Tag Archives: Poole Harbour

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.

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The Sandbanks Ferry

7 Mar

The Sandbanks Ferry is an icon of Poole Harbour and a mode of transport that has featured in my life since I was a babe in a pram and my parents used to take me across to the beach at Shell Bay where the whole family would gather. Even now, all those years later, I feel I have a connection with this somewhat quirky way of crossing the harbour entrance, and any walk I take that involves this ferry is still richer for the experience.

Bramblebush Bay

The Bramblebush Bay

Poole Harbour is one of the largest natural harbours in the world with nearly 15 square miles of water and 100 miles of coastline but the entrance is just 300 meters wide.  The peninsulas either side of the entrance were originally just sand spits without roads but now the situation is considerably different, and totally contrasting too. The southern peninsula, South Haven Point, comprises just heathland and beaches whilst the northern shoreline, unsurprisingly known as North Haven Point, is made up of some of the most expensive real estate in the world – you would need to be a multi-millionaire just to buy a plot of land here!

Between the two is that short stretch of fast flowing water as the tide fills and empties the harbour, much as a tap fills a bottle.

On the Sandbanks Ferry

On the Sandbanks Ferry

It was in the early 1900’s that the first suggestion for a harbour entrance crossing was muted, in order to avoid a road trip of some 25 miles around the inland perimeter of the harbour.  The suggestion was that this should be a transporter bridge although the proposal failed, as did several other schemes.

From the early 1900’s, foot passengers were catered for by a rowing boat ferry that operated during the summer, carrying passengers across to and from the wild and remote Shell Bay. This must have been really hard work for the oarsman especially when the strong tides were running through that narrow harbour entrance.  This rowboat ferry was eventually changed to a motor boat service.

Looking Out to Sea

Looking Out to Sea

It was just before the First World War that the suggestion was made that a vehicle ferry should be set up and some 9 years later, the Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road And Ferry Company was formed to progress this.  Roads needed to be built and slipways formed with Purbeck Stone being brought in from the Dorset coastal quarries either overland or by barge.  With some of the land being boggy marshlands, copious amounts were needed.

On 15th July 1926, the first ferry, a small coal fired, steam driven craft carrying up to 15 cars, commenced service.  This continued to operate for over 30 years, although the service was suspended during World War Two as the whole area was taken over by the military.

In the mid 1950’s, a new and larger ferry was installed.  This carried up to 28 cars and again operated for some 35 years before being taken out of service.

The current ferry, The Bramblebush Bay, came into service in 1994 and was larger again with a length of 244 feet and a beam of 54 feet.  This carries up to 48 cars but when fully loaded still has a draught of only 3 feet 9 inches – despite its size, the average depth of the water in the harbour is just 48cm.

In Transit

The Poole Harbour Entrance

The ferry operates on two hardened steel chains, each 1,235 feet long, anchored at either side of the harbour entrance.  Wear and tear on the chain causes it to stretch and two links have to be taken out each fortnight in order to maintain the optimum length.  Although there are two chains, the ferry actually drives on one side at a time only (the side farthest from the flowing tide) in order to make it easier to manouvre at the slipway and to reduce cost.  There is a tremendous strain on the chains, especially when a strong tide is flowing and a chain has been known to break.  The chains are replaced every 15/18 months and the old ones sold off, often for use as weights for lobster pots or boat moorings etc.

The Evening Ferry

At the End of the Day

To travel on the Sandbanks Ferry is a delight and there is no better way to start and finish a walk.  It is still one of my regular haunts and I thoroughly enjoy both the quirkiness and the amazing views, especially at sunrise and sunset.

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.

Of autumn mists and mellow fruitfulness ……..well, just mist really!!

4 Nov

I think we all like walking in the lovely bright summer sunshine, but I’m a strange person in that I like to walk in all weathers!  In fact there are times when bad weather really improves a walk – for instance, on a bright summers day mountains can seem quite tame but bring down some stormy weather and they take on a whole different character, much more threatening and dangerous.  On this walk, the day was very misty and with heavy cloud that really suited the landscape so well, as I think you will see.

It started with a walk around the southern shore of Poole Harbour, said to be the second largest natural harbour in the world with 100 miles of coastline.  Initially, the walk was straight forward with sandy beaches, gently lapping water, and……and house boats!

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The house boats at Bramble Bush Bay

These always intrigue me as some are not really boats at all – because they were effectively falling apart, they have been embedded in concrete to ‘stop the rot’.  They still lean at crazy angles and you would be justified in thinking they were derelict, but they are not.  They are still occupied in the summer months when the concrete bedded ones are joined by a number of additional floating houses to form a village by the beach.  It is one of those quirky things of Dorset that I have known all my life.

A little further on in my walk I came across another of those mysteries, a row of dragon’s teeth – but are they?

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Dragon’s Teeth?

This line of heavy concrete blocks stretches a short distance into the harbour’s water and are usually referred to as Dragon’s Teeth, a wartime anti-tank blockade, but I often wonder if that really was their purpose.  At one time, Brownsea Island, the largest island in the harbour, had a pottery industry and raw materials were transported by boat to the island, and in turn, the pottery goods were exported.  To do this, the barges used to berth at a number of landing stages on the harbour shore and I wonder if these blocks are the remains of one of these.  I have never been able to totally prove one way or the other but in many ways, it is the very mystery that makes these utilitarian blocks fascinating.

