Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Stupid Is As Stupid Does


Okay, Saturday morning Nathalie has another one of the Ten Tors training walks, it's a fifteen mile schlep around Purbeck from Shell Bay up to Ballard Down across the fields and heathland towards Purbeck Golf Club and then back down via Studland beach to the Sandbanks Ferry. I give Nathalie and two of her friends a lift to the rendezvous point at Sandbanks and at nine o'clock set-off for five hours of walking and photography.

At about half past eleven I reach Handfast Point, this is where Old Harry Rocks (above) are. I set up my tripod and camera and take half a dozen photographs at different exposures and then decide to turn around and take photographs of another group of rocks known as The Pinnacles (see below).


I then decide to fold-up my tripod and walk up Ballard Down t take some more photographs looking down the hill and out across Shell Bay towards Poole and Bournemouth. I also, for some inexplicable reason, decide to look down. Big mistake. I've suffered from vertigo from about the age of ten when, on a visit to St.Paul's Cathedral, I found myself clinging to the walls of the Whispering Gallery. Now I know who are supposed to put your ear to the walls of the gallery to appreciate the acoustics that give it its name, I was clinging to it for fear of falling into the nave.

Anyway there I am, about two hundred feet or so above the English Channel unable to move, my legs have locked, I am Foinavon after the last fence at Aintree. I then realise two things, firstly I'm alone which is good because it means that providing a strong gust of wind doesn't blow me over I can stay in that position as long as possible but that it's bad if a strong wind does blow me over - nobody will hear me scream! I decide that I should carry on and fold up the tripod and put it back into its case, it's only when I am down at ground level that it occurs to me I can crawl along from the promontory onto more stable ground. So there I am crawling along the ground when I see two people approaching.

"Hi," the man says, "lovely day."
"Yes," I reply, struggling to regain my dignity and wiping at the dirt on my knees, "great weather."
"Fantastic views," the wife comments.
"Yes," I offer, I can now feel the stream of sweat flowing down between my butt cheeks, "but they don't do much for my vertigo."

The couple it turns out are from Chicago and we have a ten minute conversation about the area, the weather, what Nathalie is doing, my photographs, all the while I am slowly inching my way towards inland, hoping that they won't notice.

About an hour later and a mile or so up Ballard Down I meet the American couple again whilst I am taking a photograph of The Pinnacles from the western side (below). The wife walks on, they are staying in Swanage, the husband says, "I hope you don't mind me asking but I didn't know how to put this earlier." I'm rumbled I think, they noticed the fear, the sweat, the dirty trousers, they think I'm stealing seagull eggs, but it's okay he only wants to know more about the Duke of Edinburgh award and what I think the motivation is for the kids to do it. Phew! That was close.


13 comments:

The Great Gildersleeve said...

Great photo's Paul,
I know of Old Harry Rocks but never actually got to see them but sorry to hear of your experience...

Thanks for sharing them...

Wow! I've managed to post a comment without any errors :-)

Span Ows said...

Great to see on a sunny but clear (not glary) day. Nice pics...when I was reading baout you crawling along and the couple seeing you an image of the artist on the Fast show came to mind after he paints a nice scene then starts to go nuts when he says 'black'...

Paul said...

Thanks Gildy, I take loads of photographs (nearly 3,500 last year!) but have been reluctant to share them. Well done Gildy, nothing worse than posting something only to spot an error once you've hit the 'publish' button.

I know the one you mean Span. To be honest it was only because I re-watched Jonathan Meades crawling across Clifton Suspension Bridge the other week that I thought of it.

Les Paul Junior said...

There are some nice cliff top walks near where we live. Not as spectacular, having seen your pictures, as the ones near you but nice nevertheless.

The worst thing that ever happened to us whilst walking there was being terrified to death on one occassion when they decided to test the fog horn when we were only a couple of hundred yards away from it. We nearly jumped out of our skins, to put it politely!

Lucy said...

Nothing beats that place Shy, its got it all.
Why do I live in London!

Paul said...

Hey Lucy, good to see you around again - belated Happy New Year.

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