Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dorset day 3 part one - Sunrise sort of & Studland nature reserve

Tide movement under a dramatis sky at Swanage on the Jurassic Coast
My third day in Dorset, and I woke to a pretty dismal start to the day, the weather had obviously decided to urinate on my parade, but I was not to be deterred, and I headed down to Swanage seafront anyway, in spite of the dank conditions.

And I was right to do that, even though the sky was awash with thick clouds, the cool, ambient light had created a atmospherically atmospheric atmosphere. I took advantage of it and got some shots looking out to sea, where a thin, pale band of red had begun to present itself above the horizon, which was about as psychedelic as the sunrise got.

I then turned my hawk like attention to the seafront itself, due to the early hour the lights were still ablaze along the waterfront, and from my vantage point I had a good view of them. With the morning tide rippling and plashing over the stretch of golden sand between me and the gentle urbanity in the near distance, it was a peaceful scene, and I was glad I had made the effort to get out into the dawn air.

Swanage seafront lit up in the early morning under a cloudy sky
Looking towards the principle area of the town centre, as it lies along the sea front at the southern end of
the beach.

Azure ocean under a dramatic sky with red beacon on the Dorset coast
A rolling line of cloud hovers over an undulating, azure ocean.

Panoramic image of architecture along Swanage seafront
A view of the predominantly Victorian architecture that rises up from the waterfront at Swanage.
To see the image larger just click on it.

Once the light had transformed into a drab, grey monotone I returned to my lodgings for some breakfast. The conditions weren't exactly photographically inspiring, but I had a plan. I don't want to reveal too much, but let's just say it involved travelling to Studland Nature Reserve to do some black and white photography.

Once I'd had some breakfast, I travelled to Studland Nature Reserve to do some black and white photography, and, I was going to take one colour photograph. With my plan set in motion, I motored towards the peninsular with a twinkle in my eye and a song in my heart.

Monochrome image of a lone tree in the Studland Nature Reserve
A single tree stands proud of the scrubby heathland around it.

Studland Nature Reserve, or to give it it's full title, the Studland and Godlingston Heaths NNR, is located on the south side of Poole Harbour. Extending to 631ha, it is owned and managed by the National Trust and is designated as one of only 35 'spotlight reserves' in England by Natural England. I'm not really sure what 'spotlight reserves' are, but this is one of them.

Black and white image of large tree in front of Little Sea at Studland
A nicely domed tree on the shores of the lake with a gorse bush in the foreground.

Within throwing distance of the ocean is a 35 hectare freshwater lake known as Little Sea. As the famous Studland dune ridges formed over the past 400 years, they blocked off large areas of water from the sea, and the rainwater that has flushed through these dune ‘slacks’ since, has gradually turned them from salt to fresh water. With Little Sea being the most well known.

Many areas around the lake are almost impossible to access on foot, as I can well attest to, so they have become home to a vast array of specialist plants and invertebrates, they are sheltered refuges for birds and animals, from great white egret to otters and water voles.

Dorset Nature Reserve in Studland with windswept trees on an island
This little island, with its small collection of scenic trees, lies in the middle of Little Sea.

Despite being internationally protected as one of the UKs largest oligotrophic lakes (a lake characterised by a low accumulation of dissolved nutrient salts, and a high oxygen content, so now you know), in the early 2000's a member of the public illegally introduced carp into the lake, and unintentionally started a chain of knock-on effects that the National Trust are still trying to rectify.

Within a few years these bottom-feeding fish churned up sediments that had remained undisturbed for decades and stripped the lake of its highly specialist and rare aquatic plants. The nutrient status of the lake has changed, most of the overwintering birds have gone, and the water – described as recently as 2006 as being “clear, faintly tea coloured” is now murky and thick with suspended matter.

Little Sea in the Isle of Purbeck with lone reed reflection on the surface
A single reed reflects onto the ripples of Little Sea, whose waters are certainly not clear anymore.

Trees line woodland path in Dorset on the Isle of Purbeck
A small path through a section of woodland that borders the lake shore.

I followed the edge of the lake as best I could, some of the tracks were easily accessible, but then they might just come to an abrupt end, and I would find myself struggling through undergrowth, with thorny gorse grabbing at my jeans, and whip like tendrils from head high bushes doing their best to hamper my advance. 

Quite a lot of the land was marshy, and suddenly I might, without warning, sink calf deep into a hidden water hole beneath the thick carpet of vegetation, which, I can assure you, would never fail to focus my attention. But for all the effort to make progress, it was still a treat to be out there. Once I'd journeyed away from the road that runs to the ferry over to Poole. it felt like I had the place to myself, and even though the weather was overcast, the atmosphere was never gloomy.

Studland Nature Reserve ferns on the woodland floor up close
My colour photograph!

Studland Nature Reserve tree portrait in monochrome
A rather stately tree among the brooding heathland.

Large tree in beautiful monochrome on the Dorset coast
Two trees growing together. Probably for company I'd imagine, as there weren't a great deal of other trees
of any size in the area.

Black and white photo of twisted tree trunks in Studland Nature Reserve
A tangle of trees from a particularly atmospheric section of the nature reserve.

Once I'd gone as far round the lake as I could, and before I needed a machete to hack my way through the undergrowth as if I were searching for a lost city, I headed back towards civilisation. But I didn't return to the car, instead I made my way to the unspoilt, and internationally recognised stretch of lowland heath, known as Black Heath.

I took plenty of images from this arresting piece of Dorset countryside, but they will have to wait for another day, including even the remarkable Agglestone, and I do mean remarkable. I think we have done enough exploring for one post, so until next time...

Studland black and white landscape of a lone tree and empty track through heathland
A gnarled little tree and the empty track I followed into Black Heath.

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