Tag Archives: nature

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.

Why Walk?

9 Mar

Setting off for a destination, having only what you are carrying on your back and no real plan is true freedom

The poppy field

For views such as this!

As you may know, I set up this blog so that I can share three of my passions with others, and one of these passions is walking. My motivation for sharing my walks is partly for the enjoyment of those who for health or age reasons are unable to get out into the countryside themselves, partly for those who do get out into the country and who still enjoy reading others’ experiences, and partly to encourage non-walkers to just give walking a try.

Some will ask the question, ‘Why Walk?’, and I know that some will be unable to see any benefits to something that to them might seem quite laborious and slow. There will be those who think only in terms of arriving and who will see the journeying as just an evil necessity, so ‘lets get it over in the quickest way possible’! But as T S Elliot said, ‘The journey, not the arrival matters’!

Watching the Sunset

Walkers enjoying a rest

So why do I use Shanks’s Pony as my preferred mode of transport? Well the short answer is that I enjoy it, I enjoy the mechanical process of just putting one foot in front of the other. But obviously there is much more to it than that! So here are some of the benefits.

I think one of the first, over-riding things is that anyone can do it, whatever your age or fitness level……and it doesn’t have to cost a thing.

It brings health benefits, both physical and mental. On the physical level, it keeps the body fitter, tones muscles, is good for weight loss, keeps the heart strong. On a mental level, it pumps blood round the brain, improving memory and mental agility. It also has the effect of improving mood and has been shown to be effective in combatting depression. In short, you feel better mentally and physically for walking. Hippocrates was right when he said, ‘Walking is man’s best medicine.’

It definitely helps stress and I know people who were off work with stress but who soon recovered after spending some time walking in the countryside. It is a great de-stresser and can be preventative as well as curative. Coupled with this, it can help you sleep better – the pure sleep of a tired body and a satisfied mind.

Great Fryup Dale

To enjoy an amazingly diverse landscape

It can be tailored to suit the individual. Doctors recommend 150 minutes a week but if you have never exercised before, you can start with just a short stroll and build up from there to as much or little as you want. Anything is better than nothing!

It is gentle on the joints. For someone like myself who suffers from arthritis, this one is quite crucial. Recently I have tried a bit of running but my ankles soon complain because the weight on limbs increases considerably.

You don’t need any special equipment. OK, there is a whole industry based on walking, providing all manner of high and low tech gear to aid walking and in some ways the industry has created its own market. The fact is you don’t NEED anything specific – my parents walked many miles when they were alive and they did it all in their day clothes and ordinary shoes. Even the famous Alfred Wainwright didn’t have expensive equipment and he spent his life walking. I guess some equipment helps, but you don’t necessarily NEED anything fancy to start walking.

OK, so that has covered some of the factual issues, but there are many more emotive reasons for walking.

You will see things that you would never see otherwise. You can drive through the countryside but most of your focus will be on the road so you will miss much of what is around. When you are on foot, you can stop often, and paths will take you to places that a car just cannot reach. And you will be richer as a result.

DSC00581-41

To see things you would never normally see – new born lambs

You will be away from the daily grind. In this computer and social media age, there is often an imbalance between time spent outside and time spent at technology screens, whether they be computer, tablet, games machine or smart phone. Even as a walker I struggle with this – between blogging, processing photographs, writing, planning walks and researching my family history, I seem to spend more time than I want at the computer screen.

Just being in the countryside, on the coast, or on the hilltop is sheer joy. There are views aplenty, lovely varied landscapes, and even with a cheap pair of binoculars you see wildlife that you would not normally see. You can surround yourself with trees, wild flowers, animals, birds, bugs of all shapes and sizes and be lost in their midst. It is just the most amazing place to be and puts everything into perspective. No one ever achieved that in their office.

The bluebell woods

To walk amongst nature is a joy

You meet some lovely and like-minded people. I always think it strange that you can walk through a town surrounded by people and speak to no-one, but get out on the coast path and you will say ‘hello’ to everyone you pass, and stop to pass the time of day with many. There is such a community spirit in the countryside and it is one of its great pleasures.

