Tag Archives: village life

On the Wild Side – The Dorset Coast Path Day 2

4 Aug

I woke the next morning at 4.30am as the first light appeared in the sky and immediately leapt out of my sleeping bag, eager to start my day – it seems so much easier when camping than when at home in a soft bed. Half an hour later the sky turned a delightful shade of pink, red and orange as the sun broke through. The sheep on the hillside were already eating breakfast and there was a beautiful stillness. The scene before me was mesmerising and I captured it as best I could, wishing I had my tripod with me!

Abbotsbury Sunrise

5am – Sunrise over Abbotsbury

I had a quick breakfast of cereal bars and tea watching the ever lightening sky and listening to the sheep and cows that surrounded me. I was still alone on my hilltop although the village below me was starting to stir.

I packed up my things – well there wasn’t much to pack really – and before leaving I went into the chapel again. The doves were also stirring for the day, and one conveniently posed for me in the east window. I think that picture with the dove in silhouette was a fitting picture on which to end my stay at that amazing place of peace and pilgrimage and I bade my farewell.

St Catherine's Chapel

The Interior of St Catherine’s Chapel

Peace

Peace!

Making my way across the hilltop, I dropped down the other side towards the coast path again, looking out across the Fleet with its swannery and the Chesil Bank that provides its  protective south bank. The day was already warm despite the clouds that had now gathered. It was to become even warmer later despite the earlier forecast of cooler weather!

The Fleet and Chesil Beach

The Fleet and Chesil Beach

Reaching the Coast

Joining the Coast Path

It was barely 6am and there was no-one else around apart from a few fishermen farther along Chesil Beach. From a distance, I could see them reeling in fish so it looked like it had been a successful night. The skies cleared once more and the early sun threw long shadows across the deserted beach. There was a lovely stillness in the air and it was wonderful to be out walking so early in the day.

Beach Walk

Early Morning Shadows

Along the Beach

Looking Back

On the Beach

Shingle and Surf

The first few miles of the day were hard going because they were either on hard but broken tarmac, or worse still, on shingle as the path follows the edge of the shingle beach. It was like constantly walking uphill and it was a relief when at last the path turned slightly inland to skirt along the edge of a nature reserve. Ahh, solid ground underfoot!

It was at this point that two walkers passed me – the first contact with humanity today. They waved a cheery good morning and continued on their way but we would meet again later in the day.

Solid Ground

Walking on Solid Ground

Gradually the day became busier! This was in part because the morning was drawing on but also because I was now entering a more ‘touristy’ section of the walk, with a number of towns, beaches and caravan parks. The first of these was Burton Bradstock, a popular beach with a caravan park just further along the coast.

Burton Bradstock

Burton Bradstock

It is at the caravan park that the River Bride enters the sea on its somewhat serpentine route. The river is not wide……but it is wide enough to need a footbridge to cross it, and that footbridge is half a mile inland. So at this point, my route detoured inland along one side of the river to reach the bridge, and then followed the other side back again.

Serpentine

The Serpentine River Bride

Generally though the walking along this section was not difficult as the headlands are not majorly high. That would all change later but for now, I could enjoy great views without too much effort.

On Burton Cliff

On Burton Cliff

There is one particularly interesting feature here though, and that is the Bridport Golf Club. Now I’m not a golfer but the hole in the picture below must be a challenge especially on a day when a stiff sea breeze is blowing. The tee off point is on the headland beside where I am stood and the hole is in the valley some 150 feet below! That must be difficult to gauge!

What Hole?

A Hole in One?

In terms of climbing, this was the first challenge of the day as I dropped down to almost sea level and climbed again up the other side. I stopped at the top to catch my breath….although it was of course in the guise of taking a photo. There are benefits to being a photographer🙂 ! The view back was clear all the way to Portland, the ‘island’ that juts out into the sea.

An Awesome Coastline

Awesome Views

I arrived in a very busy West Bay in time for brunch – cheeseburger and tea which I ate sat along the harbourside. It always seems somewhat incongruous being in such a busy, tourist hot spot after walking along some remote coastal parts and it was only afterwards that I realised I didn’t take a single photograph there.

Having replenished my food and water supplies, I moved swiftly on, keen to be out on the wild coast again. I knew that the afternoon would be far more challenging than the morning with much higher headlands and steep climbs to negotiate, and the day was hotting up too! This was very quickly evidenced by the number of paragliders that habituate this part of the coast.

Freedom

Paraglider

Even on the lower headlands I often found myself looking down on them rather than up, as they swooped from almost sea level to soar over my head. I was entering Broadchurch land (for those of you who watched that series on television) and I dropped down into Eype Mouth. Ahead of me I could dee my first major climb up over Thornecombe Beacon!

Broadchurch Land

Eype Mouth with Thornecombe Beacon Beyond

The day was by now extremely muggy with very little breeze to give any relief and I drank copious amounts of water as I made my way up the steep climb. The views were awesome and as I looked west I could see my next, even bigger, challenge in the shape of Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast.

From Thorncombe Beacon

From Thornecombe Beacon to Golden Cap

Before that climb though I had to drop down to sea level to reach Seatown, another popular beach with a nearby caravan site. For once I was happy about that though because I knew there was a shop there and that would be my last opportunity to replenish my supplies until tomorrow.

Climbing up out of Seatown I stopped to look back across Thornecombe Beacon.

Climbing Golden Cap

Climbing Golden Cap

The view from the top of Golden Cap makes all the hard work worth while and I dropped my pack and just sat drinking it in. For a time I had the place to myself although that rarely lasts long as many walkers pass that way, sometimes arriving from easier inland routes. I didn’t yet know where I would spend the night but it occurred to me that right there would be good. The day was still too young though so I continued on my way.

