Sunday, 18 October 2020

Golden Cap


                                                            Golden Cap

Golden Cap is famously the highest point on the south coast at 627ft / 191m above sea level. The name derives from the distinctive outcropping of golden greensand rock at the top of the cliff. We crossed Golden Cap on a 6.5 mile South West Coast Path walk from Eype to Charmouth in 2012. It seemed about time to see it again. We started this time from Seatown, accessed via a narrow road down from Chideock.

We parked at the busy car park, owned by the Anchor Inn nearby, and headed back up the narrow lane to soon turn left following a sign to the Coast Path and Golden Gap. This led first through woodland and then to more open land. We soon realised one feature of this walk: it was very popular.

Looking back, we could see Thorncombe Beacon, with the Isle of Portland in the distance.

Golden Cap became more striking as we got closer (see photo at the head of this post). And naturally the higher we got, the more extensive was the sweep of coastline that could be seen behind us.

We passed the simple memorial to the Earl of Antrim, who, as Chairman in the 1960s and 70s, spearheaded the National Trust's drive to buy up sections of the coastline before developers moved in. 

There were great views to the west ..

We were very struck by the patchwork quilt of small green fields inland - astonishingly different from the vast arable fields of Wiltshire where we have also walked a lot lately.

Our route now took us downhill to reach the ruins of St Gabriel's church a few hundred yards inland. It apparently dates back to 1240. 

This is all that remains of the lost village of Stanton St Gabriel. I have read that the main road was moved a mile and a half inland at some point, because of coastal erosion, and that this was the cause of the village's demise.

We now headed inland along a narrow lane to reach a crossroads. We turned right and continued up Muddyford Lane, which after a while became extremely steep. We turned right onto a concrete track and passed a National Trust farm with the great bulk of Langdon Hill (178m) on our left. After a couple of fields and large grassy area we found Pettycrate Lane (a muddy track) which headed all the way downhill to meet the Chideock to Seatown road, running more or less parallel with the route we came up on. It was very quiet, although we still crossed a few walkers coming up the hill. Turning right at the bottom we soon returned to the car park.

Conditions: cool and cloudy.

Distance: 4 miles.

From: 50 walks in Dorset (AA).

Map:  Explorer 116 (Lyme Regis & Bridport).

Rating: four stars.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Osmington MIlls and Ringstead Bay

                                                                            Parked cruise ships in Ringstead Bay

We are down in Poole for the weekend and  we thought it was time to renew our acquaintance with the South West Coast Path. This circular walk starting from the car park high above Ringstead Bay seemed to be just the ticket. The car park offered wonderful views over the bay, where no less than eight cruise ships are currently parked. Portland can be seen behind.

Soon after we started we saw four small waves in front of the liner in the centre of the picture, three in line abreast and a fourth one a few metres behind. We are pretty sure they must have been dolphins, although we were too far away to see any confirmatory evidence.

We followed the high path for a while and then turned right to descend and join the Coast Path at Ringstead Village. Soon we passed the wooden chapel of St Catherine's-by-the-Sea. It was built in 1926 by the widow of Dr Linklater, a Prebendary (Canon) of St Paul's Cathedral. The Linklaters had lived in nearby Holworth House.



Soon we passed an amusing signpost which I remembered from when we first passed this way in November 2011. The signpost was more vertical then.


We continued woodland and once the coast was clear passed a war time gun-emplacement - we have seen quite a few gun emplacements and pill-boxes in recent walks.

 Looking back, we had a fine view of the imposing headland of White Nothe. The building you can see was once Coastguard Cottages, now holidays lets. In the distance, is (I think) St Alban's Head.


We continued along the grassy cliff and passed the wreck of a ship near the shore. There was a lovely view of Weymouth Bay beyond it.

We climbed and then gradually descended towards Osmington Mills, turning right just before the village to climb uphill through a caravan site and then continue on a steepish climb. A level track brought us to the road from Upton which we had followed to get to the car park. Unavoidably, we had to walk about a mile along the narrow lane dodging the passing cars. It wasn't much fun, but we did enjoy the long closed valley which ran along beside the road on the left.

Conditions: bright and sunny.

Distance: 5 miles.

From: Jurassic Coastal Walks by Nigel J Clarke.

Map:  Explorer OL15 (Purbeck & South Dorset).

Rating: four stars.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Sugar Hill and Liddington

                                                                                                        Sugar Hill

We followed up Saturday's walk from Aldbourne by going further along the B4192 to park in a lay-by and walk towards Sugar Hill. The last part involved a steady climb. Below is the view looking back from just below the top. In the distance is the ridge we will walk back on and then turn left to walk down the hill back to the car.


