Tag Archives: travel

Turning the Clock Back!

15 Jun

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

This week, there was a turning back of the clock…….by some 45 years! I was a part of it 45 years ago, and I was a part of it this week, and what a great day it was. You see, something that was abandoned as being not needed all that time ago is now back in place because people wanted it so! What is it? It is a branch line railway that closed way back in 1972 but this week was reopened. But that is not all of the story.

The line in question was the Purbeck line that ran from the mainline station at Wareham through to the Dorset coastal town of Swanage. It operated until 1972 and I remember traveling that line as a child and teenager, but the powers that be decided that it didn’t pay and they closed the line. In the short space of just 7 weeks in 1972, despite protests from local people, most of the track was torn up in what now seems a gross act of vandalism. But fortunately some people had a vision to restore the line and this week they achieved a massive goal. What took 7 weeks to destroy has taken 45 years to rebuild!

But that is still not the whole story of this blog. You see, I thought I’d like to be part of this historic day and I came up with a plan to get to Wareham Station, by train of course 🙂 , and catch the first train of the new service to Swanage. Then I would spend the day walking. But you know that expression, ‘The best laid plans of mice and men…..’

Wareham Quay

Wareham Quay

I arrived at Wareham Station only to find that the first two trains were already fully booked out to staff and volunteers! So I put into place Plan B, which actually I didn’t have prior to that moment, and decided to walk the 15 miles from Wareham to Swanage and then catch the last train back. At least that way, I would still be part of that first day, if not the first train 🙂 ! Oh, but just to make sure, I phoned ahead and pre-booked my seat!

So, I set out on a beautifully sunny day, walking through Wareham initially to reach the quay beside the River Frome. This is a great start to any walk because the first mile or so follows the river, with lovely dappled light spreading across the path and boats and swans bobbing on the water.

On the Riverside Path

The Path Beside the River Frome

As with a lot of walks, my route did involve some country lanes but I enjoy walking these at this time of the year because there is so much to see in the hedgerows, and anyway, the lanes soon gave way to open heathland. I knew that the railway crossed the heath and I wondered if I would reach the line before ‘my’ train went through but, Murphy’s Law, the train went through literally minutes before I crossed the line. I heard the throaty diesel but I couldn’t see it.

From town, to riverside, to country lane, to open heath, and now to woodlands, dense and ancient with ponds and rivulets. Birdsong accompanied me as I walked and I could hear, but not see, deer rustling through the trees. It was delightfully shady and cool under that overhead canopy on this warm day.

Dappled Woodland

Dappled Light and Cool Air in the Woodlands

Eventually, my route brought me out into the open again as Corfe Castle, standing proud on its hilltop, came into view across the valley. You can see why it was built at that particular point at a break in the Purbeck ridge that stretches out both sides of the castle. And in the dip to the left of the castle, I could see the railway line that would be my way back……if I made it in time to catch the last train!

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

I continued straight through Corfe and climbed up the hill the other side to reach the top of the Purbeck Hills that stretch for miles in both directions. The hills are not really that high but the climb up is long and slow, and I sat down part way for lunch. Skylarks were singing their hearts out overhead, and the views were just awesome. What could be better. These hills are special to me as I ‘cut my walking teeth’ on them when I was a child, and I have walked them ever since.

On the Purbeck Ridge

On the Purbeck Ridge

Much of the rest of my walk was along this lofty ridge, along mostly grassy paths, and as the afternoon drew on, I reached the point where I could look down and see Swanage below me. At this point, I knew I had about an hour to get down off the hills, walk along the seafront and through the town to reach the station. With the still glorious weather, it seemed a shame to be ending my walk and I was tempted to just keep on walking into the evening, but the draw of the train on this memorable day was too strong.

Now I have to say at this point that I am not a steam buff nor a railway geek, I just enjoy train travel, and enjoy revisiting our past heritage.

Swanage

Swanage Comes into View

I joined the Dorset Coast Path, and dropped down off the hilltop into the town and made it to the station with 20 minutes to spare. The platform was crowded, the train was waiting and of course, the BBC were there filming. This was an occasion!

So how did this project reach this landmark after the devastation that was left in 1972? Well, that very same year, the Swanage Railway Society was formed, and those involved ‘had a dream’! In practical terms, it all started 4 years later when the group were granted a one year lease over the, by then, near derelict Swanage Railway Station. A few hundred yards of track were laid and by August 1979, diesel trains were running along it, followed the next year by steam. Little by little the track was extended until in 2002, exactly 30 years to the day after its closure, a temporary connection was made again with the main line.

