Dorset is a very beautiful county full of interest, variety and exceptional beauty throughout. From one of the nicest coastlines in the UK and beautiful inland rolling chalk hills giving way to beautiful countryside and views criss-crossed with fields and woodland. Filled with quaint villages and numerous thatched properties walking and exploring this county is filled with excitement and adventure with every step taken. Parts of the county are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it is easy and clear to see why it has that title and a reputation for amazing countryside.
Over the three days I had in Dorset, I decided to explore the inland parts of the county and its many villages and varied landscape. From Moreton Station I headed north passing Bere Regis and Milton Abbas before stopping around Winterbourne Stickland. Then Heading west, I continued following parts of the Wessex Ridgeway to descend into Cerne Abbas. The Final day I continued to Chetnole Station.
Route Length: 65 miles
Day 1 25 miles (Moreton Station to Winterbourne Stickland)
Day 2 25 miles (Winterbourne Stickland to Cerne Abbas)
Day 3 15 miles (Cerne Abbas to Chetnole Station)
Maps OS Explorer OL36, 117
Moreton, Briantspuddle, Bere Regis, Countryside North of Bere Regis, Milton Abbas, Countryside North of Winterbourne Stickland, Dorchester Gap, Plush, Cerne Abbas, Evershot.
Getting off the train in Moreton I headed across the main road taking the first right to head down a tree lined road in the direction of Moreton Village. Moreton is a beautiful small village consisting of rustic brick buildings and a handful of beautiful small cottages decked often with a colourful array of flowers in a peaceful and quiet surrounding. The village also has an impressive stone church rebuilt after World War Two featuring a unique stained glass windows and the churchyard holding the grave of Lawrence of Arabia. Turning left by the church the road becomes a small track which leads down to the River Frome. The crossing of the river is done next to a wide ford sided by a footbridge crossing the pleasant and steady flowing tree lined river. The village is quiet and peaceful similar to much of the characteristics of the rest of the county.
Ford crossing River Frome
Upon leaving Moreton the path follows the route of the Jubilee Way. This shortly after turns left and crosses two open fields heading rightwards to go into woodland. This woodland is coniferous and consists partially of heath and in some parts a bit boggy underfoot, yet is set amongst beautiful and tranquil surroundings. Next the path turns left and heads towards the main road. Crossing the main road goes into a track which heads through beautiful tree tunnelled woodland with a variety of species and odd cottages peeking through the woodland. This continues and opens out onto heathland with good views looking across the rugged terrain and longer into the Purbeck Hills. The path heads leftwards over the heath then turns left to head towards a minor road. Crossing over then passing through more woodland leads to a descent into Briantspuddle village. This quiet but quaint village is beautiful consisting of many traditional cottages either in brick or painted white, many of which are thatched. The village is a very picturesque place. It has a good strong village community as when I passed the community café was open where I was invited to join for tea and a bacon roll with the pleasant and friendly locals.
Thatched Cottage in Briantspuddle
Heading out from Briantspuddle from its village centre, there is a path on the left continuing along the well waymarked Jubilee Way. From here cross the field then take a track on the right and continue. As being out of the woods, lush, bright and vivid farmland confronts you with an array of various fields and woodland all looking stunning and a collage of brown ploughed fields contrasted by deep green. The track leads on and passes a church of Turners Puddle, a small hamlet with a farm joining a dead end road and continued off the Jubilee Way to pass a few traditional, stunning thatched houses. After a short while I took an unmarked right of way which was difficult to follow though woodland eventually emerging at the bottom of Black Hill. Finding a path then head to its summit over an array of heathland. From this point the view opens up to see extensively of the county and its outstanding beauty from the rolling chalk fields. From the top views are extensive seeing easily into the Purbeck Hills, Bournemouth, the west of the Isle of White and inland over the Dorset chalk downs and to where I am heading for the rest of my trip. Having walked along the top I then head leftward to re-join the Jubilee Trail. The trail then descends through woodland passing and array and carpet of bluebells descending through deciduous traditional woodland looking beautiful. The path opens into farmland and the path follows into Shitterton. Then turning right to take the path around the back of Bere Regis passing a beautiful clear brook. The path comes out close to the tall standing, impressive and grand stone church, a truly beautiful building with parts dating back to the 12th Century. The village is quite large but beautiful with its main street being quite traditional in appearance with a combination of thatched and brick buildings and with plenty of good pubs and some amenities.
