Tag Archives: history

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 6

9 Apr

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

For our theme this week, I thought we would come back to ‘Quirky Dorset’ and feature a few more things in my lovely county that are perhaps a little bit ‘off the wall’ 🙂 ! And this is one of my favourites – it is The Smugglers’ Path.

The Smugglers’ Path, White Nothe

I love walking this path…..if you can call it a path! It runs from the top of the White Nothe  (aka White Nose) headland down to the rocky seashore some 170 meters (550 feet) below. The path is steep, very steep, and it zig zags its way down the cliff face with amazing views all across Ringstead Bay to the west. Below, there are just rocks which may be covered if the tide is high.

The Smugglers Path

The Smugglers’ Path, White Nothe

This is a breathtaking walk in more ways than one! The views are breathtaking, the steepness is breathtaking if you are not good with heights, and if you are climbing up, it definitely takes your breath away 🙂 ! Whether this path was actually used by smugglers or not seems unclear but the fact that a row of coastguard cottages was built at the top in the early 1900’s would seem to suggest that it was. Of course, the whole of the Dorset coast was used by smugglers to bring their contraband ashore under cover of darkness. With its wild remoteness, White Nothe would have been ideal for this practice!

This path, and its past, was immortalised by J Meade Falkner in his book ‘Moonfleet’ as it was the inspiration for Elzevir Block’s escape from the Excise men, accompanied by a very young John Trenchard. I have reproduced a short passage below.

The Smugglers Path

The Top of the Smugglers’ Path

‘Forgive me, lad,’ he said, ‘if I have spoke too roughly. There is yet another way that we may try; and if thou hadst but two whole legs, I would have tried it, but now ’tis little short of madness. And yet, if thou fear’st not, I will still try it. Just at the end of this flat ledge, farthest from where the bridle-path leads down, but not a hundred yards from where we stand, there is a sheep-track leading up the cliff. It starts where the under-cliff dies back again into the chalk face, and climbs by slants and elbow-turns up to the top. The shepherds call it the Zigzag, and even sheep lose their footing on it; and of men I never heard but one had climbed it, and that was lander Jordan, when the Excise was on his heels, half a century back. But he that tries it stakes all on head and foot, and a wounded bird like thee may not dare that flight. Yet, if thou art content to hang thy life upon a hair, I will carry thee some way; and where there is no room to carry, thou must down on hands and knees and trail thy foot.’

(From Moonfleet by J Meade Falkner – as young John Trenchard and Elzevir Block flee from the Excise Men)

White Nothe sunset

White Nothe at Sunset

The description by J Meade Falkner was perhaps a little exaggerated, but nevertheless, this path can still be scary to walk if the weather is stormy with the wind taking you off balance and the wet making the steep path slippery. But it is a path that I love for its sheer quirkiness…..and perhaps for the feeling that you are somehow following in the footsteps of some ancient smugglers! It is definitely not to be missed if you are walking this part of the Dorset coast!

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 Mills Part 4

31 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

So we are now at Part 4 of our Dorset Mills theme for this week, and today we feature a mill with a past! It is another mill that sits in a beautiful location although unfortunately it is not open to the public. This is Fiddleford Mill.

Fiddleford Mill

Fiddleford Mill

Fiddleford Mill stands on the banks of the River Stour just a mile or two down stream from Sturminster Newton. It is a delightful and quaint mill that is part of Fiddleford Manor, a grand house that is now in the hands of English Heritage. The house itself is open to the public but the mill isn’t, although it is still well worth a visit.

The current building is thought to date from the 18th century but since the inscribed stone referred to below dates from 1566, and parts of the nearby manor house date from the 14th century, it is clear there must have been an earlier mill on the site. Indeed it is thought that there has been a mill here for over 1,000 years although it is likely that the earlier mill was actually on the site now occupied by the manor house itself.

Fiddleford

Inserted into the wall of the mill to the right of the door is a stone containing the following words, dedicated to a former miller. It dates from 1566 and reads as follows:

‘He that wyll have here any thynge don
Let him com friendly he shal be welcom
A frynd to the owner and enemy to no man
Pass all here freely to com when they can
For the tale of trothe I do always professe
Miller be true disgrace not thy vest
If falsehood appere the fault shal be thine
And of sharpe ponishment think me not unkind
Therefore to be true yt shall the behove
[to] please god chefly [that liveth] above.’

So, what of that ‘past’ that I referred to earlier? Well back in the 18th and early 19th century, this building was used to store contraband. This would have been smuggled in at Hengistbury and Stanpit Marsh and carried up the river to be stored here before being distributed in the local area. As someone who has kayaked up the river, I can’t see that this would have been an easy task as in places the river becomes quite shallow.

The Weir

The surrounding countryside of the Stour Valley is beautiful with lots of wildlife to watch and the ever present rippling of water. The route to the mill itself takes you past the very unusual crescent shaped stepped weir and also the row of old sluice gates.

There is history aplenty in this area, and some delightful walking that can easily take in both Fiddleford and Sturminster Newton Mills as you follow the river and its meadows. This is a lovely place to wile away an hour or two.