Golden Cap View

The View East from Golden Cap

Dropping down off the headland, I detoured slightly inland to walk through the almost deserted medieval hamlet of Stanton St Gabriel with its derelict church, dedicated to St Gabriel, and few remaining cottages. This was once a thriving fishing and farming community but making a living was hard and gradually people were lured away to the larger town of Bridport where there were mills and rope works. It became a smuggling area where contraband was stored and now provides holiday homes, even the old manor house being divided into flats.

I just find these villages so fascinating and I stood wondering what life, and the people, were like when it was in its heyday. If only Apple could add time machines to their phones so that we could at will go back and stand observing life then.

St Gabriel's Church

St Gabriel’s Church

Stanton St Gabriel

The Old Manor House, Stanton St Gabriel

I was woken from my reverie by the first drop of rain! And in many ways, it was welcome rain to cool me from the warmth of the day. I continued on my way knowing that there were no higher climbs to come although this part of the coast is still a switchback of ups and downs. Behind me Golden Cap gradually faded further into the distance.

Golden Cap from the West

Looking Back to Golden Cap

The day was drawing on and I started looking for somewhere to stop for the night. Nothing suitable materialised though until I summited the last headland before Charmouth which was flat and grassy. Here I would spend the night. There was even a seat there for me!

I sat alone in my ‘bedroom’ eating the food I had carried and brewed a cup of tea thinking that I would be able to sit and read for a time before settling down for the night…..but that wasn’t to be! First of all four people arrived carrying picnic chairs and settled on the cliff top. Then over the next hour others arrived until I was sat on my headland with a hundred or more people – it turned out that the Red Arrows, the RAF aerobatic team, were giving a display that evening as part of the RNLI celebrations in Lyme Regis across the bay from me. So I spent the evening chatting to various people and enjoying a display that I had known nothing about🙂 !

Two of the people I chatted to were the two walkers I had passed at the beginning of the day. They told me that they were walking to Land’s End to raise money for charity. They had started as a trio but the third member had taken a tumble and broken his ankle so the two were continuing alone. I bade them good luck and they continued on their way.

 

Red Arrows

The Red Arrows Display

After the display had finished, people gradually drifted away and ultimately I had my lofty bed place to myself again. Almost as if I had given a cue, it was at that point that the clouds parted again and I was treated to the most amazing late light display that bettered even the Red Arrows. The sun slanted across the top of the headland where I would sleep, picking out the brightly coloured heather on the cliff edge.

Stonebarrow

Stonebarrow  with Golden Cap in the Distance

Stonebarrow Sunset

Stonebarrow Sunset

The sun soon dropped below the horizon and as the light faded, I set up my bed for the night. With the clouds still lingering and the recent rain, I decided to set up my tarp in case it rained in the night.

Stonebarrow Sunset

The End of Another Perfect Day

In the darkness, the lights of Charmouth and Lyme Regis twinkled below me. I would be passing through both of those places tomorrow but for tonight, I was content to be once more sleeping right in the midst of nature. What better place is there to sleep? I drifted off to the gentle sound of distant waves below me.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed walking with me again today 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.

Of a new henge, priests and quarrymen, sunsets and spray, and a ledge that dances!

13 Feb

It was another of those rare crisp, cold, clear, Winter days and there was bright sunshine as I parked up near the recently erected landmark, Woodhenge, at Worth Matravers.

This monument was put up on a whim by the landlord of the local pub who had cut down a huge tree but local planners ordered it to be taken down as no planning permission had been granted. In the end, they relented and agreed that it could stay for a few months but such was the level of public support for the monument which has very quickly become a local attraction that planners have now extended this for a further two years. So Woodhenge stays……for the time being at least.

Woodhenge

Woodhenge

Starting out on my walk, I immediately passed the pub itself, the quirky Square and Compass, probably one of the best pubs in Purbeck, in fact in the whole of Dorset! It started life as a pair of cottages but was converted to an alehouse in the 18th century and specialises in pasties and cider.  It also has one of the smallest bars you are likely to see, just a hatch in the corridor!  It has an amazing beer garden with views down the valley to the sea and there is nothing better than to sit on a rock seat on a summer evening with drink in hand watching the sun go down.

But this was too early in the day for a drink so I passed swiftly by.

The Square and Compass

The Square and Compass

Making my way out of the village along the road, I passed something else that I always think is quirky – a bus stop which is just 2 feet high! It always strikes me as funny – was it designed for short people?🙂

I soon turned off the road and crossed fields, passing a farm drive that I seem to photograph with monotonous regularity – I couldn’t resist another shot with the bright sunlight picking out the straight track against the heavy cloud backdrop. It always reminds me of the album cover on the Best of the Eagles CD – well I always did have a good imagination!

Straight!

The Straight Way

The track I was following is known as The Priests Way and it was bounded on both sides by dry stone walls. It intrigues me how the style of these walls varies – on one side of me the stones were laid flat and on the other side they sloped diagonally. Either way, I think the way these walls stand up using nothing but gravity is testament to the skills of the men who built them. It is a classic example of making use of extremely local materials since they were originally built with stones cleared from the fields when preparing the ground for agriculture. Isn’t that just perfect!

Dry Stone WallDry Stone Wall

The Priests Way is a track that links the village of Worth Matravers to its larger cousin on the coast, Swanage. It takes its name from the fact that back as far as the 15th century, the priest who oversaw congregations in both localities would ride the route regularly to visit his parishioners or lead services. As you walk the trail which runs along the top of the ridge, you could just imagine raising your cap as the priest passed by, or passing the time of day with him on the road.

This is now a good route to walk at this time of year after so much rain because thanks to funding from Natural England the path has been improved and resurfaced. The dry and firm footing is welcome and frees you up to look around you as you no longer have to watch every step.

