Castle In the Clouds - Jay Birmingham

Castle in the Clouds

Choosing where to go when we have time off work can be tricky. During the Easter holidays we had been deciding whether to go to Northumberland or Dorset. With it being spring, however, there was a possibility of mist, so we decided to try once again to achieve my bucket list shot of Corfe Castle in the mist. As you can see from the image above, I am glad to have made this decision, but there were also a number of other wonderful sites to explore.

We visited Winspit for sunrise – a steep walk down to a rocky cove on the Jurassic coast. The sun wasn’t in the optimal position (it’s better in autumn), but the colour shimmered across the water. As Easter was later this year, there were more bluebells around, so we visited two bluebell woods, although Pamphill was the only one that had bluebells.

That evening, we went to Portland for sunset. As we drove over, we saw lots of people jogging with walking poles – they were still going three hours later as we returned – we could see their headtorches bobbing like fireflies in the darkness. When we looked this up later, it turned out to be an 82 mile race, with 10,000 foot of ascent, and a 24 hour time limit. The Portland dusk was a lovely end to our day, but signalled to the runners that they had a tough night ahead.

The next morning, we went to Peveril Point in Swanage. This happened to be a checkpoint for the race, and we saw some of the runners, who looked rather tired! The sky was pastel, and inspired awe in us as we watched the colours change. The day was lovely, so we walked some of the South West costal path to scout a location for later in the week.

Monday morning saw a return to Peveril Point, which gave a brighter sunrise – despite arriving very early, I had to sprint to get there in time, as I was waiting in the car, whilst the sky looked very cloudy and unpromising! But then, the sky became very fiery and I had to run as fast as I could from the car to where the rocks are, bounding down the ledge. We also walked around Arne nature reserve, and visited Chapman’s Pool for a rather non-existent sunset! This is another steep ascent, so we at least burned off some of the calories after sampling the food at some of Dorset’s excellent eateries! Chapman’s Pool is a wonderful relic of times gone by, with fossils everywhere. As you walk, you really do feel history beneath your feet.

Kimmeridge was the sunset location, where the tide was in, so we couldn’t see all the jagged rocks in the evening light, but we went to the other side and I clambered across the rocks to be the ‘figure’ (I guess this is a ‘selfie’?). We returned to Kimmeridge twice for sunset (once by accident as the gate would be locked at our intended location, and we didn’t fancy a night sleeping in the car!), and went up onto the cliffs as well as on the shore.

Tuesday morning gave us a lie-in, as it was raining. However, the weather cheered up in the afternoon, so we visited St. Aldhelm’s Head for sunset – another gorgeous clifftop location. The chapel there is thought to have been built in the 13th century, although before it was a chapel it is thought it could have been a watchtower for Corfe Castle – looking for enemy approaches via the sea. We also went to Seacombe in the afternoon, which we had to ourselves. This is one of the great things about Dorset – there are so many places to visit, and some are a little harder than others to get to, so you can often be the only one at an incredible location.

On Wednesday, we again set the alarm for 4.20 and were absolutely delighted when we saw the mist. We drove with anticipation to Corfe Castle, and were over the moon as we climbed the hill opposite to find ourselves above the mist, which circled the castle like a moat. Before the sun rose, we could see lights under the mist, and it danced and swirled as the sun broke through it. This was truly a magical moment for me – I have been desperate to take this photo for about 2 years, and it makes up my entire photography bucket list. Dorset isn’t very close to my base in the midlands, and so I have put a bit of time and energy into this – my wife and I have been privileged to watch many sunrises together, and it is my favourite time – the promise of the day to come, and the remnants of the stillness of the night. However, getting up so early every day is hard work – and as the summer comes, it becomes harder – mornings like this make it all worth it. I was delighted with the conditions, and took two cameras and tripods up the hill to make sure I got a shot that I was happy with! There were several other photographers there, and we all quietly appreciated this moment – the stillness and calm before the day started. Moments like these are ones to treasure, and I think all who were there appreciated the beauty of the moment.

Buoyed by this delight, we then visited some nearby woodlands in the mist (Wareham Forest and Kingston Lacy)before it burned away and a beautiful day began.

We were rather tired, so thought we’d do another steep climb to blow the cobwebs away, so went down to Dancing Ledge. I spent a while photographing seaweed as the tide came in.

Tidal Textures

The following morning we visited a new location – Knoll Beach, at Studland. This is another location on the South West costal path, and is a sandy beach with dunes, and a view of the opulent Sandbanks. We then visited Old Harry, which is the most easterly point on the Jurassic Coast, and consists of several chalk formations. The cliffs that you can see Old Harry from are about 100ft, so you get a good view. It’s a very popular location, so there were lots of people enjoying the sunshine.

On our final morning, we set the early alarm one more time, and hiked across the cliffs in the dark to Mupe Bay. This is only open at certain times, as you have to cross an army firing range to get there. The stars twinkled above us as we approached, and there was quite a strong wind blowing. We set up our cameras on the cliffs, which are sheer and quite magnificent. There are rocks in the sea, which the waves crash against, and the sky turned a lovely shade of orange, as the sun announced another day in paradise.

  • Mupe Morning

Unfortunately for us, it was our last day in Dorset, so we hiked back past the Fossil Forset, and made our way back home. We did make one more stop, as we were virtually passing the ‘Dorset Barn’, and the field only has yellow crops every four years, so it would have been rude not to take a quick shot!

Dorset, as always, astounds with its beauty and magnificent diversity of scenery. Hills, castles, beaches, rocks – it has it all. After finally getting the misty castle shot, I think we may leave it a little while before returning and try and explore some other areas of the UK. However, we will undoubtedly be back – it is truly an English gem.

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