It is great for thinking…..and talking. I find that I think better when walking, that is a simple truth, and I often put the world to rights in my mind whilst climbing a hill. Somehow it is easier than when I am just sat at home. But it is great for talking too. If you have a problem to share, it is often easier to talk over it whilst walking than it is when just sat opposite each other. Sometimes I think there should be more walking and talking counselling services for those who have issues to talk through.

One area I think can be particularly enjoyable and beneficial is the end to end walk, or thru hike as they call it in America. With these walks you basically leave the world behind and it is just you and what you have on your back meeting challenges as you go with just your own problem solving skills to get you through. And you meet those problems head on whether they be to do with bad weather, finding places to sleep, finding food on the way, difficulties over route finding and so on. OK, so this is the UK and not the wild jungles of Borneo but challenges will still arise and you need to meet those and overcome them.

Setting off for a destination hundreds of miles away and having only what you are carrying and no real plan is freedom in its truest form!

Drying Time

Just me and what I have on my back!

I love my walking and as far as possible, I do it very day. Some days they are long walks, some days they are shorter walks, and some days perhaps just a half an hour power walk and I have tried to put into words why I do it.

So how about you? If you have never really tried it, I would encourage you to give it a go. You may be surprised at what benefits it brings you and how it will enrich your life.

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.

If you go down in the woods…..

3 Mar

If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise…..or perhaps not so much of a surprise really!

At the end of the day with the sun slowly sinking towards her bed in the west, I paid a visit to a small woodland near to me and it was a magical, mystery tour, a garden of delights, with the late sun slanting through gaps in the trees, spotlighting all those wonderful shapes, textures and sounds.

P2100075-75

A magical, mystery tour at sunset

The path to the woods was flooded with light, blinding light, and I had the place to myself. This was a cold, crisp winter evening and the dog walkers had long gone to their warm and comfortable firesides, but this was a night to be out.

P2100044-44

Tangled Stems!

The low angled sun has a way of bringing out the twisted but beautiful shapes created by trees growing around trees, trunks around trunks. You almost feel that they might suddenly lift their roots and start walking like some grotesque monster that only comes alive at dusk. Grotesque and beauty blend together in nature.

P2100055-55

Twisted Trunks

Clumps gather together like little cliques, each protective of their own patch, keeping their distance from their neighbours. They seem to huddle together to keep warm on this chilliest of evenings.

P2100057-57

Clumps!

They congregate for a tete a tete and the evening breeze rustling through the branches above mimics their whispered words, words that don’t need to be understood, just enjoyed. They stand like night-watchmen clustered around a fire to keep warm, with the glow of the flames lighting their bark.

P2100063-63

Tete a Tete

All around are the sounds of the day’s end. The last songs from serenading songbirds, the echoing caws of the rooks that seems to typify this time of year, the barking of a distant dog, the eerie cry of an owl about to set out to look for his evening meal, the far away faint lowing of cattle long since tucked up in their comparatively warm barns.

This is a lonely place, and the plaintive sounds of nightfall emphasise that feeling, that lovely feeling, of being alone in a wilderness, surrounded by wildlife. I feel like I am intruding, disturbing the night who is going about his business of wrapping up the day.

P2100059-59

Bark and Creeper

Above me, the trees creak as the breeze bends the boughs, and the branches clatter together like deer locking antlers in their quest to be king of the herd. Below, the faint rustle of leaves as night beetles burrow, foraging for food.

These are gentle sounds of things that are in no hurry – nature never hurries. It seems to contrast starkly with our own normal busy, rushing lives. I wonder if we ever really need to rush, but somehow people find a comfort in rushing in a way that nature never does.

P2100062-62

In the Spotlight

The light slants across bark, highlighting the amazing textures and throwing long shadows from tiny creepers striving to scale the vertical cliff face. Occasional bright green leaves stand out, revelling in the last light.

