Tag Archives: storm

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.

Advertisements

On Bursdon Moor

3 Jul

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

Now I know my strap line says, ‘Exploring the countryside and lanes of Dorset’ but this week I thought we would hop across the border into Devon. The reason for this little excursion is that I have just returned from a week in that lovely county so I thought I’d post a few pictures from the trip. It wasn’t a walking holiday this time but I managed to get out and about anyway, and of course my camera came with me 🙂 !

On Bursdon Moor

The weather was a little mean and moody at times and I wanted to reflect this, and where better than on Bursdon Moor, which is one of the last remaining areas of Culm Grassland. As with Dorset, much of the moorland has been tamed for farming but this area remains high and bleak, especially on a day such as this. It is an SSSI and cattle graze there to aid conservation. Fortunately for me, these two were black which worked perfectly for my picture 🙂 !

More, or is that moor, to come tomorrow.

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.

Winspit Waves

1 Jun

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

Continuing our theme of introducing blur and movement into photos to create a different effect, today we are visiting one of the coastal quarries that line the Dorset coast. This is the old, disused quarry of Winspit.

Winspit

The Angry Sea

Winspit Waves

Winspit sits just to the east of St Aldhelm’s Head but is still not very well protected from the South Westerly winds. Often, these whip up some good sized waves that crash violently onto the rocky shoreline, throwing spray everywhere. This was just such a day and I really wanted to capture the movement of the waves as they drove in towards the impenetrable rocks. I wanted somehow to capture the sheer force and mood of the stormy sea, so I decided to introduce a bit of blur into the shot to bring out the multi-directional wave movement as it bounced backwards and sideways from the rocks, meeting incoming waves head on in the process.

When I stand on these rocky ledges in these sorts of conditions, I can’t help but think about the quarry workers who shifted massive blocks of stone using the simplest of equipment. Sledges would be used to bring the rocks to the edge of the ledge and then a simple wooden derrick would hoist those stones and lower them into waiting boats that would then transport them farther out to sea using oar power only, to transfer them into larger vessels that would carry the rock either to Swanage or overseas. I think the skill of the quarrymen, especially those in the boats, is legendary!

These coastal quarries are amazing places and I will perhaps use that as a theme in the future because they deserve more space than I have allowed here. For now though, stand on the ledge with me, feel the wind and the spray, smell the sea, and hear the noise of waves crashing on rock! This is what I have tried to capture – I hope I have succeeded!

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 – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 4

21 Apr

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

Today we are looking at another ruined Dorset church, but this is one that doesn’t appear ruined until you look at its history. This just looks like a small village church but in reality, it is only half of a church standing in a village that now has two. But what happened to the rest of it and why is there now two? This is Fleet Church.

Fleet Church

Moonfleet Church

Fleet Church

Fleet is a small straggling village that sits near the banks of the brackish lagoon that shares its name. Across the other side of the water is the famous 18 mile long Chesil Beach, a long and narrow tract of shingle, and beyond that, the open sea. This was once the village’s sole church and it was built around the 15th century. Life went on as normal until one day in 1824 when everything changed!

Fleet Church

Fleet Church with its Small Cemetery

In November 1824, a huge storm blew up at sea, creating massive waves. The waves crashed onto Chesil Beach with such ferocity that despite the shingle bank being some 50 feet high, they breached the defences and swept inland, hitting the villages of Fleet, Chiswell, and other places farther along the coast. The devastation was huge with numerous cottages being destroyed or damaged, and Fleet Church itself being all but destroyed. A local boy who witnessed the scene wrote some 73 years later:

“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.”

What was left of the nave had to be demolished and what you see today is just the chancel which was renovated. This no longer acts as a church, having been deconsecrated, although it still contains several monuments to the Mohun family who lived in Fleet Manor in the 16th to the 18th century.

Fleet Church

Fleet Church Interior

As was common in those days, collections were held in churches up and down the country to raise funds to help the devastated community and a new church was completed in 1829. This stands farther inland in order to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy.

The Fleet and Chessil Beach

Looking Across Fleet Lagoon to Chesil Beach

The village of Fleet, its manor house, and its old church have been immortalised in J Meade Faulkner’s book Moonfleet which was published in 1898. Perhaps because of this, it is always intriguing to visit the ‘half’ church. As you stand there in that peaceful churchyard with just the gentlest of breezes and the cry of gulls, it is really hard to imagine the devastation of that fateful day in 1824. It never happened before and it has never happened since but this now tiny church stands as a monument to a day that changed many lives!

