Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Hammoon to Fifehead Magdalen (Stour Valley Path 6)

The Stour near Fiddleford

 We had an unexpected opportunity to make further progress on the Stour Valley Path and so headed to the tiny hamlet of Hammoon to pick up the route by walking along the former railway towards Sturminster Newton (Stur to the locals).

In fact, we got so carried away with the rapid rate of progress along this excellent path that we were almost at Stur before we realised we should have turned off to follow a curving path down to Fiddleford Mill. This is what we should have seen, taken in the evening on the way home.

We had a very nice lunch in the Swan pub in Stur and admired the Museum.

Then we headed down to the river to follow it for a couple of miles to Cutt Mill. The first notable sight was the partly-dismantled former railway bridge.

Why, we wondered? Was there a desire to make sure the railway could never easily be reinstated? After a short muddy stretch we emerged into a grassy area and the path climbed a small hillside giving lovely views to the west. 

We walked along the grassy river bank: the first really sustained walk by the river since we started the walk. Now we started to see some butterflies and I was very pleased to get a photograph of these Green Veined Whites mating.

 There were also at least three different types of dragonfly. This is a Banded Demoiselle.

Cutt Mill was a pleasant spot. The ruined mill is not all that distinguished architecturally, but it was interesting to see how solid the piers of the bridge were: presumably this was once a much more important crossing.

There was also a female Orange Tip showing the delicate underwing markings that enable you to tell it from a Small White.

Walking up the lane from the mill we turned left across fields to enjoy spectacular views to the west over the Blackmore Vale.

More field paths brought us to the sprawling village of Marnhull. It claims to be the biggest village in Dorset and we found this claim to be very convincing. We left the old centre along Love Lane and walked north across fields in the direction of Fifehead Magdalen.

After crossing one particularly enormous field, we touched the winding river again. After this we had a bit of a struggle to find our way to the village, but did eventually succeed. The view east towards Duncliffe Hill on the left was very pleasing.

The little 14th century church of St Mary Magdalene was very attractive.

Conditions: warm and sunny for the most part, but quite a lot of cloud. Muddy underfoot in many places.

Distance: 7.5 miles. Total now covered 47.0 miles.

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

Map: Explorer  129 (Yeovil & Sherborne)

Rating: four stars. The long section by the river after Sturminster Newton was a real highlight.

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