View from Black Hill
From the village take Butt Lane and follow the track before crossing the A35. Once across the countryside opens up as you follow a small track that gradually gains height. This continues until passing a mobile phone mast. For this section of the walk, everywhere in sight looked beautiful with stunning views across miles of open farmed countryside with an array of deep green and bright yellow fields making up the landscape slowly rolling, broken by the odd occasional property and few isolated trees. A truly phenomenal rural landscape greets at every turn and some of the best scenery on my route in Dorset. After the phone mast I took the next bridleway on the left again following the Jubilee Way. This descends past some properties before turning left then right and heading between a field to regain height and see the landscape from a different perspective. Few people visit this area making it peaceful and quiet. Following the hedges and paths rightwards the view changes before staggering left and right to join a tree lined small path, still with good views over the vivid countryside. The path becomes a drive and when reaching the main road turn right and then cross directly. The path crosses to the left corner of the next field before following a hedge line which undulates generating outstanding views in all directions of the nearby vivid landscape, with good views onto the higher downs to the west and Purbeck in the south. The path becomes a track and heads through woodlands and open fields carrying straight on at all opportunities until reaching a fork just outside Milton Abbas.
Landscape north of Bere Regis
Landscape south of Milton Abbas
Before Descending into Milton Abbas I walked upon recommendation to the trig point by turning right at the fork and turning right on the road to walk a few hundred yards and admire the amazing view across the landscape from Hoggen Down and from here looking back it is possible to see the Milton Abbas Manor House peeking out the corner of the landscape. After this retracing back to the fork I went left and descended down into the valley through a wooded landscape filled with wild garlic and bluebells. The village is very quaint and famous for its collection of thatched cottages, beautiful buildings and amazing valley. Turning left passes impressive buildings with interesting architecture until coming to the centre of the village. Here the narrow road through the village is lined on both sides with numerous detached thatched cottages which were originally for local workers in the surrounding area but moved and lined up to create this quaint village. These precede down the entire village until reaching the parkland and overview of a fishing lake in the grounds of the impressive Milton Abbey. The church in the middle of the thatches is a typical stone church and is impressive along with other brick buildings in the village. Many gardens have beautiful flowers and gardens adding to the quaintness. Retracing back up the village pub The Hambro Arms is also thatched and serves good food and beer. This village is truly unique, has its own character and quaintness and is well worth visiting. Heading back to the Jubilee Way, this continues up then turns right crossing the main road to head on a track into the forest leaving Milton Abbas.
The next part of the route still continues to follow the Jubilee Way. It follows the track a short distance until around a hair pin bend before turning left onto a small path. The woodland contains a huge variety of trees both deciduous and coniferous along with numerous plant species making the woodland beautiful. Its density but still with sunlight penetrating through gives the woods a good atmosphere. The wood in many part had a covered ground layer of thousands of bluebells carpeting the floor with an array of colour in a stunning woodland. This continues for just over 1 ½ miles. The small path follows onto a track which eventually emerges into beautiful open countryside and vivid fields with beautiful views as far as the Isle of White. The path crosses a field diagonally with outstanding countryside. Then before crossing the gate the route followed down the side of the hedge to the road. Next there is a bridleway heading straight on and this follows gaining height on lush fields and beautiful landscapes both near and far. The bridle path continued for about 1 mile. Then I turned left then left again when coming to a road. The next path on the left is higher up and another opportunity to observe the outstanding views and beauty before continuing onto a track and descending steeply onto a road to be greeted by thatched cottages and traditional buildings just before the centre of the village of Winterbourne Stickland. This is a very traditional village in the valley. It consists of numerous amazing thatched cottages often white in colour with an impressive stone towered church near to the centre. There is a decent pub in the village. The village is beautiful and in the vicinity of this area was where I stayed the night.
