Tag Archives: nature

A L—-o—-n—-g Walk (well, VERY long really)……

20 Aug

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

……..42.6 miles to be exact, in one go, from sunrise to sunset, and what a fantastic day!

Five years ago I walked 35 miles in a day. This is not my usual way of walking as I am very much with the poet who said, ‘What is life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’ – I like to have time in my walks to do just that, to take in all that is around me. But this was different, a one-off marathon, just to see if I could do it really. But this year I decided that I would see if, now 5 years older, I could still do it. Five years ago I managed to complete the 35.3 miles in 12 hours and I wondered if I could keep up anything like that pace with more creaky joints.

So I sat down with the map and prepared myself a route. This would be open ended insofar as I thought I would walk for as long and as far as I could and if I didn’t make it back to the start point, my wife would come and collect me. I figured that she would have to!

Long Walk

Sunrise on the Heath

I had planned to start out at 7am but in fact I was up and about earlier, and out on the trail by just after 6am. The sun was rising as I made my way across the first tract of heathland on a beautiful morning with a pleasant cooling breeze and the promise of a bright and lovely day. How wrong I was…….but more of that later 🙂 !

Long Walk

The Promise of a Good Day

The first part of the walk was necessarily a bit ‘towny’ as I skirted round the perimeter of a golf course. These take up a lot of our open space but if there are footpaths around them, they make pleasant places to walk, especially on an early morning such as this with the sun streaming through the trees, highlighting the heather.

Long Walk

Skirting Round the Golf Course

 

I had set myself a target of repeating my 3 mph walking pace of five years ago and I walked with a GPS in order to keep track of my progress. I don’t like walking against the clock as it means that you have no time to stop for long and the emphasis has to be on keeping walking but I knew that this was going to be a different kind of day. If I was to get to the end before dark and achieve my goal, I knew I would have to keep walking, especially as I didn’t think I would be able to maintain that pace all day.

Leaving the golf course behind, I made my way along an old railway line and a took a circuitous route on local paths to reach the river meadows with gently grazing sheep and cows. They stared longer than I! I crossed the River Stour at the old, wooden Eye Bridge and climbed up the hill to reach the delightful avenue at Pamphill. My route took me the length of the avenue and not a car in sight 🙂 !

Long Walk

The Pamphill Avenue

Following a combination of quiet country lanes and gravel tracks, I skirted round the National Trust owned Kingston Lacy, a huge country estate once owned by the Banks family, and crossed the even more famous avenue planted by that family nearly 200 years ago. This much photographed avenue of steadily dying beech trees is currently being regenerated as a new avenue of hornbeams as these are able to stand modern traffic conditions better.

As I crossed this busy road, I checked my progress, 7.5 miles in and on target. I climbed up the hill away from the noise of the traffic and passed another great landmark of Dorset, the Badbury Rings hill fort.

Long Walk

A Gravel Track Near Badbury Rings

More gravel tracks followed and I was grateful for these as they do enable you to stride out and keep up a good rhythm. It is very satisfying simply to enjoy the walking process of one foot in front of the other over and over again continuously for mile after mile. But of course, it doesn’t last for long before you are faced with another section of overgrown pathway.

Now here, I’d like to praise horse riders as they do much to keep our paths free from undergrowth as their steeds plough through nettles and brambles, breaking them and trampling them down to make it easier for walkers like me. Now, unfortunately they do have a down side in that they also churn up the paths, creating a muddy morass for us to slip slide through……but we won’t focus on the negatives 🙂 ! Some of my paths today were not bridleways so it was left to me to push my way through as best I could, being constantly tripped as brambles grabbed hold of me. I was glad I had chosen to wear trousers and not shorts!

I was glad too when I made it though onto clearer paths and could walk easily again, especially when I came across a hare, or fox, or deer as in the picture below. I passed through the villages of Gussage All Saints and Wimborne St Giles, joining the Jubilee Way for a time.

