Yesterday, I went back to one of my favourite places in the whole of Dorset, the holloway named Hell Lane.
The conditions for this walk were the best as the path is very waterlogged most of the time; after weeks of dry weather, it was time to pay this magical place a visit.
Hell Lane is also the name of my fourth novel (more info HERE), and quite a bit of the action will be set there. It will be a "retro" detective story with at its core the history, myths, legends and superstitions attributed to the place.
Below are a few shots of the holloway. The path starts in the beautiful hamlet of Symondsbury near Bridport and takes you all the way to North Chideock.
It begins as a rather beautiful bucolic path but soon plunges into the undergrowth and takes you into another world... The vegetation is abundant and makes you feel as if you had stepped out of the English countryside and into some exotic jungle-like universe. The sun peering through the leaves and branches created dancing lights onto the leaves and the sandstone and shadows followed us as we made our way under the cover of the trees.
You feel that you are witnessing a bit of the Underworld whilst you make your way along this very special holloway: the entangled roots of the trees are exposed and create complex natural sculptures. You can easily imagine these turning into the slithering, grasping tentacles of otherwordly beasts...
Also of interest, and this time man-made, are the eery crowd of inhuman faces, symbols and names etched into the golden sandstone... A magical bestiary which might hint at the preternatural quality of Hell Lane...
You eventually emerge from the holloway blinking into the sun, almost surprised by the glorious green hills that surrounds the sunken path...
And you wonder whether Hell Lane is indeed real...
The Dorset landscape is full of locations which do not seem to have changed in centuries, something that doesn't stop to intrigue and inspire me...
You do not need to go very far to feel like you have left the present time and stepped back into an ancient, more rural past (if you manage to ignore the cars and electricity pylons)...
Yesterday's visit to Corton was such an instance: you just need to walk through a metal gate to find yourself in another era...
We will carry on exploring the inland valleys of Dorset as tourists are now flocking to our coast and we have even more reasons to avoid them as usual!
At the foot of the slopes of Friar Waddon Hill, you can find Corton Farm, which consists of a small but perfectly formed manor house which dates back to the 17th century (where you can stay as it is a B&B) and various other dwellings and outbuildings including a beautiful granary, as well as a lovely little religious edifice, St Batholomew's chapel (and yes, I do have a thing for chapels in rural settings...)
The chapel dates back to the 11th century and really is a little gem with very interesting features and objects...
The setting is peaceful and a little magical; from there you can walk all the way to the Hardy monument - this makes a wonderful walk that takes you through a varied and at times dreamy landscape. At the moment, nature is at its most abundant and the trees, hedges, coppices and bushes are overflowing with life...
Today, the post brought me a signed copy of Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty, a young man with a very promising future... This gorgeous book is published by Dorset-based imprint Little Toller who specialises in beautiful volumes about nature and the natural world.
The book was lovingly packaged with a great sticker and badge and matching tissue paper!
I will therefore split my reading time between Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries and this very special book...
You can see the love and care that has gone into the design of the book: the dust jacket is truly beautiful!
And look! The inside is not bad either...
Diary of a Young Naturalist will be Radio 4's Book of the Week next week (read by the author!), and I am torn about what to do...
I would like to read it before I listen to it!
I usually never read books which have won major prizes. If I am being honest, they have never really interested me, story-wise, and I do not like to read books whose authors have tried too hard. Unfortunately, I have always found that the publishing world doesn't do itself any favours by making successful, prize-winning writers sound pompous, self-important and egotistical. I don't like it when writers try too hard.
But I like the sound of this story set in New Zealand in the 19th century (I studied Victorian literature), and I am currently trying to know more about New Zealand and Australia, their history, landscapes and cultures.
I have also been struggling to write during lockdown and I guess I could do worse than getting inspiration from someone who has been celebrated as a fabulous writer!
I look forward to the BBC adaptation of the book - scripted by Eleanor Catton herself, thankfully.
