The Stour near Dudsbury
We started the Stour Valley Path in August and today offered an opportunity to continue with it. We picked up the route at the Dudsbury pub in West Parley and followed a path towards the iron age hill fort of Dudsbury Camp. You would never guess that now as it is a flat grassy area with a girl guide camp on it. Once you pass by however you can see that it is in indeed on a hill.
The first glimpse of the Stour now presents itself (above) and the path continues with a golf course on the right. You cross the A348 and pass the weir and water works at Longworth to then skirt the pleasant Longham Lakes reservoir.
We then followed a field-edge path, which our guide book (The new Stour Valley Path by Edward Griffiths - 1998, but still very usable) explains was once a river terrace when the Stour carved its way through the flat countryside.
This leads to Hampreston and the churchyard of All Saints. The tower and nave date from the 1400s.
Just beyond the church, the village school seemed to have the hall marks of the Lady Wimborne cottage that we see all over the Poole/Wimborne area, and next door are a pair of them. They had
however sadly been altered, with modern replacement windows. There were 108 Lady Wimborne cottages. They were built for workers on the Canford Manor estate from 1867 onwards. The work was started by Charlotte Guest, wife of Sir John Guest, an iron magnate, and continued by her daughter in law, Cornelia, Lady Wimborne (the Guest's son Ivor was made Lord Wimborne in 1880).
We now followed a busy road to eventually turn left for Little Canford, soon passing the picturesque gatehouse of Canford Manor.
We had seen quite a few butterflies (Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock) and several dragonflies, and as we approached the Fox and Hounds Inn an Emperor dragonfly consented to be photographed.
After a pause for refreshments at the excellent pub we walked across fields to finally see the river again. Here it was shallow and often choked by plants. As we passed Canford Magna on the other bank, the towers of Canford Manor (now Canford School) came into view. The main tower was the work of Sir Charles Barry junior, son of the architect of the Houses of Parliament.
Then we reached the exquisite suspension bridge across the river. The bridge is 120 years old and a major refurbishment was only completed earlier this year.
The river upstream was now wide and deep.
Once on the other bank, we detoured to see the delightful gate (Lady Wimborne again) to Canford School.
And the adjacent parish church which dates back to the 11th century; the tower is Norman.
We retraced our steps to follow Lady Wimborne's Drive - the carriage drive from Wimborne to Canford.
This is a very pleasant track, but it seemed odd to not be walking along the towpath by the river, which was just to our right through the trees. Still, this seems to be shaping up as a Lady Wimborne walk, so perhaps it is right.
We passed under the busy A31 and soon came to the truly wonderful Lady Wimborne railway bridge (who else?). It dates from 1876 and is looking in need of renovation, but it surely must be one of the most ornate bridges to simply carry a railway line. I have seen gates of major cities which are less impressive.
At the end we emerged through a turnstile (!) and went past another Lady Wimborne house, which unusually is also entered via a turnstile.
Finally, we walked through a suburban housing area to then follow line of the river back to where we left the car, at the end of Willett Road. This last section coincided with part of the route of our previous Wimborne route, in August 2011.
Conditions: sunny and surprisingly warm.
Distance: 7.75 miles. Distance now covered 18.75 miles.
Maps: Explorer OL 22 (New Forest) and118 (Shaftesbury and Cranbourne Chase).
Rating: four stars.