Bluebells in woodland just past Milton Abbas
Scenery above Winterborne Stickland
Lane just outside Winterbourne Stickland
I started the day early as it was a long day. The route I wanted to follow was one I had made up heading westward on rights of way to take in the high down land of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Wessex Ridgeway before heading to Cerne Abbas.
The route from the village took me back along the Jubilee Way gaining height and back to the woodland walked on the previous day filled with the array of bluebells. On the first bridle path I turned right and then right again in a few hundred yards through this amazing segment of woodland. Emerging from the woodland the morning was shining on a beautiful landscape full of yellow fields of reap seeds, green crops and grass with views over the local landscape and isolated large trees. The route was stunning and the sky grand showing the full beauty of Dorset. The route undulated continuing straight on then descending with good views of the traditional village of Winterbourne Houghton with its thatched and traditional cottages and stone built church. The route passes a fish farm then continues straight across the road heading upward following fence lines with good views looking back and of the village. This carries on and crosses another minor road where the trail heads onto a track and turns right. The route on here passes a number of small valleys lined with beautiful fields and scenery with odd patches of woodland clasping the side of the down in this largely undiscovered and stunning landscape. The path goes right then left then passes another hidden valley before ascending and following a field to the right hand side. Just before entering the village of Turnworth there is a bridleway I took heading leftward to go through the centre of the field. This section of the walk is beautiful and vivid and continuing diagonally left across the next field and onto a track the valley, countryside and views open up onto a highly vivid and chalk landscape with stunning local views and onward in the distance being able to see Purbeck Hills. This section of the route is highly tranquil and peaceful and a pleasure to walk through such an amazing landscape.
Reap Field North of Winterbourne Houghton
The track eventually comes to an end where it joins up with the Wessex Ridgeway a trail following the high download of Wessex from Lyme Regis to meet the Ridgeway and end in Marlborough following the ridgeline of the downs. Views initially show Bulbarrow Hill clearly however descending a few feet and turning left brings in vast views overlooking into the lush green fields of Somerset, views of the Blackmore Vale, the rough line of the ridge in Dorset and Wiltshire. On a clear day it is possible to see the beauty of this landscape as far as the Mendip Hills and Polden Hills. The route hits a road and the Wessex Ridgeway turns left, however I decided to leave this for a short while and take a descent down the ridge by turning right and taking the first footpath on the left. With the amazing onward view, I descended down a steep path through fields crossing numerous stiles to head to the farm building in the bottom of the valley. Continuing straight on bring out by a house then the path goes around the edge of this before tuning right, crossing fields straight and crossing the small stream before emerging through a gate in the centre of the village of Ibberton though this section of the right of way is very poorly marked.
View from Wessex Ridgeway
Ibberton is a small village nestled on the edge of the ridge and enclosed by steep sides amongst its greenery. It is a beautiful village with traditional cottages some of stone and some of brick with numerous small thatches. I took the dead end road through the centre of the village which eventually fades into a small track heading steeply upward to get to the church. The church is high above the village with good views from it. It is a relatively small grey stone church but impressive and different in the design and shape of its spire. It is a very traditional and beautiful church. The track carries on past the church to an enclosed road. At this point I continued rightward and back down the hill. At the next junction I took the next footpath on the left. This crossed the field to exit on the right across pastureland. Crossing a small brook, the right of way carries on before crossing straight through fields to come out on the corner by the road into Woolland. Here there is beautiful small spired impressive church along with numerous small quaint properties. One other feature is an impressive Manor house and surrounding farm buildings. It is a very peaceful and traditional village. Following the road out of the village it heads upwards with the impressive views towards Somerset opening up behind. Halfway up a bridleway is signed following the edge of the field by woodland up to the top of Bulbarrow Hill where views open up again. Turning right and following the road for about ¼ a mile the bridle path on the left is where my route re-joins the Wessex Ridgeway Path.
