Which Shoes to Choose?

Exploring England #6

The best way to enjoy the dramatic scenery of the Jurassic Coast is by walking, and there are hundreds of kilometres of paths and trails you can take.

p1130104

Some climb over high limestone cliffs,

p1130115

while others lead to small isolated beaches.

p1130100

One thing is certain – whichever path you decide to take, you need to think carefully about your choice of footwear.

p1130096

At Lulworth, there are several walking tracks suitable for those looking for spectacular photographic opportunities. The path to Durdle Door starts off easily, although the wind blowing off the English Channel is icy.

p1150711

p1130097

Despite the chilly breeze and warnings of crumbling cliff edges, many walkers find places along the way to enjoy expansive views of the rugged coastline.

p1130099

To reach Durdle Door, a set of steps winds down from the cliff top to the beach below. The steep steps are hard going at the best of times, but after heavy rain they’re muddy, slippery and difficult to negotiate.

p1130110

By the time you’ve reached the bottom, you could be a few centimetres taller, with a new platform sole of mud on your shoes. If you’ve chosen real platform shoes, it’s a good time to discard them before setting out across the shingle beach.

p1130118

p1130130

It’s worth the effort though. The hard Portland stone of Durdle Door contrasts with the softer chalk cliffs stretching away in the distance.

p1130114

p1150727

The pebbly beach drops away steeply into the ocean, making it the perfect platform for special photos.

p1130117

Eventually, it’s time to retrace your steps and return the way you came – you just have to walk back up!

p1130111

Join Jo for more Monday Walks

Revealed

Exploring England #5

November: Woodland

From our airbnb home just outside Bridport, the rural view was green and serene. Hidden behind a veil of early morning mist, Colmer’s Hill seemed distant and mysterious.

p1150429

As the mist began to lift, the surrounding woodland became clearer,

p1150430

and soon the Caledonian pines atop the hill were revealed.

p1150434

Jude’s Garden theme in October is Woodland

Buried Treasure

Exploring England #4

Like many people, we visited Dorset’s spectacular Jurassic Coast for one reason. Well-trod paths over dramatic cliffs lead to pretty coastal villages but we weren’t looking up. With heads down and eyes on the ground we had one goal  – to find fossils.

The 154 km stretch of coast between Exmouth and Studland Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage area, with geology spanning the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Millions of ancient creatures and plants are preserved in the sedimentary layers of the cliffs, waiting to be revealed when the cliffs crumble away during wild weather.

p1150675

At the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre we saw huge ammonites dating from the Jurassic Period. With high hopes we joined the crowds on Charmouth beach and, although we found many tiny treasures, there were no 185 million year old fossils lying around waiting to be discovered.

p1120993

p1120981

p1120992

p1130004

Continuing our search, we travelled west to Lyme Regis, a very busy town with very narrow streets. Avoiding the congestion and costly parking, we left the car at Charmouth Road car park. From the top of the cliffs it was a gentle downhill walk to the foreshore where a wide wall, built to protect the cliffs from erosion by the sea, doubles as a walking route into town.  It was only 400 metres but we took our time, enjoying wonderful views of the English Channel, the Jurassic limestone cliffs and the stony beach connecting Charmouth and Lyme Regis .

p1130024

p1130026

p1130034

Evidence of fossils was everywhere in Lyme Regis.

p11506201

The Lyme Regis Museum houses a vast collection. Some fossils were collected by Mary Anning, who made her living finding and selling them in the first half of the 19th century, while others have been found by modern enthusiasts. Along with more beautiful ammonites, there were fossilised plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs, sea creatures whose descendants include whales and dolphins.

p1120986

Fossils are still sold in Lyme Regis but we didn’t want to find our first fossil in a shop. The best way to achieve our aim was to join one of the museum’s guided walks, led by paleontologists Chris, Paddy and Tom.

p1120985

We met the our group outside the museum and, after a short explanation about the geology of the coast, our guides led the way to the beach, where early morning wanderers were already scouring the shore.

p1130063

Paddy showed us how to look for signs of fossils in the stones and demonstrated safe techniques for breaking them apart.

p1130074

p1130072

p1130091

Armed with a little knowledge and much anticipation the group spread out, and before long fossils were turning up everywhere.

p1130076

p1130081

p1130067

Our guides made sure everyone ended the walk with a handful of history. Ours included a tiny ammonite encased in mudstone and two belemnites, distant relatives of today’s cuttlefish.

20161126_143417

With our goal accomplished and our walk completed, our perspective changed. It was time to look at more than just the beach!

 

See more walks all around the world at Jo’s Monday Walks.

Lyme Regis Museum is currently closed for refurbishment but daily fossil walks are still taking place. Check the timetable for costs, dates and times.

The Sum of Its Parts

Exploring England #3

Think of beaches and images of never-ending sand, wide blue skies and brilliant sunshine come to mind. But Chesil Beach, on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset is anything but sandy.

p1120933

The beach, formed at the end of the last ice age, is 28 km long, up to 12 metres high and completely composed of pebbles. The size of the pebbles varies from one end of the beach to the other. At West Bay in the north the pebbles are tiny while south at Portland they are much larger. It’s said that fishermen landing on the coast at night can pinpoint their location according to the size of the stones on the beach.

Fleet Lagoon runs parallel to the ocean behind Chesil Beach between Portland and Abbotsbury. The lagoon is tidal and at low tide there’s just a puddle of brackish water left. A boardwalk across the tidal flats is decorated with wooden carvings of local wildlife.

p1120930

p1120929

p1120950

p1120949

p1120948

After the bridge crossing, the pebbles begin. It’s an arduous climb to the top of the mound and the slope on the other side, down to the water’s edge, is just as steep.

p1150572

p1150569

The beach may be vast, but each of its parts is tiny.

p1120937

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Tiny

Swanning Around!