Thanks for joining me on my visit today.

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 Mills Part 3

29 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

This week, we are looking at Dorset water mills. Clearly there are so many that one week is not enough to do them justice but at least we get to look at a few. Today’s mill is Melbury Abbas Mill, also known as Barfoot Mill.

Melbury Abbas Mill

Melbury Abbas Mill

Across the Mill Pond

Barfoot Mill stands in a stunning location in a valley beside its own beautiful mill pond. The pond itself is fed by the River Sturkel which is a tributary of the Stour – but then, most rivers in this part of the county are tributaries of the Stour. I say River Sturkel but it is actually little more than a stream that has its beginnings in a spring just a short distance away, and yet at the time of the Doomsday Book, this stream fed some 5 mills within one mile. Interestingly the name Sturkel is thought to mean Little Stour.

The River Sturkel

The River Sturkel at Melbury Abbas

The mill itself was a corn mill dating from the 19th century and is the lower building to the left of the millers house in the picture above. It was driven by an external cast iron overshot water wheel which is inscribed with the year of 1875. At the time of the listed building registration, the internal workings were still in place, as well as two pairs of millstones.

It is not possible to see inside the mill because it is now a private residence but there is a truly delightful footpath that follows the stream past the mill along the valley bottom.

Melbury Abbas Mill

Barfoot Mill with its Mill Wheel

I feel like I should be featuring the next mill along this little stream, Cann Mill, because that is one of very few mills still being worked commercially but I have to say, Barfoot Mill is so much more picturesque 🙂 ! It is like a fairy tale mill especially on a sunny day such as this.

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 Mills Part 2

28 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

Continuing our theme of Dorset Mills, we are once again on the River Stour but this time further north at Sturminster Newton at a beautiful mill. And one of the few that continue to be worked albeit not on a commercial scale.

Sturminster Newton Mill

The Old Mill

Sturminster Newton Mill Across the River Stour

There has been a mill on this site since 1016 or possibly even earlier, and it was mentioned in the Doomsday Book. The current mill dates from the 17th and 18th centuries and as you can see, it is L shaped. In fact it was originally two separate mills, the left half in the picture above being a flour mill and the right half a fulling mill. These were driven by a pair of undershot water wheels which stood side by side. In the 18th century, the fulling mill was demolished and rebuilt on the original foundations as an extension to the flour mill. Then in the early 20th century, the two water wheels were replaced by a single water turbine.

The Miller's Workshop

The Miller’s Workshop

The unusual thing with this mill is that it was worked commercially until the late 20th century when modern health and safety requirement forced it to cease its commercial activities. However, even today it is still a working mill and milling days are held regularly although more as a tourist attraction.

Sturminster Newton Mill

The Mill and its Weir

The mill takes its name from the nearby town of Sturminster Newton. It comes from Stur a derivative of Stour, minster meaning church and Newton meaning new estate or town. So the name literally means mill by a new town with a church on the Stour.

This is another delightful place to visit, surrounded by lovely countryside with the gently flowing river and bird song aplenty. But step inside the mill when it is working and you are immediately captivated by the noise, the constant rumble and throbbing of the machinery as cogs, belts and wheels go about their milling business.

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 5

25 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

Another of those quirky things in Dorset relates to its bridges! The bridges themselves are normal but many of the older ones have signs on them such as the one below threatening transportation if anyone was found damaging them. This seems very harsh today but believe it or not, it was aimed at leniency in those days.

Lower Bockhampton

Penal Transportation was the banishment of criminals, political prisoners and prisoners of war to lands overseas. It started in the early 1600’s with boat loads being shipped to the Americas and continued until the American Revolution when the practice was suspended. It resumed again in 1787 when the first fleet departed from England bound for Australia. It is though a practice that had its foundations much earlier, dating back to Roman times when people were sent into exile.

It might seem harsh to transport someone for life for damaging a bridge but prior to its introduction, the penalty might have been death. Indeed, many who were transported for comparatively minor offences were originally sentenced to death but pardoned, their sentence being reduced to transportation. It was actually introduced as a punishment for crimes where the death penalty seemed too severe!

However, it had other benefits as well. It also had the effect of increasing the labour force in the newly set up penal colonies, so helping develop English colonies overseas. And it wasn’t limited to men either, as women and children could be transported as well. One of the problems though was that there were less destinations prepared to take women, children, or those who were infirm. Most wanted only fit young men who could work hard.

In the case of the sign below, the punishment was transportation for life, but sometimes it was just for a set number of years. The problem was that at the end of their term they had to pay for their own passage back and many could not afford this, choosing rather to stay on as free men in the country to which they had been transported. Thus, the colonies grew.

Beware!

Its amazing to think how the transportation system worked – no phones, no internet, no way of contacting the colonies, so the captains (for whom this became a commercial transaction) would have had to set sail not knowing whether their human cargo would be accepted. They would have had to choose from a selection of prisoners purely on their knowledge of who would bring in the most profit for them.

