Tag Archives: St Catherine’s

Theme for the Week – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 1

16 Apr

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

Its that time again; time to start a new theme for the coming week, and our theme this week is Ruined Churches in Dorset. These are all remote and damaged in some way, some more so than others. But all have a magnificent heritage and have contributed to peoples’ lives down through the years. Its this impact on people’s lives that I like to celebrate even if the buildings are no longer used, because life is about people. Our first church stands on a high hill top like a beacon for all around – this is St Catherine’s Chapel.

St Catherine’s Chapel

The sun sets on St Catherine's Chapel

St Catherine’s at Sunset

St Catherine’s stands on a hilltop above Abbotsbury village. There are no records of its construction but it has been dated by experts to be from the 14th century, and it was built as a place of retreat and pilgrimage for monks from the Benedictine Abbotsbury Abbey that sat in the valley below. The hill on which it stands is some 260 feet high and there are fantastic views across Chesil Beach and Portland. Because of its prominent position, it was used as a navigation aid by seamen and it may be that this is why it still exists today because it was saved whilst the abbey itself was destroyed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century.

St Catherine's Chapel

St Catherine’s Chapel

The chapel is not unique but is one of very few that were built by monks outside of the main abbey grounds. It is constructed of this lovely golden coloured ashlar limestone and although it was renovated in both the 18th and 20th century, it is largely unchanged apart from the missing stained glass and interior furniture. This is a truly magnificent building with heavily buttressed walls that are 4 feet thick. Even the roof is constructed of stone. Both of these things have enabled it to stand up to the elements down through the centuries. It really does have a solid feel to it!

Peace

The East Window Minus Stained Glass

The chapel is dedicated to St Catherine which is a rare dedication. She was, though, a very popular figure in medieval times and she was the patron saint of spinsters, especially those seeking a husband (the Catherine Wheel firework was named after her because of the nature of her execution). Traditionally, young women would come to this chapel to pray to her for a husband and there are niches carved in the east jamb of the south doorway for the knees and hands especially for this purpose. These are known as ‘wishing holes’. One of the specific prayers goes:

“A husband St Catherine, a handsome one St Catherine, a rich one St Catherine, a nice one St Catherine, and soon St Catherine.” 

Often the prayer would end with, “Arn-a-one’s better than narn-a-one” which in Dorset dialect meant, ‘any one is better than never a one’.

On Chapel Hill

St Catherine’s on its Hilltop

St Catherine’s has a long heritage but it has still not been completely retired as some informal services are still held there on occasion. It also provides a good home for doves as you can see in the picture above and it is an amazing place to spend a few hours just drinking in the fabulous views.

It was built on its hilltop site to be impressive and some 700 years later, although semi derelict, it is still as impressive as ever!

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.

On the Wild Side – The Dorset Coast Path Day 1

2 Aug

Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know that I have just been on a short (well 50 miles) wild camping trek along the Dorset Coast – well I thought I would blog this amazing trip.  This is Day 1 when I walked from Weymouth to Abbotsbury.

The day was hot, really hot, and I got off the train and made my way to the seafront. I have completed this walk numerous times and each time the day starts the same – with a bacon bap and cup of tea on the seafront overlooking the beach. This sets me up well for the walk to come. I sat under the shade of an umbrella.

Breakfast

Bacon Butty Breakfast!

Leaving the beachside cafe I made my way around the beach to the harbour where my next transport awaited me – the rowing boat ferry that crosses the harbour entrance. This ferry saves a mile or more of walking to reach the nearest bridge but for me, it is much more about the quirkiness of being rowed across to the other side. Its just such a great start to the day and is worth more to me than the £1 it costs.

Weymouth Harbour

Waiting

The Ferry

Row Boat Ferry

Reaching dry land again, I made my way through Nothe Gardens and around the headland with views across Portland Harbour entrance. This was once a major Naval Base and still retains the features that were at one time so important to its operation.

Portland Harbour Entrance

Portland Harbour Entrance

Military connections continue for a time as the next feature on the walk is Sandsfoot Castle, built by Henry viii in 1539 to protect this part of the coast. The now derelict castle has recently been made safe so that visitors can walk around it, and it is surrounded by the most beautifully colourful gardens, including a tea room. Resisting the temptation, I walked on!