The Priest's Way

The Priests Way Sign

Part way along the track, I passed a hollow in the ground, but this is clearly no ordinary hollow as the sides are supported by dry stone walling. It is overgrown now but at one time this would have been a watering point for livestock using the route.

Drinking Place?

One of the things this area is noted for is its Purbeck and Portland Stone that has been quarried extensively for many years. Most of the quarries have ceased their operations long since but there are still some that continue to work the stone. The path passes by one such quarry and I stopped to watch the heavy machinery doing tasks that were once performed laboriously by many men with simple tools. How times change!

A Working Quarry

This track really is a delightful route to walk, indeed it is one of my regular walks. The track winds its way towards Swanage with the distant sea becoming ever closer, and with beautiful views across the valley towards the Purbeck Hills.

The Priest's Way

The Priests Way

It passes by a lime kiln, reminding me of another of those ancient occupations, the making of quicklime to spread on the land to reduce acidity, or to make a whitewash for buildings. It could even be used as a disinfectant for cow stalls. These were in their heyday when land was being prepared for agricultural purposes and many farms had kilns of their own, manufacturing quicklime right where it was needed.  These days of course it is manufactured by much more efficient methods but it is good to see these ancient relics being preserved for future generations.

The Lime Kiln

A Lime Kiln Beside the Track

On the Priet's Way

The Priests Way with the Purbeck Hills Beyond

Nearing the end of The Priests Way, I stopped for elevenses overlooking the town of Swanage. This is such a lovely view and it is always a good place to sit. Not only that, but you get serenaded at the same time as behind me stands a metal gatepost with holes in it and when the wind is in the right direction, it plays the gatepost like a flute🙂 !  I remember the day I first heard this eerie sound – it took me a while to work out where it was coming from.

Swanage

Swanage

I dropped down into Swanage which I always think is a bit of a ‘Marmite’ town. People either love it or hate it! I really like it and always enjoy wandering through the streets passing some interesting sights like the old and derelict Pier Head Cafe on the sea front. The building was actually erected as a temporary mess hall in the late 1940’s and has had various uses since then, until it was declared unsafe some 50 years later. It is now awaiting redevelopment and arguably has become even more iconic since its closure thanks to the murals that you see below.

The murals were painted by two local artists as part of Purbeck Arts Week in 2007 and are really effective. One thing I particularly like is that the Swanage version of Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawk’ has a Simpsons version hanging on the wall in the background🙂 !

Pier Head Cafe and Tea GardenPier Head Cafe and Tea Garden

Leaving Swanage, I climbed up the down at the southern end of the town and continued on my way. But not before stopping to look back at the town below.

Swanage

Leaving Swanage

For many years, the route from here has meant walking along the road before joining the coast path again. This is because the coast path was closed due to landslides. Recently, however, the coast path itself has been reopened so it is possible to take a much improved route.

The Undercliff

The Undercliff Walk

Even now though, the route through the trees and across the foreshore is very muddy and I wonder how long it will be before the route is closed again. However, I made it through ok and continued round the coast below Durlston Castle, looking back to Peverill Point across the bay, with Old Harry Rocks in the distance.

Peverill Point and Old Harry Rocks

Peverill Point and Old Harry Rocks

Durlston Castle was never actually a true castle, being built as a restaurant to cater for visitors to the Durlston Estate in the late 19th century. It is now a visitor’s centre for what has become a country park. My route took me below the castle and round the headland to Anvil Point where ahead of me I could see the lighthouse standing proud above the rugged coast. The lighthouse was built in 1881 and is now fully automated, the lighthouse keeper’s accommodation being turned into holiday lets. It must be a great place to stay……provided the foghorn doesn’t go off of course!

Below the lighthouse is the ledge of what was once Tilly Whim Caves. These were originally coastal quarries dating from the 18th century but when quarrying ceased, they were converted to a tourist attraction. From 1887 to 1976 they drew many visitors to the area until a rock fall forced their closure. Now they are home to bats so their usefulness continues, just in a different guise.

Anvil Point

Anvil Point and Tilly Whim Caves

Leaving Anvil Point behind, I entered a stretch of coast that I knew would not be easy to walk. This is ‘muddy mile’, well, several miles actually and in the wet season it is always muddy! I slipped and slid my way along the coast passing spiders’ nests in the shrubbery to the side.  Often there are sightings of dolphins, peregrines and many other creatures along this stretch of coast, as well as rare plants.

Spider's Nest

Spider’s Nest

Along this part of the coast also, there are two sets of ‘mile markers’, posts erected on the cliff top which can be used by ships to test their speed and performance. When viewed from the sea, these indicate a measured mile.

Mile Markers

Mile Markers

This is a delightful part of the Dorset coast, laden with old and disused quarry workings and normally some lovely grassy paths – when they haven’t been churned up into mud. The views are spectacular and there is much to explore.

The QuarriesThe Quarries

I couldn’t resist taking some cloudscape shots on this glorious day.

Along the Dorset CoastClouds

One of the smallest quarries is Whiteware Quarry in the picture below. I love to visit this quarry which is partially hidden away. Its diminutive size intrigues me and it is high above the sea, creating a very exposed feeling. The ledge is a great place to just sit and watch the waves crashing onto the rocks 30 metres below.

Whiteware Quarry

Whiteware Quarry

In total contrast to the Whiteware, the next quarry one of the largest. This is Dancing Ledge, a popular playground of climbers, coasteering groups, walkers and so on. So much so that the National Trust has recently announced that it will be restricting the numbers of commercial groups in order to reduce damage to the area.

