Tag Archives: The Dorset Rambler

Red Post – Distinctively Dorset

14 Sep

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

Red Post

Red Post at Benville Bridge

Dorset is well known for its traditional fingerposts and around 700 still remain in place. Many date back to the 18th century when the General Turnpike Act of 1773 made it compulsory for signposts to be erected at road junctions. All bar four are white with black lettering, but the four that don’t comply with the black/white format have been painted red with white lettering and the reason for this has long puzzled people.

Over the years, many theories have been put forward as to the reason these few are red and not white. Some say that it is because they have been erected at junctions where gallows or gibbets once stood. Others say that they were erected on routes that were taken by convicts who were being taken to the coast to be transported. Still others suggest that they were erected specifically for illiterate travellers who could be given instructions such as, ‘Turn right at the red post’. Some say that it is just county practice but in fact one of the posts was actually in Somerset until the county boundary changed in 1896. Some say that there were more but that they were repainted white to make them easier to read. Finally, it is said that suicides were buried at crossroads so another theory is that they were connected in some way with that.

The most famous Red Post stands at a cross roads on the A31 near Bloxworth and it is partly this post that gives rise to the theory that the practice was connected with the transporting of convicts. At the times of Judge Jeffreys and his Bloody Assizes, convicts would be taken from Dorchester and would turn off the road at that Red Post to reach Botany Bay Farm where they would be kept overnight, being shackled to the barn wall, before continuing their fateful journey the next day. Their guards would often be illiterate so that theory seems plausible……but it still doesn’t explain the other three!

Other Red Posts are at Benville Bridge near Evershot, pictured above, at Poyntington north of Sherborne, and at Hewood Corner near Chard. Thus, there are two west of Dorchester, one north of the county town, and one to the east, so no real correlation in terms of any particular journey. There are a number of pubs which bear the name of Red Post Inn or White Post Inn, but none of these adds anything to the quest to understand why these Red Posts exist.

Despite all the theorising and debating, the truth is that we may never know why, out of 700 fingerposts, just four are painted red. This must be seen as another bit of quirkiness in this lovely county that just seems to be full of quirky things. But isn’t that what makes this county so great!

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.

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Look Mum, No Hands!

2 Sep

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

I’ve often wondered how they mow the grass on steeply sloping banks, you know the sort that are at a forty-five degree angle. Well on a recent walk I found out 🙂 !

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You see, to mow this by hand would take an age and be really hard work, but a normal ride on mower would just tip over and be dangerous for the driver……..not to mention people like me who were watching!  So those clever people invented this machine – a remote control mower with a low centre of gravity, and an ingenious one at that because the engine rotates and therefore always stays in the upright position regardless of what angle the rest of the machine is at. Basically it is a big remote controlled toy……although with those blades, a bit of a dangerous one. Simple but clever!

Wonder what would happen if the remote controller ran out of power 😉 !

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.

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.

Causing a Big Splash

17 Aug

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

The dancing surf

This was taken some time ago as I was walking the lovely Dorset Coast Path and I arrived at Chapman’s Pool, a delightful bay nestling between the headlands of Houns Tout and St Aldhelm’s Head. It was a beautiful evening, the sun was beginning to set and I decided that I would try to capture the moment. This cluster of rocks made a good focal point but I wanted to create some movement by including a dancing wave so I waited, and waited, and waited…….!

Wave after wave rolled in and I held my camera up in readiness but they all just fizzled out. Even when seemingly giant waves came towards the shore, they made no significant splash when they hit the rocks; despite their promise, they amounted to nothing. I almost gave up but then this tiny wave came in, well I almost ignored it as it was obviously not powerful enough to give me what I wanted! But do you know what, that tiny wave created a splash bigger that any of the larger waves, and I got my picture 🙂 !

I like the picture – am I allowed to say that when its one of mine? It might be because I knew the picture I wanted to create, I planned it in my mind, and I captured it just as I imagined it, and that is always satisfying. It could be because it reminds me of a fabulous evening with the sand beneath my feet, the gentle breeze on my face and the sound of the surf rolling up the beach as the day faded to night. It could be that it reminds me of a great day’s walking. Anyway, back to the wave……

Why it happened, I am not sure. I guess it was more about timing than size and that the little wave broke at just the right time but it made me think about life. Often we think that we are insignificant and that we are not making much impact in this huge sea that is our world. That we see others who are seemingly creating a big splash, a noticeable impact with their high profile lives, leaving their mark whilst we are just ordinary people who go by seemingly unnoticed.