A Little Bit of Green

A Little Bit of Green

In the distance, the sun busts through another gap and translucent leaves glow briefly. Far off trees stand to attention, their silhouettes appearing as prison bars. Ah, but this is no prison, this is freedom, spectacular freedom, awesome freedom, and on this night, all for my enjoyment. I wonder why others aren’t there to witness these beautiful sights.

P2100068-68

Sunburst

But ultimately, regretfully, I too must leave this paradise. The sun is now nearly gone. The Old Man’s Beard will soon be gathering frost as the night air chills even more. When the sun finally ends his day’s work, the cold will really descend like a frozen blanket on the land.

P2100078-78

Bearded Sunset

I leave the woods behind and make my way home, lost in my thoughts, and changed in some small way from the experience. But I know I shall come again soon, and the woods will be waiting for me expectantly.

Thanks for stopping by and for joining me on this wonderful evening.

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.

Of a new henge, priests and quarrymen, sunsets and spray, and a ledge that dances!

13 Feb

It was another of those rare crisp, cold, clear, Winter days and there was bright sunshine as I parked up near the recently erected landmark, Woodhenge, at Worth Matravers.

This monument was put up on a whim by the landlord of the local pub who had cut down a huge tree but local planners ordered it to be taken down as no planning permission had been granted. In the end, they relented and agreed that it could stay for a few months but such was the level of public support for the monument which has very quickly become a local attraction that planners have now extended this for a further two years. So Woodhenge stays……for the time being at least.

Woodhenge

Woodhenge

Starting out on my walk, I immediately passed the pub itself, the quirky Square and Compass, probably one of the best pubs in Purbeck, in fact in the whole of Dorset! It started life as a pair of cottages but was converted to an alehouse in the 18th century and specialises in pasties and cider.  It also has one of the smallest bars you are likely to see, just a hatch in the corridor!  It has an amazing beer garden with views down the valley to the sea and there is nothing better than to sit on a rock seat on a summer evening with drink in hand watching the sun go down.

But this was too early in the day for a drink so I passed swiftly by.

The Square and Compass

The Square and Compass

Making my way out of the village along the road, I passed something else that I always think is quirky – a bus stop which is just 2 feet high! It always strikes me as funny – was it designed for short people? 🙂

I soon turned off the road and crossed fields, passing a farm drive that I seem to photograph with monotonous regularity – I couldn’t resist another shot with the bright sunlight picking out the straight track against the heavy cloud backdrop. It always reminds me of the album cover on the Best of the Eagles CD – well I always did have a good imagination!

Straight!

The Straight Way

The track I was following is known as The Priests Way and it was bounded on both sides by dry stone walls. It intrigues me how the style of these walls varies – on one side of me the stones were laid flat and on the other side they sloped diagonally. Either way, I think the way these walls stand up using nothing but gravity is testament to the skills of the men who built them. It is a classic example of making use of extremely local materials since they were originally built with stones cleared from the fields when preparing the ground for agriculture. Isn’t that just perfect!

Dry Stone WallDry Stone Wall

The Priests Way is a track that links the village of Worth Matravers to its larger cousin on the coast, Swanage. It takes its name from the fact that back as far as the 15th century, the priest who oversaw congregations in both localities would ride the route regularly to visit his parishioners or lead services. As you walk the trail which runs along the top of the ridge, you could just imagine raising your cap as the priest passed by, or passing the time of day with him on the road.

This is now a good route to walk at this time of year after so much rain because thanks to funding from Natural England the path has been improved and resurfaced. The dry and firm footing is welcome and frees you up to look around you as you no longer have to watch every step.

The Priest's Way

The Priests Way Sign

Part way along the track, I passed a hollow in the ground, but this is clearly no ordinary hollow as the sides are supported by dry stone walling. It is overgrown now but at one time this would have been a watering point for livestock using the route.

Drinking Place?

