The Poortons and West Milton - Dorset walks
PUBLISHED: 12:48 23 December 2013 | UPDATED: 12:48 23 December 2013
Edward Griffiths’ route through the pretty wooded valleys of these three stunning West Dorset villages is perfect for walking off all that Christmas food
This is a lovely walk, to be enjoyed slowly - and savoured. The stunning countryside around South and North Poorton and West Milton is some of the most beautiful in West Dorset with grassy knolls, wooded slopes and deep valleys. The valleys drain water from the surrounding hills into the Mangerton River which, in its turn, joins the River Brit on its way to the sea at West Bay. Jo Draper’s Dorset - The Complete Guide says that Poorton’s ‘two hamlets, north and south, are both sparse and remote’. North Poorton’s church was rebuilt by architect John Hicks in 1861-2 when Thomas Hardy was working with him. And, a lasting testament to builders of old, the 15th-century church tower at West Milton has out-lasted the rest of the church which was rebuilt in 1873.
Distance: 4¾ miles (7.5km).
Time: 3½ hours.
Exertion: Fairly strenuous initial ascent, and a couple of lesser ones. Some mud after rain.
Start: St Mary the Virgin Church, Powerstock. Park alongside high churchyard wall on the Eggardon Hill and Three Horseshoes road (Grid Ref: SY017962).
Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194.
Public Transport: South West Coaches 73 except Sundays.
Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock and also on roads.
Refreshments: The Three Horseshoes, Powerstock for bar meals and lunches.
1 Cross the five-ways junction into the unsigned road opposite. Past some lovely old cottages and houses with stone-mullioned windows, bend right at the left cul-de-sac, signed ‘Unsuitable for HGVs’. Up the sunken, steep, harts tongue ferned lane, Eggardon Hill is behind you. Then, levelling out in another ½ mile, there are fine views left. Round the next right bend, the views are even better. Bending left, start a long descent with more fine views. Down to the valley floor, pass two right Poorton Hill Farm drives and a right footpath-sign before Bottom Farm.
2 Rising again, join the wider lane at South Poorton. Continue along the lane above a right valley. At the right bend, continue into the left ‘North Poorton and Burcombe’ cul-de-sac lane. Go left again to visit Dorset Historic Churches Trust’s St Mary Magdalene’s church, then continue past the thatched Manor House and farm left. Past a right footpath-sign, start descending again, towards Burcombe, to the four-way signed junction with the Jubilee Trail. Here, take the left footpath-gate into the rising field. Bear ¼ left up the field to the left footpath-gate in the hedge. Through, go straight up to the footpath-pointered gate central in the opposite hedge. Through, turn right on the firm track.
3 Past a right bridleway-gate and a footpath sign on a left bend, keep following the rising track above a deepening and ever-widening left valley. Then descending into a deep fern-filled hollow way, pass a left gate into Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) Loscombe Nature Reserve. Continue down under coppiced hazel, passing another DWT-gate, to emerge at Sunnyside Farm. Continue down through Loscombe, passing a third DWT-gate. After right Pear Tee Farm, with Jack’s Hill prominent right, you’re in a fern-filled hollow way. At the next left bend, with a right turning, go through the left DWT-gate into a narrow field. Walk up to opposing left and right footpath half-gates and go through the right one.
4 Over the footbridge, follow the path down to a pond and turn right between two ponds. Take the fenced left footpath across the field to the end gate. Onto the lane, turn left up the zig-zag hill, sunken, then with right hills. Continue up, passing a right footpath, to the four-way junction. Cross into the ‘No Through Road’ bridleway-signed lane opposite. Passing right Lancombes House, continue into the steep, rocky, sunken path for ¼ mile into the lane through Leigh Gate house, cottage and barns. Rising to the top, pass a left track and go down to the bridleway half-gate on the bank at a right bend.
5 Through this, walk slightly left up the field to the half-gate and up against the right hedge to two consecutive gates by the shed. Through here, go down the right sunken track to the farm. Go through the right gate and past left Church Farm house. Emerging onto the lane, bridleway-sign back to ‘Ridgeback Lane’, turn left. Reaching left Ruscombe House, go up the left footpath-steps to the ruined church’s lawn. Over the opposite stile, go straight across the sloping field, with super views to Eggardon Hill, to the bridleway-gated bridge over the Mangerton River tributary.
6 Up the opposite narrow path, join Powerstock Mill Farm track. Past the left open-fronted barn, go through the facing gate and follow the rutted track across the hill field. Through the gate above right Mangerton River bends, continue along the field’s ridged path to the end half-gate. Through onto the path, walk initially along the left hedge, then through the middle of the field to the footpath-gate onto the greensward past left Bridge Cottage. Onto the road, turn left up into Powerstock. Back at the lanes’ junction turn right back to the church. n