There are various theories as to where the name Dancing Ledge came from. Some say that it is because the waves seem to dance across the lower ledge, others say that it takes its name from the fact that the ledge is the same size as a ballroom dance floor.  Either way, it is a very appropriate name and a beautiful place to while away a few hours.

It is well know for its amazing wildlife, including a colony of puffins, and for its swimming pool, visible in the picture below. This pool was blasted out of the rock in the early 1900’s so that the children from the local preparatory schools had somewhere safe to swim as the sea itself is far too treacherous. The schools have all now closed but the pool is still used by others and it is a great place to cool off during a hot summer’s walk.  But not on this chilly winter’s day!

Dancing Ledge

Dancing Ledge

The light was now fading fast but I climbed down to the lower ledge to capture some beautiful crepuscular rays and some great crashing waves. The evening was beautifully atmospheric and it was quite special having the place all to myself and watching the light fade. I could have happily sat and watched the sun disappear but I had further to walk so after some while, I climbed back up to the coast path.

On Dancing Ledge

Dancing Ledge

As I made my way towards the next quarry, I looked back the way I’d come, with Anvil Point in the far distance and some subtle pink tones appearing in the sky, the clouds reflecting the light from the setting sun.

Looking Back to Anvil Point

The Way I’d Come

The last quarry of the day was to be Seacombe and with the sun disappearing, I climbed up to the ridge above to capture the sunset over the old wartime gun post that once guarded this part of the coast from the enemy. This is an Alan Williams Turret, designed to be operated by one man with a machine gun or anti-tank gun. This rusting hulk is a happy reminder that peace reign’s in our land although it is also a reminder that sadly this is not true for many parts of this world we live in.

I stood looking at this scene with a mix of emotions!

Seacombe

Seacombe Quarry

Finally I left the coast behind and with the sound of the waves gradually fading into the distance I made my way up the valley, once again tramping through mud, to reach Worth Matravers. I stopped to capture the last vestige of light across the duck pond that sits on the green in the heart of this picture perfect and unspoilt village. The ducks had long since gone to roost leaving the water like a mirror to reflect the sky, church and cottages, many of which are now second homes. This is another village that has to a large degree lost its working heart but it is beautiful nonetheless.

Worth Matravers

Worth Matravers

I made my way back to my starting point and to Woodhenge, now silhouetted against a beautiful late night sky. This was my starting point and it made a fitting end to a glorious day’s walking!

Woodhenge

Woodhenge

Thanks for joining me on this walk.  I hope you have enjoyed the sights and sounds of this wonderful part of Dorset.

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.

Of a once grand abbey, a once thriving village, glorious greenery, and a graveyard

23 Apr

I woke to a glorious sunny morning, eager to get out on the trail again.  I had already decided which walk I wanted to do – it started from the picture postcard village of Milton Abbas.  This is a designer village with one broad main street lined with almost identical houses thanks to Joseph Damer, Lord Milton, owner of Milton Abbey.  In 1780 he decided that the nearby market town of Middleton was spoiling his view so he appointed Sir William Chambers and Capability Brown to design a new village in Luccombe Bottom, just around the corner…….and out of sight!  The result was Milton Abbas.  The old town of Middleton was demolished and the grounds landscaped to form the parkland of his mansion.

Milton Abbas
Milton Abbas

It really is a beautiful, pristine village and it was wonderful walking down this street, passing old buildings such as the old bakery, the post office, the church and almshouses.  At the bottom of the main street, I turned north and walked through the parklands towards Milton Abbey itself, lost to the church at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Parkland
The path from the village to the Abbey

I decided that I would look inside the Abbey – it is the only building that has public access as this magnificent mansion is now Milton Abbas School.  Walking through the door, I was surprised at how the beautiful building had deteriorated since I last visited.  There were people carrying out a survey and I chatted to one of them.  He was a glass specialist who worked at Salisbury Cathedral and he told me that the problem was water ingress caused by damaged windows, gutters and downpipes.  The building dates from the 14th century so it is not surprising that there is deterioration in the structure.  His role was to report on the condition of all the windows, stained glass and others.  I commented that his job must be really interesting and he agreed but did add a caveat that it was not quite so good in the cold and wet of winter!

There are several tombs in the abbey but none more beautiful than that of Joseph and Caroline Damer.

Joseph and Caroline Damer
The tomb of Joseph and Caroline Damer

Leaving the church, I followed the path that skirts around the grounds and was able to look back across the perfectly manicured lawns for a fine view of this magnificent abbey and mansion.  With the trees now clothed in their bright, verdant foliage, the view was quite breathtaking.

Milton Abbey

Milton Abbey
Milton Abbey viewed across the parklands

From the abbey grounds, my route took me briefly along the country lane before turning off along a track that runs through the valley bottom.  A horse rider bid me a cheery good morning as she passed and of course, being English, we commented on the weather🙂 !

After a mile or two, I arrived at the next village, Hilton, which sits in the eastern part of the Dorset Downs.  This village was once part of the Milton Abbey estate when it was owned by the Hambro family, and the hillsides around were forested to provide cover for pheasants as King Edward VII was regularly entertained by the Hambros.  The surrounding hills are still wooded but the trees are much more recent as the original forests were cleared during WW2.  The village itself is a delight to walk through, with it’s many thatched cottages with gardens full of spring colours.  It is a typical Dorset village.

Hilton
Hilton

I made my way to the church, standing proud on it’s hillside.  The graveyard was thick with spring flowers which seemed to compliment the old, lichen covered gravestones.  I was walking around taking pictures when a local lady walked through the gate and we fell into conversation.

She told me that she was born in the village but left when she married her farmer husband, before returning later in life.  She was sad because there were no young people in the village as they were unable to afford to pay the market price for houses that had increased way beyond the norm over the years.  I asked if the village had, like many, become a place of weekend homes and she replied that although there were some second homes, it was not as bad as some villages.  As with most villages, there were cottages called, ‘The Old Post Office’ etc that gave indications of their previous uses – in this 21st century, it is sad that the heart has gone from these communities.

