Tag Archives: winter

Of two ridges, the devil and heaven, amazing views, and an old mill but no stream!

15 Apr

It was a cold but beautifully sunny and clear winter’s day when I set out on this wonderful walk! I left the car at the top of one Purbeck ridge and to the accompaniment of birdsong, I immediately dropped down the side of the hill heading for a second Purbeck ridge. I had hardly started the walk when I was greeted by the spectacular view below and I just had to stop and gaze!

The view goes straight down the valley across the distant, deserted village of Tyneham and on to the coast at Worbarrow Bay. The reason Tyneham and Worbarrow Bay have been deserted by the inhabitants is because the military took over the whole area to create a firing range in 1943 – but that’s a story for another day!

Creech View

Down the valley to Worbarrow Bay

Dropping down to the country lane, I followed the road for a time. This is no hardship as it is a quiet road and the countryside is beautifully picturesque. Plus of course, there is no mud🙂 ! Passing the tiny hamlet of Steeple with its church, manor house and small cluster of cottages, I continued up the other side of the valley towards Kimmeridge. This hill, in the picture below, goes by the somewhat dubious name of the Devil’s Staircase – in fact on this day, with the shadows of trees being thrown across the road, it did look like a staircase! It was a name that was to contrast strongly with another strange name that I would come across later!

A Purbeck Valley

The Devil’s Staircase

Reaching the top of the ridge, I looked down into the village of Kimmeridge where the unusual presence of a crane told me that construction of the new museum and visitor’s centre was underway. My route today didn’t lie in that direction so I left that scene and climbed again higher along what I call the inland coast path.

Kimmeridge

Kimmeridge

The inland coast path is the path that runs parallel to the coast and with sea views but is in reality slightly inland of the coast path proper. I like to walk this path because it gives an alternative view of this beautiful Dorset coastline. Looking down one side, I had amazing views across Kimmeridge Bay with Clavell Tower standing proud on its headland (and the sheep standing proud on theirs)……

Above Kimmeridge Bay

Across Kimmeridge and the Bay

…..and down the other side, an equally impressive view across the valley towards Corfe Castle with Poole Harbour beyond that – and of course more sheep!

The Corfe Valley and Poole Harbour

Corfe Castle and Poole Harbour

On such a clear day as this, those views were particularly special! The path was flat and easy to walk with a traditional dry stone wall atop the steep slope down to the coast. It reminded me of a poem I wrote whilst walking some time ago:

THE DRYSTONE WALLER

One on one on one on one,
The drystone waller’s day’s begun,
Stone on stone on stone on stone,
Lots to do ere he goes home.

A solid build as ‘fits his trade,
Every stone securely laid,
Sweating brow and breaking back,
Another stone goes on the rack.

Perfect symmetry, line on line,
Locked together, looking fine,
From random stones, different shapes,
A cohesive whole he creates.

The master’s hand the holding glue,
Nothing more, forever new,
Come wind come rain ’twill strongly stand,
And remain a part of this ancient land.

These scattered stones have become a wall,
So solid, dependable, standing tall,
For years to come ere he’s gone home,
An epitaph to a job well done.

Kimmeridge and the Dorset Coast

Kimmeridge Bay and the drystone wall

Just a little further along the path, I passed a gate with the name ‘Heaven’s Gate’ inscribed on it – with those breathtaking views, it could easily be the gate to heaven! Why it bears that name, I am not sure but I certainly prefer this to the devil’s staircase I climbed up earlier!

It seems strange to think that this area which is so quiet and peaceful now was once fairly densely populated. Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age remains have been found, indicating that people have lived here for over 6,000 years although now, the nearest habitations are just a farm or two.

Heaven's Gate

Heaven’s Gate

There is one particularly visible Bronze Age barrow that stands at the tip of Swyre Head. Rounding this headland brings even more views, this time across the beautiful ‘bowl’ that is the Encombe Valley. I say ‘bowl’ because that is what it resembles as it is surrounded by a curving ridge apart from a small portion that opens out to the sea. In the distance is St Aldhelm’s Head jutting out into the channel like the head of a serpent.

