Tag Archives: walking

On the Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 2

16 Oct

The morning dawned bright and sunny with the promise of another good day, and we were looking forward to slightly easier walking than yesterday as the ups and downs were said to be just slightly easier. I’m not sure that we actually found that that was the reality though!

Newport

Newport

We had a brief walk around Newport before dropping down to the coast path again. This runs beside Newport Bay and passes the Parrog, which is the town’s old port. It is hard to imagine that at one time this was a thriving and active harbour, a far cry from the quiet and peaceful place we were walking through. Back in the 1800’s, slate, herrings and woollen goods would have been exported from here, and there was also a shipbuilding and repairing industry. The silting up of the estuary put paid to those activities.

Newport Bay

Across Newport Bay

Looking across the bay, we could see the headland we walked around last night at the end of a hard day’s walking. Seeing Newport in the distance was a welcome sight then. Now, we were about to leave it behind again as we made our way along the beach, a part of the coast path that is only available at low tide. The alternative takes a slightly more inland route.

The main challenge today would be climbing up over Dinas Island, which is in fact not an island at all. This headland is pentagonal in shape, with one side attached to the mainland and four facing out to sea. Its rather distinctive shape stood out across the water as we walked, as if it was beckoning us to visit.

Towards Dinas Island

The Distinctive Shape of Dinas Island Beckons

This was to be another day of climbs and falls, and of many craggy inlets to be negotiated. This meant constantly weaving in and out and up and down, adding many more miles to the distance a crow might fly when travelling from Newport to Llanwnda – although I am not sure why a crow would want to fly that route anyway 🙂 !

We dropped down to sea level to reach the first of many beaches we would cross that day. This was Aber Rhigian, a remote pebble beach with nothing but a few washed up relics like the debris in the picture below. In truth, this and all the beaches along this first stretch are partly man made because slate was once quarried here. I say slate because that is what it is called locally but in fact it is actually shale slabs.

Aber Rhigian

Aber Rhigian

Shortly after, another beach came into view. This one was Aberfforest, a delightful cove with a stream running down the valley to exit into the sea. It doesn’t take long to realise that all these beaches bear the name ‘Aber’, which is a Celtic word meaning ‘confluence of waters’. We looked out to sea again in the hopes that dolphins or porpoises might be swimming but there was no sign of any.

We moved on, once again climbing out of the bay and onto the clifftop where we could see Dinas Island getting closer.

Aberfforest

Aberfforest

Eventually we reached the start of the ‘island’ and a remarkable place known as Pwll-yr-eglwys which literally translates as ‘the valley of the church’. The church in question is St Brynach the Abbot, and at one time this holy building could seat 300, that is until 1850/51 when stormy seas destroyed the chancel and undermined the foundations. There was huge damage to the graveyard too, with human remains being exposed by the deluge. Some nine years later another storm further damaged the building leaving it in a state that was beyond repair and it was abandoned. The ruins remained in place until 1880 when they were demolished, with the exception of the west wall, in order that a sea wall could be built to protect what was left of the graveyard.

Pwll-yr-eglwys is a truly delightful place. It just oozes peace, tranquility and stillness being nestled between protective headlands and sheltered from Westerly winds. A line of benches looks out across the sandy beach and out to sea, and they called to us to sit awhile.

Cwm-yr-eglwys

Pwll-yr-eglwys

All too soon, it was time to move on and we made our way out of that idyllic place and started our climb up and around Dinas Island. The undulating path here was soft underfoot and made for pleasant walking, especially with the amazing views that greeted us all along the way.

On Dinas Island

Climbing Dinas Island

Autumn coloured bracken contrasted beautifully with the blue of the sea and sky, and as we climbed higher, we could look back to Newport where we started out our day.

