Dorset – highways and byways

After our Sussex weekend, which turned out better than expected, we (I) decided on a long weekend to John’s favourite county  –  Dorset.  Holidays proper never seem to materialise because work is always more important, so I pounced on what had been designated ‘holiday’ in the diary, now rather brutally raided by ‘important’ meetings,  and  managed to retrieve some tattered remains. Like a dog welcoming a newspaper through the letter box …

A manor house, down a long private drive –  breakfast included –  drew my attention on the internet.  Upmarket rural bliss? I had some very welcoming emails from its owner.  Anticipation lifted my spirits as our old but ever stylish car was pressed into more than the supermarket run.   I think it knew it was bound for the open road – it seemed to flutter with excitement …  gaining speed all the while.

Dorset is a little bit off the beaten track. The railway sputters out. You really need a car to explore its secret, narrow byways.  If I had been born here I feel I would return in later life when I had need of peace and quiet and beauty.  It has many iron age hill forts and bosky valleys, exhaling a long history, which was violent at times but is now full of wildflowers and meadow butterflies.

However, the M3 was blocked and we had to make a massive diversion, which was very badly signposted and ended up with grumpiness all round.  We don’t possess  a satnav yet and anyway I feel whoever is in charge of ‘Diversions’ should not  merrily run you off the motorway and then leave you dangling between roundabouts which seem to only offer ‘industrial estates’ exits.  You were no help, Highwaymen.  Room for improvement …

But in time the narrow, country byways appeared.  There were signposts but guesswork was needed –  especially at small junctions, usually with unsigned forks ahead.  I remembered about the private drive and saw a sign to one.  “Go down there’, I screeched.  The track became ever more unused,  with abandoned rusty cars and tractors poking their noses out of the undergrowth. Greenhouses appeared, their windows shattered.  Nothing inside them. John’s face fell.  A square house appeared almost suffocated by ivy stretching up to the chimney pots.

We stopped.  I fought my way to the front door and knocked.  A bucolic figure appeared.  We viewed one another suspiciously.  He wasn’t Michael Woodhouse (phew!) but he most kindly set us on the right road and finally we were bowling up a long driveway under an avenue  of tall, elegant trees, which led to a graceful manor house, with its own ancient chapel attached.

Our room, in the attic eyrie, overlooked the gardens and had an added small sitting room. We had just about time for a short walk in the setting sun, before repairing to ‘The Fox’ for fish and chips – a pub less than ten minutes away.

Settling in after a long drive …

I love damask but it has to be ‘white on white’. Wonderful bedspread!

Our evening stroll.

Dorset magic

John did the walk – I took the photo!

Dorset – up on the ridge

Barns in sunlight …

A welcoming seat …

Topiary

Happy to be here …

Some friends of ours have a house in Dorset and we had planned to meet them next day for a feast of iron age hill forts. But first of all, we were shown a wood full of ramsons – wild garlic. One of John’s  and mine favourite plants.

A wood carpeted in wild garlic – ramsons is the name …

A fork in the road … ?!

We went on to a little known iron age hill fort and this picture is taken from the top of it.

A test of perseverance … the tractor plies its course…  it reminds me of that book, ‘The Worm Forgives the Plough’ by John Stewart Collis.

Next stop, Fiddleford water mill …

Eye to eye at Fiddleford Mill, Dorset

A summer’s day – Fiddleford Mill

Fireplace at Fiddleford Mill

Roofscape – Fiddleford Mill

Looking out through old glass – Fiddleford Mill

Mill machinery …

Daisies in Dorset – why do mine not grow with such gay abandon?!

It was time to move on and we tracked down giant sandwiches in a small café in Sturminster Newton.  The red lion in the picture is the selfsame as those outside ‘The Red Lion’ pub at home.  How did it get here, I wondered …  I then read that there are at least 600 pubs throughout the country called ‘The Red Lion’, so they obviously needed quite a lot of lions to fit the bill.

