Posts Tagged ‘Dorset’

Mallard at Hengistbury

January 14, 2014

It is some time since I have visited anything to do with railways, although Christmas presents, given and received, concern visits to steam railways so I have things to look forward to. But for now, I have had to make do with the best I can find. And recently, on a glorious visit to the Dorset Coast, I did come across a train, albeit not a railway train and not steam hauled. The train in question was the land train that runs from the Hengistbury Head car park and out along the Mudeford spit. It’s not a train I’d use normally, for we are able to walk, but it is an interesting train with a mixed rake of vehicles behind the engine to include open and closed passenger carriages and a goods truck. I enjoy seeing it. This January, I just took a photo of the loco.


As we can see, I was taking this shot into the sun, but I can be amused at the choice of name of this vehicle – Mallard. I have no idea what vehicle this loco is based on, but it has coachwork to make it look a bit like a steam loco, which it is not. But the name is borrowed from the fastest steam engine ever. That was one of Nigel Gresley’s class of streamlined pacifics, built for service between Kings Cross, Newcastle and Edinburgh – the one called Mallard.

This rather cute little train doesn’t look a bit like its namesake.

But it is cute – the whole train looks cute too. This photo, with more open carriages, was taken in January 2013.


As you can see, you get a nice ride on the train and I have used it, when we went there with an elderly aunt. But walking gives us the chance to stop and enjoy the bird life in Christchurch Harbour.

Mudeford Spit

December 1, 2013

I don’t know the proper name for the spit of land that reaches north from Hengistbury Head near Christchurch. I call it the Mudeford Spit, yet if you wanted to walk to Mudeford you’d have a long, long walk right round Christchurch Harbour.

Christchurch Harbour is a natural (ish) inland flooded area. The Hampshire River Avon flows down from Salisbury and out to the open sea via Christchurch Harbour. It is not a harbour in the sense of big ships.

The spit, about half a kilometre long, almost closes the harbour off from the sea, but a narrow exit for the river remains and separates the spit from Mudeford. This spit, facing the sea one way and the more peaceful waters of the harbour the other way, is the venue for beach huts.

Now by all the way I was brought up I should despise and dislike this spit. These beach huts are expensive items at about £100000 pounds to purchase. They are clearly the playthings of the rich. And the owners gather en masse. Not for them the quiet and introverted life of the marine biologist. This is a place for parties and fun. I should dislike it, but I don’t. I find it a fascinating place. Well actually, there is wild life a plenty to see but of course it is also a good place for people watching as well.


This is a February 2012 view from the slope up to Hengistbury Head. Christchurch Harbour is on the left and a bit of sea can be seen on the right. The spit reaches out ahead of us with its lines of beach huts. Beach huts give people the chance to use jolly paints. A seaside blue often dominates.


And why not have a punning name on the hut.


But in amongst the huts there is a wealth of wildlife – some of it well accustomed to humans and more than willing to beg for a share of the picnic food.


Yes, a starling and aren’t they just beautiful. That was in November 2008.


Of course, there are all sorts of gulls – here’s a line up on the harbour side.


Nearby there were oystercatchers.


There’s nothing uncommon there – but that doesn’t matter hugely to me. Wildlife that I see as beautiful is beautiful whether it is common or not.

But the views are wonderful too – particularly if you climb up onto Hengistbury Head. Footpaths and stairways make this easy.


Across the water there is the western end of the Isle of Wight.


Yes, there are ‘The Needles’ and the funny squat light house. The coloured sands of Alum Bay are in the shade.

It’s probably time for another visit to that area.

The Train Arriving at Platform 2 ….

August 18, 2013

Perhaps this continues my theme of railways being as valid a branch of knowledge as any other. It seems I am not alone in my thoughts. It also continues from Punch and Judy for the location is Swanage and the photos date from 6th August 2013.

Now I’m a happy nerd – and you’d expect me to want to see a steam train. But on this occasion I had a rather distant view and was able to take in lots of other people recording the train arriving at platform number two.

I could depart from theme here and say that as a train spotter at Gatwick Airport station, the train at platform two was always (in impeccable recorded English) ‘for London, Victoria calling at Redhill and East Croydon. Change at east Croydon for London Bridge’. This was then repeated in impeccable recorded French.

But here we were at Swanage and the train arriving was a steam train.


Let’s do the nerdy bit first. The loco is a former Great Western Railway tank engine dating from 1928. After a lifetime of working Birmingham suburban trains and then South Wales coal trains she was withdrawn from service in 1964 and sent to Dai Woodham’s yard in Barry, Wales, for scrapping. Instead, she just waited, and fifteen years later she was bought for restoration and now she has a home on the Swanage Railway and she looks utterly splendid.

Now concentrate on the people. There’s a goodly crowd watching the arrival at the traditional platform end haunt of the train spotter. Now the tall chap on the right in shorts and sunhat just could be a bit of a nerd. He’s got pole position to get his photo. The others all obviously want to witness the arrival but certainly don’t look like your typical train spotter.

Platform two was lined with people so as the train moved down to the terminus, we can see more people watching with interest.


And once again most people look to be enjoying the arrival of the old engine.

It’s a lovely loco, a terrific train and a really good railway. Give it a visit and enjoy a bit of living history.

Punch and Judy (2)

August 17, 2013

Just a week ago I wrote about Punch and Judy at Swanage. On a lovely August day, my wife and I joined the throngs at Swanage this year and I am pleased to say there is still a Punch and Judy show and it still attracts the kids.