On reaching Sugar Hill we turned left and followed a path which gradually got nearer to the road (the line of trees in the photo). We enormously enjoyed the wide open country.


We reached and soon afterwards crossed the road and climbed up to be confronted by this World War II gun emplacement. It was a bit different from the pillboxes you see all along the Kennet and Avon Canal.

There was a nice view looking back towards Sugar Hill, but unfortunately the cloud had begun to thicken.

We carried on along the track to soon see Liddington Castle off to the right. It dates from the Bronze and Iron Ages and was one of the earliest hill forts in Britain, with first occupation dating to the 7th century BC. Perhaps wrongly, we decided not to pay it a visit, feeling that we have seen quite a lot of hill forts on our walks.


A bit further on we turned left on a track with a Ridgeway sign and headed south, with again nice views across to Sugar Hill.


A little further on we turned left and headed downhill towards where we had parked.

Conditions: cool but pleasant.

Distance: 5 miles.

From: 100 walks in Wiltshire.

Maps:  Explorer 157 (Marlborough & Savernake Forest), with slight incursion into Explorer 170 (Abingdon, Wantage & Vale of White Horse).

Rating: four stars.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Aldbourne, Marridge Hill and Preston


                                                                                                        The Square, Aldbourne

We started this lovely walk from The Square in Aldbourne and made a short detour to take a picture of the church of St Michael. It is of Norman origin, but was partially rebuilt in the 14th century and partly restored by William Butterfield in the 1860s. Pevsner's review suggest that there would be plenty to see inside the church, if it were open.

To the right of the large green some filming was taking place involving a yellow car and two actors. The car's number plate was WHO 1, which might be significant, but it appears that the filming was for a documentary.

We walked up the hill along the road towards Baydon. A house on the left sported a fine flagpole and a colourful flag: red and black with a yellow circle. It turns out to be the flag of the Australian aboriginal people. But what is it doing in Aldbourne?

 Further up the hill we turned right along a track which brought us to some gallops.

Now we had a steep climb at the top of which there was a lovely view back towards the village.

We followed a field-edge path for some distance and then climbed a track up Pigs Hill, with nice views off to the right.

At the top of the hill we turned right along a track and were delighted to spot a lovely Red Admiral in the hedgerow.

The track became a road, passing the scattered houses of Marridge Hill. We passed Baydon Manor, which might have been interesting but we couldn't see much of it. We soon turned right to descend along a minor road to reach Preston. It is only a hamlet, but it does sport a pretty former Toll House.

We now climbed steadily to reach the top of Green Hill. On the way there was a lot of this dramatic Black Briony in the hedgerows.


We then turned left along a track to reach the edge of Aldbourne where we continued along a narrow pavement into the village. We enjoyed the old Malthouse on the right.

Conditions: cool but pleasant.

Distance: 5 miles.

From: 100 walks in Wiltshire.

Map:  Explorer 157 (Marlborough & Savernake Forest).

Rating: four stars.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

The Hardy Monument and Littlebredy


                                                                                                                The Hardy Monument 

Today we finally got round to visiting the Hardy Monument and doing a circular walk inland from it. The Hardy Monument is a twenty-two metre (70 feet) single column built of local Portland stone and perched on the summit of Blackdown Hill, above the village of Portesham. Although the Monument looks like a chimney, it is in fact intended to represent a spyglass. The Monument was restored in 1900 by Hardy's descendants and given to the National Trust in 1938.

 The Monument commemorates Thomas Masterman Hardy who was born in nearby Portesham in 1769 and died in 1839. He was the Captain of Nelson's flagships, especially the Victory, and was later an Admiral himself. He was principally famous for being the recipient of Nelson's dying words - "kiss me Hardy".

The view above conceals a doorway in the rear of the monument. There are 122 steps inside the monument and a small viewing platform on top. It is of course currently closed.

Before we set off we noted the splendid views down towards Portland.

We headed downhill passing a tree with a series of carved rocks bearing the message: Be still, Close your eyes, Be still, Listen. Obviously we were in too much of hurry to get into our walk to pay any attention.

The path continued through woodland and then a field-edge path to reach a view point looking down to near to Abbotsbury. You can see the Fleet along with the Chapel of St Catherine on its hill.

 We continued along this path to enjoy further wonderful views ...

... and then reach a road junction.We now headed inland along a field edge path to reach the KIngston Russell Stone Circle, a rather minimal circle if truth be told. We wondered if the two people sitting there had just had a domestic.