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.

Rain, Rain, Rain…….and more Rain!!

13 Feb

It’s amazing how much rain seems to fall out of the UK skies at the moment!  Most of you will know from the news that there is massive flooding throughout the south coast, including the whole of Dorset.  The picture below is typical of Dorset footpaths at the moment – impassable!

Image
Impassable

A combination of this and also a hospital visit for a minor op has somewhat curtailed my activities over the last month or so……but not entirely :)!  There is always somewhere to walk and I have a few places that usually manage to stay dry enough and one of these is the Dorset sea front where the prom kind of stays dry.  It is often covered in thick sand from the storms and/or sea spray from the howling winds and high tides, but at least there is no MUD :)!!

Image
High tide breeches the sea wall!

In fact it is quite civilised and makes a change from the countryside as there are no hills to climb, food and drinks on tap all along the route, and dry seats to sit on in the various cafes etc that stay open in winter :)!  And you can walk for miles!  It’s not necessarily a walk that makes for an interesting blog entry but I thought I would put up a series of pictures taken on my various wanders over recent weeks………a sort of pictorial blog!

Image
Image
ImageImage
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image

I hope you enjoyed this brief visit to the sea front with me………and I am really hoping that normal service will be resumed in the very near future.  Now where did I leave my umbrella!

Thanks for reading.

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.

A walk on the wild side…..with the camera!

7 Nov

It seems to me that there is often a bit of tension between walking and photography!  By that I mean that sometimes photography spoils a good walk.  Why?  Simply because you can become so engrossed in trying to capture the ultimate competition winning shot and almost miss what is going on around you.  And then when you get home and you haven’t got the prize picture you were hoping for, the day seems fruitless.

At some point I decided that I would either walk and focus on the countryside and surroundings, just taking the compact camera to capture memories of the day or I would go out specifically to take photographs and take the DSLR.  That way I enjoy walking or I enjoy taking ‘real’ pictures rather than trying to do both on the same day and getting neither.  In reality it rarely works and I often end up trying to do both because I find it difficult to switch off from thinking ‘photography’ and there is always that nagging feeling that today just might the day when the light, the scene and the conditions are perfect……..and you haven’t got your camera!

Well on this day I did go out specifically to capture pictures……although I still managed to walk nearly 10 miles!

I was heading for the coast as I really wanted to capture something of the ruggedness of the Dorset coastal quarries and the somewhat grey, overcast and even stormy day was perfect for the purpose.  My outward route started in a small village and then followed an inland path known as The Priests Way, so called because in olden times it was the route taken by the priest as he covered the two villages at each end.  On the way I passed the rather strange tiny bus stop below – clearly meant for little people ;)!

Image
A bus stop for little people 😉

Near the end of the track I turned south and headed towards the Dorset Coast Path, passing the rather unusual wall below.

Image
Getting ahead 😉

Having reached the coast, I first headed for my favourite quarry.  I think the reason I like it is that it is tiny and little known, in fact you could easily walk past it and not even realise it is there.  But climb down into it and you find yourself half way up the cliff face, all alone and with just a sheer drop below you – the picture below was taken on an earlier visit.

Image
On the quarry ledge

Sat on that ledge is a great place to eat lunch whilst watching the waves crashing onto the rocks below.  I wanted to get a picture that illustrated a quarryman’s view so I set up the camera and tripod to do some long exposure pictures to bring out the contrast between rocks and water.  At the processing stage I turned the image into a sepia toned picture as it seemed to suit the subject and my intention.  The result is below.

Image
A quarryman’s view

From this point, my route took me along the coast path, passing numerous quarries of varying size along the way.  Rather than stop at each quarry, I chose the ones that I wanted to capture, each time setting up my camera, tripod, filters etc…….which of course I had to pack away again before moving on.

At the next quarry, I stood looking out at the sheer vastness of the sea and sky and the perpetual motion of the waves and clouds, ever moving and ever changing.  In a feeble effort to record what I felt, I set up the camera again for another long exposure shot to give the feeling of movement and the ever changing scene.

Image
A vast, ever changing scene

Looking down, it was again the constant action of the waves pounding the coastal rocks below that spoke to me of the hard conditions that the quarrymen must have endured as they transported the rocks away from the cliffs in small boats before delivering them to the larger barges waiting further out to sea.  This must have been a seriously hazardous occupation and I cannot imagine what it must have been like manoeuvring huge rocks between vessels whilst both were being pounded by waves.