Long Walk

Deer on the Path

Eventually, I neared my halfway point as Cranborne Manor came into view through a gap in the trees. This massive estate was in fact originally just a hunting lodge for the Marquess of Salisbury, a kind of holiday home I guess, as his main residence is Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. Cranborne Manor is now occupied by the heir who carries the title Viscount Cranborne.

Long Walk

Cranborne Manor Comes into View

I followed the lovely, neat path through the field towards Cranborne, only to come across the sign below. Not that this fazed me – whilst I wouldn’t like to face an angry bull, nothing is going to stop me following my planned route or get in the way of a good walk. In any event, this is a good farmer who only puts signs up when the bull is present and only has the bull there when there are cows with him, as the law states. Sadly, not all farmers observe these rules. Whether I would have been quite so ambivalent if the bull had been just the other side of this gate, I am not sure 🙂 !

As it happens, the bull wasn’t the slightest bit interested in me and I crossed the field happily to reach the town, where I called at the local pub……….no, not for a drink, no time for that, I just needed them to fill my water bottles up, which they did gladly. I did check my GPS again though – 20 miles down and still maintaining a pace of just over 3 mph.

Long Walk

Oh Dear!

With replenished supplies, I left the town and headed out through several sections of lovely old woodlands, intermingled with occasional hamlets with quaint cottages, tiny churches, and an occasional manor house. Edmondsham is one such hamlet, with its old village pump, old postoffice, and little chapel. These are delightful places to walk through.

From Edmondsham, my route took me back into more ancient woodlands, with the inevitable stile to cross. Now I love stiles but when you have walked over 20 miles, a gate would be more welcome 🙂 ! At this point, things turned interesting! I heard a distant rumble but ignored it – well it was a sunny day wasn’t it. As I wound my way through the woods, the rumbles became more insistent, but its ok, the sun is still shining! When I reached another little hamlet, appropriately called Woodlands, and I finally exited the dense woods I saw what was heading my way……and it didn’t look good!

Long Walk

Yet Another Stile

Now this is going to look strange because there is a sunny picture above and a sunny picture below so you might be lulled into thinking that the storm past me by! It didn’t! I basically battened down the hatches, togged up in waterproofs, stowed everything in the rucksack and put its waterproof cover on, and I was ready when the first drops of rain fell. And boy did they fall! I actually, momentarily, considered sheltering in Woodlands Church which is a lovely little chapel, but in the end I decided just to keep walking.

For the next hour I walked, or more accurately squelched, in torrential rain, with thunder and lightening all around. I could follow the storm’s progress; first the distant rumbles to the west which came nearer and nearer, then directly overhead, and then gradually diminishing as it moved out the other side. You might think that it was a nuisance but actually, walking in a thunderstorm just adds a different dimension to a walk. I continued to push my way through woods and across fields and by the time I climbed to the top of the hill to reach Horton Tower, the sun was shining brightly again.

Long Walk

Horton Tower After the Storm

I de-togged and got the camera out again and took a picture of the tower in celebration 🙂 ! Of course the downside of the storm was that everything around me, trees, bushes, grass, fields, were all now soaking wet with rivulets running everywhere. On the open hilltop, the sun dried me, but only until I had to push my way through more undergrowth when I got soaked again.

Plus of course, many of the fields had been recently ploughed. This posed two problems! Firstly there was no path because it had been ploughed over – I know that the countryside laws state that if footpaths are ploughed over they have to be reinstated within 24 hours, but farmers don’t always seems to know this! Secondly, this wet, ‘cloggy’ soil stuck to my boots like glue. My size 9’s gradually increased to size 10 and then size 11 as I walked across the fields, getting heavier and heavier as I went. And then of course you have to try to climb over a stile…..or maybe that should be slip over a stile!

Oh, and there is one particular field near Horton Tower that has a large section of sweetcorn growing…..and no clear path through it. Pushing your way through densely packed sweetcorn that is over head height after a torrential downpour is no fun 🙂 !

Hopefully, you can picture the scene that I have been describing 🙂 ! It was with some relief that I found my way back out onto clearer paths again and could walk along solid country lanes and gravel tracks, banging mud off my boots, and everything else, as I went.

