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.

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...