Today I am walking in a part of Dorset I have not previously explored and I am joined by my walking buddy Nigel. The Covid 19 restrictions mean this is the first time we have been able to walk together this year, so we have planned a lengthy walk to allow plenty of time for us to catch up.
The starting point for our walk is the Okeford Hill car park to the south of Okeford Fitzpaine (Grid Ref ST812093). We head out through the car park entrance and turn right beside the road for a short distance and then cross to take a footpath leading along a track which is part of the Wessex Ridgeway.
Reaching an area of woodland we fork right, leaving the Wessex Ridgeway to continue along the edge of the woodland with trees to our left.
We stay with this path, ignoring paths off to the left and right, to woodland at Bonsley Common and join a section of the St Edward’s Way, which is a thirty-mile route from Wareham to Shaftesbury Abbey. The route is said to follow the journey that St Edward the Martyr’s remains were taken on after his murder at Corfe Castle in 972 to burial at Shaftesbury Abbey.
This is very pleasant walking on a spring morning as we continue along the Bluebell lined track.
We continue on the route of the St Edward’s Way as it leaves the trees and continues besides fields to reach a crossing of paths. Here we turn left, leaving the St Edwards Way, and head towards Shepherd’s Corner Farm. The track leads through the farm buildings and we spot an old bit of equipment, but are unsure of its use. It looks like a pump of some sort but later research is unable to identify its purpose.
Continuing along the lane we ignore a couple of footpaths off to the left and then pass some interesting low barns, again the purpose of these baffles us.
We stay with the lane until just after a converted barn where we take a footpath on the right going through a gate and across a pasture field towards Sutcombe Woods.
The path leads through the trees and then across fields of pasture as we steadily descend toward Durweston.
Entering the village we turn right along a lane and then turn left into Milton Lane and descend to cross the A357. We continue along Water Lane and then just before the houses end we go left on a path leading to Mill Lane where we turn right to pass the mill and reach the River Stour and the mill pond.
We have now joined the route of the Stour Valley Way, a long distance path covering 62 miles along the River Stour from its source at Stourhead to the sea at Hengistbury Head near Christchurch. After crossing a disused railway line we fork left, still on the Stour Valley Way to follow a path across fields towards the Holy Trinity Church in Stourpaine.
After passing the church we continue through the village on the route of the Stour Valley Way which follows Manor Road as it heads north and then leaves the village via a footpath running besides the River Iwerne.
At a fork in the footpath we go left, keeping on the Stour Valley Way as it leaves the river and ascends on a track heading towards Hod Hill. After going through a gate we go through the ramparts of the Iron Age Hill Fort on Hod Hill.
We continue over the plateau of the hill, which is covered in Cowslips, I can’t recall seeing so many in one place since I was a nipper. On top of this hill the Romans also established a camp around AD50. The far ranging views make it clear why this was a popular spot for an encampment.
There are a network of paths on the access land covering Hod Hill, but we stay with the route of the Stour Valley Way across the plateau and through the location of the Roman Fort. We then descend to reach Keeper’s Lodge where we cross a minor road and take the Stour Valley Way path to head up Hambledon Hill. This is a steep ascent so taking a stop to admire the view back to Hod Hill provides a welcome chance to get our breath back.
We continue uphill and pass Hambledon Plantation and then at a junction of paths besides a barn we turn left and follow the Stour Valley Way as it continues to steadily ascend towards the summit of Hambledon Hill. There are extensive views with Cranborne Chase to our right.
The path takes us along the ridge to reach the Hambledon Hill Trig Pillar, this is the 243rd I have bagged.
The trig stands on a small Neolithic camp which is linked by a causeway to a much larger Neolithic Hill Fort.
Rather than go over the top of the fort we follow a clear path which heads to the right following a rampart.
When the path on the rampart meets the Stour Valley Way, which went over the top of the hill, we turn right and descend on a steep path towards a tree lined path. As we go down there are cracking views across the Vale of Blackmore.
We continue along the path to reach a minor road where we turn left and walk into Child Okeford. In the middle of the village we turn left opposite the Bakers Arms and pass the War Memorial to reach St Nicholas’ Church. We stop here on a bench for lunch. This church was built in 1878 and replaced a medieval church dating back to around 1250-70
We leave the church through the main entrance to pass the War Memorial and Bakers Arms. Apparently the pub dates back to 1754 and has been known as the Bakers Arms since 1821.
We turn left along the road and then just before the Post Office turn right into Haywards Lane and follow this until we reach a junction of three footpaths on the right just before a turning into a residential road called Greenway Lane. We take a fence lined footpath heading west towards the River Stour, confusingly the map has this lane marked as Greenway Lane. As the path nears the river we turn right and follow a fence line to a clear path on the left heading towards a footbridge over the Stour.
We now head across fields following the footpath over Bere Marsh. On reaching a road we cross besides a railway bridge and join the route of the North Dorset Trailway, this is a 14 mile route from Sturminster Newton to Spetsbury. The route mainly follows the old track bed of the disused Somerset and Bristol Railway. This line once linked Bath to Bournemouth and was opened in 1863 and connected the English Channel to the Bristol Channel, it operated until falling victim of the Beeching Cuts in 1966.
We soon reach Shillingstone Station which has an array of locomotives and a cafe which I am sure in normal circumstances would be busy but appears closed today, we assume because of Covid restrictions.
Tucked behind the railway carriage cafe is the canopy for the station. Apparently this was erected in 1899 especially for the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, who was visiting Lord Wolverton’s nearby estate for a shooting party. There was concern that without the canopy some precipitation might fall on his regal head. There is no report about how he was protected from the elements whilst out shooting.
Our route is now along the Trailway until we reach a point where the Wessex Ridgeway passes under the Trailway. We take a path down to the Wessex Ridgeway and then turn right to soon cross the A357, Blandford Road. Joining the footpath on the far side of the road we head across a field to reach a lane where we turn right and soon turn left at a junction.
On reaching woodland we take a path that steadily ascends through the trees on the route of the Wessex Ridgeway. At a junction of tracks we stay with the Wessex Ridgeway and are soon walking on the edge of the woods. At a path junction we turn left to take a brief diversion to bag the Trig Pillar on Shillingstone Hill.
With my 244th trig safely in the bag we return to the Wessex Ridgeway and turn left and keep to the edge of the woodland to reach a junction of paths where we turn right to join the path we started our walk on. From here we walk back to our starting point in the Okeford Hill car park.
Our walk has covered just over twelve miles and has had over 1,400 feet of ascent. So a good walk made better by the opportunity to catch up with Nigel.
To follow this walk you will need Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure Maps OS 117 – Cerne Abbas & Bere Regis, OS118 Shaftesbury & Cranborne Chase, and OS129 Yeovil & Sherborne
5th May 2021
© Two Dogs and an Awning (2021)
All information on this site is provided free of charge and in good faith and no liability is accepted in respect of damage, loss or injury which might result from it. To the best of my knowledge the routes are entirely on public rights of way or within areas that are open for public access.
Walking can be hazardous and is done entirely at your own risk. It is your responsibility to check your route and navigate using a map and compass.