Amazingly, now some 30 miles into my walk, despite the conditions, I was still ahead of my scheduled 3 mph pace!

Long Walk

Lovely Paths Near Crichel House

The next part of the walk is lovely as it skirts around another of Dorset’s manor houses, Crichel House, so it is laid out almost as parkland with good paths, old carriage bridges, and a very attractive gatehouse. This brought me out to another lovely village, the village of Witchampton which is always a pleasure to walk through. I kept going, making my way out the other side and down a narrow country lane into open countryside again.

Here, was a reminder of the approaching season, with straw bales in readiness to be transported to the barns for winter bedding. These always make such a nice picturesque scene, especially with that summer sky as a backdrop. And in the distance, I could once again see Badbury Rings that I had passed nearly 12 hours ago on my way out.

Long Walk

Harvest Time

Crossing King Down, I arrived back at the Kingston Lacy avenue again, and that busy road. This was my 35 mile point where I had been intending to stop. I was still ahead of my 3 mph schedule and feeling surprisingly good so I decided to keep on walking.

I circumnavigated the Kingston Lacy estate again and followed the Pamphill avenue, passing some lovely cottages on the way, as the sun was sinking in the sky. From there, I re-crossed the River Stour and its meadow, greeting the sheep and cows as I went. Needless to say, I received just blank stares in return 🙂 !

Long Walk

A Beautiful Cottage Picked Out by the Evening Sun

Forty miles came and went! At 41 miles, my left knee gave out and I started to limp, my water ran out, and my GPS switched to energy saving mode, its batteries all but dead. Mine were too!

Finally, as the sun faded, I reached my starting point again and the end of my epic walk – 42.6 miles and just under 14 hours of virtually non stop walking! I was a happy man 🙂 !

What a great day which I thoroughly enjoyed……well maybe apart from the last few painful miles! I consider myself very blessed that in retirement, I still have the good health and energy to walk these distances and to enjoy this wonderful county of Dorset.

I hope you have enjoyed walking it with me.

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.

In a Dorset Bluebell Woods

29 May

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

Can there be anything so typically English as a bluebell woods in spring? Can there be anything more popular? Well, understandably, everyone loves a bluebell woods because they are beautiful, but beyond that, they herald the arrival of warmer weather after the greyness of the winter months. And, understandably they are extremely popular with photographers too, so how do you capture something sightly different that hasn’t been done a million times before?

Impression - Bluebell Woods

In a Dorset Bluebell Woods

For my theme this week, I thought we would do something slightly different and look at a few pictures that all involve movement in one form or another and that perhaps give an alternative view of this wonderful county and our wonderful countryside. This one involved ‘Deliberate Camera Movement’, also known as DCM.

Deliberate camera movement involves, as the name suggests, deliberately moving the camera whilst you are taking the picture rather than trying to hold it steady as you normally would. It involves setting a slow shutter speed and moving the camera vertically (as above), horizontally, or whatever way you choose in order to create a impressionistic feel to the picture. It is of course very ‘hit and miss’ and usually involves a lot of experimentation in order to get an effect that you like……but at least with digital, you don’t need to worry about how many pictures you take 🙂 ! The idea is to create an impression of the scene so that you take in the whole rather than the detail.

I guess it is a bit of a ‘Marmite’ process – you will either love the effect or hate it. As for me, I have always loved the impressionist painters and I enjoy trying to create something similar with my camera. I wonder how the image makes you feel?

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.

The Avenue – Old and New

3 Mar
The Golden Glow of Autumn

The Beech Avenue

This avenue of beech trees is extremely well known, in fact it must be one of the most famous in England and it is a popular spot for photographers. But this is an avenue with a past, and also a future, but one that is perhaps different than you might expect.

The trees stretch for two and a half miles either side of what was originally the approach road to Kingston Lacy, a beautiful and substantial local manorial estate which is now in the hands of the National Trust. At the time it was owned by the Bankes family and the trees were planted in 1835 by William John Bankes, a rather colourful character, as a gift to his mother…….well, they weren’t of course planted by him personally – in fact one of my wife’s ancestors was involved in that. The numbers were very specific because there were originally 365 on one side of the road, one for every day of the year, and 366 on the other, to represent a leap year.