Sandsfoot Castle Gardens

Sandsfoot Castle

I joined the Rodwell Trail that follows the old railway that once ran from Weymouth to Portland. This was easy walking along a tarmac track until reaching Ferrybridge where I finally left civilisation behind and joined the winding track that follows the shoreline of The Fleet, a nearly landlocked tract of brackish water separated from the sea by the famous Chesil Beach.

The Old Gateway

The Start of The Fleet

The Fleet is fed by the sea at its eastern end and by a number of streams along its 8 mile length. It is therefore almost a lake but rises and falls with the tide. Its southern shore is straight and bounded by Chesil Beach, its northern shore winds in and out of various coves and inlets, as well as one or two military establishments including a firing range and a bridge building centre where the army practices building bridges. One of its most noted military connections from the past is that it was an early testing area for Barnes Wallis’ famous bouncing bomb.

The Old Jetty

Langton Hive Point

For the most part these days it is just the most beautiful and peaceful place to walk. The walking is flat and easy with much to take in along the route, including a number of old jetties. The most photographed of these is the one at Langton Hive Point which sadly now has few timbers remaining. I decided to stop here for an early lunch with lovely views out across The Fleet with numerous rowing boats moored along its shore.

The Fleet

Beside the Fleet

Lost in the Grass

Rowing Boats and Grass

The early afternoon sun was becoming hotter still and I was having to drink copious amounts of water to keep hydrated. With nearly 20kg on my back, the walk was tiring despite its flatness – I knew though that there were hills aplenty to come before my 50 mile trek would be complete but the forecast suggested that it was to cool over the coming days. I hoped so!

Moonfleet Church

Fleet Church

I always think one of the most interesting features along this stretch of the Dorset coast is the hamlet of Fleet which has an interesting and somewhat tragic past. In November 1824 there was an almighty storm and the sea breached Chesil Beach that had until then protected the tiny hamlet. The devastation was massive as huge waves washed inland destroying many cottages and most of the church. Only the chancel of the old church was left standing. A local boy observed the scene and wrote:

“At six o’-clock on the morning of the 23rd I was standing with other boys by the gate near the cattle pound when I saw, rushing up the valley, the tidal wave, driven by a hurricane and bearing upon its crest a whole haystack and other debris from the fields below. We ran for our lives to Chickerell, and when we returned found that five houses had been swept away and the church was in ruins.”

The hamlet and what is left of the old church is delightful and I always stop here for a time of reflection. It is so peaceful that it is hard to imagine the events of 1824.

Aside from those catastrophic events, the village has been immortalised by J Meade Faulkner who based his book Moonfleet on the area.

Moonfleet Church

The Ever Open Door

Leaving ‘Moonfleet’ behind I continued along the shore and met another backpacker walking the other way. We fell into conversation and the girl, a young Swiss student, told me how she was walking the entire South West Coast Path having started some 5 weeks earlier. She was on the latter stages and was to finish the walk the following weekend after 630 miles and 6 weeks of walking. I was impressed, not only that someone so young should take on what is a serious undertaking alone, but that she chose to backpack it, sleeping in a tent each night. Most people choose to use hostels/B&B, and use baggage transfer companies.

We stood looking at the view below chatting for probably half an hour before parting to continue on our separate ways. These brief meetings along the pathways are partly what makes these walks so interesting. Common interests are shared albeit briefly and most people are so friendly, creating a real camaraderie that you find in few places. Afterwards I wished that we had swapped contact information as I find myself wondering whether she finished and how her last few days went.

The Fleet

The Fleet

Leaving my Swiss friend, I walked on, passing Fleet House, built in Georgian times, now the Moonfleet Manor Hotel. Skylarks serenaded me as I made my way around the last part of the Fleet Lagoon before reaching the point where the path turns inland.

Fleet

Moonfleet Manor Hotel

On the Fleet Path

Beside the Fleet

From here, the route took me across farm land to climb steeply onto the inland ridge which would take me the remainder of the way into Abbotsbury. As I climbed higher, the views opened up all around me.

Turning Inland

Turning Inland

Abbots bury is a town that sits at the west end of The Fleet and it is a delightful town with honey coloured buildings. I passed the entrance to its world famous swannery, its ancient tithe barn, its derelict abbey, its tropical gardens, and its beautiful church, dedicated to St Nicholas. I paused for a moment of reflection at the gateway before entering the town itself as I was nearing the end of my first days walk.