Image
Off the quarry ledge

And the waves are just relentless, like a giant perpetual motion machine, they never stop, never tire, but continue to pound the coast, gradually eroding the land.  Minute by minute, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, the waves come and the tide ebbs and flows, sometimes gently and sometimes powerfully but never ceasing.  It is a wonderful thing to watch….and frustrating to try to capture in a single image!

Image
Perpetual motion – the power of the sea

Eventually I left the quarry and headed up to another of my favourite locations, a barren and exposed headland with just a few stark buildings, buildings with a history.  And again, I wanted to capture the feeling of the barrenness, the exposure to the elements, rather than just the scene itself.  This is what I call the fourth dimension in a picture.  Not an easy task as the wind was whipping across the headland and the light was going fast.  I set up the tripod and shot the pictures below which I later converted to black and white as this really does help to bring out the mood well.  The first was taken using a wide angle lens to bring out the huge expanse of the sky whereas in the second I focussed more on the cottages them selves.

Image

Image
On the barren headland

The row of cottages is in fact a group of old coastguard cottages built in 1895.  The coastguards and their families were originally housed at Chapman’s Pool, far below but moved to the top of the headland when these cottages were built.  These in turn were vacated in 1950 following complaints about the remoteness of the site and difficulties getting children to school. The building to the left originally housed the cart that contained all the life saving equipment.

I decided that I would do another long exposure shot which I gave a dated feel to in the processing.  The streaks are the movement of the clouds.

Image
From the dim and distant past

In addition to the cottages, there is a Norman chapel on the headland.  This square, squat building in fact contains features that indicate it may not have been built originally as a chapel and there are suggestions that it might have been erected as a watchtower for the nearby Corfe Castle allowing for early sightings of enemy ships.

However, it is built in the centre of a low earthwork of Christian origin and records show that there was a paid chaplain in the time of King Henry III which tends to contradict the earlier suggestion.  I guess we will never know for certain but either way, it is a wonderfully bleak and open place.

Image
The old chapel

With the light fading and with it my hopes for a glorious sunset, it was time to pack up and continue on my journey back to the starting point of my walk.  Walking along the cliff top in the gathering gloom is always special with the gusting wind in my face and the storm clouds overhead.  It was a fitting end to a glorious day out with the camera.

Thanks for reading.

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.

Of, um, a slight breeze ;), a ‘drunken’ rambler, and hat that takes off!

10 Jan

So what do you do when there are heavy storm clouds outside and a howling gale gusting them threateningly across the sky?  Stay in the warm with a nice cup of tea?  Hibernate?  No, you head for the coast of course :)!  And that is just what I did on this day towards the end of last year!

The walk started quite straightforwardly with a gentle downhill stroll from a small village towards the coast.  In fact, it wasn’t really straight forward at all because, as has been usual in Dorset over recent months, there was thick and slippery mud everywhere, not conducive to safe downhill walking.  So it was out with the walking pole just to try to avoid the ‘wet, muddy bottom’ syndrome ;)!  Now if I had had a pair of skis with me……..!

I came out onto the coast at one of the many disused quarries that litter this stretch of Dorset and for a time the sun actually made an appearance.

Image
Rolling waves

The wind was working itself up into a frenzy and the waves were powering their way to the shore, only to come to an abrupt halt on the rocks at the foot of the ledge.  They almost seemed to display their annoyance at being stopped by launching themselves as high as they could into the air.

Image
Angry waves

Conditions for photography were dire because the spray coming up from the rocks below was enormous – in fact it may as well have been raining!  Cameras and salt sea spray do not make a good mix so the only way to get pictures was to hold the camera landward of my body to protect it, and then very quickly bring it up, grab the picture and then tuck it away again.  There was no time to properly compose the shots.

Very soon, the sun disappeared as the clouds continued to build ominously.  Normally this would be disappointing but in fact it was perfect because it really brought out the ferocity of the stormy weather and the real ‘personality’ of this rugged coast.  It is a very changeable area, seemingly incongruently tame and innocent in the sunshine but taking on a whole new sinister character as the storm rolled in.

Image

Image
The storm clouds roll in

Along this part of the coast, there are many old quarry caves so I decided to take refuge in one of those and to see if I could at least find some way of getting out of the constant spray so that I could try to get some better pictures.  I was carrying my tripod so I set this up in the entrance to one of the caves and stood between it and the sea so that I could protect it from the spray.  I was then able to get some long exposure shots in an attempt to convey the true power of the sea.

