Sunday, 27 June 2010

A Day in Durnovaria

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow don't be alarmed now, it's just a Spring-clean from the May Queen, Yes there are two tracks you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road your on! - Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin.

Well there was certainly a bustle in a hedgerow at Radipole yesterday afternoon, as Bowie and I raced down to investigate an unusual Orchid reported to us earlier by Paul Harris. Finding straight away the colony of Bee Orchids, partly strimmed down by the RSPB last year, it was some while before we were able to detect our 'target', but once we did WOW, what a specimen!

It is still not certain what it is, but this variety of 'Dark Morph' Bee Orchid is, as far as is known, only the second specimen found in Great Britain. Lorne (Bowie) Edwards, being something of an authority on the subject, is going to make further investigations and keep me informed of any findings. For now the reader will have to be content with a few photographs.

The nominate race of Bee Orchid, fairly common throughout Great Britain.

Detail of the same flower, note the 2 yellow dots, yellow bib and the white bordered blue extension.

The Dark Morph variety of Bee Orchid,

and flower detail lacking the pattern as described above.

Durnovaria is the Latin form of the Brythonic name for the Romans town Dorchester, both County and Market town of Dorset. Today I decided to take our overseas readers, and those here in England not familiar with the charms of Dorset, on a short tour of this very special place. Dorchester is thought to have started its existence as a Roman Garrison Fort, with the first habitation many, many years before centered on the Iron Age Hill Fort of Maiden Castle. As early as 1800 BC, the area was used for the production of crops with the so called 'castle' being built around 600BC. In about 450 BC it was extended to such a size that it became, and still remains the largest 'earth works' in Britain, with some authorities claiming the biggest in Europe? In the 1st Century AD the Romans arrived, and as has been asked so many times "what did they ever do for us"?

I started my wander at the western end of the town, at The Keep which some call Dorchester Castle. This has, in its time, served as a fortification, Army barracks and is today a Military Museum.

At Top O' Town I took this shot down High West Street, once the main east / west arterial road from London to the West Country, and now the heart of the town, before moving on to view

this beautiful monument to both the town's and the counties 'favourite son' Thomas Hardy. Born in 1840 at Higher Bockhampton, a picturesque and tiny village, to the east of the town, he died some 88 years later at Max Gate at the edge of Dorchester. Both houses remain a Mecca to many thousands of Hardy lovers each year.

The Parish Church of St Peter's lies on the main street, while behind

are the Chapter House, associate cottages and another church now in ruins.

In St Peter's church yard is another monument to a 'former father' of the county, William Barnes (1801 - 1886) poet, writer, minister and philologist.

Directly opposite is what could also be described as a monument, but to a man far less humane than the previous 2 mentioned. George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, (1645 - 1689) also known as the the 'Hanging Judge', was Lord Chancellor and Lord High Steward to King James II. He presided over what became known as the "Bloody Assizes" in the autumn of 1685, at which harsh sentences were handed out to the Duke of Monmouth's followers after the Monmouth Rebellion. Nearly 200 people were hanged, and more than 800 transported to the colonies as indentured laborers. Jeffreys held the assizes in the Great Hall of Taunton Castle, current home of the Somerset County Museum. The building, now the Judge Jeffreys Restaurant, was his lodgings during the months he sat at the court.

Jeffreys, the 'Hanging Judge'.

Dorset County Museum. containing among other artifacts, Thomas Hardy's study as it stood at Max Gate.

The Corn Exchange

The Town (water) Pump, the central point of the town.

A typical Dorchester street scene.

Part of the River Frome system in the town.

With some of these images, especially this across a cow dotted water meadow, it is difficult to believe that none were taken more than 50 yards from the town itself.

Grey's Bridge (across the River Frome) is the eastern gateway to the town, and if you think you might like to damage it,


High Street, Fordington which is now an adjoined part of the town.

The village church, indicating just how wealthy and prosperous these ancient hamlets must have been.

And next door the Vicarage, once the home of my first love Sue Lloyd. Namesake of the actress and model of the time (1962) she was no less effervescent and beautiful. The architypal 'hippie', even before they were invented, Sue and I enbarked on many early musical forays, enjoying the likes of (a very young) John Mayall, Alexis Korner, Howlin' Wolf and BB King.

Here is a view of that quaint and probably quintessential English pastime, the Car Boot Sale. Members of the public turn up in their cars at the Dorchester market site (and elsewhere), usually a venue for the sale of anything from a carrot to a hacksaw, to sell their unwanted items contained in the boot (trunk as the Americans would say).

Onward to Maumbury Rings a late neolithic Henge, dating from c2500 BC. The earthworks was used by the Romans as an amphitheater and is occasionally use today for Rock, or other types, of musical concerts.

Given an age of over 4500 years wouldn't you think today's toerags would at least leave it clean and tidy? On my visit, there were dozens of items of littler, while an empty rubbish bin sat redundant less than 20 feet away!

By clicking on the photograph then clicking on it again, the magnified image should be readable.

On the way home, I was blessed by meeting not one but two young and quite separate Asian gentlemen followed by some interesting conversation. The first was from Sri Lanka and given that both may visit this site, the following photographs are dedicated to them and their families and friends. Good to meet you both.

For Sri Lanka, where I visited just one year after the tsunami.

Sigiriya Rock, a bit of a climb but what a view.

After the giant wave, helping? local fishermen.

Waterside scene.

The other chap was from India, so a couple of shots from my visit there.

A male Indian Peafowl.

Indian 'Mugger' Crocodile.

Indian Roller


  1. Bagsy,
    The orchid is the atrofuscus variety which was first discovered at Radipole a few years ago (2006 is ringing bells?) but It's before my time here in Dorset. The first was out a few weeks ago roughly 8 foot away from the really nice one thats out now. I am fairly sure that it was the first dorset record of this variety and it was first discovered in the UK as recent as 2001 in sussex. Hope this is of use and it certainly is a great specimen!



  2. Hi Luke
    Thanks for taking the time to post this comment which is of much use! Only discovered / realised it was you who found it, so many congratulations for that, a pint awaits next time I see you in the Boot (or elsewhere) for that matter. Thank You again.
    Yours aye

  3. Must point out it wasn't me who found it, our volunteer botonist found it and originally discovered it. So credit where credit is due. I'll still take the pint though!