Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Cerne Abbas and Minterne Magna

Abbey Farm, Cerne Abbas

Today's brief from my daughter and son-in-law, who are staying with us in Poole, was for a demanding walk, without vertiginous sea cliffs. I thought the Cerne Valley would hit the spot.

We left the car at the Kettle Bridge picnic area on the edge of Cerne Abbas and walked along a path by the tiny river Cerne to the village, emerging near to the abbey ruins. We wandered down Abbey Street to admire a lovely group of timber-framed cottages opposite the mainly 15th century church.

Then we walked back to the imposing Abbey Farm with the abbey ruins in its grounds. The great Benedictine Abbey was founded in 987, but destroyed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. The main feature now is the impressive Gatehouse.

There is also a 15th century building known as the guest house. The walk route then leads through the graveyard, entered and left by arched gates.

We crossed an open grassy area and spotted our first butterflies: Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell and Small Skipper. Now climbed some steps to reach the slope of Cerne Giant Hill. The path followed the contours below the famous chalk giant, of which more later. The hillside was covered in flowers, including lots of Pyramidal Orchids.

There were just loads of Ringlets now and a good number of Marbled Whites. We, erroneously, climbed the steep hillside to near the ridge, but at least we were rewarded with wonderful views across the Cerne valley.

We now walked across a series of field paths along the right (east) side of the valley, with views down the valley to the village of Minterne Magna.

The ridge turns to the northwest and soon Minterne House is the dominant feature.

 The house dates only from 1904-06 and is the work of Leonard Stokes for Lord Digby. In Pevsner's view, it is a "beautifully sophisticated design". Unfortunately, it is not open to the public, although the gardens are.

We shortened the walk by coming down from the ridge into Minterne Magna, passing through the park of Minterne House and then coming to St Andrew's church.

It is a mixture of 15th century, early 17th century and early 19th century work - "a rare assembly", says Pevsner. The overall effect is quite harmonious.

Having descended from one ridge, the next stage inevitably was quite a steep climb towards the ridge on the other side of the valley, followed by a slow descent to the valley bottom through woodland - which we weren't really expecting.

Emerging from the woods, we walked along a tarmac track along the valley bottom to reach Minterne Parva. There are only a few cottages, a manor house and a church: a rather classic combination.

Just along the lane we saw a pair of Ringlets mating, which allowed a nice, if slightly blurred, photo.

The lane eventually joins the main road and soon you have a great view of Cerne Giant Hill ...

... and then of the Giant himself, who to be honest, was not really looking his best today, although his masculinity was reassuringly to the fore.

From: Dorset Walks (Pathfinder Guides).

Map: Explorer 117 (Cerne Abbas and Bere Regis).

Conditions: sunny and hot.

Distance: 5.5 miles.

Rating: four stars.

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