On Dinas Island

Looking Back to Newport

This is a popular part of the coast path because there is parking nearby and circumnavigating the pentagonal headland makes a great 3 mile walk. We passed numerous dog walkers and day trippers on our way up to the high point of the headland, Pen y Fan at 466 feet. We just had to stop and drink in the views from this lofty vantage point. In fact, that is one of the problems with walking this coast, there is just so much that you want to tarry over and absorb that time seems to just disappear.

Watching!

Watching!

We had to move on, and we made our way round and down the westerly side of the headland to reach Pwllgwaelod, another sandy beach, albeit one that this time was exposed to the westerly winds. In fact you could avoid climbing the headland altogether by simply following the valley that leads directly from Pwll-yr-eglwys to Pwllgwaelod, one side of the pentagon instead of four……but, really, why would you!

We reached sea level again, and couldn’t help noticing that there was a pub near the beach that served teas. Now, normally when I’m walking, I try to avoid the more commercial parts, but today the draw of a good cup of tea was too strong so we stopped for a brew 🙂 ! And what a great spot to enjoy a cuppa too, sat at a picnic table gazing out to sea.

Pwllgwaelod

Pwllgwaelod

Refreshed, we climbed up once again onto the clifftop to pass a place with an even more unpronounceable name, in fact, a name with no vowels in it at all, Pwll Cwn. I’m sure the name makes complete sense to a welsh person, but to an Englishman……!

Pwll Cwn

Pwll Cwn

It was along this section that we bumped into two fellow walkers coming the other way. We had passed the same two yesterday and just exchanged greetings. This time we stopped to chat. These two were walking the same route as us but doing it in a slightly different way – they had two cars and each morning they would drive in one car to their next overnight stop and then walk back along the coast path to reach the previous night’s stopping point and the second car. They would then drive to that nights stopping point to join the first car. We bid farewell knowing that we would see them again tomorrow.

This section was again full of geological features, dark shale cliffs, lots of creeks, offshore rocks and stacks, and little beaches such as Pwll Gwylog and Aber Bach. The latter is sheltered from the westerly winds and because it is not easy to reach, is very unspoilt.

Aber Bach

Aber Bach

One of the more famous stacks along this section is the Needle Rock which stands just off the cliff face. With its ‘eye’, it looks for all the world like a needle that has been pushed into the sea bed. In the distance, we could see houses, a tell tale sign that we were approaching civilisation in probably the largest conurbation to date, Fishguard and Goodwick.

Needle Rock

Needle Rock

We would reach that all too soon but not before passing yet more craggy inlets and mini ‘islands’. Looking back, we could see in the distance the distinctive shape of Dinas Island again.

The Rocky Coast

The Rocky Coast

The first sign that you have reached Fishguard and Goodwick is the old fort that stands at Castle Point. Fishguard Fort was built in 1781 to defend the local community against privateers, although at that time this was a much smaller settlement. Then, the main settlement was Lower Town, another coastal trading harbour, shipbuilding centre and fishing port. This has now been very much superseded by its larger neighbours of Fishguard and Goodwick – it is from Fishguard Harbour and it’s jetties that the ferry to Ireland comes and goes.

Fishguard Fort

Fishguard Fort

From the old fort, our route took a sharp turn south and we made our way to Lower Town and onto the Marine Walk, a tarmac path that rounds Saddle Point to reach the town of Fishguard which then very quickly blended into Goodwick. One strange anomaly here is that Fishguard Harbour is actually not in Fishguard but Goodwick.

Along the way here, we passed some interesting old outhouses so being a lover of quirky things, I grabbed a picture 🙂 !

Doors

Doors

Looking back from Saddle Point, we could see the old Lower Town below us, settled neatly around its sheltered drowned valley. You could see why it had once a port, and perhaps why it had faded with the coming of much larger vessels.

Lower Town

Lower Town

One of the problems with such an unspoilt coastline is that facilities along the way are few and far between so there is always a need to think ahead. One of the very few shops along this four day stretch was at Goodwick so we stopped to stock up on food. We knew also that there was nowhere to eat at Llanwnda, our overnight stopping point, so with the light fading, we decided to eat at Goodwick which actually made a lovely end to the day as the meal was delightful.