Leaving the vast extensive views towards Somerset the path follows around the edge of the hill with decent views of rolling green hills and lush valleys, with the occasional ploughed field stretching as far as the Purbeck Hills. The path passes Rawlsbury Camp before descending through pastureland to reach Crockers Farm. Crossing the road, the path turns left to cross diagonally before turning left and through beautiful flat lush green fields. The route carries through Breach Wood filled with bluebells and a variety of trees before heading out of the woodland and up a small farm track. Passing Melcombe Park Farm the route splits rightward and heads diagonally up the chalk down land up to Dorchester Gap, a relatively narrow ridge between the hills on the down land. Here impressive views are visible in all directions particularly southward across the impressive undulating chalk valleys. The route continues into woodland before carrying straight on it will come out and the path gradually increases in height. Turning left on the next signed bridleway and following for one field, then double backing to take the bridle path following the round valley edge towards Lyscombe Hill. This section is protected area where conversion into traditional down land is occurring leaving a grassy chalk land edge broken by occasional clumps of trees. This valley is wide and very round in shape. Halfway around the valley change bridle paths so as to follow with the fence on the left hand side. This follows to the trig point on Lyscombe Hill.
View from Wessex Ridgeway towards the Purbeck Hills
Continuing on it is possible to see a beautiful, green fertile valley stunning in scenery along with distant views into The Blackmore Vale. The path descends before splitting to head rightward onto a small path that heads into the village of Plush with magnificent views of this quiet, undiscovered and peaceful valley. Upon encountering the road, turning right comes to a beautiful small quiet church nestled amongst trees many with beautiful blossom. Heading back to the centre of the village there is an array of beautiful and quaint thatched cottages lining the small narrow lane. The centre of the village has a beautiful, traditional, quaint thatched pub the Brace of Pheasants serving great food and ale. After a short visit to the pub, turning right and right again takes a bridle path up through a tree lined track to upward to Watcombe Plain. Again views are outstanding and beautiful in all direction above the lush valley and down land. Heading up the path re-joins the Wessex Ridgeway on the top of the chalk downs. Once again views are clear back to Purbeck and surrounded by stunning down land. The Wessex Ridgeway is an easy path to follow following the track most the way being careful to turn right on the first descent so as to take the correct track. The path follows the amazing chalk land which heads up to Giants Head Farm. At this point turn left then the next track on the right to slowly descend down the beautiful and relatively enclosed green valley leading to Cerne Abbas. This area of countryside is spectacular.
Descent into Plush
Brace of Pheasants in Plush
Landscape around Plush
The weather turned and started to rain so it was not possible to see this area in what would have been amazing. However, the descent is easy and down to a gate where to see the village the path turns right. This crosses a field to the ruins of Cerne Abbey. To just the right there is a path leading up to the Cerne Giant, a famous, impressive ancient chalk giant engraved in the hill spreading over 180ft in length. Views are best for this by following the footpath towards the main road and looking back to see the giant dominating the hillside. Cerne Abbas in itself is a beautiful and traditional village tightly packed with housing which the River Cerne running through. The village is home to beautiful cottages, thatched buildings all in a traditional style. The village has an impressive, ornate, stone towered church standing high above the village along with many notable buildings and attractions. The village has many shops and two good pubs. I stayed the night in Cerne Abbas
One of many buildings in Cerne Abbas
This was my last day in Dorset. The route was to take me westward through Up Sydling then across to Frome St Quintin before heading north passing Evershot then heading the final stretch to Chetnole Station. The weather was not great due to dense fog at a low level covering the downs.
