Tag Archives: walking

A Lifetime Ambition Achieved :)

19 Jun

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

Today we are visiting one of those places that has always been part of my life. We used to come here regularly when I was a child, travelling in my uncle’s old Morris 10, often loaded up with at least 7 family members……in a 4 seater car! These were the days before seat belts and health & safety regulations took hold, and in any event, the car would barely travel at more than 30 mph with all that weight up. And of course, there was all the picnic paraphernalia that had to be strapped to the luggage rack in an old suitcase, a primus stove to cook on, paraffin, kettle, frying pan, plates, cutlery, water, and a myriad other things; and all for a day trip 🙂 ! The place in question is the Hardy Monument.

The Hardy Monument

The Hardy Monument

The Hardy Monument on Black Down

So why does this place mean so much? Well, when I was a child, we had no car and no way of reaching the monument, or anywhere else that was too far away from where we lived for that matter. The exception was for one period in the year when my father would borrow my uncle’s old car for his annual holidays….in return for his maintaining it for the rest year as my uncle knew nothing about engines! But for those two weeks each year, we were able to go and visit our favourite places, and this was one of them.

For a child, the excitement of having a car for a short time was immense and we absolutely loved it. All of us would pile in it and travel for miles, very slowly, even sometimes having to get out and walk up the hills because the car just couldn’t make it with so much weight on board! In these days of motorways and speedy travel, it seems hard to imagine how far we travelled back in the 1950’s, making it to places like Regent’s Park Zoo, a 200 mile round trip, all driven at 30mph, or maybe 40 on downhill sections 🙂 , and all on country lanes.

Top of the Tower

The Way Down

Anyway, enough reminiscing 🙂 ! Some might think that the Hardy Monument might have been erected in memory of arguably Dorset’s most famous son, the author Thomas Hardy, but in fact it was erected in memory of a different Thomas Hardy altogether. This monument was erected in memory of Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy who was a commander at the Battle of Trafalgar and served on HMS Victory. He is famed for being asked to kiss Nelson as he died. Admiral Hardy lived in the nearby town of Portesham and his family owned the Portesham Estate, including Black Down on which the monument was erected.

The monument stands just 72 feet high but Black Down itself is 850 feet above sea level, making the monument visible from as far as a 100Km away. Its visibility was key because Hardy’s family wanted it to be used by seamen as a navigation aid. Its shape is also deliberate since it mirrors the shape of the telescope that Hardy used…..although some still say it resembles a factory chimney! Octagonal in shape, its corners are directed towards the main compass points.

Top of the Tower

At the Top

As with all ancient monuments, this one has fallen into disrepair at times and was restored by Hardy’s descendants in 1900 and again in 1908 before being passed into the hands of the National Trust in 1938. At some point it became derelict again and certainly when I visited in my youth I was unable to climb to the top. Fortunately the National Trust carried out a refurbishment programme in 2011, safeguarding it for future generations.

View from the Top

Amazing Views

View from the Top

Looking Towards Dorchester

One other interesting fact is that the stone to build the monument came from a quarry at the bottom of the hill. That quarry though had been closed for years because it wasn’t economically viable, so it was re-opened just to extract the stone for this building and then closed again.

Hardy Monument sunset

The Hardy Monument at Sunset

The Hardy Monument, or Hardy’s Monument as we knew it, is one of those places that held an air of mystery about it when I was a child and as I was growing up. This was perhaps in part because it was closed to the public at the time with dangerously crumbling steps inside. And I remember always wishing I could climb to the top but never being able. When it was restored and opened again after many many years, I still did not quite get round to climbing those 122 mysterious steps into the unknown until on a recent walk when I finally made it to the top and fulfilled a childhood dream.

Was it worth the climb and the wait? Well, in truth the views from the top are simply amazing, but then, the views from the bottom are equally awesome. For me though, it was much more personal than that, so for me, it was definitely worth it!

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.

 

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.

Running Free

30 May

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

So, we are continuing to look at Dorset from a different viewpoint by introducing blur and movement into the pictures and in some ways, this is another one that comes under the heading of Deliberate Camera Movement, although this is movement in a slightly different way to yesterday’s post.

