Monday morning, the Dorset coast on the Isle of Purbeck. We walk from Worth Matravers down a narrow dusty lane white with dust between two hills striped with lynchetts. Round a corner we disturb an adder, basking in the hot sun. It loops its way back into the bracken, the stones under its belly shaking like tiny maraccas. It could have been 130 years ago on Hardy's Egdon Heath, and any minute expected the reddleman to appear round a corner with his cart stacked-up with blocks of red sheep dye. The lane ran deeper until suddenly opening out into a disused quarry, the empty quay just feet from a heaving blue tide. This is Winspit, where stone was taken from under the cliffs and shipped directly out by boat. The empty caverns are simply awesome, and frightening when we thought about the sheer weight above us. One entrance had an iron grille over it and a forlorn notice about horseshoe bats, and then I spotted an equally sinister growth of fungus on an elder branch fallen across the opening. I haven't identified it yet, expecting it to be called 'silk purses' or even better 'pig's ears'.
4 days ago