Wareham Forest Tourist Park - Days 29 - 35 of our Autumn/Winter Tour
Monday 11th October 2021 ☁⛅⛅🌞🌞🌞🌞⛅⛅
Today was our day to visit Abbotsbury Swannery and Subtropical Gardens, the former of which is apparently the only place in the world where you can walk through the heart of a huge colony (about 700) of Mute Swans with their young. While we were at the Swannery we learnt that it was first established by Benedictine Monks who built a monastery at Abbotsbury around 1040 (St Peter's monastery). At that time the monks farmed the swans to produce food - it seems they weren't allowed to eat meat but fish was okay, and because the swans tasted 'fishy' they were acceptable as part of their diet!
|The Fleet - protected from the waves of the sea by Chesil Beach|
The pic above shows the huge Fleet Lagoon which is tidal and connected to the sea at its eastern end at Portland Harbour. The Swannery is located at the western end where only the highest tides make a difference to the depth of the water and there the water is fairly fresh because a number of streams flow into that end of it. And it seems the salinity of the water is an important factor because when cygnets hatch they need to have fresh water to survive!
|Just a few of the many MANY nearly full grown cygnets|
We arrived just before feeding time so our first port of call was the edge of the Fleet to see a wheel barrow full of grain being distributed amongst many hundreds of swans, geese, ducks, moorhens and gulls.
|They might be called Mute but they couldn't half make a noise!|
While we watched the feeding frenzy we noticed that many of the birds were ringed - it seems that this is done during a period when the swans are flightless! During June and July the birds shed their flight feathers and for a period after that they are unable to take to the air, so it is at that time that the Abbotsbury herd is rounded up to be weighed, ringed and given a health check. We also learnt that a full grown male swan (a cob) usually weighs about 24 pounds while a female (a pen) is lighter at about 20 pounds, yet each can haul themselves out of the water and launch into majestic flight with their 7 foot wing span from almost a standing start!
|We met Alice almost as soon as we arrived!|
The gardens themselves, even at this time of year, were also stunning with lots of quite unusual shrubs and trees.
And as we wandered we also came across a view point from where we could see St Catherine's Chapel which was prettily framed by shrubbery. The Chapel sits high up on a hilltop overlooking Chesil Beach and it has been there since the 14th Century when the monks from Abbotsbury Abbey built it as a place for pilgrimage and retreat. We didn't trek up to it but apparently it has 'wishing holes' where in times gone by local women used to pray to St Catherine asking her to find them a husband - there was no Tinder in them days 💒💑!
As we progressed around the garden we also came across 'The Owl and The Pussycat' in a boat that wasn't quite beautiful or even pea green, but I think at that stage John was a bit worried that I might break into verse because the lines💬 of that poem are what I used to recite to my children and grandchildren when trying to soothe them off to sleep😂!
We also found a couple of rutting stags
And a long rope bridge that swayed quite alarmingly while you were crossing!
Especially when John bounced it up and down when it was my turn 😱 I almost ended up with my feet in the murky waters below 😂
We had a great day and the duel entry fee for both parks was well worth the money but when we saw the price of coffee in the cafe (£££) we were very glad we'd taken our own!
Tuesday 12th October 2021 ☁⛅⛅🌞🌞🌞⛅☁
Today we decided to go back to the very lovely National Trust's Ringstead Bay and visit Durdle Door again, but this time we were quite determined to get a bit nearer! When we went a week ago we'd followed the very undulating and sometimes challenging Coastal Path, so as we'd neared the Door and observed the huge hill we'd have needed to go down and then back up 😰we 'gave up'! However, we had sat high up and close enough to see waves lapping through it so we hadn't missed out altogether.
But this time we decided we needed to get closer so instead of following the Coastal Path we followed a trail that was much higher up and which proved to be much easier walking.
And we made it!! As we sat eating our lunch we were able to admire Durdle Door and also watch the brave souls who paddle boarded and kayaked through the portal.