Exploring England #2

It’s a warm sunny day in late summer and a walking expedition on the Dorset coast beckons. It’s not far to the village of Abbotsbury and there’s also a coastal path, but today we’re visiting Abbotsbury Swannery, one of the largest colonies of mute swans in the world.

p1120791

The swannery is located in the calm waters of Fleet lagoon, a long stretch of brackish water protected by Chesil Bank. The waters weren’t always so calm; at the end of the last Ice Age massive waves created the bank, a narrow wall of rocks between Lyme Bay and the coast. The land behind the bank was flooded as sea levels rose, creating the perfect breeding environment for water birds.

p1150437

There have been mute swans in the lagoon since the 11th century, when the Benedictine monks of St Peter’s Abbey began farming the birds. In 1543, after the dissolution of the monastery, Sir Giles Strangways bought the land from Henry VIII and the swans have been cared for by his descendants ever since. While the swannery is not a zoo and the swans are free to come and go, the colony is carefully managed. We must purchase tickets at the shop before entering the grounds of the swannery.

p1120793

p1120806

p1120796

From the entrance it’s a pleasant walk in the summer sun past grass covered fields and curious sheep. A stream flows beside the path and wildflowers bloom on its banks.

p1120803

p1120802

We enter the woodland closer to the coast and find hydrangeas flourishing in the dappled shade.

p1120821

Our first sighting of a swan is a thrilling moment. A single white bird stands on the path ahead of us as if guiding the way.

p1120823

Another swan with her half grown cygnets accompanies us for a while as she glides on a fast flowing stream.

p1120830

As we walk there are more swans,

p1120846

p1120816

but these glimpses do not prepare us for the spectacle waiting at the end of the path – dozens of swans, a sea of white on the sparkling waters of Fleet Lagoon.

20160901_115639

They might be called mute swans, but they are noisy. We’ve arrived at midday in time for a feeding session and the swans are excited. We learn that they receive limited feeding, sick or injured swans are captured and cared for before returning to the lagoon, and cygnets are monitored to ensure they remain healthy.

p1120855

Young visitors are invited to help feed the birds who gather close to shore.

p1120864

From a raised platform there’s a beautiful view of Fleet Lagoon, Chesil Bank and the swannery.

p1120894

But it’s the opportunity to see these magnificent birds up close that we have all come for.

p1120875

Abbotsbury Swannery is open every day from March to October, 10 am to 5 pm

See more great walks from around the world at Restless Jo’s Monday Walks.

Where Romans Walked

Exploring England #1

Imagine the thrill of finding an iron nail or a remnant of pottery lost or discarded long ago, or even a hidden stash of ancient coins. Wouldn’t it be exciting?

p1150222

So how would it feel to unearth a whole Roman palace?

That’s what some workers in West Sussex did in 1960 while digging trenches for a water main in a field in the village of Fishbourne. The accidental discovery of a tiled floor led to the excavation of a Roman Palace with a floor plan larger than Buckingham Palace, complete with hypocausts, bathhouses and beautiful mosaic floors.

p1150239

There are a few historic figures who might have lived here but the most popular theory is that the palace was the home of Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus, a local chieftain who became King of the surrounding area. Several buildings have existed on the site, all dating from the first century AD. The palace was in continual use until 270 AD when much of it was destroyed by fire and forgotten until its re-emergence in 1960.

Today the site is managed by the Sussex Archaeological Society. The remains of the north wing of the palace are protected by a large building which also houses a discovery centre. The history of the palace, artifacts found on site and recreations showing how the rooms may have looked give an insight into the building and its occupants.

p1120722

p1120664

Raised boardwalks over the excavations allow visitors to view the mosaic floors up close.

p1120678

p1120684

Some of the intricately patterned floors are in situ, while others were moved from their original sites and painstakingly reassembled in the museum where they are protected from the elements.

The most spectacular mosaic depicts Cupid riding on a dolphin, surrounded by frolicking seahorses. Laid in the second century AD by highly skilled craftsmen, the floor once decorated a large dining room which looked out over a formal garden.

p1120685

A replica Roman garden just like the one dinner guests would have admired surrounds the museum today, complete with water features, shaded walkways and beds filled with edible plants. If the weather was fine, those same diners might have enjoyed their meal outdoors, reclining on the sloping benches of the triclinium.

p1150243

p1120703

Romans weren’t the only people to occupy this site. This medieval burial is one of four found during excavations. Archaeologists know they are post Roman because the graves were cut through the rubble of the earlier buildings.

p1150234

Much more than skeletons have been found in the soil that covered the remains of the palace.  At daily talks and demonstrations visitors have the opportunity to handle some of the thousands of items in the museum’s collection. I may not have personally unearthed this ancient piece, but holding a 2000 year old scrap of pottery in my hand was just as exciting!

p1120669

Fishbourne Roman Palace is open daily from 30th January to 15 December.

Peace and Longevity

October: A Garden Portrait

Japanese stroll gardens are places of contemplation and harmony where visitors can wander along meandering paths through thoughtfully planned landscapes. The Japanese Garden at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba is the largest stroll garden in Australia. Its traditional design includes large rocks, a tumbling waterfall and a central lake surrounded by sweeping lawns and sloping beds of Japanese and Australian native plants.

p1030650

p1080374

p1080389

p1080369

Children come to feed the resident ducks, artists can often be seen recreating the serenity on paper and, on most weekends, wedding ceremonies take place here. Whatever the activity, the garden lives up to its name – Ju Raku En – public place of peace and longevity.

p1080381

The Japanese Garden is located in Regent Street, Darling Heights, Toowoomba and is open daily 6:00 am to dusk. Entry is free.

See more garden portraits at the earth laughs in flowers