It looks as though, back in 1982, you were asked to pay 15p to watch. In 2013 – more than thirty years later, it is a pound which, really, is not a bad price.

Here we see a little of the show as put on this year.


‘A show will start soon. Please come and grab the best places’, was the message coming from the booth. And indeed, the people did come and crowd around. I counted at least 90 paying customers but it could well have been more for just this one show.


There’s Punch and Judy, arguing as ever.


Mr Punch is holding forth as ever.

Long may they continue to make kids laugh, yet terrify them at the same time.

At Harman’s Cross

August 3, 2013

Swanage is a lovely seaside town in Dorset. In its infinite wisdom, British Railways  and our oh so thoughtful government decided to close the branch railway which runs down the Isle of Purbeck with effect from January 1972. There had been much argument and many delays in managing to close the line.

Despite the rapid formation of the Swanage Railway Society – who hoped to be able to run service trains throughout the year, subsidised by steam trains in the summer, the rails were ripped up. When, at last, railway services did restart, in 1979, it was for very short distances in and out of Swanage station.

In 1988 the line was extended to a brand new station called Harman’s Cross – near a crossroads of that name. A lovely wayside station was built there and, although the line is now much longer, the station remains and is a crossing point for trains.


Here’s a view of the station from a nearby road bridge. A Swanage bound train, headed by an old London and South Western Railway M7 class tank waits at the platform. It is a timeless scene although in fact the station dates from 1988 and the photo was taken in 2004.


The train departs and everything about it is perfect. It could have been from my train spotting days in 1960.  The M7 is in British Railways condition and she has a rake of coaches in Southern Region green. Yes, it really is perfection.

Now the opposite view as the train returns.


In building Harman’s Cross, all the right things were done to give it the real ambience of a local station.


The signs and signals are just as they should be, and would have been in days of yore.


There’s our lovely little M7 tank waiting whilst the down train is arriving. That’s in charge of a big engine – a rebuilt West Country class loco. Sadly – it is a problem on heritage lines – she has to run tender first.  Turntables are hugely expensive structures and most heritage lines don’t have them. But never mind. On its return from Swanage the engine will be right way round.

Here’s the platform shelter at Harman’s Cross.


It really is delightful although fifty years ago the dustbins would never have had black bin liners.

And here comes that big West Country class loco.


It’s heading away from Swanage and will terminate at Norden which is near Corfe Castle. The railway operates Norden as a park and ride station. And with the superb situation of Swanage station, it’s an ideal way to arrive at the seaside town.

A crane near Portland Bill

January 13, 2013

Some places have harbours and quays where boats can arrive and moor. Others use tractors, winches or plain human power to haul boats in and out of the sea and on to the beach. If there are cliffs, then a hoist of some kind must be used.

At Portand Bill, near Weymouth, that’s what is used.  Portland Bill is incredibly nearly an island so not surprisingly, the block of land is known as the Isle of Portland. It is joined to the Weymouth area by a road bridge and once there was also a railway link. But the natural physical connection to the rest of Britain is via the long shingle spit known as Chesil Beach


The crane, originally, was for lowering blocks of Portland limestone into boats waiting below. Quarrying ended in the early 20th century, but the crane still served to raise and lower small boats, with crew into the water or out of it. My picture was taken in 1972 using my Canon demi half frame camera producing a colour slide of 24 by 18 mm on Agfa film.

Apparently, not so long afterwards the crane was vandalised and replaced by a less attractive but equally functional metal girder crane

Goose Barnacles

January 6, 2013

A few days ago my wife and I were walking along the beach under the cliffs at Hengistbury Head near Bournemouth. It was a beautiful sunny day – in fact a fine way to welcome in 2013. From quite some distance our eyes were drawn to a piece of sea carried debris on the littoral zone. It bobbed up and down a bit as larger waves tried to wash it further up the beach. We wondered what on earth it could be.

It proved to be, when we got there, a piece of sponge foam – probably rather a nasty piece of stuff to have floating in the sea. At least, that was what we thought. It was man made and surely was not going to do sea creatures any good. But it didn’t take much examination to discover a big cluster of amazing shelled creatures. They were beautiful and we had no idea what they were. Another pair of people joined us. They, too, thought they were beautiful, but had no idea as to just what they were.

‘We’ll have to look them up when we get home’, we decided. But first, some pictures.


That’s the beach and cliffs at Hengistbury Head. You can see Bournemouth in the background and our co- interested folk studying the piece of sponge foam.


I was going to say that there was a cluster of clams. I thought they might be clams, but I was wrong. So it’s a cluster of critters!


And there’s just a few of them, firmly embedded into the foam by their rather worm like ‘foot’.

They are goose or gooseneck barnacles. I’ve borrowed a short paragraph from the BBC nature site at

Goose barnacles are odd-looking crustaceans usually found in quite deep water. Occasionally they can be found on debris that has become dislodged from the sea bed and washed up on the shore. They are found in oceans the world over, except in Arctic regions.

Although I am quoting from a web site, actually, a book proved much more useful in the initial identification. Using the power of the web can be very hard when you have no idea at all what you are looking for.

As a former goose keeper, I can see where the name of these comes from. There is something goose-like about the shape. Apparently our forebears thought they were some kind of larval stage in the life of geese! That would have been the barnacle goose, of course.

I had always thought that barnacles were rather dull looking little things that clung to rocks – a kind of small version of the limpet. I was not aware of this wonderful creature – the goose barnacle.