St Nicholas, Abbotsbury

St Nicholas, Abbotsbury

With the exceptionally hot weather, my water was spend so I called at one of the pubs to buy some bottled water and to ask if they would fill my water bladder. One of the problems with wild camping is that there is often no water supply so I knew I would have to take enough with me to last overnight and through the next day. I carry an emergency water filter which is so useful but the streams I was passing on this walk were all low level and on farm land, making them less than ideal.

Having replenished my supplies, re-hydrated myself and splashed some water around my face (there would be no washing facilities where I would be sleeping), I made my way on through the village. I still hadn’t any idea where I would spend the night. One possibility was to climb up to the ridge inland of Abbotsbury and look for a flat grassy area there, another was to continue along the coast path and hope I would find some flat grass there, a third was to spend the night on Chesil Beach although I was not sure how comfortable shingle would be to lie on! Ultimately I decided anyway to climb up Chapel Hill to have a look at St Catherine’s Chapel before deciding which way to head.

On Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill with Strip Lynchets

With the sun now getting low in the sky, the chapel looked absolutely beautiful standing proud high on its hill like a beacon of hope to the world below. The slanting sunlight picked out the strip lynchets that run along the hillside which would once have contained crops. Half way up I turned to look back to the town with its own church tower standing sentinel over the surrounding cottages. Around me were sheep and cows grazing the hillside. It was such a delightful scene and it entered my mind that maybe that would make a good stopping point.

Abbotsbury

Abbotsbury

I continued to the top to look around this stunning chapel, standing seemingly solid against all the elements that had been thrown at it over the centuries, its delightful warm coloured stone standing out so clearly against the deep blue of the sky. I went inside the empty and disused chapel with its equally solid door – I say empty although it was in fact occupied by a dole of doves (yes, that’s the group name). It seemed totally fitting that this place of peace should now be occupied by doves, the symbol of peace.

There are no records of the construction of the chapel but it is thought to date from the 14th century. It was built as a place of pilgrimage and retreat by the monks of the Benedictine Monastery that once stood in the village far below and it seems to have survived the Dissolution although the abbey itself did not. It was dedicated to St Catherine, the patron saint of spinsters, and became a place of prayer for those seeking a husband. Occasional services are still held there.

St Catherine's Chapel

St Catherine’s Chapel

The Old Church Door

The Church Door

Outside, I settled myself down on the grass in the still warm evening sun and over the next couple of hours I passed the time of day with a number of visitors to my lofty bed place. One couple, strangely also from Switzerland, spend the evening picnicking there. They told me they were on holiday travelling around the UK and that they were staying in Abbotsbury.

There was a lovely cooling breeze gently blowing across the hilltop and there were amazing views in all directions. In addition to human visitors, I shared my hilltop with sheep, cows, doves, rooks, and mayflies – there were hundreds of them flying about.

St Catherine's Sunset

Sunset at St Catherine’s

I watched the sun set, with the sky turning gradually orange, then pink, then deepening red until the light finally faded. I was left alone on my hilltop and the words of the poet, Thomas Gray, came to mind, ‘And all was left to darkness and to me’. I spread out by sleeping bag and with the chapel sheltering me from the now cooling breeze, I lay watching the nearly full moon rise across the valley.

A Bed for the Night

A Bed for the Night

Moonrise

Nightfall

Today has felt like a pilgrimage and this ancient holy place seemed a fitting place to end my day. The moon provided a little light and the stars were a canopy over my head. What could be better than spending the night in this awesome place on a balmy night such as this. I drifted off to sleep, contented and wondering if tomorrow could possibly better this!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed today’s pilgrimage and that you will join me for another great day tomorrow.

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.

On a Clear, Cold, Crisp Winter Day!

30 Jan

It was one of those wonderful winter days – you know, the ones we don’t get often! After all the wet, grey days, this one dawned to bright sunshine and a hard frost – I even had to scrape the ice off the windscreen. Perfect for a walk along the Dorset coast!

I set off from the small but popular village of Lulworth and headed up the road for a time before turning off onto what I call the inland coast path. This path runs along the ridge of hills parallel to the coast path proper. That will be our way back later. When I reach the farm gate at the top of the rise, I cannot help but lean awhile and look back the way I had just come to the sound of far away dull thuds from the MOD firing range in the distance.