There was still more to do however because a regular service could not be introduced due to essential signalling work being required. Finally this was carried out in 2014 along with other upgrading work to bring the line up to the required standard to make it permanent. All this work, at the cost of millions of pounds, was completed last year.

BBC at Swanage Railway

BBC South Today Filming

It just seems amazing that what took just 7 weeks to destroy, has taken 45 years to re-instate, and it is thanks to the tenacity of an increasing group of volunteers. It is thanks to them that I was able to board the train on Tuesday for my first journey to Wareham since I was a young man.

On the Swanage Railway

On the Newly Restored Swanage Branch Line

At this stage the trains are being pulled by diesel engines, double ended because there is nowhere for the engines to turn at Wareham. The current service is part of a two year trial which hopefully will be extended to make this a permanent feature of Purbeck again.

At Wareham Station

The Last Train of the Day Leaves Wareham

What a memorable day. It hadn’t worked out exactly as I planned but nevertheless, I had an amazing walk, taking in a whole variety of different terrains, and been part of a historic day in the Isle of Purbeck.

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.

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 4

24 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

Our theme for the week is ‘Quirky Dorset’, which is all about unusual things that you might find as you are ‘exploring the countryside and lanes of Dorset’, and I could not possibly let this week go with out including these – the Dorset Holloways.

The Dorset Holloways

The Magical, Mystery of Dorset's Holloways

In a Dorset Holloway

I have written a number of blogs on these somewhat unusual occurrences which although not exclusive to Dorset, are found there aplenty. Holloways are ancient byways that have become sunken tracks after centuries of use has eroded the ground. They started life as normal footpaths but millions of feet, cart wheels, animal hooves, and water running off the land have gradually worn away the soft bedrock so that the paths have sunk deeper and deeper below the level of the surrounding land. By their very nature, they occur only where the bedrock is soft such as in the sandstone of West Dorset.

For me, these are just the most amazing places to walk and you can almost sense the different generations of people who used them over hundreds of years. The trees that once lined the path and marked its route now hang over the edge with their roots exposed. You almost feel that you are walking underground in a giant rabbit burrow as the trees arch overhead creating a tunnel effect. The depth varies but some go down as much as 30 feet with sheer sides making them more like gorges. Some, such as Hell Lane, have names that seem to suit them perfectly 🙂 !

 

Holloway

Hell Lane

Such is the effect of these paths on me, that I was inspired to write a poem about them, and I have repeated it below:

A world of mystery down below,
A place of doom where all fear to go,
Dark by night, eerie by day,
This is the Dorset Holloway.

A path that once was above the ground,
Foot, hoof and wheel has worn it down,
For centuries man has come this way,
Creating the Dorset Holloway.

The walls each side show heritage clear,
Etched in their faces, year on year,
Through diff’rent ages the path worn away
The ancient Dorset Holloway.

With roots either side and branch overhead,
Trees arch above their arms outspread,
Creating a darkness, to keep out the day,
The shadowy Dorset Holloway.

Stuff of fiction as well as fact,
At times overgrown, with brambles packed,
A haven for nature’s pleasant bouquet,
The nature filled Dorset Holloway.

An underground warren of time worn ways,
A lab’rinth where birds, bugs, bats play,
With damp plants aplenty growing from clay,
The musty Dorset Holloway.

A secret world of hobgoblins rare,
Tricks of mind and raising of hair,
Such the effect, you fear to stray
In the spectral Dorset Holloway.

But explore these paths with open mind,
Follow the route wherever they wind,
Be amazed at the things that there lay,
The evocative Dorset Holloway.

(Copyright The Dorset Rambler)

I just love walking these quirky paths, there is always something new to find and photograph. It is the whole air of mystery and intrigue that makes them special and as I walk them, I often wonder who used them centuries ago and what their lives were like, as well as what the purpose of their journey was. These are special places indeed!

If you would like to read more about these ancient paths, just type ‘Holloways’ into the search bar and my other blog entries will come up.

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.

