"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

DORSET - Day 7 - 3rd July : Dancing Ledge, Studland (briefly!!!), Durlston Country Park

Thursday was another lovely sunny, dry day - in fact by early afternoon it was too hot!!

First, an early morning walk straight from the cottage to "Dancing Ledge".

Family sprinting into the distance yet again :(

There were several Commas to be seen on this walk and B nearly stepped on a basking lizard.

The clifftops featured in the 2008 BBC 2 adaptation of Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbevilles" (I am currently re-reading this book for about the 100th time having been inspired by the heathland at Arne!!). The sequence where Angel Clare first meets Tess when she is dancing and chooses another girl as a dancing partner was, I believe filmed here.

Dancing Ledge is Limestone and is a reminder of the quarrying industry in the area. It gets its name because the stone cut from here was the same size of as a ballroom dancing floor.

This swimming pool was constructed in the rocks on the instructions of a Thomas Pellatt who had established a Preparatory School for boys nearby in the late nineteenth century. It was felt that it would be safer for the children to swim in this pool rather than the sea - health and safety even existed in those days!!!

Does anyone remember the Enid Blyton "Malory Towers" school series? It is thought that Enid was referring to this particular pool when she described in "The First Term at Malory Towers" how Darrell enjoyed swimming in a pool down by the sea which had been hollowed out of a stretch of rocks.

We then set off for Studland - in my naivety I thought Studland would be a nice little village by the sea with shops and items of interest for B, D and E to look round while I paid the nearby nature reserve a visit - probably my last chance to catch up with Dartford Warbler and Adder! Well, yes Studland is a pretty little village but we couldn't see any shops and there wasn't really anything the family could do. It was already getting hot and they weren't prepared to walk round "yet another nature reserve" or along the beach. The beach here which is very long was very busy!!! Here's a distant view of the famous Old Harry Rocks

B did at least drive along the road to Sandbanks which passes through the centre of various reserves so I did have a brief view of the habitat (and what I had missed!).

We hadn't made any other plans for the day and D suggested Durlston Country Park (luckily he didn't mention or didn't realise that it was also a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest!!)

Look what I spotted in the car park - I want one!!! and B was in raptures.

Durlston Country Park is just lovely and I do wish we had discovered it earlier. There are four different trails you can follow - Woodland, Cliff, Wildlife and Victorian. We walked along hedgerows through a meadow.


We then made our way to the Visitor Centre at Durlston Castle which has stunning views, interactive displays, exhibitions, cafe and shop etc.

What a shame we were leaving on the morning of Friday, 4th July - I would have loved to go to this Moth Night - see photo below. The biodiversity at this site is incredible - 500 macro moths and 350 micro moths have been recorded - the headland is on a migration flyway and contains many larval food plants. Over 4000 wildlife species have been recorded including 578+ species of flowering plant (its one of the best sites for wildflowers in the British Isles) and over 270 species of bird. 35 species of butterfly are regularly recorded.

Habitats on the 300 acre site include limestone hay meadows, coastal downland, hedgerows, woodlands and cliffs. It is owned and managed by Dorset County Council and was made a country park in 1973.

By the visitor centre there is an interesting walk through a geological timeline

which includes some beautiful poems.

The Victorian Castle has been totally refurbished as the Visitor Centre.

The views are stunning - Old Harry Rocks are in the distance.

The rocks below Durlston include sea cliffs of Jurassic Portland stone and calcareous Purbeck beds. Looking north-east from Durlston Head you can see a view across geological time. The rocks of Durlston Bay, Swanage Bay and the chalk ridge record 80 million years of history through the whole Cretaceous period in the space of just a few miles.

At the rear of the Visitor Centre was the most beautiful wildflower meadow.

Finally, one of my favourite plants - horsetails. Horsetails were one of the most important plant groups in the Palaeozoic Era (541 - 252 million years ago). Fossils are found in Carboniferous coal measures - some trees reached 30 metres during this time. Today the group is almost extinct and just one genus survives.


Bovey Belle said...

How well I remember Durlston (and what a great place to pick sloes in the autumn too). The wild flowers are absolutely amazing and we used to see a marvellous array of butterflies when I lived in Dorset (nearly 30 years ago now). A whole host of Clouded Yellows flew across the Channel one year - we could see them in the distance, getting closer and closer - and then we were amongst them. Absolutely amazing. The Purbecks are one of the best areas for Blues (as in butterflies) in the country I should think. I shall come back to these wild flower meadow pictures again.

Bovey Belle said...

Oh, and P.S. When on a walk on the Gower recently (limestone) I looked down, and there at my feet was a piece of FOSSILIZED Horsetail! Amazing. Blew my socks off almost! Millions and millions of years encapsulated in one small piece of stone . . .

Ragged Robin said...

Bovey Belle - Thanks so much. I do hope we return to the area soon because Durlston was just brilliant. You are so right re: butterflies - there were loads everywhere. The Clouded Yellow experience must have been absolutely amazing - I can just picture it :) The wildflowers were just so lovely. In fact I just sat there looking at them while the rest of the family walked down to the lighthouse!!

Well done on the fossilised Horsetail - what a brilliant find. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you pick up a fossil and realise you are the first living thing to have seen it for millions and millions of years.

I have some rather beautiful amber pieces (bought not found!!) which contain lots of insects - a miniature world and one moment frozen in time. I never tire at looking at them :)

Countryside Tales said...

What an interesting post. I have been to Studland (saw a Tiger Heath beetle there) but not to Durlston, which is now on my list :-) Love the time line and those views are stunning. I'm curious- did you all swim in the pool cut from the rock? :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thank you. Yes I remember your trip to Studland. Durlston is well worth a visit :)

No we didn't go swimming - didn't realise the pool was there until we arrived :( Will be better prepared if we return :)

Chris Rohrer said...

I also really like the horsetails! What a cool looking plant. I imagine the breeze blowing through them and relaxing. Wildflowers along with ocean views and a little history....nothing wrong with that:) So you didn't get to stay for Mothnight. I had no idea there were such things! Maybe that's something you can plan on doing down the road. I know people who do these things and love it. While I've been invited, I don't like the idea of being covered with them while the researchers are id'ing and collecting:) Moths were meant to be eaten by birds:) The more moths; the more numerous the birds:) Although I do think moths are quite amazing. It's the other bugs I don't want landing on my body:)

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks so much Chris - yes I have seen horsetails with the wind blowing and that effect :)

Yes, I've been to Moth Nights locally especially when my son and daughter were little - they used (in those days!!) to love them. I think it was this that got me so interested in moths. Know what you mean about the other bugs. The last moth night I went to was on marshy ground and we ended up being absolutely covered in insect bites :( At the time I was wondering why one of the moth trappers was wearing full beekeeper protective head gear - the next day I understood!!!!