Sunday 29 December 2013

Old Harry, a Bacon Sandwich and the Restless Fox

The weather has been a little inconsistent to say the least and so waking up to beautiful blue skies was just what I needed. I have a walk planned for New Years Day when I will be taking a group up to The Pinnacles and Old Harry, a collection of chalk stacks along the cliffs north of Swanage Bay, and I needed to check the route. After so much rain lately the paths were always going to be muddy but the going was firm
enough and we made good time as we left Swanage behind us.
Swanage Bay
 When you reach the ridge the views to the south over Swanage Bay and to the north over Poole Harbour are truly immense and a photograph cannot do them justice. On a clear day let your eyes follow the coast and you can see beyond the ancient Hengistbury Head , to the north the equally ancient rings at Badbury can be seen as long as you know where to look.
North from the Ballard Down
It is time to continue east towards Old Harry but don't worry, the views do not get smaller or any less impressive and will stay with you as you walk.
At the end of the chalk ridge, where the land drops vertically more than 300 feet to the sea, you turn more or less north following the cliffs (this is your only option, as continuing east will result in wet feet...eventually). On a day like today the Isle of Wight, that sits some fifteen miles away to the east, is clearly visible and it is easy to imagine the land that you are standing on being connected to the very similar chalk ridge at The Needles before erosion changed this place.
The walk along the cliffs to Old Harry is about a mile and doesn't take long but gives you some great opportunities to look at the cliffs from above.
The Pinnacles
Old Harry himself sits at Handfast Point at the most northern part of the chalk and, in my opinion, is really best seen from sea level. The view from the cliff top will do however and the bright white shapes that remain are always good to see from whatever angle.
Handfast Point
From here the path heads west towards Studland following the cliffs that edge its bay and a decision needs to be made! Either drop down onto the sand and head towards one of the beach-side cafes and grab a well earned bacon sandwich or continue inland before taking a track south and back up onto the ridge. A tough choice but the sandwich won.
A steady walk back over the ridge to Swanage was straight forward and gave us the same amazing views as before but this time with the welcome addition of a Fox that was unable to make himself comfortable in the Winter Sun.
The Restless Fox

Saturday 28 December 2013

It's A Big, Big World

A great start for any walk, Durlston Country Park is perfectly positioned at the Eastern edge of the Isle of Purbeck. You have read about me going on about this place many times but it really is special.
Durlston Country Park
From the Globe head west along the coast path following some of the finest unspoilt coastline you will find, following the Sun as it continues its, far too short, journey across the Winter sky. Eventually, as you wander past the long dead quarries and the ghosts of military secrets, you will come across an old Norman chapel. This is St.Aldhelm's Head, spend time here as there is a lot to discover and some of the finest views on the Ilse of Purbeck.
Chapman's Pool

You have done well to get here as this is not an easy walk and you can afford a break before a set of steps that take you down into the valley, almost to the sea, before they rise to the ridge of Emmett's Hill. From here you can look down into Chapman's Pool, sheltered from three of the four winds and a well used refuge for anyone using the sea to make a living.
The Steps to Houns Tout
It is time to leave the valley that ends in Chapman's Pool and climb more steps. These are just as steep as Emmett's steps and will take you to the cliffs at Houns Tout.
West From Houns Tout
As you reach the top of the steps you have no idea of what is ahead of you as the path continues to rise, but when you reach the crest and walk along Houns Tout the views are truly incredible. Look across the vastly expensive 'Golden Bowl' of the Encombe Estate, past the Reverend Clavell's Tower at Kimmeridge and onwards, way beyond the western border of the Isle of Purbeck and use the last few minutes of a winter's day to watch the Sun disappear.
A Winter's Sunset
A good walk and a tiring one that can end just a mile a two inland from here at The Scott Arms in Kingston. A pub that was originally the New Inn when it started life two hundred years ago, changed to the Eldon Arms to honour the then land owner and again after the last war to the Scott Arms. Take a pint into the garden and take in another of our finest views.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Happy Christmas

Merry Christmas and thank you for taking the time to look through my photographs. 

Sunday 22 December 2013

Sunshine, Waves and Part of a Peregrine

This morning started with the loudest and longest rumble of thunder that I think I have ever heard! By the time the sun had risen though all was fine and the skies were blue...ish!
So it was back to the cliffs to watch the waves hitting the cliffs, but being able to take more photographs, unlike yesterday.
The waves were incredible as was the noise as they cannoned into the cliffs, this is one of the many joys of living so close to the sea, being surrounded by amazing sea sounds!
All of a sudden the pigeons scattered and unmistakeable, slate-grey, shape of a Peregrine flew straight into the cliffs. The next hour was spent waiting for it to finish preening itself and become more visible.
This did not happen and as the clouds hid the Sun, it was time to make a hasty exit.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Horizontal Rain, Wet Feet and the Search For Our Smallest Birds

High winds, heavy driving rain! There was only one place to wander to.
The cliffs are always a great place to be but when the weather misbehaves it is incredible. Not the easiest place to take photographs today though as the 50mph winds were coming straight off of the sea. Regardless of the weather, there were still people about and all were smiling, seemingly surprised to find another fool braving the conditions. A fair number of sea birds were enjoying the weather too, with Fulmars soaring effortlessly above the violent sea. Slightly inland, sheltered from the worst of the weather I managed to spend a while in the company of a single Firecrest, one of our smallest birds.

