The St Peters Finger
This walk, just 10 minutes by car from the centre of Poole, was found in a new book of pub walks I was given for my birthday: Pub Walks in Dorset by Anne-Marie Edwards (Countryside Books, 2013). It seemed ideal for a Sunday morning stroll, with rain forecast for 1 o'clock.
You start at Lytchett Minster's pub, the St Peters Finger and walk north up New Road, through the hamlet of Post Green, and quite soon continue on a track. A left turn takes you onto a pleasant woodland path, with beautiful Wood Anemones on the left hand side.
After a while you take a right, left, right combination to follow a field-side track which eventually leads you to the corner of the larger village of Lytchett Matravers. There are other villages in Dorset with similar names: Worth Matravers and Langton Matravers. It appears that the Mautravers family were Norman barons who were granted land in Dorset after the Norman conquest. I found a wonderful website by Maurice Boddy listing medieval families which reveals that a Sir John Mautravers was Constable of Corfe Castle in 1328.
Now you follow the road back to the south for a mile, then turn left onto a delightful wooded path to return to the point where you left the woodland path referred to above.
The commentary in the book describes views ahead to the "Isle of Wight hills" - and earlier you were said to be able to catch the "silver glint of the Solent". This is just nonsense. The hills you can see before you are those of the Purbeck Ridge and the glint of water is Poole Harbour, specifically Holes Bay. Even from on top of Ballard Down you can't see the "Isle of Wight hills".
The final leg involves retracing your steps to the village - so the walk is a lasso-shaped one, a circle on the end of a there-and-back section.
We tried the alternative last section past the school which now occupies South Lytchett Manor House, but the gates were locked. We then decided to make a detour to see the Courtyard Craft Centre, described as well worth a visit and possessing a medieval hall. When we got there there were a number of nice little craft shops, but the so-called medieval hall was a brick barn which bore a sign saying "medieval hall" and had some vaguely medieval decorations inside. I thought about contacting Trading Standards.
We completed our walk by following the outer edge of the Manor's park - now a caravan site - and passing the church.
This dates from 1833-4, although Pevsner says that the tower, which is visibly older, is Perpendicular (i.e built between about 1335-1530).
We never managed to sight the manor house, but it seems that we missed little. The house was originally early 19th century, but was re-done by W D Caroe in 1904. Pevsener says that the north front "has to be seen to be believed". This is not intended as a compliment.
Conditions: cloudy, cool.
Distance: officially 4.25 miles, our walk was a bit over 5.
Map: Explorer 118 (Shaftesbury and Cranborne Chase).
Rating: three stars. It was good to find some pleasant walking that we were unaware of so near to Poole, but Anne-Marie seems to be a bit of an unreliable guide to the wider environment.