Thursday, 4 February 2010

Winter Sunset at Hengistbury Head

Last Saturday, a day of ice and blue sky. As the sun went down, we walked by the sea and climbed the sandstone hill of Hengistbury Head, while the temperature dropped and the light changed as each second passed.

Hengistbury Head is at the eastern edge of Poole Bay. From the top, the wide expanse of the Bay spreads towards the Purbeck Hills in the west. Looking eastwards, there are views of Christchurch Harbour and out towards Hurst Spit. Across the channel are the chalk cliffs of the Isle of Wight where the Needles stand; white jagged pinnacles of chalk piercing the surface of the sea.

Across Poole Bay, the sun slipped downwards over the Dorset Purbeck Hills.

The cliffs and beaches of Bournemouth. Shingle gives way to sand below Boscombe and the cliffs and chines of the town.

Sandstone Hengistbury Head, with distant white chalk beneath Tennyson Down on the Isle of Wight.

The path to the hill. On the left is a wide grass area, protected by prehistoric Double Dykes, where Iron Age people once lived.

Over Poole Bay, the sky behind Ballard Down turned to a rich gold.

The Needles and the chalk of Freshwater Bay reflected pink in the sunset lightfall.

Maram grass, planted to protect the sandy cliffs from prevailing westerly winds, turned to gold.

From the hill top. There is a heronry in trees on the right. Across Christchurch Harbour, white painted houses of Mudeford line the shore.

The path up pale sandstone cliffs where Sand Martins will soon return to build their summer nests.

As the sun`s warmth disappeared, ice was refreezing on the borders of the wildlife pond where Natterjack Toads breed every spring.

The seconds when the sun set behind the Purbeck Hills.

The trig point on the hill. Behind it is The Run, the narrow gap which is the mouth of Christchurch Harbour. Down on the harbour mudflats, we could hear the cries and screeches of seabirds feeding on mudflats before night fell.

After sunset, the Purbeck Hills seemed to shrink away to a greater distance as the sea darkened in the bay.

Across the harbour to Stanpit Marsh, to the eastern edge of Christchurch and the low lands of the Avon Valley beyond.

Night fell fast as we walked back and down towards Poole Bay.

Behind us, pink light still reflected over the Island and the speck of a white sail showed a sailing boat returning towards land.

A last image of Bournemouth, its flats and hotels breaking the sunset skyline as seabirds flew crying overhead on their way out into the bay. The waves splashed softly onto shingle and sand. Our hands turned numb with cold. We crunched across gravel and sandy track . Rabbits were emerging to crop the wide grassland. We were too cold to speak and the night promised to be colder still. It was time to go home.


Pussycats and Angels said...

Came across your blog today and I'm glad I did...beautiful photo's...we seem to have quite abit in commom...I love the New Forest, it's a place I every so often visit,as it's
not to far away..Will visit again soon..
Best Wishes

rachel said...

What incredible photographs! I must visit your area; it looks so very beautiful.

Bovey Belle said...

What fabulous photos - those sunset ones deserve to be printed and hung on the wall. I could just hear the oystercatchers as I joined you on your walk . . .

Morning's Minion said...

What an interesting landscape, and so different from any I have known. As well as lovely photos and descriptions you have given me two words to savor: "heronry" and "Natterjack."
I'm wondering if the toadlets sound anything like the spring "Peepers" of New England.

Dartford Warbler said...

Hello Julie and welcome!

MM- one day I shall walk the bottom path along the harbour and try to get some photos of the herons` nests. They are grey herons and there is a good sized colony. On our way home on Saturday, we saw a heron perched on a house roof, just as the storks do in Northern European.

Rachel and BB - it IS beautiful around here, but so heavily populated in places. I love peace and quiet, so the Bournemouth beaches are much lovelier to visit before the crowds arrive in warmer weather.