One of the things this area is noted for is its Purbeck and Portland Stone that has been quarried extensively for many years. Most of the quarries have ceased their operations long since but there are still some that continue to work the stone. The path passes by one such quarry and I stopped to watch the heavy machinery doing tasks that were once performed laboriously by many men with simple tools. How times change!

A Working Quarry

This track really is a delightful route to walk, indeed it is one of my regular walks. The track winds its way towards Swanage with the distant sea becoming ever closer, and with beautiful views across the valley towards the Purbeck Hills.

The Priest's Way

The Priests Way

It passes by a lime kiln, reminding me of another of those ancient occupations, the making of quicklime to spread on the land to reduce acidity, or to make a whitewash for buildings. It could even be used as a disinfectant for cow stalls. These were in their heyday when land was being prepared for agricultural purposes and many farms had kilns of their own, manufacturing quicklime right where it was needed.  These days of course it is manufactured by much more efficient methods but it is good to see these ancient relics being preserved for future generations.

The Lime Kiln

A Lime Kiln Beside the Track

On the Priet's Way

The Priests Way with the Purbeck Hills Beyond

Nearing the end of The Priests Way, I stopped for elevenses overlooking the town of Swanage. This is such a lovely view and it is always a good place to sit. Not only that, but you get serenaded at the same time as behind me stands a metal gatepost with holes in it and when the wind is in the right direction, it plays the gatepost like a flute 🙂 !  I remember the day I first heard this eerie sound – it took me a while to work out where it was coming from.

Swanage

Swanage

I dropped down into Swanage which I always think is a bit of a ‘Marmite’ town. People either love it or hate it! I really like it and always enjoy wandering through the streets passing some interesting sights like the old and derelict Pier Head Cafe on the sea front. The building was actually erected as a temporary mess hall in the late 1940’s and has had various uses since then, until it was declared unsafe some 50 years later. It is now awaiting redevelopment and arguably has become even more iconic since its closure thanks to the murals that you see below.

The murals were painted by two local artists as part of Purbeck Arts Week in 2007 and are really effective. One thing I particularly like is that the Swanage version of Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawk’ has a Simpsons version hanging on the wall in the background 🙂 !

Pier Head Cafe and Tea GardenPier Head Cafe and Tea Garden

Leaving Swanage, I climbed up the down at the southern end of the town and continued on my way. But not before stopping to look back at the town below.

Swanage

Leaving Swanage

For many years, the route from here has meant walking along the road before joining the coast path again. This is because the coast path was closed due to landslides. Recently, however, the coast path itself has been reopened so it is possible to take a much improved route.

The Undercliff

The Undercliff Walk

Even now though, the route through the trees and across the foreshore is very muddy and I wonder how long it will be before the route is closed again. However, I made it through ok and continued round the coast below Durlston Castle, looking back to Peverill Point across the bay, with Old Harry Rocks in the distance.

Peverill Point and Old Harry Rocks

Peverill Point and Old Harry Rocks

Durlston Castle was never actually a true castle, being built as a restaurant to cater for visitors to the Durlston Estate in the late 19th century. It is now a visitor’s centre for what has become a country park. My route took me below the castle and round the headland to Anvil Point where ahead of me I could see the lighthouse standing proud above the rugged coast. The lighthouse was built in 1881 and is now fully automated, the lighthouse keeper’s accommodation being turned into holiday lets. It must be a great place to stay……provided the foghorn doesn’t go off of course!

Below the lighthouse is the ledge of what was once Tilly Whim Caves. These were originally coastal quarries dating from the 18th century but when quarrying ceased, they were converted to a tourist attraction. From 1887 to 1976 they drew many visitors to the area until a rock fall forced their closure. Now they are home to bats so their usefulness continues, just in a different guise.