The villager told me that the church minister used to live in The Rectory beside the church, a substantial three story, 10 bedroom pile, but now he lived miles away and looked after four other villages as well as Hilton.  As always, The Rectory, much changed, is now in private ownership.

All Saints, Hilton
All Saints, Hilton

I left the village with an air of sadness, sadness for a lifestyle that had gone forever, sadness that these once vibrant communities now seemed so soul-less, but cheered that there are still friendly people happy to welcome visitors like me.  And I left to the raucous sound of rooks cawing high in the trees overhead, their derisory scoffing echoing after me as I made my way up through Hilton Bottom.

Oil Seed Rape
Hilton Bottom

As I neared the top of the hill, I sat and ate lunch looking down through the lovely valley with it’s rapidly ripening oil seed rape and I pondered on my conversation with the old lady in the village below.

Hilton Bottom
A beautiful lunch time view

Eventually I pulled myself away from what is one of my favourite places and continued to the top of the hill, passing lines of hawthorn trees in full bloom.

Blossom
Hawthorn Blossom

The top of the hill is in fact almost the top of Dorset.  At 900 feet, there are only a couple of places that can outdo its height, but not its views.  From the top of this chalk hill it is possible to see for miles across the Blackmore Vale, taking in four separate counties.  It was an appropriate place to site a wayside pulpit and an equally appropriate message.

Wayside Pulpit
The Wayside Pulpit on Bulbarrow Hill

Dropping down off the hill, my route took me through a delightful valley with beautiful but contrasting sides.  The north facing side was thick with amazing spring green foliage brought to full life by the lowering afternoon sun.  With long shadows being thrown down the hillside, it was a scene to just stand and absorb as the birds seemingly gave vent to their delight overhead.

Spring Greens
Verdant spring greens

The south facing hillside was thick with bluebells gradually coming into full flower.  These are old woodlands and there are many old and rotting trunks which provide a haven to a myriad of tiny creatures.  With these valley walls on either side, I made my way down the track that runs between them and in the distance I could hear the cry of a cuckoo as if to prove to me that spring had arrived.  It seems strange to me that even the tiniest of birds is unable to realise that in the cuckoo they have an infiltrator in their midst, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the new baby is several times the size of its own!

Bluebells
Bluebells and rotting trunks

The woodland track eventually gave way to a narrow country lane for a time.  Now whilst I normally shun roads as much as possible, there are benefits to walking on tarmac and that is that you don’t need to watch your feet as you do on rough stony ground.  That means that you can really take in all that is around you which is great even if for just a short time.

However, soon I was back of stony ground as I climbed again out of the valley onto another ridge top.  This track with lovely hedgerows on either side was particularly beautiful with the now low sun streaming through the leaves, highlighting the new, spring growth.

Spring

Spring
New spring growth

The final part of my walk today took me through more, but very different, woodlands.  This is Forestry Commission land with its array of perfectly vertical specimens with evergreen foliage.  To me, these are not so enjoyable to walk as the mixed deciduous woodlands and yet there is a strange beauty.

Forestry
Through the forest

In fact, wherever you are there is beauty, even in the smallest detail such as the unfolding of a fern on the forest floor.  It is amazing how this happens each year and how these become the thick, green, ferny leaves of summer, and the orange carpet of autumn.  Each stage as beautiful as the former.

Unfurling
Unfurling

I finished my walk where it started, in the postcard-perfect village of Milton Abbas where I paid a visit to the church.  This is something I like to do throughout my walks, partly because churches are beautiful and interesting places, but mostly because God’s peace is so evident there.  It always moves me when I think about the enormous heritage of these places with the hundreds of thousands of lives that have been impacted down through the ages, especially when they were packed to the doors with worshippers.  When I think about those who are buried in the churchyard, I cannot help but think of Thomas Gray’s words, ‘Each in his narrow cell forever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep’.  One day they will sleep no more!

Graveyard
Milton Abbas churchyard

It was a fitting place to end my day, a wonderful day of walking and conversation, of interesting places and people, a day when I have felt blessed.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

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

A Tactile Walk

13 Aug

The morning was bright and for once I decided to leave Dorset for the neighbouring county to do a 15 mile walk through some wonderful countryside and villages.  The day started in one of those beautiful meadows that are a dream to walk; the long grass swaying in the gentle breeze, the skylarks’ sweet song soaring above me, the butterflies fluttering by, the bees and bugs buzzing all around – just a dream!  

The Meadow
In the meadow

Have you ever thought of a walk being tactile?  Walking through the meadow hearing, seeing, smelling (if I had a sense of smell), but feeling too as I walked with fingers outstretched combing through the heads of the long swaying grass.  It was a lovely feeling that added another dimension – a real multi-sensory meadow!

After a mile or two my route took me along a lane rife with tall, delicate cow parsley, always a delight in summer.  

The Lane
A lane lined with cow parsley

Pushing my way through the at times overgrown lane with grass and flowers brushing my legs, I was somewhat glad that the recent weather had been dry.  The lane eventually gave way to more open ground as I reached the edge of a field and passed an old, rustic fence post, its rough solidness contrasting with the flimsy grasses around it.  I ran my fingers over the post, feeling its roughness and wondering who else’s hands had done that same thing over the many years it had been there.  With hedging and missing gate, the post seemed surplus and yet still added something to a lovely rural scene.

Meadow's Edge
A lovely rural scene

Eventually I reached the first village, and a beautiful village it was.  I love walking the countryside but I also love walking these old villages with their old cottages, some picturesque and some functional, all part of a local community that has existed and seen many changes over the centuries.  Strange to think that cottages like the one below once housed poor farm workers but so often now are second homes for the wealthy.  How times have changed and what stories these cottages could tell.

