Thursday, April 13, 2017

Dorset day 4 - A surprising sunrise and a host of tall trees

Beautiful colours above Banjo Pier in Swanage Dorset

My last day in Dorset and I wanted to make the most of it, so I was up before the sun, with a view to getting some shots of the headland at Peveril Point. The weather did not look especially inspiring as I made my way through Swanage town and parked in the upper car park overlooking the piers.

Retrieving my gear from the car, my expectations were not exactly emboldened as the rain began to steadily fall. So I decided against taking the walk to the Point, as the conditions, as well as being determined to turn me into a soggy flannel, were opaque to say the least. 

Cliffs obscured by sea mist with Swanage piers in the foreground
The view from the car park, towards the old and new piers, and hidden in the bleary soup are the cliffs of
the Jurassic Coast.

I didn't want to return to the lodgings, as I had made the effort to get out, plus, doing so would have admitted defeat, and you cannot reveal a feebleness of character to Mother Nature, it's a recipe for disaster, and believe me when I tell you, it will haunt you for the rest of your days.

Instead, I drove back down to the seafront and stopped at Banjo Pier. This little pier was built as part of a scheme to alleviate the problems Swanage has historically had with flooding. At the end of the pier is an outflow pipe, that during periods of heavy rain, releases the waters of the River Swanbrook which runs under the town, out into the ocean. It also happens to look quite nice.

Swanage Banjo Pier at sunrise with colourful clouds in Dorset
Looking along the pier, under a lavender sky.

In an arresting example of how quickly conditions can change, by the time I had got myself set up on the pier, the mist had lifted and the clouds were beginning to part, revealing some plum dawn colour into the sky. Which as the minutes passed by, transformed into the warm orange glow of a morning worth getting up for.

Beautiful clouds at sunrise with waves lapping onto Swanage beach
Looking towards the pier from the beach, as the conditions continued to improve, the colours of daybreak
reflected onto the wet sand.

Beautiful sunrise clouds over Swanage beach on the Jurassic coast
With the clouds breaking up a treat, I was unsurprisingly glad that I had hung around
for a bit longer.

Once the morning was well underway, I left the seafront behind and returned to the accommodation to get some breakfast, and to pack up. I had a hankering to visit Chapman's Pool, which I had not been to before and would provide me with a picturesque walk. Especially now that the weather was a lot more clement.

I sploshed my way into the muddy little car park for Chapman's Pool with sheets of rain, carried on howling winds, lashing my car like an angry headmaster doling out punishment to errant boys. This was decidedly not clement at all.

After a while the rain ceased, and although it didn't exactly brighten up, I was soon walking/slithering over marshy ground towards the cliff edge, where a footpath should take me down to the diminutive cove below.

Jurassic coastline around Chapman's pool under a cloudy sky in Dorset
You can't actually see Chapman's Cove from this vantage point, the steps in the foreground lead down there,
the path I took dropped down from the ridge on the left. In hindsight, the steps would have been the
better option.

Once I'd reached the coast, and admired the view along its undulating stretch of tumbling cliff faces, I started to ascend the path. I had decided to take the steep and narrow pathway through the vegetation, rather than the steps, as it seemed a more direct approach. It was certainly more direct, but rather slippery, and once I was out onto exposed ground, the ever steepening terrain and buffeting winds did not help my efforts in any way. Let's just say I became very aware of 400 foot drop below me.

I probably got about half way down before the rain began to fall again, as did my enthusiasm for the whole enterprise, plus I could see that the tide was very much in, so even if I did get down there, I wouldn't exactly have much of an area to explore. Deciding my time could be better spent elsewhere, and to be honest, not feeling particularly disappointed about failing to complete the journey, I clambered about 200 foot back up the greasy soil and headed to the car.

Woodland path over a small bridge in the New Forest National Park
A wooden bridge that marks the beginning of the walk around this particularly spectacular part of the forest.

Once I had dried off a bit, I left Dorset behind and found my way into Hampshire. I was going to visit the always splendid New Forest for the afternoon. A prospect far more inviting than the lubricious terrain of the Dorset coast that day.

I was going to take a stroll around the Tall Trees Trail, which is exactly what you would imagine it to be. Parking at Blackwater, I set off with camera in hand, hoping to get pictures of some majestic trees, I was not disappointed.

Trunks of giant trees in the New Forest National Park in Hampshire
Trunks of some of the Redwoods that can be found along the trail.

Many of the trees were planted in 1859 when the occupants of the wonderfully gothic looking Rhinefield House, once a private country mansion built in the second half of the nineteenth century, but now a hotel, wanted some exotic varieties to line the carriageway to their home.

Trees that can be seen here include some of the tallest and oldest Douglas Firs in the country, plus some very impressive Redwoods. In fact the tallest Redwood in England at 110 metres, stands among many other massive specimens. And considering that these are only 150 years old, and can reach ages of over 3000 years old, they still have quite a bit of growing left to do.

New forest trees tower over a couple walking below them
A couple are dwarfed by the surrounding trees.

New Forest National Park trail next to giant towering trees
Redwoods and Firs.

Different varieties of trees in the New Forest National Park in Hampshire
There is very little ground vegetation thanks to the shade the huge canopies cast over the soil below.

Soft green canopy of a large fir tree along the Tall Tree Trail in the New Forest
Although the day was overcast, the soft even light created quite an atmosphere among these grand giants. 

A small lane curves below a towering canopy of giant trees in the New Forest National Park
A small road that winds its way beneath the shade of the trees.

Lone tree with a soft background of forest colours in the Hampshire National Park
Where light could get through, ferns and moss covered the ground.

New Forest National Park gravel path winds beneath large fir trees
A drooping branch of a Douglas Fir.

A couple walk along the Tall Tree Trail beneath giant Redwoods
Giant Redwoods dominate sections of the trail.

Three green trees in the New Forest National Park on an overcast day
Three trees covered in moss.

Soft light surrounds these strangely shaped trees in the New Forest National Park
Strangely shaped trees with a thick background of vegetation.

Blackwater Tall Trees Trail with wooden fence in the New Forest
A wooden fence and a tangle of tree life.

Image of multiple straight tree trunks in the New Forest National Park in Hampshire
A jumble of trunks.

Single green tree trunk on the Blackwater Tall Trees Trail in the New Forest
A very verdant scene.

Panorama of giant trees on the Blackwater Tall Trees Trail in the New Forest
Panorama of Redwoods.
To see the image bigger just click on it.

I had planned to visit Blackwater Arboretum, but I'd spent so long among the giants that the day was fast drawing to a close, so I packed up my stuff and headed back to the regular world with another entry on my ever growing list of places to visit again.

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