I guess the lesson is, if you fancy carving your initials on a Dorset bridge, think again as you might wind up in the ‘back of beyond’ somewhere serving in a penal colony 😉 !

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 4

24 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

Our theme for the week is ‘Quirky Dorset’, which is all about unusual things that you might find as you are ‘exploring the countryside and lanes of Dorset’, and I could not possibly let this week go with out including these – the Dorset Holloways.

The Dorset Holloways

The Magical, Mystery of Dorset's Holloways

In a Dorset Holloway

I have written a number of blogs on these somewhat unusual occurrences which although not exclusive to Dorset, are found there aplenty. Holloways are ancient byways that have become sunken tracks after centuries of use has eroded the ground. They started life as normal footpaths but millions of feet, cart wheels, animal hooves, and water running off the land have gradually worn away the soft bedrock so that the paths have sunk deeper and deeper below the level of the surrounding land. By their very nature, they occur only where the bedrock is soft such as in the sandstone of West Dorset.

For me, these are just the most amazing places to walk and you can almost sense the different generations of people who used them over hundreds of years. The trees that once lined the path and marked its route now hang over the edge with their roots exposed. You almost feel that you are walking underground in a giant rabbit burrow as the trees arch overhead creating a tunnel effect. The depth varies but some go down as much as 30 feet with sheer sides making them more like gorges. Some, such as Hell Lane, have names that seem to suit them perfectly 🙂 !

 

Holloway

Hell Lane

Such is the effect of these paths on me, that I was inspired to write a poem about them, and I have repeated it below:

A world of mystery down below,
A place of doom where all fear to go,
Dark by night, eerie by day,
This is the Dorset Holloway.

A path that once was above the ground,
Foot, hoof and wheel has worn it down,
For centuries man has come this way,
Creating the Dorset Holloway.

The walls each side show heritage clear,
Etched in their faces, year on year,
Through diff’rent ages the path worn away
The ancient Dorset Holloway.

With roots either side and branch overhead,
Trees arch above their arms outspread,
Creating a darkness, to keep out the day,
The shadowy Dorset Holloway.

Stuff of fiction as well as fact,
At times overgrown, with brambles packed,
A haven for nature’s pleasant bouquet,
The nature filled Dorset Holloway.

An underground warren of time worn ways,
A lab’rinth where birds, bugs, bats play,
With damp plants aplenty growing from clay,
The musty Dorset Holloway.

A secret world of hobgoblins rare,
Tricks of mind and raising of hair,
Such the effect, you fear to stray
In the spectral Dorset Holloway.

But explore these paths with open mind,
Follow the route wherever they wind,
Be amazed at the things that there lay,
The evocative Dorset Holloway.

(Copyright The Dorset Rambler)

I just love walking these quirky paths, there is always something new to find and photograph. It is the whole air of mystery and intrigue that makes them special and as I walk them, I often wonder who used them centuries ago and what their lives were like, as well as what the purpose of their journey was. These are special places indeed!

If you would like to read more about these ancient paths, just type ‘Holloways’ into the search bar and my other blog entries will come up.

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 3

22 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

So, continuing my ‘Theme for the Week’, we are looking at odd, strange, unusual, weird, puzzling things and there is none more quirky than this! It is the houseboats in a little bay known as Bramblebush Bay, a part of Poole Harbour.

Bramble Bush houseboats

Leaning Houseboats

So why is that quirky I ask you say? 🙂 Well, to start with perhaps we need to ask, ‘When is a boat not a boat?’ You see, these two so called houseboats that have been in the bay for as long as I can remember no longer float – and that is definitely odd for a boat! They happily bobbed on the water at one time but the timbers have long since rotted. In order to prevent further erosion, they have been encased in concrete and so are firmly attached to the sea bed. You might ask, ‘why bother?’ Well a few years ago I did a bit of research because that was something that puzzled me – why not just scrap it and buy another one?

The reason soon became clear because the original terms of the moorings as set out decades ago dictate that they can remain there permanently but they cannot be replaced, I believe because the owners would then only acquire temporary mooring rights under what would become a new agreement. Because of this, the boats are being shored up (no pun intended 🙂 ) almost with sticky tape and string in an effort to keep them going longer. What is particularly quirky is the fact that the boats lean at crazy angles and I did wonder how on earth people manage to sleep in there but I gather the internal floors have been levelled to make this possible.

Bramblebush Bay

Bramblebush Bay

I walk past these ‘boats’ regularly and for many years I assumed that they were just wrecks because to be honest that’s what they look like, but they are not. In the summer, these boats are occupied, and just for good measure, are joined by half a dozen more traditional houseboats (i.e. they float) for the summer months. These additional vessels are temporary visitors only unlike the two permanent residents above. I keep hoping I might meet someone living there so that I might be able to have a peep inside but I always seem to pass at the wrong time.

The Glow of Evening

A Floating Houseboat at Bramblebush Bay

I love Bramblebush Bay and I love the quirkiness of the two fixed ‘boats’. Italy might have its Leaning Tower of Pisa, but I reckon we in Dorset go one better with our leaning houseboats 🙂 ! Wonderfully quirky Dorset.

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.