Across the Encombe Valley

The Encumber Valley and St Aldhelm’s Head

Sitting in the ‘bowl’ is Encombe House, one of a number of old Purbeck Mansions. This privately owned mansion could have been yours a few years ago for the princely sum of £25M! Beyond the house is a series of lakes that drain into the sea at Freshwater Steps. For a long time it puzzled me where this water came from since the Encombe Valley has no rivers so I made some enquiries and I was told that the water supply comes from a neighbouring valley, with the water being diverted via underground channels that run through the hillside. Apparently, some lucky person has the job of walking through the tunnels once a year to make sure they are clear of obstruction! Of course the valley itself does hold some water of its own due to its bowl shape and springs.

Encombe House

Encombe House

Skirting round the top of the valley, my route took me out onto the ridge top road which I needed to follow for a mile or so. Again this is no hardship as the views across to the castle in the valley are again grand. Here, water running off the hillside has created a tiny stream and as I walk, I wonder how deep that would be if you were able to walk this route in hundreds of years time. It could be a ravine – such is the power of water! I often think strange things when I am walking🙂 !

Castle View

Corfe Castle across the ‘stream’

My normal route when I walk from here would be across the common to reach Corfe Castle but today I decided to follow a track that leads through a farm in the valley. It is always great to try new routes, especially when you come across old ruins like those below! This huge waterwheel is part of old farm workings and once drove farm machinery in the attached barn. The water still pours on despite the wheel itself having died, frozen with corrosion!

On a technical note, what I found interesting is that the water falls from the tank you see in the picture below in order to drive the wheel, although there is in fact no visible entry point for the water into that tank. It seems that the water runs down underground channels beneath my feet and then rises inside that tank only to drop again immediately into the wheel. The millpond itself is at a higher level up the hillside which of course, remembering my school science lessons, is essential for this system to work.

Water Wheel
Cascade

Feeling quite pleased with myself for having solved the riddle of how the water got there, I continued on my way, with the castle getting ever closer.

Corfe Castle Across the Common

Corfe Castle

Just as I reached the edge of the village of Corfe, I bumped into a man standing by his very old car. As I owned a 40 year old MGB myself until recently, I was particularly interested to hear his story. His car was a MGPB dating from 1935 so it was twice as old as my own and yet was in superb condition. He had just repainted the wire wheels and wanted a picture of himself with the car – I duly obliged. We chatted for some time about our respective cars and he told me that he had been a spitfire mechanic during the war and that they used to make model spitfires out of metal during their down times – he had one attached to the radiator cap.

As he drove away into the low afternoon sun, I grabbed another quick shot. Had I sepia toned it, you could easily think it had been taken 80 years ago.

Driving into the Sun

On the Road

I always enjoy walking through Corfe, especially in the late afternoon when it is quieter. As I left to cross the field, the low sun picked out the church tower beautifully as it stood almost like a guardian of the village.

Corfe Village

Corfe village and church

The true guardian of the village was of course the castle itself and that too was picked out by the last rays of sunlight. This once magnificent castle, built in Norman times, was ruined in the 17th century, not during a battle but after the battle had been won. It had been one of the few remaining Royalist strongholds and had been under Parliamentarian siege for some time but defended gallantly by Lady Bankes and her garrison. One of her men betrayed her however and let in Parliamentarian troops disguised as Royalists. The castle was thus attacked both from outside and inside and the day was lost. To prevent it ever being used again, it was deliberately blown up although fortunately for us, it had been built too well to be destroyed completely.

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle in the evening sun

With the sun disappearing below the horizon, and several miles still to walk, I left the castle behind and once more climbed up onto the ridge that had been my starting point. In the coldness of the night and with the fading light, I made my way along the ridge top path with the distant twinkling lights across Poole Harbour and to the accompaniment of owls hooting in the valley below. Wonderful and eerie shapes appeared silhouetted against the ever darkening sky.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It became increasingly difficult to see my way along the sometimes uneven path but despite this, it was a delightful end to the day. I love walking in the dark! That may seem strange but there is always a lovely atmosphere and an air of mystery at this time of the day, and I had the ridge top all to myself!

What an amazing day this has been, cold maybe, but such clarity of light and such awesome views. I hope you have enjoyed walking it with me!