In the two days that we had walked so far, we had covered nearly 34 miles, and what fantastic miles they had been. As we made our way to our overnight stop, we wondered what tomorrow would bring!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

Advertisements

On the Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 1

13 Oct

Some three years ago I backpacked the whole of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path during a very cold, wet and windy April and despite the weather, I fell in love with that rugged coastline. Recently, it beckoned me again but this time I walked it not alone as I did previously, but with the best walking companion, my son Paul. And that wasn’t the only difference, this time it was October and the weather was near perfect……for Pembrokeshire at least 🙂 !

The Path runs from St Dogmaels in the north to Amroth in the south, a distance of some 186 rugged miles. This time, we were intending to walk for four days, finishing at the city of St David’s, named after the patron saint of Wales.

St Dogmaels

Setting out from St Dogmaels 

We set out from St Dogmaels on a bright and breezy morning, walking along the shoreline of Cardigan Bay, following the road and then track that climbs steadily upwards to reach the point of Cemaes Head where the path takes a sharp left turn. At this point, we were greeted by some unusually inquisitive sheep.

Nosy!

Inquisitive Sheep on Cemaes Head

And sheep weren’t the only animals to greet us either, as a little further on, some very friendly ponies came over to say hello. Nice to have a bit of a welcome party and to know that the natives were friendly 🙂 !

Pony on the Path

Friendly Ponies

All along this coast, there are relics of war and we passed the first of these on Cemaes Head. A lookout post in a comforting state of dereliction – these relics of war are also a symbol of peace by their very dereliction from decades of disuse. You can’t help but wonder though what it would have been like standing there when this building was in its heyday. In fact this particular post dates from long before WW2, having been built originally as a coastguard lookout in the 19th century.

On Cemaes Head

Relic of War or Symbol of Peace!

The coast along the northern part of Pembrokeshire is truly spectacular with many high headlands and craggy inlets where river and sea meet. It is a switchback of steep climbs and falls and a sign part way along makes it very clear that this is a tough section, stating that there are no escape routes, no water and no provisions until you reach Newport. But of course it is this very fact that makes it such an awesome place to walk.

The highest point of the whole coast path goes by the somewhat unpronounceable name of Pen yr afr. We made our way across this 574 feet high monster bathed in beautiful sunshine – so very different from the last time I passed this way. The only similarity was the wind although even that was nowhere near as fierce as three years ago when I struggled to even keep on my feet.

On the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

On Pen yr afr, the Highest Point

It is of course the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ and with that comes a plentiful array of fungi. We would pass many more of these before the end of our walk. As we walked, we kept a constant eye on the sea for any telltale signs of dolphins but on this occasion they were conspicuous by their absence.

Lichen

Coastal Fungi

Along this first part of the walk, the path underfoot was soft and grassy and with beautifully autumnal bracken on either side. This was not the case with the path generally though as much of it is rocky and hard on the feet. For now though, we enjoyed the softness and the slanting autumn sun. In the distance, we could see the distinctive shape of Dinas Island, which is actually not an island at all! We would be walking round that tomorrow.

The Slanting Sun

Autumnal Bracken

Very soon, we dropped down once again to sea level at Ceibwr Bay, a one time seaport serving Moylgrove and its farming community. Just before the bay we passed a well positioned seat, sheltered nicely from the wind, and lunchtime suddenly appeared out of nowhere 🙂 ! Refreshed and replenished, we explored the bay with its rocky outcrops and not quite ‘crashing’ waves. The upturned strata made for an interesting and rugged coast, but needed great care when walking across it.