On the Inland Coast Path

The distant thud of guns

Much as I like to just drink in this view, there is a chill breeze and I need to move on so I reluctantly turn to continue along the ridge. Not that I need to be reluctant as there are views aplenty all along this ridge.

I pass the first almost immediately, the wonderful valley that goes by the dubious name of Scratchy Bottom! I love this valley with its curving sides layered with lines of thick grass. It is like a boomerang that leads out to the sea.

Its name actually has nothing to do with our proverbial posteriors, or anyone or anything else’s for that matter (it is usually inhabited by sheep or cows) – it just comes from the fact that the valley bottom was once covered in scrub. Its main claim to fame is that in 2012, it came second in a poll of Britain’s worst place names. Wouldn’t you believe it, the place that came first, Shitterton, is also in Dorset! Oh, and the valley is also ‘famous’ for having been used as a film location!

Scratchy Bottom

Scratchy Bottom

Aside from the fact that a walk along this ridge is ‘bracing’, it is also fantastically exposed, open and spacious with a carpet of lush and well drained grass under foot. These are chalk hills. In summer, this is one of my bare foot walks………but not today! Today, my feet will stay tucked up warmly inside sock and boot! I walk with a great sense of freedom, looking across to the distant Isle of Portland.

Wide Open Spaces

Wide open spaces and a ‘bare foot’ path

One of the interesting and unexpected features of this remote place is a series of three shell sculptures, each sheltering in its own stone cupboard. I say three because that’s how they started, but in fact one is now conspicuous by its absence. These were carved by Peter Randall in 1985 at the request of the Weld Estates as part of Common Ground’s New Milestones project. The intention was to encourage small scale art works that would celebrate history and the natural world.

But these are not the only unexpected things on this walk.

Sculpture

Sea Shells

Just a short distance further along and a few hundred yards inland stands an obelisk. Below me on the cliff top stands an identical obelisk. They are functional rather than decorative and for years these puzzled me every time I passed them – why were they there and what was their purpose? I could find nothing in books or on-line. One day, I was determined to find some answers so I sat with phone in hand and made some calls…..which gave me the answer I was searching for.

The answer, or at least part of it, was found in a rather tasty tome entitled ‘The Channel Pilot Part 1’ dating from 1908 which referred to ‘Two white beacons, 24 feet high for the use of His Majesty’s ships when prize firing, have been erected on high land east of White Nose (now known as White Nothe)’. Prize Firing was an annual competition to test the skills of the various ships to see if they were ready to go to war so these two obelisks aided that competition.

Across Weymouth Bay in the picture below, you will see the Isle of Portland and just to the right of that stands Portland Harbour, said to be the second largest man made harbour in the world. This was a busy Royal Naval base until 1995 so in the early 1900’s battle ships would leave the harbour and steam up and down in a straight line whilst firing at targets moored out to sea. Clearly these two obelisks were used to enable the captain to steer his ship in a straight line across the water. Oh, and as you can see, the obelisks have long since lost their white coating.

Obelisk

The Obelisk

Moving on, I continued to follow the inland path, deeply rutted from farm machinery but still with some great distant views. After several more miles, my route took me along a track which curved round the head of the ridge, dropping down towards the coast path proper.

Ringstead

Rutted Paths

I passed through an unusual landscape, various hillside terraces, some old wooden shacks left to rot, and what appeared to be a derelict toilet block. Clearly, this was once a holiday park. It amazed me how nature so quickly reclaims its own!

Eventually I reached the coast and turned east to head back towards my starting point and after a short time, I stopped to look back towards Osmington Mills, a tiny coastal hamlet which once had a fishermen’s slipway until coastal erosion destroyed it. In 1927, the Minx, a coal barge, broke her moorings and was wrecked on Frenchman’s Ledge below. Parts are still visible today.

Osmington Mills

Looking Back Towards Osmington Mills

The Minx is not the only wreck here as along this part of the coast, there are many wartime relics. There is evidence of lookout posts, pillboxes, several bunkers, a communications centre and even the remains of wartime gun placements. At one time there was a massive radar station on the clifftop too. There is also a great deal of mud!

I stopped to chat to a retired man who was taking a short holiday at Weymouth and who had come out to explore the coast path. He was walking in the opposite direction to me so had already walked the most severely steep parts – I still had those to come…….but he still had several miles of mud to walk through. We compared notes 🙂 !

