Return to Dorset

The streamside pathway in Dorchester

Dear Readers, as you might remember my Mum and Dad’s ashes are buried in the churchyard of St Andrew’s church in Milborne St Andrew, a small village just outside Dorchester. So, three or four times a year I go to visit them, to tidy up the grave and to tell them what’s been going on. It might seem silly, but it gives me comfort to bring them up to speed with the news, and to let them know that they’re not forgotten.

First, though, I spend the afternoon and evening at Westwood House, a guest house in Dorchester. It was recently taken over by a new couple, Jocelyn and Karl, but the welcome, the breakfast, the rooms and the hospitality are just as good as ever. Plus, there was a new little visitor in the room.

This little cricket/grasshopper was a very determined critter. Before I went out for a walk, I managed to catch him/her, and put them outside on the balcony.

“There”, I thought, “That’s that”. But when I got back after a trot along by the stream (of which more later) there s/he was again. I caught them and put them out for a second time.

And then today, there they were again. Clearly I needed to translocate them to some better environment. But how? I used the wooden carved box that was in the toilet, but the cricket got out of the carved holes at the top and sat there grinning. Then it jumped onto the floor. Eventually I caught it in yet another box, and this time I managed to find a nice grassy area on a tiny alleyway where there was hopefully lots to eat and plenty of other little crickets to play with.

If it turns up again tonight I will be completely freaked out.

Anyhow, off I went for my usual walk, down to the stream and past the allotments and the little nature reserve. I spent a lot of time watching for fish: there were lots about (as two anglers would seem to indicate) but I couldn’t quite catch them in a photo. Here, to get you in the mood, is some water weed though. I always find it very relaxing to watch.

And just look at this. This is a male Banded Demoiselle, the only UK damselfly with a parti-coloured wing. They are found in lush vegetation alongside rivers and streams, and the females (who are metallic green or bronze, with a white spot on their wings) lay their eggs by injecting them into the stems of fleshy plants. What beautiful insects they are, especially earlier in the year where the males display by fluttering those black and blue wings.

The allotments are looking great too. Someone is obviously very keen on marigolds, which are excellent companion planting and good for pollinators too!

And someone has a fine crop of sunflowers too. If the heads are left, the goldfinches will have a feast later on.

And then it’s time for a little wander through the nature reserve. During the winter the boardwalk can be inundated with water from the local streams, but it’s much drier in the summer. You can almost guarantee that as you round the corner, someone will be sitting at the picnic table smoking ‘something or other’ but on one memorable occasion a few Christmases ago, it was two teenagers, one in a lion onesie and one dressed as a cow, both high as kites and giggling furiously. Well, I suppose it was the festive season.

The streamside pathway in Dorchester

This time it was just one guy with earphones looking pensively over the field, so I left him to it, and went on to admire the mass of Himalayan Balsam that has grown up in the past few months. What a pretty plant this is, and what a pain – it’s very clear that it’s taken over half the reserve, and will be taking over the whole thing if a way to contain it isn’t found.

Still, it was a fine walk, and it’s one of the reasons that I love Dorchester – unlike so many towns, it hasn’t been ruined by generic developments, and has managed to hold on to many of its historic buildings. It’s clear, however, that the pedestrianised High Street is travelling, with many shops shuttered. Marks and Spencer pulled out a few years ago, and with it went the underwear and socks of the people of Dorchester, not to mention the ready meals and the rhubarb yoghurts. Still, it looks as if the building might be turned into a spot for ‘mini shops’, for people who can’t afford the high local rents. What a great idea! I shall be interested to see how it plays out.

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