Ceibwr Bay

Jagged Rocks at Ceibwr Bay

Rocks and Waves

Not Quite ‘Crashing’ Waves at Ceibwr Bay

Just a short way on, having climbed up over another headland, we dropped down yet again to another equally rugged inlet with an even more unpronounceable name. This was Pwll y wrach, also known as The Witches Cauldron, marine erosion at its best. Several caves formed at this point when softer rock was worn away by the sea along a fault, and the subsequent collapse of some of these created the cauldron itself, accessible only by boat. This was definitely a place to explore!

It was at this point that we saw our first seal, a cream coloured pup sleeping on the rocks, unreachable because of a tract of water in front of us. This was the first of many as throughout this walk, every bay and inlet had seals either sleeping or playing.

Pwll Y Wrach

Pwll y wrach and our First Seal

Caves

Caves at Pwll y wrach

The light as we walked along this part of the coast was spectacular. Bright sun intermingled with cloud gave a spotlight effect which combined with the outcrops and foaming sea made a breathtaking scene. One can only stand and wonder at the beauty of this created landscape. It is one of the things that motivates me to walk.

Carreg Yspar

Sunlight and Shadows at Carreg Yspar

According to our guidebook, a feature of this area is ‘rotational slumps’ and apparently there are a number although we decided that it would probably take a geologist to recognise them. They are caused when the top layers slide in a rotational manner down harder and slippery sub-strata, causing a layering effect to the land.

After much up and down, in and out, winding walking, we finally rounded a headland to see Newport Sands in the distance with Newport beyond. That would be our stopping place for the night.

Newport Sands

Newport Sands come into View

We dropped down off the headland to reach the Nevern Estuary and the wide expanse of sand to reach the crossing point of the river and made our way along the southern estuary shoreline as the sun set before us, to enter the town itself and our overnight stop.

Newport

Entering Newport as the Sun Sets

They say that walking the whole of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is the equivalent of climbing Everest in terms of ascent and the first section from St Dogmaels to Newport is the toughest but the views and the sheer ruggedness of this coast makes it all worth while. To walk it in such perfect conditions just made it all the more special.

Tomorrow would see us out on the next section of the path, heading for Llanwnda. We were looking forward to 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.

A L—-o—-n—-g Walk (well, VERY long really)……

20 Aug

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

……..42.6 miles to be exact, in one go, from sunrise to sunset, and what a fantastic day!

Five years ago I walked 35 miles in a day. This is not my usual way of walking as I am very much with the poet who said, ‘What is life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’ – I like to have time in my walks to do just that, to take in all that is around me. But this was different, a one-off marathon, just to see if I could do it really. But this year I decided that I would see if, now 5 years older, I could still do it. Five years ago I managed to complete the 35.3 miles in 12 hours and I wondered if I could keep up anything like that pace with more creaky joints.

So I sat down with the map and prepared myself a route. This would be open ended insofar as I thought I would walk for as long and as far as I could and if I didn’t make it back to the start point, my wife would come and collect me. I figured that she would have to!

Long Walk

Sunrise on the Heath

I had planned to start out at 7am but in fact I was up and about earlier, and out on the trail by just after 6am. The sun was rising as I made my way across the first tract of heathland on a beautiful morning with a pleasant cooling breeze and the promise of a bright and lovely day. How wrong I was…….but more of that later 🙂 !

Long Walk

The Promise of a Good Day

The first part of the walk was necessarily a bit ‘towny’ as I skirted round the perimeter of a golf course. These take up a lot of our open space but if there are footpaths around them, they make pleasant places to walk, especially on an early morning such as this with the sun streaming through the trees, highlighting the heather.

Long Walk

Skirting Round the Golf Course

 

I had set myself a target of repeating my 3 mph walking pace of five years ago and I walked with a GPS in order to keep track of my progress. I don’t like walking against the clock as it means that you have no time to stop for long and the emphasis has to be on keeping walking but I knew that this was going to be a different kind of day. If I was to get to the end before dark and achieve my goal, I knew I would have to keep walking, especially as I didn’t think I would be able to maintain that pace all day.

