Dorset walk - Poundbury Hill Fort and Wrackleford
PUBLISHED: 16:19 06 May 2015 | UPDATED: 16:19 06 May 2015
Edward Griffiths takes a walk through history encountering one of the county’s lesser known hill forts, a Roman road and a Durnovaria town house
The Romans built an aqueduct to it, railway engineers built a tunnel under it and the industrial age has encroached up to its proverbial doorstep with a conglomeration of trading estates. Poundbury hill fort is less visited than its more famous neighbour Maiden Castle. It is also much smaller, but we’re walking over it as we begin this excellent excursion. Later, there are fine views from several vantage points (fields and track junctions). We meet a Roman road, twice, see the earthworks of an ancient farmstead and visit Durnovaria’s Roman Town House.
• Distance: 6 miles (9.5km)
• Time: 4 1/2 hours
• Exertion: Not too strenuous. Ascents are long and gentle. Some mud after rain.
• Start: The Keep Military Museum, Bridport Road, Dorchester (Grid Ref: SY688906)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194
• Public Transport: Damory Coaches 212, 216, 307 and many others. Check: dorsetforyou.com/bustimes
• Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock or where requested and on roads
• Refreshments: Sun Inn, Charminster for lunches and bar meals
1 From The Keep, turn into Poundbury Road. Follow this road for ½ mile. From the railway bridge, Poundbury hill fort is on the horizon. Ignore all side-roads. Eventually rising, go through the kissinggate immediately after right Hillfort House. Follow the path near the right fence passing the hill fort’s first left bank. Turn left up against this bank into the top corner, then turn right down against the bank. Go through the bottom corner gap with views over the water meadows below. Bear left, past the left ditch/bank to the fence’s Countryside Access (C/A) half-gate. Through, continue across and down the sloping field, crossing the ditch then rising gently on the ‘shelf-path’ to 1½ C/A-gates. Through onto steep banks, follow the path above the hanging wood to 1½ C/A-gates.
2 Through, cross to the kissing-gate onto the road. Turn right downhill. Over the by-pass bridge, in 70 yards, take the left bridleway-gate into a long field. Walk up the centre to the narrowing far end, near the road, and through the facing bridleway-gate. Continue along the left fence for 80 yards, then turn right to the bridleway half-gate. Through, go up the bank and through another bridleway half-gate into a rising field. Follow the right wood and hedge. Go through the far corner’s brace of 2½ bridleway-gates straddling a farm track with views to Poundbury, the A35 and Hardy Monument. Keep following the right hedge over the field to the corner bridleway ¾-gate near a left wood. Through, follow the wood’s edge down to the facing bridleway-gate into the wood. Follow the track through and past left Tilly Whim cottage up to the road. Turn right for an easy ¾ mile stroll down to Giles Cross.
3 Cross the Roman road into Frome Valley Trail track with right Bradford Peverell Farm. Under the railway bridge, cross the first River Frome ford/footbridge and keep following the track. Cross another footbridge/ford and meet the A37 at Lower Wrackleford Farm. Cross into ‘Charminster Depot’ lane, rising between fields to left Park Farm. Here, bend right and turn left into the rising lane. Over the hill’s top, with a gated left barn, walk down past right turnings to the A352. Cross into Higher Charminster drive/track, passing left cottages, to a Cerne River footbridge/ford. Over, continue along the track, bending right at left bridleway and footpath signs at Giddy Cottage. Continue, passing left Prince’s Plot and joining the Cerne River for a while before passing Mill cottages and farmhouse.
4 Reaching a left bend, go right, signed Mill Lane, passing the left vicarage, to another Cerne River footbridge/ford. Over, go straight through St Mary’s gated churchyard into West Hill, Charminster. Turn left, over the ancient bridge, into East Hill. In 100 yards, after the pillared gateway, turn right into the kissing-gated footpath against a cob wall. Through into the tree-lined footpath above the right meadow, continue to a crossing track. Cross, slightly right, to the ‘Lower Burton’ footpath half-gate. Through, follow the fenced path to a left bend with views to Dorchester, The Keep and Poundbury hill fort. Through another ‘Lower Burton’ half-gate, follow the right tree-line over the field to the corner’s double half-gates. Through, cross the high field aiming between two barns ahead.
5 Reaching the bottom corner half-gate, walk between the barns to the road. Turn right. Past The Sun Inn, follow the Tarmac path parallel with the road, over three bridges and the drive by the 1877 Lodge, before veering off to carefully cross the road bridge. After the car showroom and petrol station, cross Lidl’s entrance. Fork left into the footpath. Out the top, join the road and, in 50 yards, go up the right bank’s steps and turn right for ‘Roman Town House’. In 50 yards, go through the gateway to visit the town house, then continue along this avenue path. At the corner, turn left up Colliton Walk above the B3147. Past County Hall’s entrance and Thomas Hardy’s statue, cross the road right and walk up Bridport Road back to The Keep where you started.
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