The pedalling photographer

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Cycling back in time

Whilst recently cycling along part of the National Cycle Network route NCN25 from Wimborne to Blandford in Dorset, we spotted a sign pointing to an historic church that we’d not noticed before. Always keen to explore local history, we turned into the little track leading to the Church of St Mary, Tarrant Crawford. These days, Tarrant Crawford is a tiny place consisting of just a church, a farm and a house. It seems that this is all that remains of the original Tarrant Crawford and it is set in an utterly unspoilt pastoral landscape.

The track follows the tiny river Tarrant and you cross over a little bridge to reach the church. I don’t think the church is used much these days, having a Sunday service just once a month throughout the summer. Fortunately, the church is now looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust, so is fairly well preserved. It is an attractive little church near the site of an old abbey. The east wall is probably 12th century, but the rest is mainly late 13th century.

On entering the church, one is surprised to see striking wooden rafters of an early 16th century wagon roof and impressive ancient mural paintings on the main church walls (in the nave). The murals had obviously been plastered over at some stage in the past but have now been uncovered. Easily seen are the paintings illustrating the mortality of the three living and the three dead: three kings or princes come upon three skeletons who warn them of the emptiness of earthly rank and riches. Nothing much changes over time, then!!

I revisited the site some time later to take some photographs in HDR (high dynamic range), the results of which can be seen below.


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Memories

Have you ever been walking along and caught a familiar smell that immediately transports you back in time? Well, this happened  to me the other day whilst out walking. I had decided to take a shortcut through an area of heathland in Dorset which I was very familiar with but hadn’t been to for many years.

I had spent a lot of time here as a young boy growing up. Memories came flooding back thick and fast. It was here that I first used to ride my bike along the dirt tracks and it was here that I first fell in love with cycling and the great outdoors.

I think it was my Tom Sawyer days, where I built rafts and tried to float them (but not always successfully!) on one of the ponds. Some days, my young sister would come with me and we would build camps and hideouts. We would also catch newts and water boatmen on one of the ponds, with fishing nets made out of Mum’s old stockings  which were attached to an old garden bamboo cane. Anything we caught was put into an old jam jar. I don’t think you’d  be allowed to do that now as I think the Palmate Newt is protected? This  whole area  now comes under the Herpetological Conservation Trust. Most of the heathland is of the dry type, dominated by Ling Calluna vulgaris and Bell Heather Erica cinerea. In addition to gorse scrub, there is habitat diversity provided by stands of Scots Pine and Birch. Many of the very rare animals confined to these lowland heaths can be found here, like the Sand Lizard, Smooth Snake, Heath Grasshopper and Dartford Warbler. and of course, my old friend the Adder.

The heathlands had three ponds, two small and one large. It was on the bank of the large pond early one sunny morning that I saw my first venomous snake – it was warming its body in the morning sun. I knew what it was by the dark zigzag line along its back… it was an adder, the only venomous snake we have in the UK. Although  poisonous, its venom rarely kills anyone.

Fortunately, my childhood memories have been preserved for the moment because the heathland area has been awarded the status of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

I do hope this area continues to be preserved, so that in the  future more children will learn to appreciate and enjoy the diversity of plants and animals that these small pockets of heathland can bring.