Brownsea Island and Dunstable Downs

Last weekend continued the theme of recent trips: visiting new places in England; I often think our home country is overlooked and endeavour not to do so myself. For years Sharon has been trying to get us to go down to Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour and this autumn we found a free day, got up early and made the first ferry to the tiny island.

The main attraction are these little creatures:

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The island is one of the last havens for red squirrels in England for them and previous sighting attempts Sharon and I have made in other areas (Cumbria and Kielder forest on the English/Scots border) have failed. Within minutes of stepping off the ferry we were however walking through a wood that was teeming with them.

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It was great to be able to see so many of them quite so close and watch the way they leapt from tree to tree or ate their berries or nuts. At one point we found a Perfect Climbing Tree, but we resisted temptation and let the squirrels enjoy it. The weather was glorious and views over the harbour, to Corfe castle and beyond would have been worth the trip alone, but certainly played second fiddle that day.

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Brownsea Island was also the location of the first ever scout camp which was a trigger for the worldwide Scouting and Guiding movement. There's still a part of the island that's set aside as a Scout campsite as well as tributes to Baden Powell:

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On Sunday we headed in the opposite direction and ended up on the Dunstable Downs and northern edge of the Chilterns AONB where we enjoyed the views and walked along the last little bit of the Ridgeway path to the Ivinghoe beacon. The Ridgeway National Trail ends there & we've walked the whole path south of our home but only little bits of it north of the Goring Gap, obviously we've got the path between the Ivinghoe Beacon and our village on the todo list.

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That part of the world is also home to Whipsnade Tree Cathedral - rows of trees planted in the shape of, and to inspire the serenity of, a medieval cathedral. It was very impressive, especially at the moment with the leaves turning, but did require a little bit of imagination (and an arial map) to see the Cathedral.

This photo shows part of the "cloisters walk":
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More photos are on my Flickr account.