6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Dorset Magazine today click here

Dorset walk around Sandford Heath and Gore Heath

PUBLISHED: 11:15 14 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:15 14 March 2017

Sandford Heath

Sandford Heath


Edward Griffiths enjoys a heathland stroll filled with bird song and the scent of pines, and along the way he glimpses a top secret establishment

Sandford Heath is part of Holton Heath National Nature Reserve where heathland restoration is a major ongoing project. Over the previous 40-50 years, introduced pines and non-native rhododendron have shaded out the natural heath and smothered heather and wild plant seeds with vast carpets of pine needles and rhododendron leaves, resulting in the loss of the heath’s unique wildlife. Selectively felling pines, uprooting rhododendron and planned ‘scraping’ of the deep layers of needles and leaves is bringing back the dormant heather seeds and, in time, the wildlife will return.

This pleasantly varied walk explores Sandford Heath and takes you on a delightful stroll through the productive, pine-scented and bird song-filled Gore Heath in Wareham Forest. Along the way, there are glimpses of a top secret establishment which played an important part in our country’s survival during both World Wars, and open fields where buzzards wheel overhead.


• Distance: 5¼ miles (8.5 km)

• Time: 4 hours

• Exertion: Quite easy. A few gentle ascents. No stiles. Some mud after rain.

• Start: Lawson’s Clump Car Park, Wareham Forest, B3075 (Grid Ref: SY922909)

• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195

• Public Transport: Wilts and Dorset 40

• Dogs: On leads on roads and from 1 March to 31 July on heaths

• Refreshments: The Sandford Inn for lunches and bar meals

The walk

1. From the car park, take Wareham Forest’s track away from the road. This is Gore Heath, swinging left and rising to a tracks’ crossing with pine trees all around. Keep straight on, almost north, before bending left where a narrower track goes straight on. From here, keep following the main track, meandering, undulating and ignoring any side tracks and crossings, for another mile. Over the highest point, drop down to a T-junction on the forest’s edge. Turn right, along the left fence, passing silver birches and half-gates in the fence for ½ mile. Reaching your track’s right bend, go straight on into the bridleway and ‘Poole Harbour Trails’ track.

2. Past left ancient oaks and through a group of oaks with a right ‘swamp’, leave the forest through wooden posts and a bridleway-post to follow a hedged track between fields. In another ½ mile, through facing 1½ gates, pass right and left houses to the track’s T-junction. Turn right. At a right house, go through sleeper-posts onto the path through holly bushes and trees, probably muddy, then between fields. In ¼ mile, at left Pear Tree Touring Park, go left at the T-junction. Along the hedged drive, past right cottages and up to the road, turn right onto the pavement.

3. Past some unusual two-storey 1930 houses with balconies, right Tanglewood Holiday Park and Sandford Holiday Park, reach Wareham Road at traffic lights. Over the pedestrian crossing, turn into Station Road, instantly passing left St Martin’s Hill. Continue down Station Road, along the iron fence of the Royal Navy Cordite Factory (RNCF) where the first batch of nitro-glycerine for the cordite was produced on 12 October 1916 and the last on 18 September 1945. Behind these railings, there was an internal rail system with about five miles of standard gauge track and 15 miles of narrow gauge, together with its own rolling stock. In ½ mile, at the right lay-by, take the signed-footpath past the barrier into a clearing. Follow the footpath along the left edge to the footpath-bridge. Follow the straight path through pines, then with open land right. After 300 yards, just past a ‘UK 1925’ inscribed stone, you can see over to your right an elevated concrete structure where an anti-aircraft gun was sited to protect the RNCF installation.

4. Still with open heath right, descend to a T-junction and footbridge, then continue through pines. Pass the Sandford Heath notice-board, then a housing estate right before leaving the signed footpath at Sandford Labour Club in Keysworth Drive. Turn right and walk up the road to the T-junction with Wareham Road. Cross over and turn left. In 100 yards, at the roadside barrier, take the right Tarmac path through trees to Filleul Road. Bear right and continue along the meandering road. Reaching Miles Avenue, keep right in Filleul Road. At the cul-de-sac turning circle, go through a Poole Harbour Trail kissing-gate onto Herpetological Conservation Trust‘s Nature Reserve. Fork right onto the signed footpath.

5. Follow the right fence until it veers away at a boggy patch, keeping pine trees to your right. Over a sleeper bridge, keep following the path across open heath with boardwalks and a right pond. Reaching a notice board, go through right 1½ footpath-gates onto the Wareham Forest track with left pines and right fenced field. Continue to the first left track with a footpath-post. Go left, rising with the left wood and right grassland and heather-clad hill. Ascending, pass a minor crossing. At the top, cross the angled tracks’ crossing before descending and swinging left to a T-junction. Turn left down the forest track back to the car park where you started.


Dorset walk around Abbotsbury Castle and Ashley Chase - Edward Griffiths embarks on a challenging walk which rewards with sensational vistas across coast and countryside


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Dorset visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Dorset staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Dorset account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Yesterday, 12:16

We don’t think photos of Dorset can ever get old. Here are 10 of the best shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Tue, 11:00

Helen Stiles seeks out the crème de la crème of deliciously stylish afternoon tea venues in the BH postcode

Read more
Tue, 10:30

We round up some of the best events and things to do across Dorset this month

Read more
Tue, 10:29

With Durdle Door, Brownsea Island, Jurassic Coast and a whole host of other stunning sights, Dorset is an amazing place for a stroll

Read more
Thursday, September 7, 2017

Situated on the banks of the Stour, this Blackmore Vale market town has successfully reinvented itself whilst maintaining a strong link to the past, writes Andy Greeves

Read more
Thursday, September 7, 2017

This September garden expert Toby Buckland is hosting a new Garden & Harvest Festival at Forde Abbey. He takes us for a turn around their famous gardens

Read more
Monday, September 4, 2017

Dorset is one of the UK’s best destinations for outdoor activities on land, sea or in the air. Visit Dorset reveals some of the more unusual ways of exploring the county

Read more
Thursday, August 31, 2017

From a cliff-top folly to the turbulent past of a castle and its village, Dorset Architectural Heritage Week is a great way to discover more about the county’s historic buildings, as Edward Griffiths discovers

Read more
Thursday, August 31, 2017

From a quirky secret garden to a plant lover’s paradise, these NGS venues offer some glorious late summer displays, and there are some garden masterclasses to inspire too

Read more
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Helen Stiles experiences the multi-sensory delights of a tasting menu at Seasons at The Eastbury

Read more
Friday, August 25, 2017

From shacks on the beach to fancy dining, Sue Quinn shares her favourite Dorset places where you will find the freshest locally caught fish and shellfish in the country

Read more
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

This challenging coastal walk rewards Edward Griffiths with exhilarating views over Worbarrow Bay. He also visits a ghost village whose residents were evacuated in 1943

Read more
Monday, August 21, 2017

Vanessa Barlow writes about the coastline she calls home in her blog My Jurassic Coast. She talks to fellow Jurassic Coast lovers

Read more
Friday, August 18, 2017

Julie Hatcher, Dorset Wildlife Trust Marine Awareness Officer, reveals some of the extraordinary summer residents lurking in your local rockpool

Read more
Pure Weddings advert link
South West Life advert link
A+ South & South West
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

subscription ad
subscription ad

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Dorset Magazine Application Link

Local Business Directory

Dorset's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search