The Sandbanks Ferry

7 Mar

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

Bramblebush Bay

The Bramblebush Bay

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

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

On the Sandbanks Ferry

On the Sandbanks Ferry

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

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

Looking Out to Sea

Looking Out to Sea

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

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

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

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

In Transit

The Poole Harbour Entrance

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

The Evening Ferry

At the End of the Day

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

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Two Dorset Ferries

16 Oct

Hi all.  Sorry for the lack of posts recently – unfortunately due to various events and health issues my walking has been somewhat curtailed this year…..although on the positive side I have had my mountain bike out a lot more.  This is because two of my health issues have involved twisted ankles which prevented me from walking but not from cycling.  I am now fully recovered and looking forward to some great autumn walks :)!

THE FLOATING BRIDGE

I thought I would post a blog about two valuable but very different Dorset ferries, the first of these being the Sandbanks Chain Ferry which plies its trade transporting cars across the entrance to Poole Harbour.  It is classified as a ‘floating bridge’.

Bramblebush Bay
The Bramblebush Bay

Poole Harbour is one of the largest natural harbours in the world with around 36 square kilometers of water and 100 miles of coastline but the entrance is just 300 meters wide.  The peninsulas either side of the entrance were originally just sand spits without roads but now the situation is considerably different with the northern peninsula particularly, Sandbanks, now being covered with houses, some of the most expensive real estate in the world – you would need to be a multi-millionaire just to buy a plot of land here!

Across the Heath
Studland Heath with the harbour entrance and the Sandbanks Ferry in the distance

It was in the early 1900’s that the first idea for crossing the harbour entrance was muted.  The suggestion was that this should be a transporter bridge although the proposal failed, as did several other schemes.  From the early 1900’s foot passengers were catered for as a rowing boat ferry operated during the summer, carrying passengers across to the wild and remote Shell Bay – this must have been really hard work especially when the strong tides were running through that narrow harbour entrance.  This first ferry was eventually changed to a motor boat service.

It was just before the First World War that the suggestion was made that a vehicle ferry should be set up and some 9 years later, the Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road And Ferry Company was formed to progress this.  Roads needed to be built and slipways formed with Purbeck Stone being brought in from the Dorset coastal quarries either overland or by barge.  With some of the land being boggy marshlands, copious amounts were needed.  On 15th July 1926, the first ferry, a coal fired, steam driven craft carrying up to 15 cars, commenced service.  This continued to operate for over 30 years, although the whole area was taken over by the military during the Second World War.

Boarding
Traffic boarding the ferry in the evening light

In the mid 1950’s, a new and larger ferry was installed.  This carried up to 28 cars and again operated for some 35 years before being taken out of service.  The current ferry, The Bramblebush Bay, came into service in 1994 and was larger again with a length of 244 feet and a beam of 54 feet.  This carries up to 48 cars but when fully loaded still has a draught of just 3 feet 9 inches.

The ferry operates on two hardened steel chains, each 1,235 feet long, anchored at either side of the harbour entrance.  Wear and tear on the chain causes it to stretch and two links have to be taken out each fortnight in order to maintain the optimum length.  Although there are two chains, the ferry actually drives on one side at a time only (the side farthest from the flowing tide) in order to make it easier to manouvre at the slipway and to reduce cost.  There is a tremendous strain on the chains, especially when a strong tide is flowing and a chain has been known to break – the most recent was in July this year and the suggestion is that the cross channel ferry that passes through the harbour entrance may have clipped the chain on its way through at low tide although this was not proven.  The chains are replaced every 15/18 months and the old ones sold off – I bought a 1.5 meter length as a feature for my garden and it took two of us to lift it into the car boot, such is the weight!

Freedom
Sunset from the Sandbanks Ferry

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

THE WEYMOUTH ROWING BOAT FERRY

Don't pay the ferryman!

This is a much different but equally delightful, and quirky, ferry service and it operates to carry passengers across the Weymouth Harbour entrance.  It is a short trip and saves around a mile of walking because without it you have to cross at the nearest bridge.  It costs the princely sum of £1 but I like it so much that I always pay more.  The ferry has operated for over 60 years and is one of the oldest of its type in the UK.

I walk this part of the Dorset coast regularly because it is from here that I start my annual 4 day end to end backpack.  I catch the early train to Weymouth and always start day one with a bacon sandwich on the sea front.  Partly the reason for this ritual is that the rowboat ferry doesn’t start until 10.30 am and although I could easily walk to the bridge, I much prefer to cross by the ferry – this, and the Sandbanks Ferry above, is just one of those things that makes Dorset such a great place to walk :)!

Thanks for stopping by.

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.