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 email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

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

Only the Girl in the Poster Seems to Dance

11 Dec People at Work - The City Busker

Now I love walking in the countryside far away from….hustle and bustle, the daily drudge, telephone and traffic, noise and noisier people, places, pets and parping horns….to be just me with the peace of the countryside enveloping me as mist clings to a mountain. I like to be lost in lush and leafy lanes, heathery heathlands, fertile forests, hilltops and coasts. These are the places I am totally me.

Despite this, I can find pleasure wherever I am, even in a busy city….and we visited one recently on a cold and grey December day for the Christmas Market. Now, as a photographer it is good to push the envelope, to broaden the boundaries, so while we were in the city I decided that I would set myself a project which I call ‘People at Work’. This pushes me out of my comfort zone because my intention was to approach complete strangers to ask if I could take their photograph whilst they worked – not something I am comfortable with.

So these pictures are the first few from this new project.  They are people I met and talked to along the way, and I have written some words to go with them.

Only the Girl in the Poster Seems to Dance

The clothes seller sells her colourful wares,
To chilly people who are full of their cares,
Her cheerful smile adds light to their day,
As they shiver along on their wearying way.

People at Work - The Knitwear Seller

The toy seller sits behind his stall,
Surrounded by toys, he made them all,
Which children will these things delight?
Whose tree be under on Christmas night?

People at Work - The Toy Maker

The artist sketches a beautiful girl,
All wrapped up against the winter chill,
It’s not complete, there’s more to do,
But already the likeness is coming through.

People at Work - The Street Artist

The crooner sings a smooth soothing song,
People rush by, they can’t wait too long,
But they walk away with music in ear,
To bring a bit of good Christmas cheer.

People at Work - The City Busker

The hot-dog seller, a pretty young girl,
Hair tied back to tame her curls,
Provides some food to help shoppers shop,
And a little warmth from her burning hob.

People at Work - The Hot-Dog Seller

The fiddler plays a bright merry tune,
I bet he wishes this was flaming June,
Is anyone listening I wonder perchance, as
Only the girl in the poster seems to dance!

 

People at Work - The Violinist

Everyone I have asked since starting this project has been very willing to pose for my camera so thank you to all my subjects. There will be more to come!

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.

 

A Walk in the Snow!!

3 Feb

Today, we woke up to snow :)!  Now that is a rarity in Southern England, especially the part where I live – frankly, we always miss out!  And I love snow!  So this morning when I realised there was a white covering (and that’s all it was) I quickly threw on my hat and gloves and set out for the local heathland.

The pavements looked slippery so in order to make quicker progress I walked in the road and I soon reached the start of the woodlands that lead up to the open heath.

A Winding Path

The path through the woods is a delight to walk.  It winds in and out, up and down, a gently undulating and meandering route with glimpses of the heath beyond.  The sun soon joined me on the pathway, and together we enjoyed an easy and picturesque stroll, stopping regularly to take in the views.  Often it seemed, a robin also joined me, although I am sure it wasn’t the same robin………they all look alike, but aren’t they great companions.

Across the Heath

Everything was covered in a layer of white fur, and each fence post wore a white cap, as if trying to keep out the early morning chill that hung in the air.  And there was a chill!  But at least it was a still day with no wind to help that chill to penetrate through the layers of winter clothing.

Fence Post

The paths were white but footprints revealed that others had passed that way before me, probably dog walkers out for their early sojourn before heading off to work.  Retirement undoubtedly has its advantages and I am forever grateful that I am blessed with good health and am able to get out and enjoy the countryside!  So many don’t have that privilege and I feel for them.

Conifers

We are so fortunate in these modern times that these small oases of countryside in the urbanity that makes up most of the area are tended by the local wildlife organisations and volunteers.  They work tirelessly to preserve what remains for all to enjoy.  Evidence of their presence is seen regularly in the piles of logs and other paraphernalia.

Preserving heathland is a constant battle to keep invasive trees and shrubs at bay.  Just the other day I chatted to the local warden who was clearing broken glass from one of the footpaths and she explained to me the strategy of using cattle to keep some types of plant at bay in order to encourage heather to grow because it attracts so many species of butterflies.

Logs

Climbing up onto the high heathlands gives a great feeling of open spaciousness, despite the fact that there are houses not too far away.  You could easily feel that you are out in the wild country rather than in a town.  Here, the snow had settled well into the worn grooves that make up the footpaths and with a blue sky as a fitting backdrop, you can’t help but stop and drink in the scene.