Relic of War

Relics of War

Having slipped and slid for several miles – I was thankful for my walking pole! – I finally reached the beach at Ringstead Bay and stopped for a late lunch. This one time fishing village is a beautiful place to spend some time, especially on a gorgeously sunny day such as this and I sat and sketched whilst I ate, listening to the surf gently washing across the shingle – what a beautifully relaxing sound. The sea seemed almost determined to reach me, as if it wanted to shake my hand, but I outsmarted it – well I’m no Canute!

Ringstead Bay

Ringstead Bay

I was glad of my flask of hot drink as it soon became chilly sitting on a cold rock. To warm up, I wandered around with the camera looking for picture opportunities……like the one below 🙂 !

An Exercise in Colour

An Exercise in Colour – Ringstead Bay

All too soon I had to move on, which meant some steep climbs! The first of these was up to the top of the White Nothe headland. Part way up I stopped to look at a quaint little wooden church at another small hamlet, Holworth. This wooden chapel still has regular services despite its remote location and in fact it has recently been extended. It stands right on the cliff edge with amazing views across the water.

My walks are often like pilgrimages as I pass many churches and I like to stop and pray in each one. On this occasion, however, with boots thickly coated with mud, I just sat on the bench outside. Well, with that view, who wouldn’t!

The Fading Day

St Catherine’s Chapel View

St Catherine's, Holworth

St Catherine’s Chapel

Onwards and upwards I went, eventually reaching the top of the headland, a beautifully rugged and wild wilderness of a place. I so enjoy exploring this remote headland. It has a real air of mystery and intrigue about it.

On White Nothe

On White Nothe

One of its features is its row of old coastguard cottages. Remote and unserved by any roads, these cottages have no mains services – the residents collect rainwater, heat by log burner, light by gas lamp or LPG generator, and drain into cess pits. These seven terraced cottages are not for the faint hearted but the largest changed hands recently for some £470,000! Recently the captain’s house has been brought more into the 21st century by installing solar panels on the roof. I have a feeling that the owners may have bought the house next door as well…….so maybe there are now only six?

They are quiet cottages now, mainly used as holiday or second homes, but at one time they were home to seven families with a total of 44 people living in them. The captain of course lived in the largest, three story house, and his 6 men and their families lived in the others. Together they tried to keep our coast safe as there was a thriving smuggling trade all along this part of the coast. And you can really picture in your mind the events that took place here with its remoteness and its secret paths.

When the coastguards vacated the cottages, they passed into private ownership and one of the early residents was the author Llewelyn Powis. A memorial stands nearby.

On White Nothe

A Remote Place to Live

Despite their remoteness, in fact because of their remoteness, and their lack of modern ‘trappings’, this would be an amazing place to live. And who could possibly not delight in the view below back down to Ringstead Bay?

Ringstead Bay

The View over Ringstead Bay

And of course that’s not to mention the view out to sea!

The End is Near

Sea Views

The sun was getting low in the sky by now and there was a definite chill in the air. Fingers were being numbed by the cold so it was time to move swiftly on. I left the White Nothe and continued on my way. Ahead of me I could see the switch back of headlands that were to be my route from here and I knew that I would once again, as I had done many times before, be walking in the dark before I reached my finishing point! But hey, that is often the best time of the day.

Bat's Head and Beyond

The Switchback Home

By the time I dropped down to Durdle Door, the sun had gone and the light had a definite blue tinge to it – this is the photogenic blue hour. I have a thousand pictures of the view below but you just cannot help but take more each time you pass this way. This really is a magnificent coastline, as good as you will see anywhere in the world!

Durdle Door

Blue Hour at Durdle Door

When I reached the arch, projecting out of into the water like some huge and fearsome sea monster taking a drink, it was virtually dark. Everywhere was still and there was just a faint tinge of orange in the distant sky. The only sound was the washing of surf on shingle. The lights of Portland and Weymouth twinkled in the far away lands and had it been summer, I would have sat and drank in the awesome atmosphere. But tonight was now icy cold!

Durdle Door

Last Light of the Day

I left the coast and climbed up the last hill of the day and in complete darkness with just the stars and a faint moon for company, and the ever diminishing sound of the waves, lost in my own thoughts, I made my way home.

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.