Wednesday 13th October 2021☁⛅⛅🌞🌞🌞🌞⛅⛅
Our plan for today was to visit several sites near Dorchester - The village of Cerne Abbas, Maiden Castle and The Thomas Hardy Monument but when we got to our first venue we did a very strange thing indeed! And that was to be looking at a man's penis while having our morning coffee!
The said man was the Cerne Giant who may have been on the hillside for thousands of years. Apparently, would you believe, he's said to be a symbol of fertility, and he's also one o the largest Chalk hill figures in Britain measuring nearly 200 feet high and a little over 100 feet wide! I wouldn't like to say who used to look after him in times gone by but the National Trust do now - it seems they have to rechalk him every 7 - 10 years!
While we were in the area we also had a walk down into the ancient Cerne Abbas village which owes it's existence to a Benedictine Abbey that occupied the site back in 987 AD. However very little evidence of the abbey is left now but the village has thrived, mostly it seems due to a large brewing industry.
Our trail also took us to St. Augustine's Well or The Silver Well which has several 'superstitions' attached to it! It's said that drinking the water can cure infertility and that a laurel leaf dipped in it's waters may cure soreness of the eyes. A more morbid tale tells that if you go down to the Well at dawn on Easter Day you will see reflected in the water all the faces of those you know who will die that year!
|Don't worry! It wasn't Easter Day today😂|
Our next stop was at Maiden Castle which is the remains of the largest and most complex Iron Age Hillfort in Britain.
It's remains were enormous and the info boards told us that it's multiple ramparts could have enclosed an area equal to the size of 50 football pitches. It was impossible to take a photo that would have demonstrated what is left of it today, so instead I snapped a pic of a pic to show what it might have looked like in times gone by. Today, it provided a lovely place to stroll high up on it's inner ramparts and we also had the pleasure of incredible far reaching views over many miles of the Dorset countryside, one of which distantly included our next venue.
|A Spy Glass with it's eye piece high in the sky!|
The monument is 72 foot tall and was built out of Portland Stone in 1844 on the highest point of Black Down. And from there, once again, we were treated to 360 degree magnificent views even from the base of the tower. But more locally we also spotted several craters that almost looked like a bomb had been dropped from a great height! Apparently, these were 'swallow holes' or 'Dolines' which are a feature formed when acid rainwater dissolves the underlying chalk causing it to give way! From the site there were also loads of walking paths but as the time was wearing on we've put them on our list for a return visit sometime in the future.
We parked in the village carpark, paid our requested £2 donation and then admired a strange sculpture that stands in a field just behind it! I thought it looked a bit like Stonehenge but this one was made of wood!
|An outline of our walk + a huge chunk between Seacombe and Dancing Ledge|
Once we could tear our eyes away from the vista we continued our walk around St Aldhelm's Head but it soon became a bit of a challenge when we had to navigate across a deep chasm!
and then 218 back up to the top of the hill, and they were nearly all BIG steps💦💦💦 so as you might imagine we were a bit hot and bothered by the time we got there!
But someone had very kindly put a bench in a very convenient spot so we nabbed it and had a mo to recover!
|St Aldhelm's 13th Century Chapel which stands on nearly the most southerly tip|
of St Aldhelm's Head - one of the oldest churches in England
And then came the National Coastwatch Station that is manned by volunteers and also a monument to the development of radar during World War II.
|Another plaque informed us that 'This memorial commemorates the Radar Research carried out at Worth Matravers from 1940 - 1942 which was crucial to the winning of the war and the Birth of Modern Telecommunications.|
And after watching for a while all we had to do was make our way back to Worth Matravers, but rather than retracing our steps we once more headed steeply uphill and took a shorter route over higher ground. Our walk had been quite a long and challenging one and when we got back into the village we observed these 3 sitting outside a pub!
|One of the does was really inquisitive and came trotting towards us but|
the stag soon rounded her up!
|And he was quite a big boy with a magnificent pair of .............antlers|
|And maybe a pair of something else he was putting to good use!|
|A few more of his harem |
Now we're all settled in for the next 15 nights and all we have to do is keep our fingers crossed that the weather is kind to us for at least some of the time.