Tag Archives: west dorset

Quirky Dorset – Part 14

13 May

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

Today we are visiting another quirky building in Dorset, but this is not a very well known one unless you happen to spot it as you pass through the village of Frampton in West Dorset. Ostensibly, this looks like a tiny church, set back from the main village street, and attached to a lovely cottage. But all is not as it seems!

The Porch

The Cottage

This tiny building looks for all the world like a toy church with a little steeple on top but in fact it is the porch of this otherwise typically Dorset thatched cottage. Not that it was designed as a porch at all but rather, it has been up cycled to use a modern term 🙂 ! This delightful little building in fact started life as a summerhouse with a dovecote on the top, and it stood in the grounds of Frampton Court, the local manor house to which much of the area and village belonged. When the court was demolished in 1932, the summerhouse was dismantled and moved to its present site to serve as this rather quirky porch.

The holes for the nesting boxes have been filled in, giving it this church like appearance but otherwise the building is as it was. This is so quirky in its incongruity that when I first saw it, I decided I would do some detective work until I managed to solve the conundrum 🙂 ! Its always pleasing to find the answer and to discover a little bit more of ‘quirky Dorset’ 🙂 ! But, happily, there’s always more to find!

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 Hills with a View Part 4

6 Apr

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

Continuing the theme of ‘Hills with a View’, this one is slightly different. With this hill, you are much more likely to see pictures taken of it rather than from it. It is a hill that is small in stature and yet has charisma in spade loads. This is Colmer’s Hill.

Colmer’s Hill

Colmer’s Hill is in West Dorset near Bridport and it is diminutive in size, rising to not much more than 400 feet. And yet it is a hill that has a special affection amongst local residents and those farther afield. This hill has inspired artists and photographers for generations and it is an iconic landmark. It is hard to define why it is so popular. It could be its near perfect conical shape wherever it is viewed from. It could be its rounded top with that distinctive clump of Caledonian Pine trees. Whatever the reason, this is a hill that appears in many photographs, often with its head pushing up out of a mist filled valley.

Colmers Hill

Colmer’s Hill from the North

Its name was originally Sigismund’s Berg, after a Viking chieftain who rather liked it, Berg being Norwegian for hill. In fact the village in the valley below the hill was also named after the same chieftain although over the years, Sigismund’s Berg mutated to become Symondsbury. Sigismund landed with a raiding party near Bridport and it is said that the beacon at the top of the hill was burning at the time.

Colmer's Hill View

Symondsbury Viewed from Colmer’s Hill

The name the hill now bears is after the Colmer family who lived in the area in the 17th and 18th century – Rev John Colmer was Rector in the early 1800’s. It does have other names, being known sometimes by children as Pudding Basin Hill, for obvious reasons. It is also known affectionately by The Dorset Rambler as Clump Hill – for some reason I just have a blank spot when it comes to remembering the name Colmer’s 🙂 !

Colmer's Hill

Colmer’s Hill from the West

The Caledonian Pines that top the hill were planted during WW1 by the Colfox family who then owned the land. There is no official footpath to the top of the hill, although there is a permissive path which you can see in the picture above.

Although it might be difficult to come up with specific reasons, it is easy to understand the affection people have for this delightful little hill. It is so distinctive, and can be seen for miles around. There is an accessible friendliness about it. Whenever I walk or drive in West Dorset and I see Colmer’s Hill, it is just like meeting an old friend.

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.

Walking Underground! The Holloways of Dorset

27 Oct
The Magical, Mystery of Dorset's Holloways

The Magical, Mystery of Dorset’s Holloways

Out of the blue last week I had a call from BBC Countryfile. They were looking at putting together some programming based on Dorset and wanted to meet with me. In particular they asked if I could give them a guided tour of some Dorset Holloways. I was glad to oblige and we duly met up last Thursday.

But first of all, what are Holloways? Well the term comes from the Anglo-Saxon term Hola Weg, meaning harrowed path or sunken road. And that is exactly what Holloways are – sunken paths!

Venn Lane

Venn Lane

Venn Lane

Venn Lane

Before the advent of tarmac roads, this country was criss-crossed by a network of paths and tracks – paths between villages and towns, drove roads, routes to markets, pilgrimage routes, paths to and from the coast, even smuggling routes. These were the ancient super highways of the past. Medieval motorways! Some of these crossed areas where the bedrock was soft, such as chalk, greenstone, malmstone, and the sandstone of West Dorset, and centuries of tramping feet, scuffing hooves and rumbling cart wheels gradually eroded the soft rock creating shallow furrows which would break up the surface, digging deeper into the rock to form a hollow.

