Thursday, 10 September 2020

Thorncombe and Forde Abbey

St Mary's church, Thorncombe

We started today's walk from St Mary's church, which was rebuilt in 1866-7. There are, according to Pevsner, wonderful 15th century brasses inside the church.

We headed away from the church towards the north west, being immediately struck by the dramatic countryside.

We followed a series of paths quite comfortably until we reached a very large field where none of the route description in the walk book seemed to apply. We used our skill and judgement and managed to find our way to the Forde Abbey fruit farm and the road which was our target.

We followed the road for a short while then turned right into a massive field of sweetcorn, enlivened only by a pretty set-aside at the end.

We wondered what these (slightly out of focus) attractive blue flowers were.

Now across a field to reach a road and the entrance to Forde Abbey, which we had hoped could be visited as a detour from the walk. We walked up the drive to see in quick succession the dormitory range (or Dorter) ...

... and then the beautiful exterior of the main part of the Abbey.

The Abbey was founded in the 12th century, but like so many others, was in decline by the the time of the Reformation with an abbot and only 12 monks. It was then in ruins until 1649 when it was bought by Edmund Prideaux who created an unusual mansion from former parts of the monastery.

The Chapel (once the Chapter House) is on the right with the Abbot's Hall, the West Dining Room and the Drawing room arranged from right to left. 

The gardens were laid out in the 18th century and include the Long Walk with cheerful flower plantings on both sides, and three ponds. We rather liked these two wart hogs under a tree.

A high point in the gardens offered a lovely lateral view of the main front of the House and part of the Long Walk and Long Pond.

Leaving the Abbey we crossed the River Axe, only a small stream here, with deep banks. 

We followed the river for a while and then headed away from it, passing this curious piece of landscaping. We couldn't work out what was going on.

After this, a narrow path through another large field of sweetcorn, several field paths and a small copse led us back to the village.

Conditions: warm and sunny.

From: 50 walks in Dorset (AA).

Distance: 5 miles, plus the wander round Ford Abbey.

Map: Explorer 116 (Lyme Regis & Bridport).

Rating: four stars.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Old Harry Rocks and Ballard Down


                                                                        Old Harry Rocks

We've done several versions of this walk in the past, but not a complete clockwise one, so we thought we would do that as a way of re-connecting with this wonderful area. We parked at the National Trust car park in Studland and walked past the Banks' Alms towards Old Harry Rocks. The views remain dramatic.

First something new: the cruise liners currently parked off the coast of Bournemouth.

Then a view looking along the rocks and highlighting how one section has become isolated from the mainland. (A third cruise liner can be spotted on the horizon towards the right.)

This is clearer from a side-on view (see picture at the head of this post). A close look reveals some people with helmets at the base of the rocks. We wondered what they were up to - surely they weren't going to climb the chalk stacks?

We headed west passing another isolated chalk rock ...



... and climbed to reach and then walk along Ballard Down. It is a steady climb for a mile or so. On the right there was a great view of Studland Bay with Poole harbour beyond.

At length we turned right from the Down and crossed two fields to pass a cottage (a useful landmark) beside the Studland to Corfe road. We followed the track near to the road to reach Studland church with its famous Corbel Table just below the eaves.

To conclude, there was a wonderful display of gravestones.

Conditions: warm, becoming a little cloudy towards the end.

From: memory.

Distance: about 5 miles or a little less.

Map: Explorer OL15 (Purbeck & South Dorset).

Rating: 4 stars. A delightful reminder of what a great walk this is.

Monday, 7 September 2020

Dorchester and Charminster

We parked in the centre of Dorchester and followed the main road eastwards to reach the Dorset County Council 1954 bridge and turn left along the river bank, a tributary of the Frome. We have visited Dorchester before but have never registered the existence of the Frome.  

Further along there is a narrow bridge-cum-sluice gate.

We turned right and soon crossed the well-named Blue Bridge of 1877.

One more small bridge completed the initial encounter with the Frome.

We headed towards Charminster and as we passed water works came upon this lovely flower, as yet unidentified.

We crossed the road and headed towards Charminster across the fields. We were interested to have fine views towards Poundbury (or Poundbury Hillfort as it was once known).

Reaching Charminster, we made a small detour to see the Church of St Mary the Virgin. The nave dates from about 1100 and the ailes from the late 12th century. The imposing tower is early 16th century.

The next stage was across open country along farm tracks and then doubling back along a track. We passed a farm with a lovely medieval-style double height porch.

We continued southwards towards Dorchester, passing a cottage which was being re-thatched, to rejoin the Frome near the 1748 Grey's Bridge.

A right turn brought us along the main road into the town.

Conditions: mild.

From: Dorset Life magazine.

Distance: 6 miles.

Map: Explorer OL15 (Purbeck & South Dorset).

Rating: 4 stars. A delightful surprise.