Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dorset Day 1 - Shameful behaviour under grey skies

Last week I took a quick sojourn down to Dorset, I hadn’t been there for quite a while so I was looking forward to getting some, hopefully, decent coastal shots. I was meeting my occasional photo chum, Sarah, down there for a couple of days of photography, before I returned home and she began one of her workshops. I drove down Wednesday evening without incident, save for an unfortunate happening in a car park in Poole.

I had stopped to answer the call of nature, well it was more of an uproar than a call, I had seriously misjudged my coffee intake vs journey time to a wild extent, so my concept of driving through in one go was tragically misguided. Anyway, after I’d made use of the facilities I was walking back towards the car, and noticed a big ol’ 4x4 (the type for chauffeuring sprogs about rather than off-roading) reversing out of its space not far away.

I walked behind it to get to my car, and as I was unlocking the door I noticed that it was getting closer and closer. Thinking that it was about to stop any moment, I got in, but as I was about to turn on the ignition it suddenly dawned on me that it was not about to stop at any moment at all, on the contrary, it was going to carry on at will.

So with some inevitability there was a disconcerting bang, as it made decisive contact with the front bumper. I quickly jumped out and walked towards the offender with a certain unhappy volume to my speech, as I was slightly miffed and not just a bit confused. Luckily there was no damage done, and the small woman who wound down the window couldn’t apologise enough, so there was no reason to get annoyed about it.

My confusion remained however, as this had happened in a brightly lit car park, in fact I was actually parked under one of the lights. It soon became clear that the reason she had so happily careened into my car was because she had the parking sensors turned off. I guess looking out the window is just not the done thing anymore?

Once I’d found my way to Swanage, the evening was soon improved however with a rather good pizza at La Trattoria a place I can heartily recommend.

Woke up the next day at 5.30 with a view to getting some sunrise shots at Kimmeridge Bay. We drove there in the dark and the rain with our fingers crossed that the weather would improve, we then pulled into the car park in the half light and the rain with our fingers crossed that the weather would improve. We then sat in the car as the day began in earnest, watching the rain and feeling the wind buffeting the car with our fingers crossed out of a desperate optimism more than anything else, that the weather would improve.

It didn’t.

Once we’d given up on that particular venture we returned to the flat to get some breakfast before heading into Swanage to have an amble on the pier. By this time the rain had moved onto pastures new so at least it was now dry, if a bit breezy, and very grey.

Looking along the end of the pier to sea behind
The weather made getting shots a challenge, so it was quite nice to experiment with minimal compositions.
A local resident.
The shelter at the end of the pier, well part of it anyway.

Swanage's Victorian pier is over 100 years old and is one of two built, although it’s the only one that survives complete today. The original Swanage Pier was built between 1859 and 1861 for use primarily by the local stone quarrying industry, and included a tramway which ran the length of the pier and some way along the seafront. The old tracks can be seen to this day, inset into the seafront walkways.

Construction on the new pier began in 1895, and by 1896 was first used by a steamer. The pier was officially opened for traffic in 1897. While regular steamer services ran on the new pier, up until 1966, the older original pier declined along with the stone industry it served some years earlier. Today all that remains of the old pier are some of the timber piles. Luckily for those of a camera wielding disposition though, they are very photogenic timber piles.

As you can see, there is not a lot of it, but what there is gets a lot of attention.
Another shot but with a wider perspective.

After a couple of pier filled hours, the rain returned and we retired to a nearby coffee shop. We sat next to the window with a couple of cups of not particularly good coffee, watching the rain outside drizzle and listening to a child inside grizzle. It was actually a lot less fun than it sounds.

This impressive painting was on the side of an old cafe that had definitely seen better days.

But before long we were back out, and on our way to Durdle Door, that imposing limestone arch that so defines the Jurassic Coast along which it stands. 'Durdle' is derived from the Old English 'thirl', meaning to pierce, bore or drill, which in turn derives from 'thyrel', meaning hole. And ‘door’ derives from the word ‘door’. So there you go.

Once there, we unpacked our lunch and sat with flasks in one hand, limp sandwiches in the other, and looked out towards the sombre sky and slate grey sea, as the wind whipped rain thrashed against the windscreen. Yes that’s right, we were enjoying a traditional British holiday, and as is the way of British people in such occasions, we couldn’t be happier.

The rain did eventually clear so we pulled on our walking boots, and it is about here that I have to reluctantly admit to an entirely shameful bit of behaviour. I didn’t take my camera with me. There I’ve said it, judge me all you like, and I know you will. But at the time, what with the catastrophically grey conditions I opted just to go for a walk, we both did in fact. I’ll be damned if I’m taking all the flak for this one.

I imagined that it just wouldn’t be worth bringing it with me, the very thought of that decision now makes my cheeks burn with shame, how could I have been so na├»ve? So without a care in the world we jauntily made our way down the footpath towards the shore. Once on the upper part of the coastline, with views to both Durdle Door on one side and Man O’War Bay on the other our recklessness hit home hard.

Looking across to Man O'War Bay. You may notice that the quality isn't quite what you're used to on 
this esteemed site.
The sky may have been dull but the sea was palest, creamiest turquoise I had ever seen. I think it was thanks to the wind, which was pummelling the coastline something terrific, and churning up the sand below the waves, so giving the sea an other-worldly hue, made especially resplendent as it was under such a leaden sky. I was particularly gutted as I hadn’t even brought my compact camera with me, I’d completely forgotten I had it in my camera bag.

We thought about going back up to get the cameras, but the steep ascent put a bit of a dampener on that idea, so we made the best of what we had, and spent the next hour or so wandering around with our phones in outstretched arms, like a couple of teenagers at a popular music festival, most likely showcasing bands from the current hit parade.

As I studiously re-filled my pipe and adjusted my plus-fours and Argyle socks to my preference, I remarked how much younger all the police officers were looking these days, before striding off to bark at a gaggle of children who looked like they were having far too much fun.

A sub-par image of Durdle Door for your delectation

Here's a little video down on the beach.
Once we’d had a stroll around and been thoroughly pummelled by the relentless gale, we made our way back up to the car and thought about venturing back down again, with cameras in tow, but by now the weather had turned so we didn’t bother.

We then drove a bit further to Lulworth Cove and got out to have a look at this captivating piece of evidence to the seas power. Over thousands of years the waves have eroded the softer clays and sands, and have left the sturdier Portland and Purbeck limestone behind, creating a natural sea wall, almost encompassing the resulting cove.

It was by now starting to get a bit gloomy as the late afternoon wore on, so I was quite happy not to saddle up the gear, but I would at least have my compact with me this time. Which was great, until I got to the cove and realised I’d had forgotten to charge it, and it was deader than a deceased doornail. It’s a good job I know what I’m doing, or these excursions would be a total shambles.

A few hundred metres from here is Stair Hole, an infant cove which suggests what Lulworth Cove would have looked like a few hundred thousand years ago. The sea has made a gap in the Portland and Purbeck limestone here, as well as a small arch. Stair Hole shows one of the best examples of limestone folding in the world, caused by movements in the Earth's crust millions of years ago.

You can see quite clearly on the left of the picture the effects of limestone folding.

From there it was a walk a bit further along the coast to Oswalds Bay, but it was never completed due the shortness of the day, and the resulting meagreness of the enthusiasm. So we took a drive into Wareham to get a coffee and a spot of shopping for dinner.

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