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Dorset walk around Tolpuddle and Southover Heath

PUBLISHED: 14:53 25 June 2014

Looking towards Southover House

Looking towards Southover House


Edward Griffiths enjoys an early summer walk through the flower filled countryside of the Tolpuddle Martyrs

Distance: 51/2miles (9 km)

Time: 3 1/2 hours

Exertion: Alternating gentle ascents and descents on farm tracks, woodland bridleways and field paths. Some mud in woodland tracks

Start: Martyrs’ Tree on The Green in Tolpuddle, on the corner of the ‘Affpuddle’ turning (Grid Ref: SY792944)

Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194

Public Transport: First 387 from Poole and Dorchester, also stops at Athelhampton

Dogs: On leads in farmland when requested and where there is livestock

Refreshments: The Martyr’s Inn, Tolpuddle for lunch and dinner, served daily.

This walks starts under the old sycamore where the Tolpuddle Martyrs are reputed to have met. Here you will find the thatched shelter given to the National Trust as part of the Tolpuddle Martyrs centenary celebrations in 1934 by Sir Ernest Debenham (Baronet). We begin on the edge of the main road, a much more peaceful place since the Puddletown by-pass was built. Our route then meanders through some equally peaceful meadows of the River Piddle, at this time of year it is filled with summer wildflowers. The bridleways and lanes are edged with vivid pink campion, white cow-parsley, creamy elderflowers, and delicate white and pink dog roses. Woodland paths are bordered with foxgloves and, in Sares Wood, by ancient barrows. On this walk there are fine views to Chaldon Down and the chalk ridges facing the sea, a couple of delightful manor houses to admire, and many thatched cottages, bedecked with June roses. So take it easy, walk slowly and enjoy the summer.

The Walk

1 From Baronet Debenham’s shelter, walk down Southover Lane, passing the right Manor House and the old mill left of the Piddle River bridge. In ¼ mile, when the road bends left at the Lodge, take the right bridleway-signed track. Through the half-gate, follow the fenced track and, through the next half-gate, cross the field to the bridleway-gate onto the tarmac track with paddock and stables left. Continue for ½ mile, with ‘dogs on leads’, to Park Farm’s bridleway-gated drive. Continue past the left house and, through the second bridleway-gate, go anti-clockwise around the grass island to the bridleway-arrowed, short track to the bridleway-gate into a long field.

2 Follow the right hedge path, with lots of dog roses and elderflowers. Past two bridleway-arrows, follow the path past a left cottage onto a wider track. Passing White Cottage and other houses, you reach the tracks’ T-junction. Take the left bridleway-track into the trees, but first go right to see Athelhampton toll house and St Edward’s Church. Under the trees, the bridleway is ancient, sunken, sandy, dark and ascending. Not far up, through the half-gate, continue along the path. Entering Admiston Wood, pass a rising left track and keep straight on down, sunken again and passing another left track, before reaching the bridleway-gate into a descending field. Walk along the left wood’s edge at first, then veer slightly right, aiming between the left electricity post and Admiston Farm’s lowest barn.

3 Through the bridleway-gate, turn left along the farm track. In just a few yards, take the left bridleway and ‘Hardy Way’ track, rising to the white cottage’s bridleway-gate. Go through and cross the lawn to join the bridleway path inside the wood’s edge, rising to join a wider track. Through the facing bridleway-gate, follow the left wood’s edge over the undulating field with fine views over Crossways to Chaldon Down. Look out for the memorial stone to a brave World War II rifleman. Then, continue down the left fence to the corner bridleway-gate onto the woodland path. Meander through, rising at first before passing a right cantilever-gate and left barrows.

4 Keep straight on, passing the first of many ‘sink holes’ where the sandy soil has been pulled down by underground water movement, just like sand trickles into holes you’ve dug on the beach down to sea level. Pass a left ‘Private’ wood track with an opposite footpath-arrow. Continue on the woodland track, emerging onto more open Pallington Heath. Pass a ‘Keep Out’ left track and a right footpath-post. Continue into Sares Wood. Pass a left track and deep ‘sink hole’. In another ¼ mile, arrive at a cantilever-gated left track. Take this unsigned bridleway, meandering past many more sink-holes, and ignoring several right and left tracks. Pass a few bridleway-arrows on trees, meandering on the probably muddy track. Now, just inside the wood’s edge, start descending with long inland views. Keep straight on at a right turning, passing the bridleway-arrow post.

5 With Tolpuddle visible ahead, the path becomes narrower before it turns left out of the wood into an undulating field. Follow the right wildlife reserve’s path over the valley and up to the barn. Around the gate into the high field with Southover House far right, follow the field’s left edge track down to the bottom. Into the hedged track, turn right and follow the track for ¾ mile to the T-junction by Beech Cottage. Turn right onto the lane. At the next T, with Southover House gateway on the right corner, turn left past the Lodge where you left Southover Lane earlier. Follow the lane back to Tolpuddle where you started.

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