In periods of bad weather, rain water running off the land would naturally find these gullies and turn them into mini rivers, eroding the rock still further and washing away loose sand and stones. Hundreds of years of heavy ‘traffic’ and weather caused these paths to sink deeper and deeper, sometimes reaching twenty or even thirty feet below the level of the surrounding land. And they would probably have sunk even further had they not come to the end of their useful lives with the advent of the railways and tarmac.

A West Dorset Holloway

A West Dorset Holloway

These days, most of these ancient routes are used only by casual walkers and riders and some have ceased even to do that  allowing nature to once again reclaim the land as they become overgrown and impenetrable. One such Holloway was described well by Geoffrey Household in his book Rogue Male. The hero of the piece goes to ground in such a Holloway, disused and overgrown, such that no one save inquisitive children would dare to enter there. Indeed, these secret places could easily be used thus when footfall ceases and natures takes over.

Hell Lane

Hell Lane

Some Holloways are comparatively shallow, perhaps because harder rock was near the surface. Some are extremely deep, because the rock was particularly soft or some geological fault caused the surface to erode quickly. All are interesting to walk however as there is wildlife in abundance, the often dark and damp conditions encouraging lichen, fungi, harts tongue ferns, cranesbill, together with trailing plants and a wild, interlocking network of grotesque and exposed roots from the trees that line the tops of the holloway. And of course there are rabbit burrows, badger sets and fox holes, not to mention bats that circle overhead as the light fades.

An Interlocking Network of Exposed Roots

An Interlocking Network of Exposed Roots

Fungi

Fungi

It is of course the network of tree roots that in part holds up the walls of these sunken byways. The trees from which they come were probably planted originally to mark the route and provide some protection from the elements. Over the years original trees have died back and reseeded and now hang precariously on the edge of the rim. Their branches and interlaced foliage high above creates the feeling that when you walk these routes, you are walking underground as if in some giant rabbit warren that weaves in and out of a tangled mesh of roots. They are a mysterious underground world so dark and damp with a feeling of visiting the past so that you could almost expect to see a dinosaur appear at any moment or some other ancient and extinct creature.

Precariously Placed Trees Line the Rim

Precariously Placed Trees Line the Rim

But it is not only this feeling of walking a hidden underground world that makes these places so special. For many centuries people, animals and carts have passed along this very route and as you stand looking down the ‘tunnel’, you can almost feel their presence. Each meter of depth relates perhaps to 100 years of use so you stand in the midst of history. Who walked this route when it was up at ground level, who walked it when it was a meter deep, two meters deep, three meters deep…….? What atrocities took place here, what joys? What were their lives like? What would they say if they met me as I walked it today? And what was the purpose of the route initially? Some of these things are lost in the mists of time but as you stand in these awesome places full of intrigue, you wonder, and that wondering leaves you with a sense of being part of something vast and ancient. You are just one of perhaps billions who have walked this way before and you feel very insignificant!

A Tunnel Through Tree Roots

A Tunnel Through Tree Roots

On the day of the Countryfile visit, we talked as we walked these labyrinthine paths and the very presence of others gave the places a real sense of scale, bringing out the depths to which these paths have sunk. It was an overcast day and light levels in the hollows were low, adding to the feeling of being underground. A dog walker passed us by and made a comment about prehistoric creatures – clearly I wasn’t the only one to have made a pre-history connection.

A Sense of Scale

A Sense of Scale

Eventually our tour of these wonderful and quirky Dorset places ended and it was time to depart. Our Holloways had left an impression on my visitors and they were keen to know more but whether the programming goes ahead or not remains to be seen. The decision may be made by those who have not trod these ways and felt the unique and magical atmosphere of these hidden and secretive places.

Making Our Way to the Holloways

Making Our Way to the Holloways

I always come away from these places feeling richer for having been there and any walk I do that has a length of Holloway in it somewhere is better and more interesting for it. There are so many fascinating, quirky, historical or just plain beautiful places right near us if we will just get out and explore. And I don’t think anyone could fail to be impressed by our Holloways.

I enjoyed showing my visitors round these hidden parts of Dorset and I hope you have enjoyed walking it with us.

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.