The Durlston Pleasure Grounds Project is one that is involving a great number of volunteers and has been proceeding for some weeks already, but Helen and I have only just taken the opportunity to look at what is being done with a brief visit this morning. Most impressive is the re-viewing of the fine stone bridge below the castle on the Swanage side that could hardly be seen in recent times because of the dense foliage that has grown up, but would have formed part of a circular carriage ride of the estate, but now leads to a picnic table and a fence screening an area that, due to land slips over the years, cannot be reconnected to the main driveway above - as once it had been.
We spoke to a mason repairing the parapet of the bridge on the sea side. The capstones, he showed us, have all been replaced on the land side wall (many having been loose and pushed off into the thicket below) either with similar stones or the originals have been retrieved from the undergrowth. That undergrowth has also now been cleared, so that the bridge can be seen from the track above as one approaches the castle from the coastal path.
Letting light into the woodland is part of what is being achieved through the overall project, to encourage woodland flowers, birds and butterflies. The felled trees that are being removed are being pulled off the site by two French horses, Fleur and Celine, from Dorset Horse Logging. These animals are familiar with this work, and can manage to haul the tree trunks effectively without difficulty in confined areas and over soft ground.
This Friday (12th April) from 11.00 a.m. until 3.00 p.m. activities are being laid on for those interested, as the official launch of the project takes place. There is to be willow-weaving and hurdle making; green woodworking and spoon-making, and opportunities to volunteer. It should be possible to meet the horses too.
Overall, the opening up of the vistas, and the controlling of the self-propagating, fast-growing and unplanned tree seedlings, is a bit of a shock to those who know the dense under layers and sheltering thickets that obscured so much, but we look forward to further developments and the exploration and renewal of old features and original stonework and plantings.