Its a bit like the often told starfish story where thousands of starfish have been stranded on the beach after a storm. A young girl is walking along the beach picking them up one by one and throwing them back into the sea when an old man approaches her and says, ‘Why are you doing that, there are thousands, and several miles of beach, you can’t possibly make a difference’. She bends and picks up another one and throws it into the ocean saying, ‘It made a big difference to that one’.

So I guess, aside from hopefully enjoying the picture, the message is – if you ever think you are insignificant, just remember that you are uniquely you, one of a kind, and you make a difference in your part of the ocean in a way no one else can.

And remember too that often its the smallest wave that makes the biggest splash!

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.

West….East?!?!?!

16 Aug

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

How's that work then???!!

I never did understand this sign! When I was at school we were taught that east and west were in opposite directions but somehow at Corfe they are the same 🙂 ! Actually I took this some years ago and I’m not sure the sign is still there but I came across this picture today and it made me smile so I though I would share it with you to hopefully brighten your day 🙂 !

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.

But Who is Old Harry?

12 Aug

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

In my last post, we paid a visit to St Lucas’ Leap, an interestingly named gap off Handfast Point in Purbeck. If you missed it there is a link here. Since we are on the subject of the Old Harry Rocks area, I thought we would continue our visit but this time by another possibly hazardous route so that we can get a slightly different viewpoint.

Chinooks over Old Harry Rocks

Chinooks Fly Over Handfast Point and Old Harry Rocks

In my last post we approached Old Harry via the cliff top path but today, we are approaching via the shoreline from Studland Beach. The first thing to say is that in order to take this route, you need to have a knowledge of the tides and to be very aware of the tide times as the headland is normally being lapped by waves. To get out to the base of Old Harry Rocks the tide needs to be out, and not only that but it needs to be a very low spring tide, nothing else will do because with some low tides, you would still need to paddle or swim to reach the point.

Naturally, once you reach the point, you still need to maintain an awareness of the tide because it is all too easy to get engrossed in taking pictures only to find that the tide has crept in behind you and you are stranded. Care is needed on the walk out too, because the shoreline is littered with very slippery seaweed, and it is nearly a mile from the beach to the base of Old Harry.

But despite the hazards, it is a walk that is so well worth doing as you will see the famous Old Harry up close, a view not experienced by many.

Just to give the global view first, in the picture at the top of this post, you see from left to right (ignoring the Chinooks 🙂 , of which more later), Old Harry and his wife, the two large chunks of No Man’s Land, the gap known as St Lucas’ Leap that featured in my previous post, Handfast Point and to the right, Ballard Down.

Old Harry and Wife

Old Harry and the Remains of His Wife

The reason for the numerous stacks is simply the action of the sea; this is an ever changing place. No Man’s Land has already divided into two, and as you can see, there are holes appearing in both parts. These holes will grow as erosion takes its toll and eventually there will be more and smaller stacks. Old Harry, on the left in the picture above, still stands but his wife, on his right, crumbled into the sea in 1896 and she is now a shadow of her former self. Eventually these two will both disappear, to be replaced by a new Harry and wife as No Mans Land erodes further.

Through the Arch

The Haystack and The Pinnacle

These are not the only stacks along this part of the coast. There are two more just a short ‘walk’ away if you dare risk trying to reach them 🙂 ! The first of these is known as the Turf Rickrock or Haystack, the other more pointed stack is known as The Pinnacle. It is fairly obvious where their names come from. The same can’t be said of Old Harry though!

Old Harry at Sunset

Old Harry and No Man’s Land

There are various tales of how Harry got his name, and several legends around how he came into being. Some say that he is named after the devil himself who fell asleep on the headland, others say that he is named after a notorious Dorset pirate called Harry Paye, whose vessel is said to have lay in wait for merchant ships, hiding behind the stacks. Yet another tale is that he is in fact a ninth century viking called Earl Harold who drowned in the area and subsequently turned into a pillar of rock.

However it got its name, Old Harry Rocks is an absolute icon of this area and a lovely spot to visit. It is certainly popular with locals and visitors alike.

Below the Cliffs

A Glimpse of The Haystack Through One of the Headlands

The massive white cliffs are full of caves that have become ‘tunnels’, almost as if some giant creature has burrowed through and come out the other side. In between the various headlands, small coves have been formed with normally unreachable beaches. This feature is nowhere more obvious than along the cliffs as we make our way back towards Studland Beach. This is like a corrugated coastline created by the sea.