Anvil Point

Anvil Point and Tilly Whim Caves

Leaving Anvil Point behind, I entered a stretch of coast that I knew would not be easy to walk. This is ‘muddy mile’, well, several miles actually and in the wet season it is always muddy! I slipped and slid my way along the coast passing spiders’ nests in the shrubbery to the side.  Often there are sightings of dolphins, peregrines and many other creatures along this stretch of coast, as well as rare plants.

Spider's Nest

Spider’s Nest

Along this part of the coast also, there are two sets of ‘mile markers’, posts erected on the cliff top which can be used by ships to test their speed and performance. When viewed from the sea, these indicate a measured mile.

Mile Markers

Mile Markers

This is a delightful part of the Dorset coast, laden with old and disused quarry workings and normally some lovely grassy paths – when they haven’t been churned up into mud. The views are spectacular and there is much to explore.

The QuarriesThe Quarries

I couldn’t resist taking some cloudscape shots on this glorious day.

Along the Dorset CoastClouds

One of the smallest quarries is Whiteware Quarry in the picture below. I love to visit this quarry which is partially hidden away. Its diminutive size intrigues me and it is high above the sea, creating a very exposed feeling. The ledge is a great place to just sit and watch the waves crashing onto the rocks 30 metres below.

Whiteware Quarry

Whiteware Quarry

In total contrast to the Whiteware, the next quarry one of the largest. This is Dancing Ledge, a popular playground of climbers, coasteering groups, walkers and so on. So much so that the National Trust has recently announced that it will be restricting the numbers of commercial groups in order to reduce damage to the area.

There are various theories as to where the name Dancing Ledge came from. Some say that it is because the waves seem to dance across the lower ledge, others say that it takes its name from the fact that the ledge is the same size as a ballroom dance floor.  Either way, it is a very appropriate name and a beautiful place to while away a few hours.

It is well know for its amazing wildlife, including a colony of puffins, and for its swimming pool, visible in the picture below. This pool was blasted out of the rock in the early 1900’s so that the children from the local preparatory schools had somewhere safe to swim as the sea itself is far too treacherous. The schools have all now closed but the pool is still used by others and it is a great place to cool off during a hot summer’s walk.  But not on this chilly winter’s day!

Dancing Ledge

Dancing Ledge

The light was now fading fast but I climbed down to the lower ledge to capture some beautiful crepuscular rays and some great crashing waves. The evening was beautifully atmospheric and it was quite special having the place all to myself and watching the light fade. I could have happily sat and watched the sun disappear but I had further to walk so after some while, I climbed back up to the coast path.

On Dancing Ledge

Dancing Ledge

As I made my way towards the next quarry, I looked back the way I’d come, with Anvil Point in the far distance and some subtle pink tones appearing in the sky, the clouds reflecting the light from the setting sun.

Looking Back to Anvil Point

The Way I’d Come

The last quarry of the day was to be Seacombe and with the sun disappearing, I climbed up to the ridge above to capture the sunset over the old wartime gun post that once guarded this part of the coast from the enemy. This is an Alan Williams Turret, designed to be operated by one man with a machine gun or anti-tank gun. This rusting hulk is a happy reminder that peace reign’s in our land although it is also a reminder that sadly this is not true for many parts of this world we live in.

I stood looking at this scene with a mix of emotions!

Seacombe

Seacombe Quarry

Finally I left the coast behind and with the sound of the waves gradually fading into the distance I made my way up the valley, once again tramping through mud, to reach Worth Matravers. I stopped to capture the last vestige of light across the duck pond that sits on the green in the heart of this picture perfect and unspoilt village. The ducks had long since gone to roost leaving the water like a mirror to reflect the sky, church and cottages, many of which are now second homes. This is another village that has to a large degree lost its working heart but it is beautiful nonetheless.

Worth Matravers

Worth Matravers

I made my way back to my starting point and to Woodhenge, now silhouetted against a beautiful late night sky. This was my starting point and it made a fitting end to a glorious day’s walking!

Woodhenge

Woodhenge

Thanks for joining me on this walk.  I hope you have enjoyed the sights and sounds of this wonderful part 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 details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.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.