The Cottage
Picturesque or functional, always a delight

Passing out of the village along a quiet country lane, I joined another footpath that skirted round a hill.  The heights reached on this walk are not mountainous but the views are none-the-less beautiful for that and I stopped to take in the landscape below me.

The Footpath
Low hills but still great views

The hill itself was a real surprise!  Known as Windmill Hill, presumably because at one time there was a windmill there, the area was covered in beautiful blue flax, not the most common farm crop.  The breeze blowing across the hill rustled through the flowers creating a waving sea of blue.

Flax on Windmill Hill
A waving sea of blue

There was more tactile to come but unfortunately not so positive – the path beyond the blue hill was overgrown with stinging nettles; shorts and nettles are not a good combination!  I picked my way carefully through and eventually reached clearer ground as the path skirted along the edge of some woodland with some lovely dappled sunlight filtering through.  It was like a fairyland and I tried to capture it with the camera.

If you go down in the woods today......
A fairyland

Another picturesque village, and a lunch stop, followed before I once again made my way out into the countryside.  The crops in the fields were already ripening and the paths through them were narrow and once again I walked with outstretched fingers feeling the touch of the full seed heads.  The golden grain swayed in the breeze as I walked.

Against the Grain
Golden grain

And naturally a poppy or two joined in.

A Beautiful Cliche!
Poppy

More fields followed with contrasting crops, the delicacy of oats to the touch and the robustness of barley.  The feel of these is so different, and the look too of course with the barley field seeming to impersonate the sea as wave after wave rolls across the field ahead of the breeze.  Narrow paths and high crops, I couldn’t resist running my outstretched fingers through the heads once again.

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The Way Through
Contrasting crops

I stopped in the middle of the barley field, watching the ‘waves’ and listening to the rustling of swaying stalks.  It was a delight and made me think of W H Davies words, ‘What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?’  We should, indeed, must take time to stand and stare, and to touch and feel too, to fully take in all that is around us.

But I needed to move on, as the day was ticking by, and leaving the field behind me, I joined a wonderfully picturesque path along a ridge top, again not a high ridge but with lovely views on each side.

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Along the ridge

Eventually I neared the end of my journey, but there was more to come.  For the last stretch, I joined a rampart and ditch that had once formed the fortification along the county boundary.  I sat for some time with the long meadow grass waving around me, drinking in the scene.  What history there is in these ramparts, what blood must have been shed on their flanks that are now covered with the most delightful wild flowers and butterflies – a beautiful place of peace after centuries of strife.

Rampart
On the rampart

The final part of my walk was back through the meadows that I had started out from.  Still with skylarks serenading me overhead, and a myriad wild flowers to welcome me back, I took some time to capture the scene, and to try to capture the essence of the meadow which I love so much.  In reality, this is an impossible task since the meadow is a place that needs all of your senses to take in its joys and a camera can only do the visual.

In the Meadow
In the MeadowSummer in the Meadows
The essence of a beautiful meadow

God gave us all our senses to enjoy but so often we neglect to use them, rushing through life hardly noticing what is around us.  The sense of touch is particularly not associated with walking as much as sight and sound but it can really add another dimension to a good walk – so next time you go out walking, make it a tactile 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.

Who Cares?

7 Mar

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Faceless names upon the stone,
No one knows, they are gone,
Ashes to ashes, no-one there,
Does anyone care?

Loved ones once, when alive,
But all too soon, their time to die,
Leaving this earth, with mourners there,
People around to care!

Generations passed, all forgot,
No-one now tends their final plot,
Overgrown and in disrepair,
Does anyone care?

Who cares?

Who Cares!!!!

This was a fascinating place, an old and uncared for Dorset cemetery.  Mentioned in the Doomsday Book, the old church to which the graveyard belonged was demolished in 1742 to make way for a new building a mile or so down the road.  Now the cemetery stands alone, neglected and uncared for, but the graves are still there – its just that no-one knows the people any more.  It struck me as sad and poignant and I composed the above poem to express something of that feeling.

When those people were buried, others would have stood around the grave mourning their loss.  Generations later…….who cares?  How many people will remember you or me, and for how long?  Who will care?

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 a canine encounter, a bloody battle, a blazing fire, a bright sunset……and of course, a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

31 Dec

It was one of those beautiful crisp winter days, the frost was still heavy in the shade although the bright, clear sunshine had thawed the cold earth elsewhere.  With lovely grassy paths soft under foot, the walking was pleasant and the day was peaceful.  But not for long!

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Grassy paths and autumn colours

I saw him in the distance but gave him no thought – just a dog, a bull terrier, being walked by his owner.  They got closer and the dog ran towards me, just having fun and wanting to play I thought.  Then he started to run around me, tripping me up as I walked.  Still I thought nothing until he started to nip my shoelaces, then my rucksack, then my trouser legs, then finally ME!  Fortunately, he didn’t break the skin but I ‘suggested’ to the owner that if she couldn’t control her dog, she shouldn’t own one!  Or at the very least she should keep it on a lead!  It wasn’t such a peaceful start to the day after all.

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The morning light

However, with paths like the one above to walk down in the beautiful morning light, the incident was soon forgotten.  The path in fact skirts round one of the many deer parks that were once used to keep up the supply of deer as this was for hundreds of years the hunting ground of English Kings.  These days, it is just the local deer stalker who is employed to keep the numbers down.  Turning off this track, my route took me down a gentle slope into a valley, passing more parkland and farmsteads on the way.