My route took me back to the Giant Viewpoint. Then crossing the route follows across to follow the edge of the hill through the surrounding pastureland before heading up to Buckland Hill to join the Wessex Ridgeway again by the phone mast. Continuing right for just under a mile the next bridle path on the left crosses a field and heads to a track before descending with odd glimpses of the countryside to Up Sydling. Here there are a few farms and a few traditional buildings dotted around the village. On coming to the narrow lane my route took me to the right, then where the road ended the route turned left and carried straight on up a track through green fields then climbing sharply rightward to eventually meet the A37. Continuing around the edge of the field comes to a track. This then follows the track with beautiful views down the valley as some of the fog slowly lifts through the trees. The track continues leftward until coming to a road. Here the route I followed and then crossed the A37 to follow the track directly opposite.
View from near the A37
Crossing the first gate, the deep green, lush beautiful countryside opens up consisting of pastureland dashed with hedges in amongst the beautiful valley of the River Frome. A magnificent and rolling valley and good views. The path follows to the right to become a track and descend passing the small church and into the beautiful quaint village of Frome St Quintin with a handful of cottages and thatches. Turning left the road follows to four amazing thatched cottages before taking a right hand turn to cross the railway. This leads past the large manor house of Chantmarle, an impressive gold stone house grand in size with great architectural design. The building dates from the 16th Century in its older parts and has had additions over the years. Previously has been owned by one of the founders of W.H.Smith. Next tuning right a footpath heads upward and across the next series of fields diagonally with local views into the green countryside and occasional patch of woodland. This carries on to fortunes Wood Farm. The route comes off the track and follows fields descending into the village of Evershot.
Evershot is a beautiful small village and very traditional. The main street consists of stone cottages in a deep traditional style with impressive buildings, beautiful thatches and a good pub. It is a very interesting village. Passing the church, it is impressive in its stone built structure, ornate decoration and is interesting in the fact it combines both a spire and a tower in a complicates and unique building. Turning right down the back road takes a narrow lane passing more stone buildings and thatched cottages. A great and pleasant village to visit.
After leaving the village the route next went left out of the back lane, left into the beginning of Melbury Park then right onto a tree lined track filled with wild garlic and impressive trees. The track continues passing some open fields amongst the woodland. The track snakes rightward then proceeded upward on the track, crossing the field straight for the last bit heading up to the main road and crossing the A37. The path passes the through the woodland and turns left onto a track. This is a beautiful dense woodland covered with an array of bluebells along with some wild garlic and a great and beautiful woodland. The track at a junction turns right and heads out of the woodland to a trig point. Here views open onto Somerset and the Blackmore Vale to the North. Good views are available to the ridge as it continues and the chalk of Dorset ends. The spectacular views are the last high views to be seen on my trip. The footpath heads down and into the woodland below. Following this goes through the woodland, follows a small stream to cross the railway. Then crossing the field to the road. Turning left brings to Chetnole Station. This is a small request stop station marking the end of the route.
Woodland after crossing A37
Final view towards Somerset
Dorset is an amazing and beautiful county from beautiful chalk landscapes and down land. The variety of woodland is brilliant through vivid colourful landscape getting greener heading westward. Stunning views are available in many sections of the route passing quiet and quaint villages with many interesting buildings. Paths on the first two days were good and well waymarked however the third day are still reasonable but not as good in places. Wildlife is brilliant and diverse along with multiple sightings of deer. Locals are very friendly. My time in Dorset has been amazing and is a great county to explore with beauty, magnificent views and variety through the whole route.
It would be great to be able to visit other parts of Dorset such as Purbeck or the World Famous Jurassic Coast. Other paths that have been partly followed on this route will be good to explore such as the remainder of the Jubilee Way or Wessex Ridgeway.