And make our way back we must as the sun is setting, the light is fading and the tide is coming in again. As the saying goes, ‘Time and tide wait for no man’, and that is never more evident than here and now.

The Way Back

The Way Back – a Corrugated Coast

But what of those Chinooks? Well this is a regular training area for the military so these helicopters, looking like weird giant insects, often fly out on exercises, sometimes filled with troops, sometimes landing on Ballard Down, sometimes picking up boats off the sea. They might disturb the peace of this area at times but they are awesome to watch.

Any visit to the foot of Old Harry Rocks is by necessity short so time spent there needs to be measured in terms of quality not quantity. It will likely be time that you will spend on your own as not many make the trip on foot. This for me makes it a special place.

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.

Mind the Gap

8 Aug

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

Towns have names, villages have names, headlands have names, hills have names, in fact most things have names……but how often is a gap given a name? It is just an empty space after all, so why would it need a name? But on the Dorset coast, there is a gap and it has a name. The gap I am referring to is the empty space between the mainland coast and the next bit of land which has become an island, and it has a somewhat unusual name too. This is St Lucas’ Leap.

St Lucas’ Leap

Sunrise at Old Harry Rocks

Handfast Point and St Lucas’ Leap at Sunrise

In fact there are numerous names surrounding this area. Overall it is known as The Foreland or Handfast Point but it is more commonly referred to as Old Harry Rocks. In fact, Old Harry refers to one particular rock, a stack that has separated from the mainland. It stands beside the remains of Old Harry’s Wife who crumbled decades ago. And they both stand seawards of a much larger ‘island’ of rock which has in fact split into two separate parts, which is known as No Man’s Land.

I think it is fairly clear where No Man’s Land got its name, but that is not the subject of this post. This blog post concerns the gap between it and the mainland because that gap has been given the name St Lucas’ Leap. So who was St Lucas? Well the first thought might be that he was some great saint who did wonderful things centuries ago, maybe set up a monastery in the area, Lucas being a form of Luke. But as far as we know that is not the case. St Lucas was in fact………a dog! Hmm, dogs seem to be a bit of a theme in my blog at the moment.

Old Harry - up close and personal!

No Man’s Land

So why name a gap after a dog? Well it is a sad story but it seems that St Lucas was a pedigree greyhound and when he was being walked on the coast path, he took off after a rabbit and not being aware of the dangers of clifftops, he plunged off the end of Handfast Point and fell to his death on the rocks beneath. Since that day, the gap between the very tip of Handfast Point and that huge stack of rock known as No Man’s Land has been known as St Lucas’ Leap.

I’m not sure if the name was intended as some kind of tribute to a loyal friend or whether it was some kind of joke since it was hardly a leap, more a fall, and a sad one at that! Actually, thinking about it, who names these places anyway? Was this named by some civil dignitary who stood up in a council meeting and spouted, ‘I decree that hereafter and from hence forward, in recognition of fine service given during his life, this place shall be known as……’? Or was it some local joker who started it off one day and it just caught on 🙂 ? I’m guessing the latter and that it just became local custom.

old Harry - up close and personal!

St Lucas’ Leap with No Man’s Land beyond

Now one of the interesting things about St Lucas’ Leap, besides its name, is actually reaching it. If you time it right and know your tides well, you can reach it along the shoreline, but that is a post for another day. You can, or maybe that should be could, reach it from the clifftop but that required a serious head for heights as it meant walking a tightrope of a very narrow ridge of chalk with sheer drops on either side. Even when I walked it some years ago, you wouldn’t have attempted it on a windy day. Today, you would have to be very foolhardy to attempt this short walk at all as a cliff fall a year or two back has eroded the ‘path’ away almost completely.

A Sharper Knife

The Ridge Leading to St Lucas’ Leap

You might say, ‘Why walk there at all as it doesn’t go anywhere’, but I guess my response would be, ‘Because it is there’, and also perhaps because not many people have been there. It is a kind of inviting path and you just get the feeling that you want to see what is down there. I still get that feeling even though I have already been there several times but age and wisdom prevents me from making that walk again. Besides which, there really isn’t much to see that can’t be seen from the main clifftop, apart perhaps from getting a different view of the coast as you climb back up that narrow, exposed path.

Old Harry view

Looking Back from St Lucas’ Leap 

So, tribute to a dog, or sick joke? Who knows! I’m glad I’ve been there several times and captured these shots but if I feel the need to repeat the experience, I’ll buy a drone and have a virtual walk along the ridge! I think St Lucas can keep his leap for himself!

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.