Leaving the golf course behind, I made my way along an old railway line and a took a circuitous route on local paths to reach the river meadows with gently grazing sheep and cows. They stared longer than I! I crossed the River Stour at the old, wooden Eye Bridge and climbed up the hill to reach the delightful avenue at Pamphill. My route took me the length of the avenue and not a car in sight 🙂 !

Long Walk

The Pamphill Avenue

Following a combination of quiet country lanes and gravel tracks, I skirted round the National Trust owned Kingston Lacy, a huge country estate once owned by the Banks family, and crossed the even more famous avenue planted by that family nearly 200 years ago. This much photographed avenue of steadily dying beech trees is currently being regenerated as a new avenue of hornbeams as these are able to stand modern traffic conditions better.

As I crossed this busy road, I checked my progress, 7.5 miles in and on target. I climbed up the hill away from the noise of the traffic and passed another great landmark of Dorset, the Badbury Rings hill fort.

Long Walk

A Gravel Track Near Badbury Rings

More gravel tracks followed and I was grateful for these as they do enable you to stride out and keep up a good rhythm. It is very satisfying simply to enjoy the walking process of one foot in front of the other over and over again continuously for mile after mile. But of course, it doesn’t last for long before you are faced with another section of overgrown pathway.

Now here, I’d like to praise horse riders as they do much to keep our paths free from undergrowth as their steeds plough through nettles and brambles, breaking them and trampling them down to make it easier for walkers like me. Now, unfortunately they do have a down side in that they also churn up the paths, creating a muddy morass for us to slip slide through……but we won’t focus on the negatives 🙂 ! Some of my paths today were not bridleways so it was left to me to push my way through as best I could, being constantly tripped as brambles grabbed hold of me. I was glad I had chosen to wear trousers and not shorts!

I was glad too when I made it though onto clearer paths and could walk easily again, especially when I came across a hare, or fox, or deer as in the picture below. I passed through the villages of Gussage All Saints and Wimborne St Giles, joining the Jubilee Way for a time.

Long Walk

Deer on the Path

Eventually, I neared my halfway point as Cranborne Manor came into view through a gap in the trees. This massive estate was in fact originally just a hunting lodge for the Marquess of Salisbury, a kind of holiday home I guess, as his main residence is Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. Cranborne Manor is now occupied by the heir who carries the title Viscount Cranborne.

Long Walk

Cranborne Manor Comes into View

I followed the lovely, neat path through the field towards Cranborne, only to come across the sign below. Not that this fazed me – whilst I wouldn’t like to face an angry bull, nothing is going to stop me following my planned route or get in the way of a good walk. In any event, this is a good farmer who only puts signs up when the bull is present and only has the bull there when there are cows with him, as the law states. Sadly, not all farmers observe these rules. Whether I would have been quite so ambivalent if the bull had been just the other side of this gate, I am not sure 🙂 !

As it happens, the bull wasn’t the slightest bit interested in me and I crossed the field happily to reach the town, where I called at the local pub……….no, not for a drink, no time for that, I just needed them to fill my water bottles up, which they did gladly. I did check my GPS again though – 20 miles down and still maintaining a pace of just over 3 mph.

Long Walk

Oh Dear!

With replenished supplies, I left the town and headed out through several sections of lovely old woodlands, intermingled with occasional hamlets with quaint cottages, tiny churches, and an occasional manor house. Edmondsham is one such hamlet, with its old village pump, old postoffice, and little chapel. These are delightful places to walk through.

From Edmondsham, my route took me back into more ancient woodlands, with the inevitable stile to cross. Now I love stiles but when you have walked over 20 miles, a gate would be more welcome 🙂 ! At this point, things turned interesting! I heard a distant rumble but ignored it – well it was a sunny day wasn’t it. As I wound my way through the woods, the rumbles became more insistent, but its ok, the sun is still shining! When I reached another little hamlet, appropriately called Woodlands, and I finally exited the dense woods I saw what was heading my way……and it didn’t look good!

