Monday, 10 February 2014

The Dorset Stones and Geology Tour: preparing for Inside Out Festival

Day three of my research around Portesham and Littlebredy got me on the bike again and up into the village. I had been reading the book 'Ancient Stones of Dorset' and thought it time to see how the reality compares to the page.

The centre of the village is hard to quite pin down but this shelter is one candidate for it and, next to it, to my surprise, is a stone that was listed in the book. This, apparently, is a 'mark stone' on a ley line that passes through the village church and onwards to tumuli and more stones. The theories in the book get, step by step, more and more out there, and even though I didn't get fully immersed into the Earth Mysteries section that explains site memory and how these stones will save the planet, I feel I am already in over my neck. The thing with the book is, it was composed from having done field work but then written from the point of view of one sitting down in a quiet place surrounded by maps. This meant that it is not wholly suited to being used in the field. I had the impression that it would be a lot more fun to have the author show me around and explain site memory, ley lines and the meaning of the stones rather than piecing it together between the pages. I might just write to him and see if this is possible.

I wanted to stay more focussed on the village and since that is the only verified ancient stone, I shifted my attention onto other phenomena. The water of the lake here is a significant feature of the place and I followed the course of it to see where it ran. I was basically interested in ways to use features of the place to navigate around the village.

After following the water course it was time to move onto power lines which create their own web. What is nice about them is that they cut across the built and natural environment in a different way to that of roads, paths or water course. The power lines sometimes cross diagonally over roads and weave their way between the houses which means that in following them you see the village from a quite different perspective.

Most of the tours I've discovered so far don't take place in Littlebredy. The village is a quiet place that few visit and I will have to talk about the area more generally and not just the village itself. In order to do this it can be useful to have objects and sites within the village which relate to locations outside of it. The roads are an obvious example, this now disused public telephone box another. 

This is the sign for the cycle route or should I say routes as the new Tour de Manche piggybacks onto the National Route 2 around here. I followed the route out through the far side of the village and into the countryside before turning around, getting up a pace and trying to experience Littlebredy in the way someone doing one of these long distance cycle routes might. As there are no shops, no pubs and nothing very curious to immediately draw the eye, the way I encountered the village was to simply cycle straight through it without stopping. The most memorable thing about the village, from the cyclist's point of view, is the hill you have to climb leaving it heading up towards Hardy Monument. In the cyclist discussion forum there is some debate over the newly opened (2013) Tour de Manche and the main topics  are whether to camp or stay at B&Bs, annoyance that some parts of the route have not yet been signposted despite the route having been officially opened, and how to reduce the weight of your gear. This last point resonated with me as I slogged my way up to the top of the hill.  

I then took a Geology walk from a guidebook written by professional Dorset Geologists which took me to this quarry. There was a detailed description of the rock formation that went quite above me, or maybe I should say, below me. In any case, it was rather esoteric.

There was the 'compare the picture' or in this case illustration with the reality trick and there is something quite satisfying about this that I cannot quite explain. It might be the connection between the past and present is made graphically clear or it might just be the feeling of completing a small visual task.

The geology tour took me back to the UFO junction of yesterday and once again there was a complicated description that you needed to be somewhat close to already for it to make much sense. Like the ancient stones, this tour would have been better with a live guide as the guide would have had to communicate in a way that the people following the tour could understand. I remember, for example, my Geography A level field trip to the Yorkshire Dales and while there were limestone pavements and all that, it was intelligible as our teacher knew only too well our not so advanced level. I remember that trip well also because we went to the Red Lion in Settle every night, but that's another story.

The one thing I will say in defence of the Geology Tour is that of all the tours I've taken so far around here, it has been the one that has taken me to the nicest places. Later in the evening I went to the pub here in Portesham and hung out with the locals and staff. They were a friendly bunch of people from a surprisingly wide spread of places: there was born and bred Portesham, South London, Romanian and Portuguese all siting a the bar getting on with it. I'm now done for this trip down to South Devon but will be returning in the Summer to prepare a tour of Littlebredy that will take place mid-September. I'll be happy to see more of this place and when it is a bit warmer and drier I suspect it will be easier to both spend time outside and get talking to people in the village. Right now it is somewhat in shut down mode but it will, I hope, like the nature surrounding it, blossom.

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