and frost damage. We will probably never know the truth!

Agglestone View

The View from the Base of the Agglestone

There are so many unanswered questions surrounding the Agglestone – why was it there in the first place, why was its anvil shape so neat, why was it surrounded by neatly squared blocks of stone, why does it sit on a flattened hilltop, and so on. There is a real air of intrigue about it!

I well remember my first visit here in my younger days, walking the heath in the last light of the day. Suddenly, this massive structure loomed out of the gloom. It was extremely imposing and it made a real impression on me. Now, I visit regularly just to revisit that mystery and to drink in the amazing views from its lofty perch.

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.

Curious Dorset Churches – Part 2

2 May

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

Today, we are going to look at another curious Dorset church, and this one is an absolute gem! It stands in a tiny hamlet and is in fact a tiny church but one that has remained to a large extent unspoilt and certainly unchanged in layout since it was built in the 12th century. This is St Andrew’s Church, Winterborne Tomson.

St Andrew’s Church, Winterborne Tomson.

St Andrew's Church

St Andrew’s Church, Winterborne Tomson

The small hamlet of Winterborne Tomson takes its name from the nearby stream that flows in winter only, known as a Winterborne, together with the name of the Thomas family who once owned the manor house. Its diminutive church was built in the early 12th century and in terms of layout and structure, it has remained much the same ever since. It has of course been altered in some ways over the centuries but this has always been tasteful done so that the church remains cohesive.

Externally, the main changes involved re-roofing in the 15th/16th century as well as raising the roof slightly, and the fitting of new Tudor style windows. Just one of the original windows remains.

The church is ‘curious’ for a number of reasons, one being its apsidal east end as it is one of only four English single celled churches to have this feature. An apsidal end is a curving east wall with a roof that also curves in line with it. This is more noticeable in the picture below.

St Andrew's Church

The Apsidal East End

It is really the fitting out of the interior that makes this a stand out church, since it has one of the most complete sets of early 18th century oak box pews in the county. These are truly magnificent, and as was the custom, the ‘boxes’ get larger the nearer they are to the front of the church. This was to maintain the social hierarchy of the local people with the wealthiest and most noted people being in the front pews whilst those lower down the social scale squeezed in the smaller boxes at the rear.

St Andrew's Church

Georgian Box Pews

The pews were inserted at the expense of William Wake who was then Archbishop of Canterbury and who once lived nearby. Around the same time, the oak pulpit was also added and strangely this included a ‘sounding board’ above it. This was to ensure that the minister’s voice carried to the back of the church but in such a small church, it was hardly needed. Another seemingly superfluous feature is the rood screen that is still in place, separating the congregation from the altar.

St Andrew's Church

The East End with Box Pews, Rood Screen and Pulpit

The wagon or barrel roof inside is also quite a feature, especially the way it curves around the apsidal end and those beautifully ornate, if somewhat eroded, bosses at the joins.

St Andrew's Church

The Ornate Apse Ceiling

At the west end of the church is a gallery which is in a somewhat dilapidated state. This was probably once a rood loft that has been recycled to provide a small amount of additional seating.

St Andrew's Church

The West End with its Dilapidated Gallery

Towards the end of the 19th century, worship at this delightful church had ceased and it fell into disrepair. In fact, in the early 1900’s the building was used for storage and to provide shelter for farm animals. It was in a very sorry state!

In 1929, the Society for the Preservation of Old Buildings became involved and they sold some old Thomas Hardy manuscripts in order to raise funds for a refurbishment programme. This is somewhat appropriate since Hardy, a famous Dorset author, was a member of the society for 47 years and was himself at one time an architect who had worked on local churches.

St Andrew's Church

Harvest Time at St Andrew’s

Since its refurbishment, this lovely church has been in the hands of The Churches Conservation Trust and is therefore maintained for future generations. It is in a beautiful part of Dorset and is one of my favourite places to visit. When you walk through that heavily studded door into this haven of peace, you just get a sense of the great history of this place, and the people who worshipped there down through the generations. There is just something about it that sets it apart!

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.