Long Walk

Yet Another Stile

Now this is going to look strange because there is a sunny picture above and a sunny picture below so you might be lulled into thinking that the storm past me by! It didn’t! I basically battened down the hatches, togged up in waterproofs, stowed everything in the rucksack and put its waterproof cover on, and I was ready when the first drops of rain fell. And boy did they fall! I actually, momentarily, considered sheltering in Woodlands Church which is a lovely little chapel, but in the end I decided just to keep walking.

For the next hour I walked, or more accurately squelched, in torrential rain, with thunder and lightening all around. I could follow the storm’s progress; first the distant rumbles to the west which came nearer and nearer, then directly overhead, and then gradually diminishing as it moved out the other side. You might think that it was a nuisance but actually, walking in a thunderstorm just adds a different dimension to a walk. I continued to push my way through woods and across fields and by the time I climbed to the top of the hill to reach Horton Tower, the sun was shining brightly again.

Long Walk

Horton Tower After the Storm

I de-togged and got the camera out again and took a picture of the tower in celebration 🙂 ! Of course the downside of the storm was that everything around me, trees, bushes, grass, fields, were all now soaking wet with rivulets running everywhere. On the open hilltop, the sun dried me, but only until I had to push my way through more undergrowth when I got soaked again.

Plus of course, many of the fields had been recently ploughed. This posed two problems! Firstly there was no path because it had been ploughed over – I know that the countryside laws state that if footpaths are ploughed over they have to be reinstated within 24 hours, but farmers don’t always seems to know this! Secondly, this wet, ‘cloggy’ soil stuck to my boots like glue. My size 9’s gradually increased to size 10 and then size 11 as I walked across the fields, getting heavier and heavier as I went. And then of course you have to try to climb over a stile…..or maybe that should be slip over a stile!

Oh, and there is one particular field near Horton Tower that has a large section of sweetcorn growing…..and no clear path through it. Pushing your way through densely packed sweetcorn that is over head height after a torrential downpour is no fun 🙂 !

Hopefully, you can picture the scene that I have been describing 🙂 ! It was with some relief that I found my way back out onto clearer paths again and could walk along solid country lanes and gravel tracks, banging mud off my boots, and everything else, as I went.

Amazingly, now some 30 miles into my walk, despite the conditions, I was still ahead of my scheduled 3 mph pace!

Long Walk

Lovely Paths Near Crichel House

The next part of the walk is lovely as it skirts around another of Dorset’s manor houses, Crichel House, so it is laid out almost as parkland with good paths, old carriage bridges, and a very attractive gatehouse. This brought me out to another lovely village, the village of Witchampton which is always a pleasure to walk through. I kept going, making my way out the other side and down a narrow country lane into open countryside again.

Here, was a reminder of the approaching season, with straw bales in readiness to be transported to the barns for winter bedding. These always make such a nice picturesque scene, especially with that summer sky as a backdrop. And in the distance, I could once again see Badbury Rings that I had passed nearly 12 hours ago on my way out.

Long Walk

Harvest Time

Crossing King Down, I arrived back at the Kingston Lacy avenue again, and that busy road. This was my 35 mile point where I had been intending to stop. I was still ahead of my 3 mph schedule and feeling surprisingly good so I decided to keep on walking.

I circumnavigated the Kingston Lacy estate again and followed the Pamphill avenue, passing some lovely cottages on the way, as the sun was sinking in the sky. From there, I re-crossed the River Stour and its meadow, greeting the sheep and cows as I went. Needless to say, I received just blank stares in return 🙂 !

Long Walk

A Beautiful Cottage Picked Out by the Evening Sun

Forty miles came and went! At 41 miles, my left knee gave out and I started to limp, my water ran out, and my GPS switched to energy saving mode, its batteries all but dead. Mine were too!