Sunday 8 December 2013

The Purbeck White Hart

There are only a few white deer on the Isle of Purbeck and seeing them is always special. They tend to be quite timid and shy away from contact and so getting close is even better.
This Sika stag was quite brave though and didn't back off when I found him, probably helped by the fact that he was packing a full set of antlers.

Saturday 30 November 2013

Otters, Kingfishers and Cold, Wet Feet

A blue sky Saturday walk is never going to be boring and today's was no exception. Just a few miles from home I was sat on the bank watching Otters as they fished and as soon as they disappeared along came a couple of Kingfishers.
After a while I dragged myself away and walked along the shores of Poole harbour, trying to keep my feet dry.
Turnstones seemed to be everywhere, showing just how camouflaged they are against the pebbles on the shore and amongst them were a few Oystercatchers, endlessly dipping their beaks into the mud.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Blue Skies and Sharp Winds

A blue sky Saturday was just what was needed and it gave me a chance for a proper wander.This time we explored the heaths that make up the northern boundary of the Isle of Purbeck which, although beautiful in its autumn colouring, they can be quite quiet on the wildlife front.
The north wind kept all of the smaller birds deep within the scrub, but we did have a lot of fun with a couple of Dartford Warblers. No decent pictures this time, but that doesn't stop me, they are such wonderful little birds.
A good day for raptors though, with Kestrels and Buzzards showing off in the wind.
The day began with a light frost and ice on the puddles and ended up a lot warmer but with more mud.

Saturday 16 November 2013

A Tale of Two Walks

On a beautiful, blue sky Saturday one walk was never going to be enough and so I broke the day into two.
This morning, bright and early, I set off for the cliffs of Durlston where the clear uninterrupted views really take your breath away. Kestrels and Peregrines hunt along the cliffs while Jackdaws and Ravens compete with the sea birds for mastery of this very special place.
This afternoon I headed off to Middlebere and the heathlands that sit on the northern edge of the Isle of Purbeck. Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.
Tomorrow I need to do the jobs that I put off today, lets just hope the sun doesn't shine...

Sunday 10 November 2013

A Long Awaited Blue Sky Sunday

Finally, we had a beautiful blue sky and that can mean only one thing. All those weekend chores that I didn't get done yesterday while it was raining, are not going to get done today either.
I headed off, not really knowing where I was going but ended up at St. Aldhelm's Head, one of my favourite places on the Isle of Purbeck.
The views here are always stunning whatever the weather and today was no exception. The southern tip of the Isle of Wight (some thirty three miles away) was easily visible to the east and to the west (almost twenty miles away) was the Isle of Portland.
Watching from the cliffs high above the crashing waves brings its own rewards and the soundtrack was equally splendid. Behind me in the fields, Skylarks could be heard, whilst out to sea two Peregrines harassed the local pigeon population, their screeches piercing the air.
Not a bad way to spend one of our finest days for a while.
St.aldhelm's Head to the west
Portland in the far distance

The ledges below St.Aldhelm's Head

Anvil Point Lighthouse with the Isle of wight in the distance.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Wet Weekends and the Search for Light

More rain this morning meaning yet another day when I can't go for a wander. There were breaks in the weather though and a short walk to Peveril Point revealed some wonderful views. Black clouds were being held away from here by the hills and it looked liked everywhere else was getting it good and proper.
Peveril Point

Peveril Point

Durlston Head

Old Harry

Sunday 27 October 2013

Stormy Sundays and Lifeboat Training

 On a very stormy Sunday morning it is great to see the crews of the Swanage Lifeboats as they put in more practice hours.

Monday 14 October 2013

The Humble Kestrel

 The Kestrel is one of my favourite birds and one that seems to be in decline in some parts of the country. Luckily we have several places on the Isle of Purbeck where Kestrels can be seen and the cliffs are often the best.

Kestrels often hunt along the cliffs meaning that, if you are lucky, you get a 'side on' view of this lovely little bird while it has other things on its mind.

Quiet but never silent.

I missed the Sun this morning, not because I was late but because the early wander was done and dusted by the time the clouds cleared. When...