Unfortunately time has taken its toll and the future does not look bright for this magnificent avenue, partly because the trees are nearing the end of their normal life span which is around 200 years, but also because of the English weather and, more importantly, the huge volume of traffic that now uses this road. Beech trees don’t cope well with exhaust fumes. Many trees have already had to be felled because they had become unsafe, and in fact as you drive down the road, the lines of trees in places are reminiscent of a gap-toothed smile which is sad to see. Careful pruning has been used over the years in order to preserve as many of the trees for as long as possible so for the time being at least this landmark continues, but for how long, especially with present day health and safety requirements?

Old and New

The New and the Old

However, although the future may not look bright for the beech trees, there is a future for the avenue itself as the National Trust has planted a second avenue outside of the first. This avenue is made up of hornbeams which deal with modern traffic much better and it will of course be a lot wider than the original avenue. Now I’m not an expert on trees and the new trees probably had to be planted where they are in order to give them room to breathe and grow without being swamped by the current beeches, but there is just a small cynical part of myself that wonders if it was deliberately planned that way so that the road could eventually be turned into a dual carriageway!

 

The Avenue

Light Trails

Whether beech or hornbeam, this ‘twin’ avenue is truly a spectacle, and one that is totally worth preserving. The old will undoubtedly see out my generation, and the new will prove a delight to future generations. I wonder if photographers of the future will still be capturing images of the then famous hornbeam avenue at Kingston Lacy? In fact I wonder what form photography will take when that day comes?

Keep LEFT

Keep on the Right Side

At least for now, we can continue to enjoy this quintessentially English avenue, to drive through it, walk beside it, and of course to photograph it……..which I will to do for as long as I am able!

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.

I think that I shall never see…..

27 Feb

Bark and Park!

…..But sometimes its because we just don’t look!

I think we’ve probably all experienced that phenomenon whilst we are driving, when we think, ‘That’s funny, I don’t remember driving round that roundabout, or going through those traffic lights, or seeing that building etc; those occasions when we are on autopilot so just don’t remember looking. Of course, we did look, we just didn’t ‘LOOK’! There’s a difference.

It’s true of all areas of our lives – in these modern days, there is just so much going on in our lives that our minds are always elsewhere as we worry about things, plan things, solve the world’s problems, keep in touch with friends, and a million other things that we think need our urgent attention. We almost absent-mindedly travel through life and are always somewhere else in our heads rather than living in the moment maximising where we are now.

Mobile phones don’t help! Back in the ‘old days’, there was just you and your immediate surroundings but now we carry with us the web, phone calls, texts, social media – we are not fully in touch with our surroundings partly because there is a whole raft of other worlds demanding our attention. Our minds are in so many different places at the same time. Like so many things, mobile phones can be a blessing and a curse and it takes a conscious effort to just focus on where we are at this minute and really notice what is around us.

So let’s complete the phrase that started this train of thought – ‘I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree’ (Joyce Kilmer – from the poem Trees) and my picture above that was taken, of all places, in a supermarket car park. I just love the bark with its beautiful range of subtle tones and textures and I thought I would do something a bit arty and include part of its surroundings. It wasn’t the most likely place to find something beautiful, beautiful to me at least, you may not find it so. But the point is, there are gems all around us if we can develop an awareness, and really LOOK!

So let’s change the phrase to, ‘I think that I WILL see’!

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.

Looking for the Decoy

2 Dec

Recently I have spent some time exploring Wareham Forest. Its not an area I have walked extensively because I thought it was mainly coniferous woodlands which are not as interesting as mixed woodlands. However, I was surprised at how much open heathland there was, and one particular heath that grabbed my attention was Decoy Heath.

Now anyone from Dorset will probably know that in wartime, fires were lit on remote Dorset heaths to lure enemy aircraft away from the towns and munition works, acting as a decoy for their bombs. However, that is not where Decoy Heath gets its name. In fact, it gets its name from ducks.