Finally, as the sun faded, I reached my starting point again and the end of my epic walk – 42.6 miles and just under 14 hours of virtually non stop walking! I was a happy man 🙂 !

What a great day which I thoroughly enjoyed……well maybe apart from the last few painful miles! I consider myself very blessed that in retirement, I still have the good health and energy to walk these distances and to enjoy this wonderful county of Dorset.

I hope you have enjoyed walking it with me.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

Mind the Gap

8 Aug

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

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

St Lucas’ Leap

Sunrise at Old Harry Rocks

Handfast Point and St Lucas’ Leap at Sunrise

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

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

Old Harry - up close and personal!

No Man’s Land

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

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

old Harry - up close and personal!

St Lucas’ Leap with No Man’s Land beyond

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

A Sharper Knife

The Ridge Leading to St Lucas’ Leap

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

Old Harry view

Looking Back from St Lucas’ Leap 

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

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

A Picture With a Story…..

29 Jul

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

I thought I would just do a short series on what I have called. ‘A Picture with a Story’. These are all pictures that have a story behind them which is not necessarily the obvious story 🙂 ! Some of these will have been taken in unusual circumstances and others might be of unusual subjects, and the first of these I have entitled, ‘What Might Have Been’!

What might have been

 

What Might Have Been

It was a cold February day when I set out on a 16 mile walk. I anticipated a good sunset so I did what I often do and planned my walk so that I would arrive at a good spot in time to capture the setting sun. On this day, I decided that Corfe Castle would be just such a spot so that I could capture the castle in semi silhouette against the sunset sky or that lovely post sunset glow that can be so special with its soft light.

Now the problem with such a long walk, especially in winter is that it is difficult to gauge the time right so that you have an enjoyable walk but still get to take some photographs at the end. Arguably perhaps you should do one or the other, enjoy a walk or just take pictures, because then you can get in position with lots of time to spare. But I was determined to do both! And in fact it all worked out perfectly and I reached the top of East Hill perfectly…..except the weather didn’t play ball!

I could see the sun setting beautifully as I was walking along Nine Barrow Down, and even took pictures of it although with nothing of interest in the foreground, but then ‘Murphy’s Law’ kicked in and the sun did what it often seems to do – by the time I had reached the castle, it had dropped into a bank of cloud on the horizon to be seen no more. And no post sunset glow either, just a dull grey sky! But I took my pictures of the castle anyway because I had an idea how I could achieve what I wanted.

Back home, using Adobe Photoshop, I amalgamated two pictures, using one picture of the castle and dropping in the sky from one of my earlier pictures (the two pictures are above). The result is pretty much what I had in mind. But it does pose a slight moral dilemma, especially if you are a purist photographer. Is it right to manipulate an image? If so, how much manipulation is too much?

I actually don’t have a problem with it if you are producing an image which is obviously manipulated as with a lot of fine art. With a ‘normal’ landscape though I am less comfortable with heavy manipulation although I think this is more about people trying to pass the final picture off as genuine when in fact it is not.

In my case, both pictures were taken the same day and in fact had I walked quicker and reached the castle 15 minutes earlier, the main picture is exactly the picture I would have captured….hence my title, ‘What might have been’. In that sense it is genuine anyway…..or could have been. Plus of course all photographers process their images and make adjustments and enhancements on the computer, be it to increase contrast, brighten a picture up or whatever. This is something that has been done since photography began. Even if you go back to the old days of ‘steam driven’ film cameras, we were pretty adept at manipulating black and white prints in the darkroom using bits of card or our hands, or a second negative, so it is nothing new.

At the end of the day, image manipulation is all part of the overall creative process to produce a final picture that is pleasing or meaningful to look at, but I guess I am a purist at heart and with landscapes particularly I prefer to get it right in the camera in the first place. Besides which, it means less time spent at the computer and more time out on the trail, and that’s got to be good 🙂 !

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

A 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.