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Down into the valley

In some ways, this is still hunting territory although now it is not deer but game birds.  They flew off noisily every few minutes as I disturbed them – it always amuses me that they seem to leave it till the last minute as if they hadn’t noticed me.  Although it was winter, the birds were still making melody all around and there were even odd butterflies to add a bit of colour.  The whole landscape was peaceful and a delight to walk through, but it hadn’t always been that way!

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A peaceful Dorset farm lane

I came to the gate below with its rather unusual sign on it and decided to take a break for a cup of hot Bovril.  Leaning on the gate I reflected on the history of this place.  It is called the Bloody Shard Gate although the name refers to the area rather than that specific gate, it being the connecting point of some five paths.  Its name emanates from a bloody skirmish that took place in the 18th century between gamekeepers and poachers.  The gamekeepers won the day but there is an interesting story concerning one of the poachers who had a hand severed in the battle.  The poacher recovered but his hand didn’t and was buried in a local churchyard.  It is said that it still roams the area at night searching for its owner!

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Bloody Shard Gate

The area is in fact steeped in a history of conflicts such as the English Civil War, the local landowners were at odds with each other, farmers were at odds with royalty as the protected deer caused damage to crops, and there was even a battle between two packs of local dogs resulting in the death of forty five animals.  There was no evidence of that though when I walked through the peaceful woodlands which were almost like a silent graveyard of the age old coppicing industry.

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A graveyard of the coppicing industry

Walking along these grassy paths surrounded by woodlands, you can just imagine King John riding through with his entourage as they hunted for deer.  The farmers finally won their particular battle with royalty after 800 years of protection for the deer, although that was probably down to hunting going out of fashion.  It is said that when the protection was lifted, villagers shot 12,000 animals in two days!

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From hunting ground to farm land

At the half way point on this walk is a lovely unspoilt Dorset village and as I walked into it, the low winter sunshine threw long shadows across the ground making beautiful patterns of shadows and light.

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Shadows and light

This always seems an unusual village to me as the cottages that line the main street are all end on to it rather than facing onto it as they normally do.

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The village street

It also includes a rather nice pub with a blazing log fire so on this walk, my lunch time seat was dry :)!  I don’t usually visit pubs when I am walking, preferring to stick to the countryside and a well placed rock or log for a seat – but sometimes you just have to make an exception.  The fire was very inviting :)!

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Beside the pub fire

Leaving the pub, I headed out of the village and passed the interesting garden below.  I had assumed that it was an old village railway station and stopped to ask a lady if that was the case but apparently it wasn’t – it was just a villager who was keen on railway paraphernalia.

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Not the railway station

It was good to be out in the country again and I crossed fields and walked farm tracks for a few miles before dropping into another village, well more of a hamlet really.  This one, like most, had a delightful church as well as a farm, a few cottages and of course a manor house.  The manor was one of the two that had been rivals in days gone by.

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The hamlet

The trail from the village passes through more parkland, but this is no ordinary parkland.  This once surrounded a palatial mansion, the largest in the county, which was built in the early 18th century.  Its size was in fact its downfall as no one wanted it and at one point the owner, who lived in Italy, offered to actually pay £200 a year to anyone who would live it it.  There were no takers however and it is said that he gave instructions to his servant to demolish the wings of the house.  Apparently the servant seeing a chance to make some money for himself demolished the main house as well and sold the stone which was used on various other buildings in the area.  When he heard the owner was returning to England, the servant apparently committed suicide!  The current house is still a substantial country mansion despite its being only a fraction of the original, mainly just the stable block.  Its most noted inhabitant was the Wedgewood family of pottery fame.

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The parkland

By the time I reached the next village, the light was beginning to fade but I took time out to visit the church.  I enjoy looking round these old village churches, they have such a long heritage and are still a testimony to Christianity and to those who have served and worshipped over the centuries.  The architecture has a special beauty.

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Inside the village church

Coming out of the church, the day was almost spent and I strode out up the track as I had several miles still to walk.  The sun dropped below the horizon and the sky lit up with a bright red glow as I walked.  It seemed a fitting end to a glorious day, and perhaps a fitting end to this last post of 2013!

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The day’s end

I hope you have enjoyed walking with me this year.  If you have any comments on my blog, or suggestions as to how it could be improved in the coming year, I would love to hear from you.

May I wish you all a very happy New Year.  Every blessing, and much walking, in the year to come.

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 bright sunshine, eerie woodlands, raining lead shot, and a very DARK walk back!

2 Dec

What a gorgeous morning this was!  Bright sunshine on a crisp autumn day and this time I had made sure I had my gloves with me before I started out.  Not that I got very far before I stopped to get the camera out – I parked in a rough lay-by with a very nicely placed puddle to reflect the autumn trees.  But soon, I headed out along that country lane for a short distance before turning off onto open fields.

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A well placed puddle

The day was chill and the grass still wet, and even though the sun had risen, the shadows thrown by the trees were long.  These cold days are so much better for photography than the warm summer hazy days as the light has a clarity that really brings out the shades and shapes of the landscape.  Today, I had the pleasure of the company of both sun and moon at the same time as the latter was clearly working the day shift.  As lovely as it was to see the soft moon in the daytime sky, this was a pleasure that was to have consequences later!

After a short time, my route left the open countryside and I walked through a doorway into some woodlands.

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The woodland doorway

The path descended into a deep valley filled with trees that had once formed a thriving coppicing industry although activities here had ceased long ago.  This was an eerie valley, always dark, always damp, decaying wood everywhere, lots of moss, and with hardly a sound in the very still air.  Little did I know it then, but this would be an even more eerie place later in the day as I made my way back!

Eventually my route took a left turn and I walked along a path, carpeted with golden leaves, that climbed up the hillside into a more light and airy woodland.

