Tag Archives: hazel

Quirky Dorset – Part 11

7 May

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

Its time for a new theme for the coming week and I thought we would revisit an old theme and add some more posts about ‘Quirky Dorset’. I hope no one is getting bored with these posts but I guess I just like anything that is quirky or a bit off the wall 🙂 ! And this first one this week is definitely quirky, as well as somewhat gruesome. This is the story of the rather unusually named Bloody Shard Gate!

Bloody Shard Gate

Bloody Shard Gate

Bloody Shard Gate

Bloody Shard Gate is an area with blood on its hands! Did I mention ‘hands’…….we might just find out more about hands, or a hand, shortly!

This lovely valley is part of The Cranborne Chase where the kings of England stalked deer down through ages past. It is a very peaceful and lovely part of the county and is a delight to walk through with its ancient coppice wood, now redundant and providing cover for much wildlife to enjoy. Bird song abounds as you walk these paths, but it has not always been quite so peaceful!

Carpet of Leaves

The Redundant Coppice Wood

Although it is known as Bloody Shard Gate, the name no longer actually refers to a gate at all but rather is the name of the area. Whether there ever was an actual gate I am not sure but the word ‘shard’ in local dialect indicates a gap in an enclosure. I suspect the reason it bears its name, aside from the obvious ‘bloody’ connotations, is more because it is the meeting point of five paths.

Cranborne Chase has always been a place of conflicts. Dorset was evenly divided in the English Civil War, resulting in lots of bloody battles. Of course people have always fought over land use, and there were often battles with deer and hunting. There was even a battle between two packs of dogs resulting in the death of 45 animals. And there was a 100 year battle by farmers who wanted the right to destroy deer that strayed onto their land, damaging crops. At the time, deer were protected and only the king’s hunting party was allowed to kill the animals. The farmers eventually won that battle when the protection order was lifted, probably because hunting was going out of fashion. In 1829, after 800 years of protection, it is said that 12,000 deer were shot in two days by villagers.

But there was one particular battle that scarred this area for life, and gave it its somewhat gruesome name!

On the Gate

A Strange Sign on the Gate into the Woods

That event was a bloody skirmish that took place in 1780 between gamekeepers and poachers that became known as The Battle of Chettle Common. The battle was brutal, one keeper being killed and others injured. Ultimately the gamekeepers won the day but there is an interesting story concerning one of the poachers who actually turned out to be a sergeant in the dragoons. During the battle, he had a hand severed and was captured.  Fortunately he was a popular man and got off with a light sentence, eventually being allowed to retire on half pay. Many years later, the man died and was buried in London, minus one hand!

But what happened to his severed hand? Well it is said that his regiment buried it with full honours of war in Pimperne churchyard. But it seems the hand found no peace because it was never reunited with its owner, and local tradition has it that it roams the area at night searching for the dragoon sergeant. Even as recently as 1970, people have reported seeing it!!!

Hedge Trimming

Hedge Trimming at Bloody Shard Gate

For all its chequered past, this is now a beautiful and peaceful area to explore, but if you ever walk that lovely woodland path at dusk, and you feel something around your ankle……..!

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


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.