Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Christmas this year was spent in North Cornwall at Tregayor Barn just down the coast from Bude. Set at the end of a farm track the barn is isolated and quiet and this Christmas looked perfect with snow on the ground and temperatures of -4.
With the excitement of Christmas day over (the mass Christmas day swim at Bude is always life affirming) a Boxing Day walk down to the sea was my priority. The lane from the barn offered distant views of Cornwall and North Devon and snow covered Dartmoor was just visible.
Snow and ice change a landscape but I like to look at the detail sometimes. The high hedgerow hadn't caught the sun at all and the ice had encrusted the leaves and blades of grass.
After a few hundred yards I dropped down into the ancient woodland which is now a nature reserve. One summer we found an off road vehicle trying to get down this path. It didn't make it and remarkable managed to reverse all the may back.
The woods and fields were full of snipe, and I disturbed 2 at the ford across this ice covered stream.

Gorgeous George was pleased to be out and about and enjoying all the smells.

I like these rough pastures at the bottom of the valley.
The hamlet of Millook.
The majesty of the north Cornish coast...

Sunday, 31 October 2010

A grey walk around Stanmer

A grey and drizzly walk around Stanmer park started at the Lodge gate cottages, one of which had really got into the spirit of Halloween.
This beech tree struck me as being particularly majestic.
An obliging robin in Stanmer church yard...
This is the lane that drops down from the upper lodge gates and into Stamner village...
This view from the top of Stammer park shows the impact of the new football stadium.
Even in the dull conditions this maple shone through...
The last descent into Stanmer...
This scabious was a reminder of the summer...
Stanmer House, now restored, albiet with some hideous gates and fences not visible in this picture.
This view is looking north up towards Ditchling Beacon. On this day, I liked the quiet and unassuming landscape. I could look at a field like this for hours; I love all the subtle colours.
Sparring cows...This was the one bit of drama on an otherwise flat walk.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Hunting the Cissbury Ousels

A sunny Sunday morning in October found me heading up to Cissbury ring from the car park in Findon valley. Apart from a good walk and grand downland views, I was hoping to fine some migrating ring ousels that I had heard had been spotted within the ramparts of Cissbury.
As I climbed up to the ramparts of the Iron Age hill fort the low morning sun picked out the dew drops on the grass.
Cissbury is one of the most impressive hillforts in Sussex and the ditch and bank on the north of the site are substantial. Inside the ramparts, the western end of the fort is pockmarked with the remains of prehistoric flint mines.
Not the best picture of a small copper butterfly, but it is the only one I have seen this year.
The views were stunning this morning. Here the power station at Shoreham can be seen with the coast disappearing towards Beachy Head.
Through the east gateway of Cissbury, Wolstonbury Hill can be seen.
The view over No Mans Land with Chanctonbury Ring on the far left.
The view to the north west.
The views this morning were wonderful with the clear conditions allowing distant landmarks to be identified. In the middle of the picture in the far distance is the Spire of Chichester cathedral and beyond that the Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth. And yes, I did see and hear one ring ousel as it flew overhead and disappeared into a hawthorn bush.

Sunday, 26 September 2010


As I set off from the car park on the ridge high above Tyneham village, the elderly ladies in the car next to me wound down the window of their car and smiled at me. 'Oh the joys of a British summer!' exclaimed one of them, beaming at me. 'Yes indeed' I replied enthusiastically ' the view from up here really is fantastic' It was wet, windy and you couldn't see any further than the perimeter of the car park. I didn't care. The family were happily looking at monkeys and I had the opportunity of walking the army ranges at Lulworth. I didn't mind whether it was raining or not. Striding along the ridge towards Flowers Barrow the mist was thick, and all the gorse bushes were covered in countless droplets of water. The great fortifications of Flowers Barrow itself suddenly appeared out of the cloud, but as I took the steep descent into Warbarrow bay, I found myself dropping below the cloud and the familiar sight of Warbarrow Tout came into view.
A family party were struggling up the incredibly steep and slippery slope towards me. 'Its much easier going down' I called out heartily, moments before spectacularly losing my footing and sliding past two startled looking children.
Looking back up the slope, Flowers Barrow was hardly visible in the cloud but the great chalk cliffs stretching round to Arish Mell and Bindon hill looked majestic. Reaching the beach at Worbarrow bay I found that I had it pretty much to myself and so decided to have my lunch looking at the sea and cliffs. I couldn't help remembering swimming there one hot summers day, and having to push away the occasional jellyfish.
Lunch complete, I pushed inland to Tyneham village. Taken over by the army in 1943, a visit to the village is a powerful and moving experience. It is a lost place, of roofless shells of buildings and overgrown gardens. In each house there is a board telling you who last lived there, often with a photograph of the building as it it had been. Never allowed to return to their homes, the people of Tyneham were truly wronged, but had the army not taken over this coastline it would have been lost in other ways.
This drinking fountain is set into the wall of the churchyard at Tyneham. Scripture and modern health and safety concerns do not sit comfortably together.Click on the picture to enlarge the text.
One of my favorite buildings in Tyneham is the Rectory. The top story has been removed but there are some evocative remains to be seen, such as as the bread oven, the old copper and the fire place.

Here is the front door of the rectory. The circular mark with the square hole in the center shows where the bell push once was. If you enlarge the picture below you can just see it.

Climbing up out of Tyneham I stopped and looked back at the site of the village. The roof of the restored church is just visible. The ridge on the skyline is Gad Cliff which drops down steeply to the see below. The marker posts in the picture mark the limit of the safe area. Beyond these posts unexploded shells can be found.
I noticed these links from a tank track. They must have been there some time as a tree has grown up through them.
Clear of mist, the ridge down which I had started my walk now offered magnificent views to the north, over the firing ranges towards Bovingdon. I could here the low rumble of tank engines and an occasional burst of gunfire.
As I reached the car, my final view was of the Tyneham valley down to Worbarrow Bay with Portland somewhere in the distance.

Witherstone cutting, West Dorset

Running through the heart of West Dorset is the route of the branch line that used to run between Maiden Newton and Bridport. I have a fascination for this line and I cannot really explain why, unless it is simply to do with the beauty of the countryside and nostalgia for a gentler age. Like so many disused railway lines, this one is at times clearly an old railway, complete with bridges, station platforms, and embankments. There are many places however where nature has softened mans industry to such an extend that the thought of a railway line ever being there seems quite fanciful.
On this hot sunny August day we turned our backs on the beach and headed instead for Witherstone cutting, now a nature reserve but once an infamous length of the Bridport railway. Infamous because of its very steep gradient that caused more than one set of locomotive wheels to slip. In fact, the very last steam train to run on this line, in January 1967, failed to make it up this gradient and had to be rescued by a diesel.
On the day of our walk, the air was full of the soft sounds of summer and there was a hot drowsy magic in the air. Around us flew many butterflies-a welcome site after such a poor year for them. I was delighted when I spotted a small heath. In the past I have been dismissive of these small brown butterflies but today it looked lovely.
These thistles were most striking and the bees loved them.
At the end of the walk we left the old trackbed and passed through on old gateway. The gate was gone but the cast iron posts remain. This was part of the old railway fence and is one of the few reminders of this rural branch line.