Tag Archives: woodlands

Quirky Dorset – Part 11

7 May

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

Its time for a new theme for the coming week and I thought we would revisit an old theme and add some more posts about ‘Quirky Dorset’. I hope no one is getting bored with these posts but I guess I just like anything that is quirky or a bit off the wall 🙂 ! And this first one this week is definitely quirky, as well as somewhat gruesome. This is the story of the rather unusually named Bloody Shard Gate!

Bloody Shard Gate

Bloody Shard Gate

Bloody Shard Gate

Bloody Shard Gate is an area with blood on its hands! Did I mention ‘hands’…….we might just find out more about hands, or a hand, shortly!

This lovely valley is part of The Cranborne Chase where the kings of England stalked deer down through ages past. It is a very peaceful and lovely part of the county and is a delight to walk through with its ancient coppice wood, now redundant and providing cover for much wildlife to enjoy. Bird song abounds as you walk these paths, but it has not always been quite so peaceful!

Carpet of Leaves

The Redundant Coppice Wood

Although it is known as Bloody Shard Gate, the name no longer actually refers to a gate at all but rather is the name of the area. Whether there ever was an actual gate I am not sure but the word ‘shard’ in local dialect indicates a gap in an enclosure. I suspect the reason it bears its name, aside from the obvious ‘bloody’ connotations, is more because it is the meeting point of five paths.

Cranborne Chase has always been a place of conflicts. Dorset was evenly divided in the English Civil War, resulting in lots of bloody battles. Of course people have always fought over land use, and there were often battles with deer and hunting. There was even a battle between two packs of dogs resulting in the death of 45 animals. And there was a 100 year battle by farmers who wanted the right to destroy deer that strayed onto their land, damaging crops. At the time, deer were protected and only the king’s hunting party was allowed to kill the animals. The farmers eventually won that battle when the protection order was lifted, probably because hunting was going out of fashion. In 1829, after 800 years of protection, it is said that 12,000 deer were shot in two days by villagers.

But there was one particular battle that scarred this area for life, and gave it its somewhat gruesome name!

On the Gate

A Strange Sign on the Gate into the Woods

That event was a bloody skirmish that took place in 1780 between gamekeepers and poachers that became known as The Battle of Chettle Common. The battle was brutal, one keeper being killed and others injured. Ultimately the gamekeepers won the day but there is an interesting story concerning one of the poachers who actually turned out to be a sergeant in the dragoons. During the battle, he had a hand severed and was captured.  Fortunately he was a popular man and got off with a light sentence, eventually being allowed to retire on half pay. Many years later, the man died and was buried in London, minus one hand!

But what happened to his severed hand? Well it is said that his regiment buried it with full honours of war in Pimperne churchyard. But it seems the hand found no peace because it was never reunited with its owner, and local tradition has it that it roams the area at night searching for the dragoon sergeant. Even as recently as 1970, people have reported seeing it!!!

Hedge Trimming

Hedge Trimming at Bloody Shard Gate

For all its chequered past, this is now a beautiful and peaceful area to explore, but if you ever walk that lovely woodland path at dusk, and you feel something around your ankle……..!

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.

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Theme for the Week – Dorset in Spring Part 2

25 Apr

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

Imagine taking a walk that took in fields of golden rape followed by woodlands carpeted with bluebells. What could be better and what could give a clearer sign that spring is here, especially if you hear a cuckoo as well. Well this was just such a walk.

In the Bluebell Woods

Among the Bluebells

A Gnarly Tree

Having left the rape fields behind, for the time being at least, I headed for a series of woodlands that I knew would be carpeted with bluebells. In fact, some woodlands were more advanced than others in terms of the density of bluebells, possibly because of their position and how sunny the aspect was.

The picture above was actually taken in quite a small area of woods but the flowers were quite thickly spread and the trees had a lovely coating of new spring foliage which always helps the overall picture. Bluebells, as with rape, are quite difficult to photograph well because they rarely make a good picture on their own. To be effective, a picture needs a focal point and in this case, I chose that rather lovely gnarly tree – but then, I’m a big fan of trees!

In the Bluebell Woods

Ah, Beautiful Lichen

One of the other things I love is that wonderful vibrant green lichen that often coats trees or fence posts. To me, it always adds something to any picture.

Now there is a problem with bluebell fields, and that is people! Well, some people anyway because so often when you walk through these beautiful woodlands, you find all the bluebells trampled down. I’m actually not sure who is responsible for this ‘vandalism’, for that surely is what it is. I guess photographers might be partly to blame as they are always looking for a better viewpoint but I like to think that it is not down to those who are more experienced or to nature photographers. Surely they would respect the countryside code.

Of course, children love to run through bluebell woods, as of course do dogs…..well, and wild animals. In truth, it is probably down to a variety of reasons but it is really sad to see these lovely flowers crushed and ruined by careless feet, whoever they belong to! It is because of this that it is always great to come across a less well known woodland which is unspoilt.

Just to finish this series of bluebell pictures, I have included one below that I took last year. This is a good example of timing being critical because I visited these same woods on this walk and the flowers are not fully open yet. The problem is, leave it too late and they will be past their best.

In the Bluebell Woods

An Amazing Carpet

Sometimes I think, ‘Does the world need yet another bluebell picture?’ but then I walk through a woods and the camera immediately comes out. They are just hard to resist, and so amazing to see, so I think, yes, the world can’t have too many bluebell pictures 🙂 !

If you haven’t yet got out amongst the bluebells, I would urge you to put it at the top of your to-do list. Just find a log to sit on and drink in the scene before you. I reckon its hard to be stressed in a field of these lovely spring flowers that bless us each year without fail.

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.