A red lion is said to be connected to John of Gaunt’s heraldry …

Nearby, Hambledon Hill (Iron Age hill fort) is special to John and with our energy replenished, we climbed to the top.  It was steamingly hot but the top is flat and the reward was a welcome breeze.  I would probably be more fit if I managed that at least twice a week.  The location is fabulous and it’s really not a hard climb. But heat always drains my stamina and resolve.  I don’t have a thermostat like most people seem to.  Very tiresome. But I did make it with a bit of push and pull from John and Stewart.

Dinner was at an old house turned into a restaurant at Chettle.  John lost his mobile phone but that’s another story of mystery and miracles in the long grass.  Next day, after a fabulous breakfast at the manor, shared with an American couple, who were fishing the chalk trout streams nearby, we decided to explore the Arne Nature Reserve and Corfe castle.

Arne Nature Reserve, Dorset

Ivy is parasitic – it sort of reminds me here of varicose veins … poor trees …

Arne Nature Reserve – appealing yellows …

Chris Packham and his team shot some of the ‘Springwatch’ television programme here.  We are great fans and think they do a wonderful job getting people interested in the countryside and wildlife.

We spent a long time at Arne and exhaustion was setting in so I wasn’t so keen on going on to Corfe castle  –  but we did.  It is spectacular! Not to be missed on any account if you’re down that way. John will never give up if there’s a castle en route. He didn’t have his camera today (lost phone), but he did manage to take the best photo of the castle with mine!  Here it is.

Corfe castle (photo by John)

Corfe castle

Entrance to Corfe castle

View from Corfe castle

Another view from the ramparts

We walked down back into the town.  A tearoom beckoned.  I was so hungry as we hadn’t had time for lunch and could hardly wait for our cream tea to arrive.  Anyway, that’s the excuse for a rather poor photo but I’ve put it in because the tea and scones were  so utterly, lusciously scrumptious.  The manager had made the jam himself –  I wanted to buy a jar but he only had enough for the tea room.  If you ever happen to read this, please make enough for visitors to take home a jar!!

Best cream tea I’ve ever had …

This was our last full day in Dorset.  We slept well and were ready next morning to meander home. We decided to go via Salisbury, which turned out to be a good idea.

Memories of Higher Melcombe Manor …  at twilight

Early morning mist rolling in from the coast

The Dorset seashore and cliffs are full of fossils

The bosky woods of Dorset …

Thank you, Michael, for a wonderful stay.  I don’t like saying goodbye but we were soon out on the open road,  destination Salisbury.

Bowling along country roads … such a joy after city jams

Welcome to Wiltshire!

Driving into Salisbury my attention was drawn by a robot, asleep at the wheel of his car.  The mind boggles a bit …?

Robot driver? Definitely in the pipeline …

Salisbury, with its famous cathedral, is very picturesque.

On edge in Salisbury …

Good choice for luncheon …

Making our way to the cathedral …

The cathedral, even for non believers, is just ‘out of this world’. Don’t miss it.

Salisbury cathedral with Lynn Chadwick sculpture … and somebody else …

Lynn Chadwick sculpture front view …

Requiescat in Pace – inside Salisbury cathedral

A haunting…

A beautifully designed water fountain lies at the heart of the cathedral.

Salisbury – serenade in blue

There are many strange faces here –  I don’t really know what they mean but I am drawn to them.

Strange creatures …

Shades of Chagall?

In England’s green and pleasant land ( William Blake, poet) (1757-1827)

A very splendid tomb …

A bold heraldry banner

As we left I noticed this hoarse little gremlin clinging onto the wall

Old Sarum (a rotten borough) lies a mile out of Salisbury.  It was worth wrestling the ring road system to get there.

Salisbury with the cathedral spire in the distance, seen from Old Sarum

We took off our shoes and socks, walked over the soft grass and sat amongst the daisies in the warm afternoon sunshine.  Bliss! See John’s blog for more on the history of Old Sarum.

And then we went home …

 

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