We headed across the large field and passed some ancient grassy mounds. The next section was quite stressful in that the directions suddenly became sparse and approximate. We struggled our way across fields and streams to eventually reach Littlebredy. This is an estate village which was once the property of Cerne Abbey. We passed the Village Hall and another building ...

... to reach the attractive church of St Michael and All Angels. It is a medieval church largely rebuilt in the mid 19th century.

This was quickly followed by the Bridehead Estate Estate Yard with its Blacksmiths Cottage and Old Forge. We then followed an estate road, catching a glimpse of Bridehead through the trees. The house dates from 1630, but was was rebuilt and extended in the mid 19th century. 

We climbed a steep hill to reach a road, which we soon left to follow a woodland path for a mile of so back to the Monument. We missed a turning towards the end and overshot the Monument, but fortunately a dog walker pointed us towards a path which led upwards to it. 

Conditions: bright and sunny.

Distance: 7 miles.

From: 50 walks in Dorset.

Map:  Explorer OL15 (Purbeck & South Dorset).

Rating: four stars.

Saturday, 26 September 2020

The Pepperbox

                                                                                                                The Pepperbox

We started today's short walk at The Pepperbox on Pepperbox Hill near Salisbury. The building gets its name from its shape, although the doors and windows have all been bricked up. It is said to be one of England's earliest follies - dating to before the term was invented in the 18th century. It is thought to date from 1606 and be the work of Giles Eyre of Brickworth House, hence the alternate name "Eyre's Folly". Accoring to Wikipedia "The building's original purpose is unknown, though theories include that it was built to provide Eyre with views of Longford Castle or to provide local landowners' wives, including Eyre's wife Jane, a lookout tower to watch the hunt." Wikipedia also floats the idea that it may have been influenced by the Tower of the Winds in Athens.

The walk route required us to head due south and we soon had a fine open view in that direction. Longford House can be seen on the left of this photo and Salisbury Cathedral on the right. The theory that the Pepperbox was designed to provide view of Longford House isn't very convincing!

Taking our lives in our hands we crossed the busy A36 and headed up a track to emerge into grassland. We followed a track heading south and soon had a fine view over fields to the right.

 After this we were in woodland with fields to the right.

We emerged to turn left into a farm track with a massive field on the left and at the end turned left along a field-edge path, now heading north. We soon had to turn into woodland and only got slightly lost as we negotiated innumerable twists and turns.

We then followed another woodland path, this time in a narrow strip with fields visible on both sides. We were very taken by this large tree.

Emerging from the wood we followed the left edge of a large field into more woodland which soon led us back to the A36.

Conditions: bright and sunny.

Distance: 4 miles.

From: Wiltshire: from Salisbury to the Kennet (Jarrold).

Map:  Explorer 130 (Salisbury & Stonehenge).

Rating: three stars. The Pepperbox and its history were interesting and it was great to be able to see Longford House, albeit in the distance. But the actual walk was a bit disappointing.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Kintbury and Hamstead Park


                                                                                                                            Kintbury Lock

We parked by the Kennet & Avon canal to start our walk at Kintbury Lock. We headed east along the tow-path and soon passed this unusually large craft.

After half a mile or so we passed the handsome Shepherd's Bridge ...

 ... and soon became aware of a large number of Red Admirals attracted by the greenery. 

A little further on was one of the wartime pill boxes that are to be found all along the canal as far as Reading. This one was in better shape than many of the others.

 We reached Hamstead Lock ...

... and left the tow path here crossing the bridge and then the River Kennet, which at this point is on the right of the canal (it is sometimes on the left).

We entered Hamstead Park and walked up past the remains of the Norman motte and then past the church to reach some imposing gate posts (several other sets can be seen over to the left). They are the remnants of a mansion built for the first Earl of Craven between 1663 and 1697. The house burnt down in1718.

We walked through a group of attractive houses, apparently former barns ...

... to cross a road and then make our way across various fields, mostly well stocked with cows. At length we had a high level view of Shepherd's Bridge. This is quite unusual as the canal is usually only visible near ground level.

From here we climbed across fields to join a minor road into Kintbury. We admired the former watermill buildings ...

... and the pretty bridge over the Kennet with its beautiful Maple tree.

Conditions: warm at first, becoming grey and cooler.

From: Walks in the Kennet Valley and beyond (West Berkshire Ramblers).

Distance: 6 miles.

Map: Explorer 158 (Hungerford & Newbury).

Rating: four stars.