Early Autumn at Anvil Point

The view from the top of Durlston Castle

A book that I was given on leaving Belfast a year ago is Portrait of Dorset by Ralph Wightman. The author died almost fifty years ago and had been well-known as a broadcaster with the BBC from the late 1930s and as a writer on the countryside. Reading his descriptions of the area in which we now live before we arrived is rather different from reading them now. He makes the point that:

“Much of the coast can only be explored on foot or farm track. It is all wild and unspoilt from Winspit, past the curious little break at Dancing Ledge, to Anvil Point. Here we are on the outskirts of Swanage, with formal paths to some rather unusual beauty spots, all sign posted in a rather unusual way. Between pointers to Tilly Whim Caves, the Lighthouse and the Great Globe, are texts and scriptural exhortations, the work of a Victorian eccentric who helped make modern Swanage.”

Maybe some have gone, but there are still words carved in the stone walls, across and round the Great Globe, directions to places beyond the horizon, lines of poetry, measurements, thoughts and comparisons of time and distance, tides and angles of sight. Walking this area last Saturday in search of blackberries we dropped down from Durlston at the point overlooking the lighthouse and above the caves that one must descend to go around the headland of Anvil Point and where the swallows gather in great numbers at this time of the year before flying out to sea.

We turned inland at this point towards the hedgerows, thick with brambles and sloes, down amongst the hummocks of the Townsend Nature Reserve. As we went the blue butterflies - Adonis, Common and Small - rose from the dry slopes up which we climbed to the upper path and beyond. The chattering of the swallows faded and a hidden twittering in the bushes, of, I am not sure what, replaced them, as the wind died and the September sun felt warm and comforting on our backs.

John Mann