On the Run

Running Free

This shot was taken on one of Dorset’s trailways, disused railway tracks that have been converted to footpaths. These are used by walkers, cyclists and runners too so I thought it would provide a good opportunity to be creative. In this case, I wanted to add quite a lot of blur to create an impression of ‘Running Free’, again without detail, and also so that any people wouldn’t be recognisable. However, to give some sharpness to the runner, I used a panning action, following the runner whilst exposing the shot.

The idea was to illustrate the freedom of walking, cycling or running in the open countryside and this final picture seemed to do that reasonably well, as well as giving a different view of our network of footpaths which are such a valuable resource.

On a wider issue, although these trailways  provide longer distance footpaths for all to use, there are still some issues. A lot of these routes emanated from the activities of Lord Beeching back in the 1960’s when many railway lines were closed down. Unfortunately, the emphasis on providing public open space was a bit late in coming, resulting in much of the old track beds being lost to development or private purchase before they could be converted to public rights of way. So although the ones we have are valuable, there could have been many more.

For instance, if the powers that be had been quicker off the mark, it would today be possible to walk or cycle from Bournemouth to Bath, some 60 miles, along the old Somerset and Dorset Railway track. Add in the branch lines, and there could have been a whole network of trails running across our county. All is not lost however because there are now active groups around that are still campaigning for the old track beds that still exist to be turned into footpaths, and in some cases even to be restored as railways. I really hope that these campaigns will gather support!

In the meantime, lets celebrate the freedom we have to walk, cycle and run in the lovely Dorset countryside!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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

Theme for the Week – Dorset in Spring Part 1

23 Apr

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

It’s Sunday and time for a new theme again for this coming week and I thought we would have a celebration of spring as captured on my recent walks. This week I sat on a high hilltop on a beautiful day overlooking an amazing view and across the valley came that sound which heralds in the spring, the sound of the cuckoo! So it is official now, spring is here, and nothing typifies spring like a field of bright yellow oil seed rape! So today we visit King Down.

King Down

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King Down is a few miles north west of Wimborne, not far from the Badbury Rings Hill Fort. It is not high at all but there are still lovely views all around, and invariably you walk to the accompaniment of skylarks. There are two well preserved round barrows at the top of the down but others that once stood around them have disappeared, possibly because of farming. The reason for their presence is the nearby Roman Road and Hill Fort. This was once an ancient cemetery.

It is interesting to compare two similar pictures taken just a week or two apart. In the bottom picture, the flowers are sparse but just a short time later after the sun has warmed up a little, the crop is in full glory.

King Down

It is also interesting to compare paths. On King Down, the path through the rape field is broad and easy to walk but later that day, I would be walking through the rape field that you see in the far distance and there, the path was narrow. You might wonder why this makes a difference but it does! As I walked through the later field, I was constantly brushing up against rape flowers on both sides as I squeezed through, being coated in a copious dusting of golden pollen and also a layer of what seemed like sap. For a hay fever sufferer, this would have been awful! For me it was just a nuisance and in fact I was more concerned about the very fine pollen getting into the camera.

So what makes the difference in the width of the paths? Well I believe it is horses. Which leads me on to another subject – horses, and riders of course, are both a blessing and a curse to walkers. In winter if you walk a bridle way, you are likely to find yourself walking in thick mud as the hooves churn up the wet ground. This doesn’t make for easy walking. But in summer, those same horses have the effect of keeping many paths clear of wild plants such as stinging nettles which would otherwise overgrow the paths. And of course, the ground is dry so the hooves don’t have the same effect on the ground as in winter.

Anyway, back to our walk through King Down 🙂 ! It is a truly lovely place and although it is not in any way remote, it feels remote, and that makes it a great place to walk. It is much quieter than the more popular paths at Badbury Rings, and there is nothing better than to sit atop one of the barrows and just drink in the sea of spring yellow at your feet whilst listening to the skylark overture. Just wonderful.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

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

 

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 7

11 Apr

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

So this week, we are on the hunt for more odd and quirky things that you might come across when you walk my lovely county of Dorset. Yesterday we looked at the Smugglers’ Path that zig zags steeply down the face of White Nothe to reach the shoreline. But there is still another hazard to negotiate before you reach the safety of the rocks, and that is The Ladder!

