April 2016

Stonebarrow

Spring has sprung and the grass has ‘riz’, I wonder where the fairies is?, as my dear old mother used to say.

Well Spring is certainly now here, and the daffodils brought on a month early by a mild winter are still in bloom. I like daffodils and after a drab winter even if it was mild, they do add a welcoming touch of colourful freshness to the environment. The fields that abut our home are also full of new born lambs at the moment. It is amazing to watch how such creatures so frail at birth, have found their legs within minutes as they first suckle from their mothers. It only takes about two weeks for these new born lambs to “gang up” together with other lambs and go chasing around the fields in groups. The moment one of their mothers moves though, the group breaks up as they go scurrying back.

Easter, now already come and gone was not particularly welcoming to those seeking a long break away after the long indoor months. Rain and wind just about sums Easter up and true to form, as soon as the holidaymakers had returned home, the winds abated and the sun came out spreading its first noticeable but much looked forward to warmth of the year.

Fortunately I am now retired and as such,my wife and I are no longer tied to routines governed by early morning alarm clocks, commuter rush hours or daily routines. It is nice when the weather suddenly turns into a fine day to be able to say on the spur of the moment, “Let’s Go”. We tend to avoid going out much during Bank Holidays as we tend to find everything is a bit of a crush when millions of other people are intent on doing the same thing during their brief public holiday break. But then being retired, in it’s own way, every day is now something of a holiday break providing good use is made of it.

One such day occurred last week and on the spur of the moment we decided to go on a picnic. Out chosen destination was Stonebarrow Hill on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast which is about a 50 minute drive from our home.. Stonebarrow as everyone refers to it locally is open countryside owned by the National Trust of which we are members. It consists of a 148 high metre hill with fields rolling down to the sea. It is also adjacent to the renowned flat plateaued Golden Cap Hill which is the highest point of the large bight of coastline that forms the extensive and sweeping Lyme Bay. Stonebarrow is something of one of the National Trusts “hidden in plain view” gems.

Stonebarrow Hill is accessed by the aptly named Stonebarrow Lane which starts just before entering the small coastal town of Charmouth. Motoring skills come very much to the fore when driving up Stonebarrow Lane. It is very steep, Normally first or second gear only.for a considerable distance. The lane is narrow with insufficient room for two vehicles to pass, so a bit of give and take using depressions in the hedgerow is essential when encountering oncoming traffic. The upper sections of the lane fall away to a deep ravine type hill as well. The effort is well worth it for the spectacular view from the top. Although National Trust property, there is no charge for access or parking.If you have a pair of binoculars or even a telescope, they are well worth bringing.

The lower half of the land is part of the Coastal Path between Golden Cap and Charmouth and occasional hardy walkers can be seen traversing it. It is also a very dog friendly area and our Labrador “pup” Lou Lou now 18 months old and fully grown enjoyed racing up and down the slopes as she stretched her youthful limbs letting of steam in the process.

The drive to Stonebarrow is quite pleasant too. Either via the A3066 from Crewkerne through the charming small town of Beaminster nestled in the northern Dorset hills, and with its narrow roads and market place, or back via the B3165 north of Lyme Regis towards Crewkerne once again..

In all it was a sudden and unexpected day out but one that holds the promise of many more such days in the forthcoming months.

April 2012


Update 06/04/2012

Queens Arms, Wraxall, Somerset

My wife and I are part of a group of friends in my village which has become known as the “Birthday Group” so called as each month we go out to lunch to celebrate an individuals birthday. Fortunate as we are in Somerset to have a large number of village pubs which serve excellent cuisine are modest prices, like most people we do tend to have our favourites. Our last outing however we went to a pub most of us had never visited before except for one member of our group whose birthday were were celebrating and for who our venue had more than special memories.

The pub was the Queens Arms at Wraxall in Somerset with extensive views over the local countryside. It is located on the only crossroads at Wraxall with the The Fosse Way, an important major Roman Road of it’s time, and part of the A37 road network. I think we were all very impressed at the extensive menu, well prepared and delicious meals, coupled with good service that we received at the Queens Arms, that it will certainly go on our favourites list. I would personally recommend a visit there to anyone who has the opportunity.

Our companion took great delight in explaining he was born in a house located adjacent to the pub which has been subsequently demolished and replaced by a newer building. He was the son of a dairy farmer, a career he also pursued in later life and where as a boy, he helped his father make their own farmhouse cheese for public sale. Our friend recalled how each weekday he would walk along one country lane from the crossroads to go to school at the village of East Pennard. He also suspects that particular walk with modern traffic would be rather dangerous today as most country lanes are unpaved. East Pennard is close to the now internationally renown Worthy Farm where the Glastonbury Music Festival takes place.

Our friend reminisced how as a lad during the war years, he would stand fascinated on the roadside watching convoys of military vehicles going about their business. During the run-up to D-Day, of which they were unaware at the time, he would see seemingly endless columns of military vehicles and troops making their way along the Fosse Way towards the south coast in preparation for the invasion. It was also during the war years due to manpower shortages his grandmother was also the landlord of the Queens Arms.

It is strange how that same European conflict set a chain of events that led to him meeting his wife who is also a good friend of ours. She was born in pre-war Germany, the daughter of a Jewish doctor. Clearly her father was a very erudite man with a good sense of political nous who could foresee likely future events unfolding in that country. Wisely he was able to get his family out of the country to England before the tragic events that befell most of his fellow German Jewish countrymen. Although for given circumstances he could not immediately join his family, he was able to follow later before the full force of the Holocaust was unleashed.

Our friend would certainly not describe herself as a writer but she is more than conscious that her personal memories do form an important period in history. Consequently she has been busy consigning all her memories to paper so that someone in the future can make good use of them. Her memories should prove interesting reading.


Burton Bradstock, Dorset

April arrived not to the normal slow but gentle warming of a departing March but on the tail end of a mini-heat wave. Unseasonal as this advanced and unexpected outburst of Summer may have been, it was never-the-less welcome following a dreary winter. In some ways, I feel pulled between two directions at once. On one hand is the longing for the future Summer sun, tempered by the need for good rainfall on the other hand as warnings of future drought conditions become increasingly stronger. I placate myself with the thought there is nothing I can do about the weather anyway, I might as well enjoy or endure whatever the weather may bring.  Que Sera Sera as the Italian’s would say, whatever will be, will be.

Burton Bradstock, Dorset

We did however take a trip to Burton Bradstock on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. From our home it is only a 45 minute trip and the coastline and countryside are so beautiful in this part of the country. Burton Bradstock is an un-commercialised village nestling between surrounding hills. The short road from the village to the beach terminates in National Trust property and from there the coastal path stretches in both directions to Portland Bill to the east and through Golden Cap to Lyme Regis and Exmouth in the west. This large distinctive semi-circular stretch of the English coast is known as Lyme Bay. The shoreline and cliffs of the Jurassic Coast continue to yield a seemingly endless supply of new fossil discoveries. I cannot help but wonder how much the Earth has changed since these long extinct creatures left their imprint in the sands so many million of years ago, that the sand has since become a rock face.

The Easter holidays are now only a few days away and like migrating flocks of birds, it will be the signal for the annual tourist season to begin as once more droves of traffic  makes the trek westwards for people seek the respite of the much loved West Country. I think it has been estimated that during the peak season, the population of the West Country more than doubles due to visitors.

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