On the Open Heath

From this high vantage point, there are amazing views across the conurbation that is Poole, even reaching in the far distance to Poole Harbour and beyond.  It’s strange but mention Canford Heath to a walker and they will immediately think of the heath on which I am stood, but mention Canford Heath to a non-walker and they will almost certainly think you are referring to the housing estate below me.  I remember a time when all was heathland and I used to walk my dog for miles across it but I guess the need for houses overtook the need for open space.

Once again, I just feel gratitude to those who give time and energy to preserve these last vestiges of Dorset heathland.

Heath with a View

Dropping northwards off the high heathland down one of the myriad criss crossing paths you can almost seem to hear the rumbling of Lady Wimborne’s carriage echoing down through the ages as she drove across what was her estate.  Back in the 19th century, Lord and Lady Wimborne lived in what was then Canford Manor and owned most of the area.  The carriageways that they drove are the footpaths we now walk.

Rain is far more a feature of our winters than snow, and there are still many waterlogged areas to negotiate……..although they do look quite attractive surrounded by snow, lovely stands of birch, and of course those long grass stems, a relic of last summer.

Puddle

I have written often about the delights that can be found if we just keep alert to all that is around us and we so often miss things on the ground or up high.  And even now in the depths of winter, there are reminders of an autumn long gone.  Beautiful oranges and browns amidst the white and the mud.

A Last Vestige of Autumn

With the gentle warmth of the sun, our transient layer of snow was already fading as I climbed up once again to the higher ground to make my way back.  The very sun that melts the snow also brings out it’s pure brightness, making the paths stand out starkly from the darker surrounding foliage.  A dog walker slowly makes his way up onto the heath, standing out, black against white with a beautifully atmospheric backdrop of winter light.

Walking the Dog

What a wonderful walk.  Snow may not come often but it brings a completely different feel to our local countryside when it does…….even if it is but a brief visit.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which ishttp://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

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

Of, um, a slight breeze ;), a ‘drunken’ rambler, and hat that takes off!

10 Jan

So what do you do when there are heavy storm clouds outside and a howling gale gusting them threateningly across the sky?  Stay in the warm with a nice cup of tea?  Hibernate?  No, you head for the coast of course :)!  And that is just what I did on this day towards the end of last year!

The walk started quite straightforwardly with a gentle downhill stroll from a small village towards the coast.  In fact, it wasn’t really straight forward at all because, as has been usual in Dorset over recent months, there was thick and slippery mud everywhere, not conducive to safe downhill walking.  So it was out with the walking pole just to try to avoid the ‘wet, muddy bottom’ syndrome ;)!  Now if I had had a pair of skis with me……..!

I came out onto the coast at one of the many disused quarries that litter this stretch of Dorset and for a time the sun actually made an appearance.

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Rolling waves

The wind was working itself up into a frenzy and the waves were powering their way to the shore, only to come to an abrupt halt on the rocks at the foot of the ledge.  They almost seemed to display their annoyance at being stopped by launching themselves as high as they could into the air.

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Angry waves

Conditions for photography were dire because the spray coming up from the rocks below was enormous – in fact it may as well have been raining!  Cameras and salt sea spray do not make a good mix so the only way to get pictures was to hold the camera landward of my body to protect it, and then very quickly bring it up, grab the picture and then tuck it away again.  There was no time to properly compose the shots.

Very soon, the sun disappeared as the clouds continued to build ominously.  Normally this would be disappointing but in fact it was perfect because it really brought out the ferocity of the stormy weather and the real ‘personality’ of this rugged coast.  It is a very changeable area, seemingly incongruently tame and innocent in the sunshine but taking on a whole new sinister character as the storm rolled in.

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The storm clouds roll in

Along this part of the coast, there are many old quarry caves so I decided to take refuge in one of those and to see if I could at least find some way of getting out of the constant spray so that I could try to get some better pictures.  I was carrying my tripod so I set this up in the entrance to one of the caves and stood between it and the sea so that I could protect it from the spray.  I was then able to get some long exposure shots in an attempt to convey the true power of the sea.

