Fjordhammer On Tour - Heaven's Gate & Shearwater


The ring and stone sculpture commissioned by the 7th Marquess of Bath

The Summit Of Cranborne Chase

Yet another tree stump throne
Heaven's Gate is a very peaceful place. An area of outstanding natural beauty with a dense wood that gives your lungs a break from the toxicity of town/city living. It is best described as oxygen soup, the air is so thick and fresh there. Not far from the famous Longleat and Centre Parks Wiltshire, Heaven's Gate is nicely tucked away in the woodland, giving it an undisturbed and mystical vibe. Heaven's Gate is part of a larger area of outstanding natural beauty called Cranborne Chase. Cranborne Chase overlaps areas of Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset and Somerset and is drenched in neolithic history. On these adventures I hope to visit many sites within the Chase, so far I have seen only two, the ancient Badbury Rings and Heaven's Gate. It is definitely a place that reminds you of scenes in The Lord Of The Rings and Game Of Thrones, with the bird's song echoing melodiously, but it can also have an eerie feeling because we as humans in the modern age aren't accustomed to that level of peaceful quiet. I'm definitely drawn to places like this, as this sanctuary of trees and flowers gives me the brief escape from modernity that I so crave on a daily basis. As for the sheer size of Cranborne Chase as a whole, it is truly remarkable and if there are more sites like this, I am raring and ready to go and visit them! 

The History

As Heaven's Gate itself has sparse historical information, bar the Longleat Estate, I will use this section to focus mainly on Cranborne Chase. Now the four county sprawling area has a fair bit of history, so to keep the post a relatively normal length, much like Glastonbury, I will pick out some key bits for you. 

A path through the woods
Cranborne Chase is a vast area, and has a long history of earthworks and archaeology from the Neolithic age onwards. Most of the wooded area would have been stripped back by the early farmers but as its agricultural use became exhausted the trees would have grown back fairly quickly. The area would remain densely wooded from the Middle Ages to World War II. The Chase (as I am now calling it) is home to many Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments. These include the henge monuments at Knowlton and to a number of remains of Iron Age settlements, the most notable being the hill fort at Badbury Rings (it's Roman name being Vindocladia). Much loved archeological programme Time Team also found a Roman villa. When the Saxon invasion of England was taking place, the Romano-British inhabitants kept the marauding invaders out of Dorset by building the defensive ditch of Bokerley Dyke, which ran across the Roman Road that runs across the downs from Dorchester to Old Sarum (the original site of Salisbury).

The downs are named after the village of Cranborne, which was founded by the Saxons, the "Chase" part comes from the hunts that took place on the downs which were usually frequented by royalty (including Kings John, Henry VIII and James I). There is a long procession of rich and powerful people that owned the Chase, too many to name here without making the post dull. The first owner was believed to be Brictric, who was a powerful Saxon thegn, with the majority of his English landholdings located in the West Country, and they are recorded in William The Conquerer's Domesday Book of 1086. Now the majority of the Chase is owned by estates like Kingston Lacy, near Wimborne Minster. 

The Adventure

We picked another glorious day of sunshine to visit this wonderful site. After a pretty full on week going across the counties of Wiltshire and Somerset, this day our was much more relaxed compared to Glastonbury and Avebury. We walked to the main beauty spot, which over looked the Longleat estate, as well as the countryside for miles around as the day was so clear and had very sparse clouds. I had found a quieter spot on a visit up there previously with my friend Lewis, away from the main viewpoint. There me and Sabrina made ourselves comfortable as we took in the view. We were situated near some bracken, and with Sabrina being the artist she is, started to sketch some of them, whilst I looked up the difference between our native Fern and the ones in New Zealand. The difference is that bracken has three "prongs" of growth whilst the NZ version only has two. Either way, the plant looks like it has been plucked straight out of the Jurassic era dinosaur books you used to read as a child. 

Admiring the view from the ring monument

When bracken leaves look like writing
After a period of time, we moved on from our spot to explore the woods and go for a little ramble. The woods themselves are made up of enormous, tall and straight trees, resembling the woodland that you see in the scenes of medieval movies. The shade was lovely, yet the sunlight still found its way through the canopy to illuminate various areas of the woods, which meant Sabrina could experiment with light and shadow photography. We were both in somewhat sombre moods, as this was Sabrina's last full day with me before returning home after such an incredible week together. Yet, we still had our thirst for exploration to satiate, so we strolled through the woods, and down the gravel path leading to the village of Newbury. The picturesque village is one where I can see myself living with my vast library of fantastic tomes and books. We have both expressed our desire to live in a cottage someday, and there was one in particular in Newbury that was perfect, unfortunately it wasn't for sale (not that we could afford it anyway!). 

Looking out over the Shire, feeling like Samwise Gamgee

From there we walked back through the woods, enjoying the sights and smells of the tress and flowers. Possibly the most mystical part of the woods were the various pockets of bluebells scattered on the woodland floor. They had grown in small groves in the shade of the trees, this gave them an incredibly ethereal quality, and as someone that has never lived near a bluebell wood, this was a beautiful sight for me. We walked back along the path to the car park, as this was the halfway point to our next location. Shearwater lake is a man made lake near Crockerton village, and is formed from a tributary of the River Wylye. To get there we took another woodland path, but this one opens out into rolling hills and it was like we had been transported to the hills of Austria. The winding path lead us to the picturesque lake of Shearwater, which seemed as though it was plucked straight from the pages of a Bavarian travel guide such was it's splendour. The glistening of the water was mystical and its banks were adorned with flowers of all kinds. We walked around the lake and found a charming tea room. Realising that we were actually quite hungry, we stopped there for a bowl of chips, ice cream and that all important cup of tea. Where we sat looked over the river through the trees. Knowing us, if we had an infinite supply of tea we would have sat there all afternoon and evening. Our walk back was a pacy one back up the winding path, as tiredness had started to sink in we had to keep each other motivated, even so, I think if we could of we would have lived in that woods quite easily. 

Bluebells in the trees

The Playlist

Where is the Lady of the Lake?
For the playlist I wanted to keep the magical and epic feel of the place. Whilst it is quiet I imagined countless Tolkien-esque battles through the woods, Saxon settlers and Viking ambushes. Heaven's Gate for me is plucked straight out of a medieval inspired film, with Shearwater giving me Arthurian vibes, imagining Excalibur rising from its depths in the hands of the fair Lady of the Lake. So, I've kept it very folk metal, from various parts of the world, as I saw shades of so many different countries and as I wore my Mjölnir I felt connected to an ancient world. In hindsight knowing the place's significance in the Neolithic age and its proximity to various henges it seemed very magical. I hope that the songs on this playlist conjure up the same fantastical stories in your imaginations as they did mine. 











A Trip To The Lakes & Woods

Thus concludes our trip to the peaceful yet imagination fuelling location that is Heaven's Gate and Shearwater. Woods and lakes have always held a significant place in my soul, and Heaven's Gate reminds me very much of the woodlands I explored whilst living in Germany as a child. Here two worlds collide for me as my spiritual peace is realised by my fantasy/historical fiction mind is sent racing as I see characters explore the trees and inhabit the quaint cottages of the nearby village. I look forward to more adventures within Cranborne Chase, as this hidden in plain sight gem of outstanding natural beauty has a lot more to show me. 

Heaven's Gate & Shearwater

View our Heaven's Gate & Shearwater gallery here!

The lake in all it's glory



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