The Ringstead Ladder

You see, the Smugglers’ Path finishes at the cliff top, but you still need to reach the rocky shoreline before you can get any further, and that is where the ladder comes in 🙂 ! The somewhat rickety looking contraption stretches some 20 feet from the shore to the cliff top and is not for the faint hearted!

The Old Ladder

In the picture below, you can see the view that greets you as you climb down these humble steps, a view that takes in the whole of Ringstead Bay……..and if you climb down the ladder, that is where you will be heading because there is nothing in the other direction as the tide covers the shore.

The Dorset Coast Ladder

The strange thing about this ladder is that it has no handrail. Now I think that is great but in this day of extreme health and safety laws, I’m surprised no one has put a stop to it. In fact, because of coastal erosion and rock falls, there are other ways down to the shoreline but as someone who loves oddball walks, why would anyone not want to use this ladder 🙂 !

Ringstead ladder

Of course, having reached the shoreline, you will still be quite some way from Ringstead and to get there involves trudging over a mile along the shingle beach. Oh, and part of it is a nudist beach! Its all a bit quirky here!!

If you are not up for a bit of adventure, then maybe stick to the main coast path 🙂 !

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.

 

 

Theme for the Week – Dorset Hills with a View Part 1

2 Apr

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

A strange title you might think since all hills presumably have a view, but these are some of Dorset’s best known hills and I thought I would feature them as my theme for this week.

You might think that hills are something straightforward but they are not, as we shall see. For instance, we might start by asking the question, ‘When is a hill not a hill?’ Well, perhaps when it is a mountain, or maybe a hillock, or maybe a………. Well, you get my drift.

Anyway, to get us going, I thought we could take a trip to Bulbarrow Hill, and just for a change, I thought we could make the trip in winter as well as summer.

Bulbarrow Hill

Bulbarrow

Rosebay Willowherb on Bulbarrow

Bulbarrow Hill is arguably not technically a hill as it is actually a part of the Dorset Downs escarpment. It stands west of Blandford Forum and rises to 274 meters (899 feet) high. The hill overlooks the flatter land of the Blackmore Vale and therefore has some beautiful views.

Although this is a very popular and well known viewpoint, it is not one of my favourites. This is because there is a road that runs along the top – I prefer my hills to be more wild and remote. Also, in some ways, you appreciate a view more if you have had to work for it 🙂 !

Bulbarrow

The Road over Bulbarrow

So, back to my question, ‘When is a hill not a hill?’ Well the answer could be, ‘When it is a mountain’. There are some differing views on when hills become mountains and it will depend on whether you are considering its pure height above sea level, its height compared to its surroundings, its steepness, spacing, cragginess, etc etc. These have all been used at times to define mountains.

The Oxford English dictionary gives one definition as, ‘a natural elevation of the earth surface rising more or less abruptly from the surrounding level and attaining an altitude which, relatively to the adjacent elevation, is impressive or notable’. Generally, in the UK (it gets way too complex if you look at UN international definitions!) a mountain is recognised by hill walkers as being over 2,000 feet (the Government suggests 600 meters but hey, who’s counting). On this basis there are no mountains in Dorset. Scotland, however, by this definition has lots of mountains although a lot of them bear the title of ‘hills’. Its definitely not an exact science 🙂 !

Bulbarrow view

Bulbarrow in Winter

At the other end of the scale it becomes even more difficult as there are no real definitions for Hillocks or Knolls – they are just small hills with an undefined height 🙂 ! And names and categories, now that’s another thing……but we will leave that subject for a later post.

Dorset is full of hills of the rolling variety rather than the craggy and Bulbarrow is one of the best known, and probably loved by most people. In truth, it is a beautiful area to walk and I do so frequently by climbing it on foot despite there being a road 🙂 !

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.

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.