Curious Dorset Churches – Part 1

30 Apr

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

Its time for a new ‘Theme for the Week’, and this week I thought we would look at some unusual, even quirky, Dorset churches…..or, quirky things that are in Dorset churches 🙂 ! And there are a few! And we start with a church with an unusual dedication, the church of St Candida and Holy Cross……although its not only the name that is unusual!

St Candida and Holy Cross, Whitchurch Canonicorum

Th Cathedral of the Vale

The unusually named St Candida and Holy Cross Church stands in a small village which actually has an equally unusual name. It stands in the village of Whitchurch Canonicorum. The name comes from St Wite who is in fact the saint to whom the church is dedicated, Candida being the Latin translation of Wite.

Now, what is unusual about this church is that inside stands the tomb of St Wite and this is known to still contain her remains. This is virtually unique since it is the only parish church in England to still bear its saint’s remains, and also the shrine is the only one in the country to have survived the reformation, apart from at Westminster Abbey where the tomb of Edward the Confessor still stands intact.

The tomb

The limestone and marble shrine, erected in the 13th century, is in two parts with the coffin on top containing a lead box inscribed in Latin, ‘Here lie the relics of St Wite’. When this was opened in 1900, it was found to contain the bones of a small woman.

Beneath the coffin is a base with three oval openings and the reason for that design was so that pilgrims could insert diseased limbs etc in order to receive healing. Items such as handkerchiefs belonging to people too sick to travel would also be inserted. It seems to be still used today for written prayers.

The Tomb

The identity of St Wite has to an extent been lost over time but local tradition suggests that she was a Saxon holy woman who lived a hermit life along the cliffs, possibly lighting beacons to help sailors. It is thought that she was killed by Danish pirates on one of their raids.

Another theory has it that she is Gwen Teirbron, a 6th century holy woman from Breton. This explanation is plausible as many Breton’s travelled to the west of England in 919-921 AD and they often brought their saint’s bodies with them. Other suggestions are that St Wite was male, and was in fact a monk from Wessex – unlikely since the name has always been used in the feminine form. And finally, there is a theory that she was an evangelist who died in Germany.

The traditional and original belief that she was a Saxon Holy Woman has stood for over 900 years so it seems that this is the most likely identity.

The Cathedral of the Vale

The church itself is a large village church that predates Norman times although it has been much altered and extended over the centuries to become the grand building it is today. Such is its grandeur that it is often referred to as The Cathedral of the Vale, the ‘vale’ referring to the Marshwood Vale in which it stands.

The shrine of St Wite is a fine, but comparatively simple structure, and it may well be that it is this very simplicity that saved it from destruction during the Reformation when all others were destroyed. Could those 16th century vandals have just overlooked it as being of no importance because it was so plain? I guess we will never know!

Just one other interesting fact about St Wite before we finish – she is still remembered today in the periwinkles that grow on the nearby Stonebarrow Hill in Spring. These are known locally as St Candida’s Eyes!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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

 

 

Theme for the Week – Dorset in Spring Part 5

29 Apr

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

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

Foliage of Spring

Spring Greens

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

Copper Beach

Copper Beech

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

Spring Leaves

Oak Leaves in Spring

Leaves

Hazel Leaves

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

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

Great Tit

A Nesting Great Tit

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

On Cowslip Hill

Cowslips on a Dorset Hillside

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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

Theme for the Week – Dorset in Spring Part 4

27 Apr

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

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

Cherry Blossom

Cherry Blossom

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

Blossom

Blossom and Blue Skies

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

Fly Past!

Fly Past – Fluffy Rowan Blossom

 

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

Blossom in the Churchyard

Blossom in the Churchyard at Gussage All Saints

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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

Theme for the Week – Dorset in Spring Part 3

26 Apr

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

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

Spring Leaves

Spotlight on Spring

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

Spring Greens

The Forest Puts on its New Coat

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

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

In the Green

Fresh Greens Beside the Path

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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

Theme for the Week – Dorset in Spring Part 2

25 Apr

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

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

In the Bluebell Woods

Among the Bluebells

A Gnarly Tree

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

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

In the Bluebell Woods

Ah, Beautiful Lichen

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

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

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

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

In the Bluebell Woods

An Amazing Carpet

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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