Yesterday, we did one of our favourite walks as it is not far from our house and enables us to save on petrol!
It's special as this is where we always started our holidays in Dorset when we still lived and worked in the South-East: we always arrived too early to get into our self-catering cottage in Broadmayne and would go to the coast at Osmington and Ringstead whilst waiting for the right time to pick up the keys.
Starting at Osmington Mills, where the wonderful Smugglers Inn is still shut (it is always packed!), we took the coast path to the unusual Ringstead Bay then up to White Nothe (I adore the extraordinary former coastguard cottages, and especially the Captain's House, which will feature in my fourth novel Hell Lane).
Doing those walks has really helped and I hope there will be many more, even though I worry that a second peak in infections is around the corner and could deprive us of our mainland walks again...
On March 23rd, we made a short visit to the location of my third novel, Abbotsbury.
Then the very same evening, the lockdown was announced and we didn't set foot on mainland Dorset until... yesterday!
True, we have walked around Portland for those past two months, but I have missed the green, variety and atmosphere of the Dorset countryside. Now, there has been an explosion of greenery - the trees, flowers and plants are in full bloom and it is... JOYOUS! What a treat to once again be able to drive around this beautiful and inspiring county! It was strangely emotional...
Yesterday, we headed for the Moreton plantation...
We are expecting an influx of tourists from this weekend (which we usually welcome as it's positive for local business), and in order to avoid people, we always go inland where we can carry on enjoying the countryside without the crowds... Something even more important in those times of pandemic!
Today, our daily walk was a quick one "up the road" (literally in our case) at Portland Bill...
I am happy to report that there was barely anyone even though the government has now allowed people to go to beauty spots... Maybe it lasts!
Tomorrow, we head to the woods... I have to admit I am happy to now be able to go back to mainland Dorset and explore once more...
There has been numerous reports of creative people being unable to actually CREATE.
I am one of them: unable to settle and to concentrate, worrying about money, loved ones, the state of the world...
Since the lockdown began, my brain has been wrapped in cotton wool and I haven't been able to make a lot of progress on The Right Place (apart from a couple of hours a few weeks ago during which I wrote 700 words, go figure...). But before/since then: nada.
Then two days ago, at around one o'clock in the morning, an idea came to me which led to another and solved a few issues I was having with my narrative. I promptly jumped out of bed to write it down.
This morning, yet another idea came to me when I wasn't expected it, and I now have quite a few scenes to write... I consider this as being my "end of brain lockdown" and will therefore surf on that wave of brain activity and hopefully finally make REAL progress on the book...
Wish me luck...
Over the past few days, it has been dark and very wet down here in Dorset.
So for our daily exercise walk yesterday when the sun came out again, we decided to take the path along Portland Beach Road out of Portland to go and see what's happening on Chesil Bank, especially to have a look at the Little Terns project. Every year, the birds arrive in Dorset to breed, and a small group of volunteers (managed by the RSPB) keep watch day and night on the nests to keep predators away and give a chance to the fluff balls to fledge successfully.
The fences were not up yet yesterday, BUT we were rewarded by actually witnessing the arrival of the flock on Chesil Bank (they always arrive on... 1st May!). One minute there wasn't any, then all of a sudden, the sky was filled with chattering and bright, shiny little white birds... More and more came, and we stayed a while to admire those gorgeous little birds finally settle on the sun-drenched pebbles after such a harrowing journey from Africa.
We're going back next week with the binoculars - there are many other species of birds to observe there!
In normal time, The Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre - The Dorset Wildlife Trust is a great place to stop off along Portland Beach Road, with ample parking and the brilliant visitor centre (with a cafe!) - it is also a favourite spot for kite-surfers, windsurfers and tourists; at the moment, it does look a little bit forlorn as it is currently closed... :-(
And here's a video of feeding time in the Little Tern area of Chesil Bank!
I think therefore I write.
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