Continuing round the shoreline, I passed below the beautiful low sandstone cliffs with their amazing array of warm colours ranging from yellow, through the whole spectrum of oranges, to deep browns.  And below, the sandy beach begins to turn a little more rugged.

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Sandstone

There is quite a lot of debris along this part of the coast, remains from the days when there were thriving industries. This is very evident at Redhorn Quay.  The old jetty itself has long since disappeared but there is a rusting hulk, still standing proud, determined to hold out till the last.  I fear it will not be there much longer as the weather over the years has destroyed most of it already.

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The wreck at Redhorn Quay

I always linger at Redhorn because as you stand there with the wind whipping around you and the sound of the sea lapping on the shore, you can almost sense what it would have been like all those years ago when the wreck was a working barge plying its trade around the harbour.  With other derelict vessels nearby, it feels like a graveyard.

But it was time to move on.  Now this is not an easy walk and in some ways that is what makes it special because it is not frequented by many people.  This makes it seem all the more remote.  What makes the walk difficult is that it is extremely marshy and great care is needed to avoid stepping in the wrong place!  But it has a very beautiful loneliness about it.  With the heavy mist and cloud, the marshes take on real character as you walk carefully beside the water.  The tide was out revealing vast expanses of mud flats which were frequented by a whole range of waders, and their plaintive cries echoing across the harbour just emphasised the feeling of loneliness that this area evokes.  I love those plaintive cries, especially that of the curlew and the oyster catcher!

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Marshes and mud flats in Poole Harbour

I lingered as long as I could but had to move on because there was a lot more to enjoy on this walk.  As I left the harbour shore, I took one last look back across the wonderful autumn marsh grass.

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Across the marsh grass

From the marshlands of the harbour, I walked on across the heathland further inland, with its famous Agglestone (holy stone).  This stone stands proud on its hilltop as if it was monarch of all he surveys…..but the truth is it is not meant to be there!  It is a massive block of sandstone, not necessarily massive by world standards but massive in the context of the sandy heathland that surrounds it.  It is this incongruity which makes it another of Dorset’s curiosities.  Legend has it that it was thrown by the devil from the Isle of Wight when he was aiming to destroy Corfe Castle which is a few miles away.  Clearly his aim was not that good…….or maybe it is just that it is a relic of the ice age ;)!

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The Agglestone on Godlingston Heath

One of the things I like about this walk is the varied terrain, from marshes to heathland and on to much more civilised ground as I crossed the well manicured grass of Isle of Purbeck Golf Course, famed for being owned by Enid Blyton.  Even here though there was wetness!!!

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Tracks in the wet grass on the Isle of Purbeck Golf Course

And having passed across the fairway, watching for low flying golf balls ;), my route took me up over to the top of Ballard Down with its well known obelisk looming out of the mist.  This obelisk was erected for the first time in 1883 to commemorate the coming of a clean water supply to Swanage.  I say ‘for the first time’ because it was taken down during the Second World War to prevent its being used by enemy pilots to aid navigation.  It was erected for a second time in 1952 but somewhat shorter because the bottom section had been damaged.

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The ‘shorter’ obelisk on Ballard Down

The view from the obelisk is wonderful and it was a view that stayed with me as my route followed the ridge for several miles.  Normally on this part of the walk I would be serenaded by skylarks but not on this day.  I did however come across some fungi, grouped together as if they were deliberately posing for a family photograph.  Naturally I obliged ;)!

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A fungi family gathering on Ballard Down

Having enjoyed the spectacular views…..and the bracing wind……on the ridge top, I eventually dropped down into the valley again to pass through a farm with the usual array of ‘abandoned’ farm machinery.  Some of this was clearly just parked until needed again but it always amuses me how much machinery simply gets left to rust away. On some walks it almost seems like someone has deliberately set up a museum of farming through the ages!

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Waiting to be used again

I was nearing the end of my walk now but there was still time to look for some more pictures.  I like to look for a different view of things and recently have been searching for what I call ‘alternative autumn pictures’.  I found one on this walk in a river bed which reflected the trees above – the ‘autumn leaves’ were in fact pebbles under the water.

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Autumn in the river bed

The final stretch of this wonderful and varied walk should have taken me along the beach back to my starting point but I took a detour to revisit the early part of my walk again, hoping for an amazingly vibrant sunset across the Dragon’s Teeth and house boats – but as often happens it didn’t come!!  Well I guess the sun did set, but hidden from view behind a huge bank of cloud!  Ah well, I took the pictures anyway.

Somehow, in the fading light, the random concrete blocks seem even more imposing.

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Poole Harbour in the fading light

And standing on the shore on this crisp evening with the water gently washing across the sand with the mist still lingering across the harbour, there was a special atmosphere.  It is what makes walking so enjoyable and memorable!

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Darkness falls on The Bramble Bush Bay houseboats 

By the time I reached the Sandbanks Chain Ferry for my trip back across the Poole Harbour entrance, it was dark – but then, I finish nearly all of my walks in the dark….just to make them last a little longer.  And this was a walk I didn’t want to end.

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The Sandbanks Chain Ferry

Not much sun, lots of cloud and mist, chill breezes, waders and fungi, marshland, heath, hilltops and beach, and a good smattering of Dorset quirkiness – a wonderfully varied and evocative walk.  I hope you enjoyed walking it with me.

Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler.

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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.