On a hot afternoon last week, we drove westwards across the top of the Bournemouth and Poole conurbation and down into the tranquil lanes and hills of Purbeck. Climbing the steep hill beyond Corfe Castle village, we found the small, grey stoned village of Kingston and the Scott Arms, draped in green Virginia Creeper, a pub that dates from 1787.
The small car park behind the pub was surrounded by dry stone walls which were smothered in vibrant pink shrub roses.
Behind the roses stretched one of the the finest views in Dorset. These photos do not do it justice. In a gap between two long, downland hills, lie the ruins of Corfe Castle, surrounded by its narrow village streets of Purbeck stone cottages. Beyond, the waters of the northern edge of Poole Harbour glinted in the sunlight and the view into rural Dorset stretched for miles and miles.
Corfe Castle has Saxon origins and is said to be the place where the Saxon King Edward the Martyr was assassinated. After the Norman Conquest, William I ordered the castle to be rebuilt as he enjoyed hunting in the Forest of Purbeck. The Norman castle was modified over medieval times and was a significant stronghold at many times in history, including the Wars of the Roses. It was attacked and largely destroyed by Parliamentarian troops during the English Civil Wars, as it was then in the ownership of the wealthy Royalist Bankes family.
Today, the castle belongs to the National Trust and is one of the most atmospheric and interesting castles in Britain.
We enjoyed our light lunch and a cool drink in the gardens of the Scott Arms, gazing out across the view and feeling the welcome heat of the sun after so many weeks of dismal rain. It felt like real summer at last!
Afterwards, we walked around the village, where pretty cottages grew roses and hollyhocks in small front gardens.
The old village water pump.
The "New Church" of St James, built by local landowner, the third Earl of Eldon in 1874 and designed in Neo Gothic style by architect George Edmund Street. This church is built from locally quarried Purbeck stone and marble. It was built to replace the earlier Old Church at the other side of the village. It was initially the private chapel of the Eldon family but later became the main village church.
Inside, it was cool and rather splendid, but to me it lacked the depth of history and atmosphere that is so often felt in the oldest English village churches.
Across cottage rooftops and gardens, where fruit trees soaked up the sunshine and washing blew dry in the hot breeze.
The old church, now disused, can be seen amongst the trees on the edge of the village.
Looking eastwards across rooftops and fields, shone the misty blue of the sea in Swanage Bay.
The last week in July. Summer came two days ago and now the New Forest roads are busy with cars and people, on their way to the annual New Forest Show at Brockenhurst. I decided to travel in the opposite direction towards the coast, and here are some of the New Forest foals that I passed along the way.
Most of the foals were born in May this year. The weeks of rain have made the grass grow well, so the mares look healthy and their foals are growing tall, sturdy and confident. They are old enough to stray a little distance from their mothers and are often seen playing together, leaping and skipping about like new lambs.
This afternoon it was hot and humid. Time to nibble grass beside the road........
..........or stop for a snooze in the sun.
The heathland near Round Pond was scattered with ponies and commoners` cattle, all grazing near to this precious water source, where they will gather to drink in the cool of evening.
It has been hot and sunny ALL DAY today! The first day this summer that a grey cloud has not crept across the sky to dampen spirits and threaten yet more rain. I took these photos in the late afternoon, but even then the light levels seemed higher than they had been for weeks.
Above is a lily I was given years ago as a birthday present. Today it was flowering better than ever.
This corner is a mixture of purple hebe, mallow and the cream of a hydrangea coming into flower.
The hebe was covered in feeding honey bees.
The Kiftsgate Rose has been seriously pruned this year. Its clumps of fragrant white flowers seemed to glow in the afternoon sunlight.
These are a few photos taken through the kitchen window. My camera struggled to focus on the birds among so many leaves and the window is smeary from so much rain, but at least the sun was shining and the birds had a chance to dry their feathers.
I don`t usually feed the birds during the summer months, but this year`s weather has meant a decline in their natural food. The unseasonal cold and wet has made it a struggle for parent birds to feed their young. Last week I found four dead baby swallows under their nest in an outbuilding. They had not grown many feathers and were not yet ready to fledge. They had died in the cold and their parents had removed them from the nest, ready to start a new brood before it is time to fly to Africa again.
The visitors to the bird feeders are mostly blue tits, great tits, coal tits and nut hatches.The nut hatches are nesting in a nearby oak tree and are beautiful, but they do bully the smaller birds. Greater spotted woodpeckers also visit but they are very wary and fly away at any sign of movement through the window.The fine mesh on the peanut holder will stop whole nuts being removed.
The bird table attracts a noisy gang of house sparrows, several blackbird families, wood pigeons, collared doves and little brown dunnocks who pick up fallen seed on the grass.
Below are some goldfinches, who love their niger seed feeder and bring their families along to empty the feeder in a day.
Some of the tits are growing adult feathers while their parents are in moult. Here are a few of them waiting in the branches of the pear tree.
Blackbirds and bluetits love the halved apple in a suet feeder and will finish it in two or three days.
The cats have become accustomed to spending most of their time in the house, but they are allowed out to play just after dark, when the birds are safely in their nests. If they go out before they are fed, a few taps of the cat food tin will bring all four of them running to the back door for their supper.
At last, we had a summer`s morning! Bright, warm sunshine and a blue sky. Flowers opened and the wet land began to dry. I walked around our hill with Old Dog, and looked across open Forest towards the sea, distant rooftops of Bournemouth and blue, misty outlines of the Purbecks.
At the woodland edge there were shining green fronds of bracken, reflecting sunlight.
We walked around puddles in the gravel trackway.......
and in the dip of the lane.
An old black cob was relishing good grass in his meadow.
Light fell on dead branch shapes.
Tree trunks framed the badgers` hollow, where a late foxglove flowered....
...and rotting, hollow birch trunks smelled of damp.
Blue sky topped the trees in the valley. Rowan berries are reddening early this year......
...but this old rowan by the track has a mortal wound in its trunk. Beneath split bark the wood is rotting and woodpeckers have holed the red woody flesh beneath.
Against the sky, its leaves are prematurely yellowing and berries grow scant and poor this year.
On we walked, through the holly lined lane where horses once pulled coaches up towards the London road......
....and found the place where two ashes fell in recent storms. Foresters have cleared the site and now the good timber lies waiting beside the track, waiting to be carried away.
Heavy showers have blown in from the south west today and soaked us every time we tried to do anything useful outside. Thankfully we had an hour of warm sunshine this evening, when it was time to walk around the fields with a wheelbarrow. The ground was saturated and puddles were standing everywhere. Blue sky and clouds were reflected in water around the raised beds and the roots of raspberries in the fruit cage.
A pool of shallow run-off water stood in the field at the bottom of the slope.
More trickled down a drainage stream and reflected blue sky between buttercups.
Paddled mud has pooled at a field edge. These puddles soon drain away through the sandy soil, but in the meantime the wet mud is a feeding place for birds. Swallows skim the sodden fields for insects to feed their young.
Is it teatime? Jay and the Grey One heard the field gate and cantered down the field, expecting their evening snack, soothing fly cream and some friendly words.
Life is very itchy when you are drying out after a shower...........
....and waiting for the wheelbarrow.
Ginger and the Chocolate pony are both getting better, thank goodness. They were eating their supper in the field shelter this evening, away from the flies.
Living in the beautiful New Forest, I am a married late-fifties woman, a recently retired teacher and the mother of grown up boys who have flown the nest. I share my days with cats, dogs, ponies and the wildlife all around us. Starting this blog is a chance to explore woods, fields, lanes and heath with my camera. A chance to share the simple pleasures of my country life.