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A golden carpet of leaves

It is always a pleasure walking this stretch of woodland with the rustling of the leaves and the plaintive cry of the buzzards being the only sounds.  It seemed like I was the only person out, but not quite – I passed an elderly couple walking their dog and we greeted each other as we passed.  The old gentleman could walk no further so was taking a rest as his wife walked a little further along the path.

At the edge of these woods I passed through the old gate in the picture below.  I pass it regularly and yet each time I find myself taking yet more pictures of it.  I never could resist an old wooden gate, especially with that lovely sunshine streaming through the trees!  It could easily have been the gate that inspired Hardy to write, ‘I leant upon a coppice gate, when frost was spectre grey….’!

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The old gate

A little further along, my path dropped down into what is one of my favourite valleys with the rather wonderful name of Shepherd’s Bottom.  Normally there are sheep grazing which always seems appropriate in this place.  Today there were none but it was still a lovely place to be.  

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Shepherd’s Bottom

Dropping down into the valley, I passed through a small area of woodland before climbing up the other side to yet more woodlands.  At one time of course the whole of Dorset comprised of woodlands or heathland and with so much of the land having been cleared for farming, it is good to see these pockets of wild countryside still remaining.  This however was a working forest and signs warned of the danger from large machinery.

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The forest track

By the time I had come out of the woodlands and onto the open hilltop again, it was time for lunch so I found a suitable seat……which was actually a relatively dry stile!  The views from my lunch ‘table’ were amazing and even in the cold, I was happy to sit and look out across the valley beyond.  

My peace was disturbed however by men with sticks that had what appeared to be carrier bags tied to the end.  They were walking the hillside waving their sticks and I quickly guessed their purpose.  One of them, a young man with two spaniels in tow, passed by me.  As he lifted his dogs one at a time over the stile that had been my seat, I asked him if there was a shoot, to which he replied, ‘Yes’.  Apparently the guns were at the bottom of the valley and soon after I heard the first shot.  As I packed up and walked on, gunshots echoed out constantly, and frequently I was rained on by lead shot.  

Although having lead shot falling on me out of the sky didn’t concern me, it did make me wonder what the long term effect would be on the farmland and the crops.

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My lunch time view

After some time, I moved away from the shoot onto a neighbouring hillside.  My route was to take me down the side of the hill and through a delightful village.  This is one of those places that you would normally not stop at but that really reaps rewards if you are prepared to walk and explore.

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The village in the valley

It has an old school, an old church, numerous cottages and farmhouses…….

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The old farmhouse

…….and even an old mill in a very picturesque position beside a beautifully still millpond.  Once a busy village mill, this is now in a private residence.

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The old mill

Leaving the village behind, my route took me beside the now slow flowing mill stream and out onto the narrowest of country lanes with high banks on either side.  The sun was streaming straight down the road, highlighting the fallen leaves as if it were a spotlight and the leaf a starring player in a stage production.  But this was better than any stage production!

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In the spotlight

Climbing out of the valley, I ultimately crested one of the highest points in Dorset.  With 360 degree views over countryside and along the ridge, this is a spectacular spot to just sit and gaze.  This is a place with a history as it was once the site of one of the chain of Armada beacons erected in the 16th century between London and Plymouth.  How communications have changed since then!

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The view from the beacon

I lingered a while to enjoy the view, lost in my own thoughts.  The breeze was gentle but cutting, with a sting in its tail and I was glad of my flask of hot Bovril to warm me.

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A warming drink as the sun goes down

With the light fading fast, I needed to move on and so followed the ridge of hills for a mile or more, bathed in the warm light of the setting sun.  Along this stretch I was not alone as I passed a group of people who were, like me, enjoying the sunset.

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Enjoying the sunset

Just as I reached the end of the ridge-top path and my route turned once again into woodlands, the sun dipped his toe into the horizon pool before diving headlong in and disappearing from view.  This was a beautiful but slightly concerning sight as I still had several miles to walk!

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The sun dips his toe into the horizon pool

With the sun went the light!  I entered the first area of woodland with just enough glow in the sky to enable me to find my way and avoid the huge areas of deep mud on the heavily rutted forest track.  However, very soon the light had gone completely so I took my head torch out of my rucksack……only to find that the batteries were all but dead!  The words of Thomas Gray came into my mind, ‘And all was left to darkness and to me’!

Normally at this point the moon would cast his gentle glow to aid me but of course he had been up when I set out this morning so was still fast asleep!  I entered a second area of dense woodland with only a glimmer of light with which to find my way.  By now, I had given up trying to find my way round the mud but rather just ploughed through the middle.  Being ankle deep most of the time, I slipped and slid my way slowly onwards along a track which in daylight would not have been easy to follow but in the dark………!

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The eerie darkness

Those eerie woodlands of this morning were even more so in the dark.  The stillness was tangible!  Owls hooted spookily all around me, leaves rustled, trees creaked like rusted door hinges, twigs cracked, broken by unknown feet, and the eyes of unseen creatures stared at me, caught in the slight glimmer of my head torch.  I could not tell what the eyes belonged to other than to guess by their height off the ground.

Every few yards game birds, spooked by my presence, panicked and took off noisily with thrashing of wings and screeching of voice.  I hoped that they would be able to find another roosting spot in the dark!

My way out of the woods was by the track I had come along earlier in the day but it was not an obvious track, especially with a heavy covering of leaf and mud, and the sign pointing it out was half hidden in the trees.  However, eventually I found it!  I made my way slowly up the side of the valley and after what seemed an age I reached the road from which I had started the walk.

What a day!  Fabulous sunshine, amazing views, interesting places and most memorable of all, a wonderful night walk in the deep, dark woods!

I sat and enjoyed the rest of my Bovril before heading for home and a hot shower :)!

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.

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