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On the quarry ledge

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The quarry cave entrance

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Stormy seas

My intention was to climb from here up over St Aldhelm’s Head so I repacked my rucksack and left the safe confines of the cave and walked out again into the teeth of the storm.  The route initially took me along the rocky ledge but all too soon I had to leave that solid ground and venture onto the very muddy footpath that climbs steadily upwards towards the top of the headland some 350 feet above the sea.  Any of my local readers will know that this mud is SLIPPERY and CLINGY so that your feet become heavier and heavier as you walk.  With the combination of the ever steepening path, the slippery mud, the sea spray, and the howling gale that was gusting powerfully off the sea, this was one challenging walk………and it was GREAT :)!!  The expression ‘blow the cobwebs away’ comes to mind.  It was only later that I learned just how strong the wind was!

There was one particular incident that was funny…….and you will need to use your imagination here.  As I was slip sliding up the hill, my hat blew off over a barbed wire fence and started bowling its way at a rate of knots across the field.  Now this was a hat that was bought for me by my daughter so I was rather attached to it (although thinking about it, maybe it would have been better if I had been literally attached to it ;)! ) and I wasn’t about to let it go.  So I climbed the barbed wire fence, tearing my waterproofs in the process, and complete with heavy backpack ran after it – hopefully you can picture the scene🙂.  I managed to catch up with it eventually and stowed it safely away before climbing back over the fence onto the coast path to continue my upward journey.

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The St Aldhelm’s Quarry ledge

I must have made a strange sight as it was impossible to walk in a straight line as I was buffeted and slipped all over the place.  In addition, to try to stay upright, I had to lean into the wind which then made a fool of me by momentarily dropping so that I nearly fell over.  It was a miracle that I kept my feet but to anyone looking on it must have looked like I was a drunken man!  At times, it was even difficult to move at all!  Eventually the path levelled out as I reached the quarry ledge just below the top of the headland.

This ledge has a lot of history with the remains of a once thriving quarrying industry, and also the remains of a Second World War Radar Research Post but I think that will need a separate blog entry to detail.

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The chimney

The remains include what I call ‘The Chimney’, a stack of stones left by the quarrymen when the work ceased – oh how I wish the picture could convey to you the strength of the wind gusting across that ledge.  Sadly, this is where a picture fails.  One of the quirky things about St Aldhelm’s Head is the effect on the sea and the many white horses that are seen here.  These are apparently caused by the fact that there is a ledge some 30 feet below the surface that stretches several miles out to sea.  It makes these waters quite dangerous and because of that, there is a National Coastwatch Lookout Post on the headland.

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White horses and storm clouds

From the quarry ledge, it is only a short hop up to the top of the headland……..but I think I gave the National Coastwatch Volunteers a bit of a shock when I climbed up the cliff beside their lookout post, they hadn’t expected to see anyone on a day like this!  I went into the lookout post for a few minutes to chat to the ‘Coastguards’ and the calmness and peace inside was tangible…..and a welcome respite!  Being wet and muddy, I dared not venture too far in though!  The volunteers had just been carrying out a reading of the wind speed and they told me that it was a Force 9 gale – OK, so a slight breeze😉, no wonder my hair was blowing about!!  The light was fading so I couldn’t stay long before I headed out into the wind again to take a last look west along the coast.

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Inclement weather and fading light

As I turned away from the coast to start my walk inland, I passed the row of old coastguard cottages that stand proud on the headland.  These once housed the officer and men with their families but are now in private ownership, mostly as holiday accommodation – and what a great place to stay!  With the heavy storm clouds above, I couldn’t resist taking one more picture.  It was an interesting experiment in how to hold a camera steady in the failing light with a Force 9 gale blowing!!  I could have used the tripod but that wouldn’t have stood a chance – well just ‘wouldn’t have stood’!!  As it was, I just crouched as low as possible and anchored myself as best I could.

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The old coastguard cottages at St Aldhelm’s Head

And so, finally I made my way along the rough track that would take me back to my starting point.  As I walked, the Coastwatch volunteers passed me by in their 4X4 and stopped to offer me a lift to get me out of the wind – I thanked them but refused.  Well the wind may have been battering me all day and I might have been soaked with all the spray but I was enjoying my ‘walk’ far too much and I didn’t want it to end.

Be blessed!

Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler.

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

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

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