Saturday, 12 April 2014

Crawford Bridge to Bryanston (Stour Valley Path 4)

Crawford Bridge

We resume the Stour Valley Path after a hiatus since November. Starting out near Crawford Bridge (photographed last time), we headed across fields, away from the river, to reach the tiny church of St Mary at Tarrant Crawford at the end of a quiet valley.

There was once a rich nunnery here, but nothing of it now remains. The simple 12th century church (restored of course in Victorian times) has very faded 14th century wall paintings.

Then we headed back towards Spetisbury on a different angle passing across fields which according to our guide were once vineyards. Sadly no trace now remains. When we reached the main road (the A350), we briefly detoured left to see the imposing Spetisbury Hall.

Interestingly, according to Pevsner, it was built in 1716 as the rectory, and when he was writing it was called Johns House. The facade was changed later in the 18th century in what he describes as a "bland Adamish" style.

The nearby church of St John Baptist of 1859 is by T H Wyatt, although the north arcade is partly 13th century.

We returned to the route and followed a side street to join the line of the one-time Poole to Blandford railway and walk along it parallel to the road. As you would expect this was straight, flat, easy walking, without too much of interest to distract you from progress. In fact we may have gone too far as we reached this rather poignant former station, or at least halt, at Charlton Marshall. 

We turned right and headed towards the village, possibly going further off route, but arriving at the main road again opposite the church of St Mary.

This was rebuilt, apart from the base of the tower, in 1713 by Thomas Bastard, father of the celebrated Bastard Brothers who rebuilt Blandford after the great fire of 1731. I also recently saw their church at Wimborne St Giles.

The next stage was a boring mile along the A350 to reach the Blandford ring road and head on past Tesco to pass the Hall and Woodhouse brewery.

A little further on, we arrived at the late 18th century gatehouse of Bryanston school.

Rather splendidly, the estate was once owned by Bryan - Bryan de L'Isle (he came from the Isle of Wight) was registered as the owner in the Domesday Book.

The final stage was a mile or so uphill along the side of a shallow valley to the scattered village of Bryanston. The view across over the rape fields was quite pleasing.

Conditions: reasonably warm and sunny.

Distance: 6.75 miles. Total now covered  32.25 miles.

Guide: The new Stour Valley Path by Edward R Griffiths, Greenfield Books, 1998, but sadly out of print.

Map: Explorer 118 (Shaftesbury and Cranfield Chase).

Rating: three and a half stars. Too much road.

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