Tag Archives: Dorset

Theme for the Week – Dorset in Spring Part 1

23 Apr

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

It’s Sunday and time for a new theme again for this coming week and I thought we would have a celebration of spring as captured on my recent walks. This week I sat on a high hilltop on a beautiful day overlooking an amazing view and across the valley came that sound which heralds in the spring, the sound of the cuckoo! So it is official now, spring is here, and nothing typifies spring like a field of bright yellow oil seed rape! So today we visit King Down.

King Down

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King Down is a few miles north west of Wimborne, not far from the Badbury Rings Hill Fort. It is not high at all but there are still lovely views all around, and invariably you walk to the accompaniment of skylarks. There are two well preserved round barrows at the top of the down but others that once stood around them have disappeared, possibly because of farming. The reason for their presence is the nearby Roman Road and Hill Fort. This was once an ancient cemetery.

It is interesting to compare two similar pictures taken just a week or two apart. In the bottom picture, the flowers are sparse but just a short time later after the sun has warmed up a little, the crop is in full glory.

King Down

It is also interesting to compare paths. On King Down, the path through the rape field is broad and easy to walk but later that day, I would be walking through the rape field that you see in the far distance and there, the path was narrow. You might wonder why this makes a difference but it does! As I walked through the later field, I was constantly brushing up against rape flowers on both sides as I squeezed through, being coated in a copious dusting of golden pollen and also a layer of what seemed like sap. For a hay fever sufferer, this would have been awful! For me it was just a nuisance and in fact I was more concerned about the very fine pollen getting into the camera.

So what makes the difference in the width of the paths? Well I believe it is horses. Which leads me on to another subject – horses, and riders of course, are both a blessing and a curse to walkers. In winter if you walk a bridle way, you are likely to find yourself walking in thick mud as the hooves churn up the wet ground. This doesn’t make for easy walking. But in summer, those same horses have the effect of keeping many paths clear of wild plants such as stinging nettles which would otherwise overgrow the paths. And of course, the ground is dry so the hooves don’t have the same effect on the ground as in winter.

Anyway, back to our walk through King Down 🙂 ! It is a truly lovely place and although it is not in any way remote, it feels remote, and that makes it a great place to walk. It is much quieter than the more popular paths at Badbury Rings, and there is nothing better than to sit atop one of the barrows and just drink in the sea of spring yellow at your feet whilst listening to the skylark overture. Just wonderful.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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

 

Theme for the Week – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 3

20 Apr

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

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

Lyscombe Chapel

Lyscombe Chapel

Lyscombe Chapel

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

Lyscombe Chapel and Cottage

Lyscombe Chapel and Priest’s House from the Sheep Wash

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

The Priest's House, Lyscombe

The Ruined Priest’s House at Lyscombe

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

Lyscome Chapel Interior

Lyscombe Chapel Interior

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

The Lyscombe Valley

The Lyscombe Valley from the Downs

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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

Theme for the Week – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 2

17 Apr

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

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

Knowlton Church

Knowlton

Knowlton Church

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

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

Knowlton Church and earthworks

Knowlton Church and the Earthworks

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

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

Knowlton Church

The Church Tower

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

Knowlton Church and earthworks

Wild Flowers at Knowlton

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

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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

Theme for the Week – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 1

16 Apr

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

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

St Catherine’s Chapel

The sun sets on St Catherine's Chapel

St Catherine’s at Sunset

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

St Catherine's Chapel

St Catherine’s Chapel

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

Peace

The East Window Minus Stained Glass

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

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

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

On Chapel Hill

St Catherine’s on its Hilltop

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 9

13 Apr

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

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

Beach Cusps

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

Man o' War Bay

Beach Cusps

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

Man o' War Bay

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

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

Man o' War Bay

Horns and Bays Clearly Defined at Man o’ War Bay

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

Now that’s quirky 🙂 !

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 8

12 Apr

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

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

The Cerne Abbas Giant

The Cerne Giant

The Cerne Abbas Giant

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

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

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

On Giant Hill

The View from Giant Hill

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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

Theme for the Week – Dorset Hills with a View Part 5

8 Apr

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

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

Swyre Head

Across the Encombe Valley

Swyre Head Viewed from Houns Tout

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

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

Swyre Head View

The View Towards Kimmeridge and Mupe

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

The Encombe Valley,

The Encombe Valley

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

Heaven's Gate

Heaven’s Gate

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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