stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Friday, March 31, 2006

My journey to work

It was my luck this week to have to go to North Dorset one day, to train some librarians about Enquire (the international 24/7 live chat enquiry service). I had to set off early as it was an hour’s drive – instead of my usual ten minutes. But what a enjoyable hour. (none of the photos are mine this time, I didn’t have the camera and didn’t stop to get the phone out either!)

As I started off, in gentle morning sunshine at 7.30am, I was very grateful for living in such a lovely part of the world. I drove out of the village and up onto one the main ridgeway roads of Dorset, that travels along the tops of the hills. There are also main roads that follow the valleys, often you have a choice – the roads are so old that one is probably from Anglo Saxon times or prehistory, and the straight high version is Roman. After a few miles I turned off to cut across a few valleys. The road was narrower and I saw few cars.The slanting golden light showed up the ancient medieval field system on the hillside.

I descended into the Sydling valley and had to drive through a ford. The water level in the stream is still low and the water clear. Up and up the hill towards Cerne Abbas and a view of the Giant, the famous chalk figure carved in the hill above the village. It has magical powers of fertility. Believe me, I know these things!

Then down into the pretty village of Cerne itself and up again past the Giant. The hedges are still brown and leafless, but the banks beneath them have primroses, and at one point I saw a rabbit scampering unhurriedly up through them, out of the way of my car.ow cloud! I had to put the lights on while up here, and everything has a soft feel to it, edges blurred and the world is reduced to shades of grey.

Then finally down, and a view north into a different world across the broad Blackmoor Vale– sunlit with blue skies.

Up onto another “top road” and further north. By now I am up far enough to be in l

skies! Which is how it went, right up until I got to my destination. Dorset is a bit tamer here, more domestic with thatched farmhouses, and hedges criss-crossing fertile green fields.

Through a village called Kings Stag, which isn’t far from an ancient deer park which belongs to Stock Gaylard House. I this drove bit slowly, trying to look for fallow deer – and saw some not far from the flimsy fence of iron railings, very pale and almost white.

I crossed the River Stour at Sturminster Newton. The bridge is so old and narrow that it has pedestrian passing places built in. But there its only just wide enough for one vehicle, so a system of traffic lights is in place.

The further you get into North Dorset, the muddier the roads get. It’s a farming area, sure, but it only needs a light shower and the muddy surface splashes all over your nice clean car. In each village and hamlet, I passed knots of schoolchildren by the side of the road, waiting for the school bus to pick them up.

By now the sun was well up into the sky, and I was nearly at journeys end – Shaftesbury. It’s a small town, miles from any other town, and consequently has an interesting high street full of small shops, and hardly any of the usual chain stores. Greengrocers, drapers, bakers – all the old fashioned shops you thought were gone. But its on top of a hill, and you only need a touch of frost or snow and the place is cut off from civilization. You cant get out or in on the couple of roads.

I was lucky, but the place was like something out of a scary movie. It was totally hidden by low cloud, and felt dank and dark under its shroud. It should havebeen just waking up, with shopkeepers opening the shutters, and people bustling about, but it was strangely quiet. No good going to the lookout gardens and admiring the view. No good going to the top of picturesque Gold Hill, and standing by the sculpture of a large loaf of bread. Now why is that there?

Those in England may remember a famous TV advert in the eighties (much lampooned) in which a young baker’s boy from the Thirties, wearing short trousers, a Fair Isle jumper and a flat cap, rides his bicycle down an incredibly steep cobbled hill while an equally flat Northern voice drones on in narration and a brass band plays. The advert was for Hovis bread, and was filmed here. Fame! People used to come from far and wide to see it. The best view is from the tea shop at the top!

So journey’s end – and the good news is….later I had to drive back to the office, and the sun had broken through and ended Shaftesbury’s islolation.


At 11:49 pm, Blogger Tabor said...

I really am thankful for your wonderful ability to take me on this restful and yet gently surprising journey on a long Friday at the end of an emotional week. I really love the pictures which added so much! And yet they are not yours?

At 1:55 am, Blogger Val said...

Val, I didn't know that these types of places still existed. My only experience of England was in the 60s of London. Fun when I was in my 20s, but what you describe is something I would love to see and experience some day.

At 7:32 pm, Blogger Kerri said...

Val, this is such a wonderful post! You really have a knack for describing not only the countryside, but how serene, peaceful and historic it all is. Thanks for taking us along on your journey. How I'd love to visit your part of the world!

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At 8:14 pm, Blogger pedro velasquez said...

Although I am not originally from Essex, bet basketball since I've lived here for over 15 years I have come to love many things about this county. I'm originally from the West Country, and much appreciate the drier climate here, and the distinct lack of hills (which as a cyclist I do prefer!). One of the things sportsbook I like about living in mid Essex is the proximity to the countryside. On my short journey to work each day, I am fortunate enough to travel along a very attractive path, which is surrounded by trees, with the Most days I cycle to the office along this path and cross over the river via a footbridge. It's very pleasant, and as the seasons change there are so many lovely things to see. march madness I actually took these photos about two weeks ago, and in just that short time everything has become even more lush, there are even flowers opening on the water lilies in the river (the variety is Brandy Bottle - though I've never got near enough to catch a whiff of the scent that gives it it's name!).


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