Image
On the quarry ledge

Image
The quarry cave entrance

Image
Stormy seas

My intention was to climb from here up over St Aldhelm’s Head so I repacked my rucksack and left the safe confines of the cave and walked out again into the teeth of the storm.  The route initially took me along the rocky ledge but all too soon I had to leave that solid ground and venture onto the very muddy footpath that climbs steadily upwards towards the top of the headland some 350 feet above the sea.  Any of my local readers will know that this mud is SLIPPERY and CLINGY so that your feet become heavier and heavier as you walk.  With the combination of the ever steepening path, the slippery mud, the sea spray, and the howling gale that was gusting powerfully off the sea, this was one challenging walk………and it was GREAT :)!!  The expression ‘blow the cobwebs away’ comes to mind.  It was only later that I learned just how strong the wind was!

There was one particular incident that was funny…….and you will need to use your imagination here.  As I was slip sliding up the hill, my hat blew off over a barbed wire fence and started bowling its way at a rate of knots across the field.  Now this was a hat that was bought for me by my daughter so I was rather attached to it (although thinking about it, maybe it would have been better if I had been literally attached to it ;)! ) and I wasn’t about to let it go.  So I climbed the barbed wire fence, tearing my waterproofs in the process, and complete with heavy backpack ran after it – hopefully you can picture the scene :).  I managed to catch up with it eventually and stowed it safely away before climbing back over the fence onto the coast path to continue my upward journey.

Image
The St Aldhelm’s Quarry ledge

I must have made a strange sight as it was impossible to walk in a straight line as I was buffeted and slipped all over the place.  In addition, to try to stay upright, I had to lean into the wind which then made a fool of me by momentarily dropping so that I nearly fell over.  It was a miracle that I kept my feet but to anyone looking on it must have looked like I was a drunken man!  At times, it was even difficult to move at all!  Eventually the path levelled out as I reached the quarry ledge just below the top of the headland.

This ledge has a lot of history with the remains of a once thriving quarrying industry, and also the remains of a Second World War Radar Research Post but I think that will need a separate blog entry to detail.

Image
The chimney

The remains include what I call ‘The Chimney’, a stack of stones left by the quarrymen when the work ceased – oh how I wish the picture could convey to you the strength of the wind gusting across that ledge.  Sadly, this is where a picture fails.  One of the quirky things about St Aldhelm’s Head is the effect on the sea and the many white horses that are seen here.  These are apparently caused by the fact that there is a ledge some 30 feet below the surface that stretches several miles out to sea.  It makes these waters quite dangerous and because of that, there is a National Coastwatch Lookout Post on the headland.

Image
White horses and storm clouds

From the quarry ledge, it is only a short hop up to the top of the headland……..but I think I gave the National Coastwatch Volunteers a bit of a shock when I climbed up the cliff beside their lookout post, they hadn’t expected to see anyone on a day like this!  I went into the lookout post for a few minutes to chat to the ‘Coastguards’ and the calmness and peace inside was tangible…..and a welcome respite!  Being wet and muddy, I dared not venture too far in though!  The volunteers had just been carrying out a reading of the wind speed and they told me that it was a Force 9 gale – OK, so a slight breeze ;), no wonder my hair was blowing about!!  The light was fading so I couldn’t stay long before I headed out into the wind again to take a last look west along the coast.

Image
Inclement weather and fading light

As I turned away from the coast to start my walk inland, I passed the row of old coastguard cottages that stand proud on the headland.  These once housed the officer and men with their families but are now in private ownership, mostly as holiday accommodation – and what a great place to stay!  With the heavy storm clouds above, I couldn’t resist taking one more picture.  It was an interesting experiment in how to hold a camera steady in the failing light with a Force 9 gale blowing!!  I could have used the tripod but that wouldn’t have stood a chance – well just ‘wouldn’t have stood’!!  As it was, I just crouched as low as possible and anchored myself as best I could.

Image
The old coastguard cottages at St Aldhelm’s Head

And so, finally I made my way along the rough track that would take me back to my starting point.  As I walked, the Coastwatch volunteers passed me by in their 4X4 and stopped to offer me a lift to get me out of the wind – I thanked them but refused.  Well the wind may have been battering me all day and I might have been soaked with all the spray but I was enjoying my ‘walk’ far too much and I didn’t want it to end.

Be blessed!

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.