On this sparkling morning, someone delivering a washing machine to someone else has parked his lorry across the front of my car. ‘Excuse me’, I begin and the driver is so quick to move the offending vehicle that, in my inferred hurry, I have to speedily drive away pretending I can see where I’m going. I can’t: the car is frozen solid and the windscreen refuses to clear. It’s a bit parky.
Following a last minute change of plan, my friends and I are undertaking a six and a half miles circular walk from Wimborne St Giles ( the prettiest village in Dorset according to our information sheet) to Gussage All Saints and back. St Giles was a Greek hermit whose feast happens to fall on my birthday. Not much of a feast though as he was a vegan. I assume this village sign depicts him protecting the deer from a juvenile hunter.
Any adverse behaviour would warrant a spell in the stocks, the rotting remainder of which can be seen below this sunken well. It’s probably more relevant to look at the state of the surrounds which will give some indication of just how cold it is today. Despite two pairs of socks, my feet are frozen before we’ve even left the village.
On the other hand, looking upwards to this mistletoe dressed tree illustrates the sun-soaked clear blue skies that we are about to enjoy and the promise of a slight rise in temperature.
Tony wants to walk along the River Allen. Sadly, his desire is short lived as the water will soon disappear. However, what we see of it is beautiful. According to the instructions we’re following, this walk will take a little over two hours. Well, that may be the truth if one fails to stop and imbibe the countryside which is looking a little French on this frosty morning.
Here’s the rub. Just as we’ve left the river and are walking along a fairly boring lane, Sally cries ‘stop, stop’. Tony can’t hear as he’s lagging behind seeking water fowl so its left to we two to try and record the barn owl my eagle-eyed friend has spotted. Such a treat. ‘Might as well go home now’, she says . ‘We won’t better that’.
Well, maybe not in ornithological terms but just look at the sun-soaked countryside: the quiet river Allen wandering through the water meadows of Dorset, a sky-owning kestrel and a couple of swans minding their own business as we trek up the hill to Tenantry Down.
At the top of the hill, and seeing an open prospect ahead, I decide it’s time to take advantage of the facilities. You know that feeling you get that someone’s watching you, especially when it’s impossible to move speedily, well this is what was behind me. I don’t know what it is. A meerkat? I hurry out of the bush.
And there they are, studying the map, some way down the track at a point that made me glad we’d climbed the hill and I was back in the open. I decide against mentioning the meerkat.There’s another person in this sightline. You probably can’t see him and he was the only other person we met out here in the middle of nowhere but, trust me, he was there. I loved it up here: in truth, it’s not my favourite of all that the Dorset countryside has to offer but it was so quiet and peaceful and so vast with that huge blue sky that its a moment worth remembrance.
We amble up hill and down, around and about, past copses and woods that are fairly jammed with little songbirds, and eventually find ourselves in Gussage All Saints. Whoever wrote the directions for the walk estimates that the whole jaunt should take about two hours. Well, they must’ve gone at quite the pace without stopping to look at anything of the countryside. We’ve been out for two and a half hours and have only now reached the half way point. Who cares – it’s lunchtime and I’m christening my brand new bird covered flask that my daughter gave me for Christmas. It’s full of that childhood delight – Heinz tomato soup. Mmmm.
Under watchful eyes, we sit on a bench by the war memorial and eat our picnic. When were up on Tenantry Down, it seemed as if the day had warmed marginally even though we roamed vast open spaces with no cover. Down here, in the shelter of the village, it seems particularly cold once more. Perhaps the sun can’t get in. It’s not uncomfortable but we don’t hang about once we’ve fortified ourselves.
There’s a bit of a dodgy crossroads called Amen Corner as one leaves the village. It’s got one of those roadside safety mirrors which Sally cleverly utilises to get us a group photo. Good job there wasn’t any passing traffic – they would’ve found us bizarre. We’re also momentarily tempted by a wide variety of home-made jams and pickles for sale outside a house but quickly come to our senses on realising this will comprise more things to carry.
There’s still a stretch to go over open farmland and along tree-edged fields. There are also still flocks of birds including long-tailed tits, enjoying the glorious afternoon sunshine. Eventually though, we’re back in Wimborne St Giles where we stop on Bull Bridge to enjoy the calm of the water. Over by the church, things are not so peaceful as the inhabitants of the rookery are raucous. Perhaps they’re glad to see us back after nearly five hours.