Back in the day, ducks were trapped for food and feathers and in order to do this, new ponds were created or existing ponds altered in order to attract ducks and draw them into the traps. These ponds were known as decoy ponds and there were in fact two on Decoy Heath, hence its name.

Decoy Heath

Decoy Heath with the Old Decoy Pond

I visited one day this week on a beautifully sunny day and walked around the larger, and more obvious, pond. This is known as Old Decoy Pond but is not technically a ‘decoy pond’ in the accepted sense as its shape is irregular and there is no evidence of its being used to actually trap ducks. It is in fact thought to have been used to attract ducks to the general area and its size would have facilitated this.

The second and smaller pond where the actual trapping took place is known as Decoy Pond and is much less obvious, being smaller and somewhat hidden amongst trees and marshy land to the south of the larger pond. I returned on another very misty day to search that one out. This smaller pond, together with its associated but now derelict decoy man’s overnight shelter, is a Scheduled Ancient Monument as there are few remaining in this country in any recognisable state.

Decoy Pond

The way through marshy land

Just reaching the old overnight shelter was like something out of the Hound of the Baskervilles, with mist and marshy land all around making it difficult to reach the old shelter. The simple single roomed building with one door, one small window and a corner fire place was once probably thatched but the roof has long since disappeared. Only the remnant of the walls remain standing. The stream that feeds the decoy pond circles round three sides of the cottage, almost like the moat of a castle and it is hard to know where it is safe to tread.

Decoy Pond

The decoy man’s overnight shelter

It was fascinating finding this old relic especially on a day which seemed ideally suited to emphasise the mystery of the place. It was built in 1724 by the Drax family of Charborough Park, together with the pond and nearby Decoy House (now demolished) which was where the decoy man lived. It was used for over 100 years until 1856 when shooting rights were granted over the surrounding land, creating too much disturbance to make duck trapping viable.

So what about the pond itself? Well unfortunately the whole area was so marshy that it was impossible to walk farther in than the old shelter. The pond’s shape is still visible on the overhead satellite view but this appears to indicate that it has become considerably overgrown with reeds etc so that clear water is not now visible. However, it is still waterlogged and in better condition than most – it is in fact one of only two remaining in Dorset.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-00-19

Satellite view showing the pentagonal pond in the trees

I was interested to read how decoy ponds were used. The practice dates back to medieval times in more simple forms but the more complex design seen here was introduced from Holland in the 17th century. Most were star shaped, a main pond with tapering ditches known as pipes running in a curved shape outwards, with netting over the top. In the picture above, the remnants of some of these ‘pipes’ can be seen stretching out from the pentagonal shaped pond.

It was down these ‘pipes’ that ducks would be lured by either using strategically placed food or by using dogs. The latter method relied on the ducks’ natural inclination to follow predators such as foxes to keep them in sight – thus the dog mimicking a predator led the ducks up the pipe. Carefully placed screens would be used to hide the dog but allow sufficient glimpses to maintain the ducks’ interest. When they reached the point of the pipe, they would be captured by the decoy men and have their necks wrung.

The images below give an idea of how the decoy ponds were used. They are by Sir Ralph Frankland-Payne-Gallwey, 3rd Baronet (1848-1916) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons from his book ‘The book of duck decoys, their construction, management, and history (1886)’.

decoy_5_pipe

decoy_in_action

It has been fascinating exploring this little corner of Dorset and the old custom of duck decoying. I am sure there is much more to learn but I hope you have enjoyed this little taster.

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.

In a Dorset Holloway

30 Jun

 

The Magical, Mystery of Dorset's Holloways

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 Terry Yarrow, The Dorset Rambler)

Holloway

This poem was inspired by the writer exploring the Holloways of Dorset. They are such mysterious and captivating places – if you would like to know more, there are several articles in my blog and there is a link to one below.

https://thedorsetrambler.com/2015/10/27/walking-underground-the-holloways-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 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.