A ramble around Melbury Beacon and Compton Abbas
PUBLISHED: 10:28 12 November 2018
From your first step, you will see superb views from hilltops and farmland footpaths on this walk
These are the ‘blue remembered hills, spires and farms’ that we glimpsed from Shaftesbury’s Park Walk on last month’s Dorset Magazine walk and, from your first step, you will see superb views from hilltops and farmland footpaths. Compton Abbas’ fine Victorian St Mary’s Church has a lovely spire and some welcome benches in the churchyard to rest a while. A short stroll away, the rugged greensand tower is all that remains of East Compton’s 15th-century church.
1. From the car park, take the enclosed downhill path parallel with the road towards Shaftesbury, with Melbury Beacon left. Down to another parking area, go through the National Trust’s ‘Melbury Hill’ gate onto Compton Down. Follow the left fence for one mile, losing sight of Melbury Beacon but with extensive views along the Nadder Valley towards Salisbury. Losing height, see Melbury Abbas church below right. After a bridleway crossing, start climbing ever more steeply. Past a left gate, continue to the footpath-stile and visit the high point for wonderful views beyond Sturminster Newton and Gillingham.
2. Back over the stile, take the hillside grass path steeply down, over ditches and banks, to the National Trust fence-stile in the hazel hedge. Over, continue down to the fence’s half-gate. Through, continue down into the enclosed path, through the kissing-gate and onto the lane, signed back ‘Melbury Beacon and Whitehall’. Cross over, right of the junction triangle. Carefully, cross the A350 into hedged Pitts Lane, West Melbury. This country lane brings you to French Mill Lane with thatched Cornhill Cottage left. Cross over and continue. In ¼ mile, pass left Higher Cornhill Farm and right Writh Farm. Then descending and swinging right, take left ‘Allan’s Farm’ track with superb views.
3. Pass through the farmyard, with ample footpath arrows, between the left farmhouse and right stone barn, then right through the footpath-gate and down to a grassy island with a footpath pointer. Turn left and follow the cattle track, swinging right past a left gate with footpath-arrows, and another. Then take the left ‘Beware of the Bull’ footpath-gate. Through, follow the left hedge down the long field to the corner footpath-gate. Through, stay along the left hedge to the footpath-signed gate onto the hedged lane. Turn right. Down the hill, 100 yards before left Buddens Farm, take the left hedge’s footpath-signed half-gate into a field corner.
4. Follow the right hedge/fence with Melbury Beacon left. At the fence corner footpath-arrow, bear half-right to pass a cattle trough and join the footpath-arrowed fenced track over to a fields’ junction. Pass right of this cattle trough and walk straight down the field to the half-gated stream bridge. Over, turn right under hazels and instant left up to the bank‘s footpath-stile. Over, walk straight up the field to the hedge stile between the left cottage and right oaks. Over, take the left of two footpaths, up to the footpath-signed gate before the cottage. Through, turn left up the Tarmac drive. When it ends, fork right to pass the footpath-sign to two gates. Take the right footpath-gate into the field corner. Bear ¼-left up and over to the left corner twin two-way footpath stiles.
5. Over, walk straight past the facing oak and continue (ESE 120 degrees) down the long field to pass the high end of the fenced ditch/stream on your right. Go through or under the cross-field fence, between two blue posts. Start ascending the hill to the top of the right bank’s hedge to find the facing footpath-gate into the hedged track. Down past brick barns, meet the A350 at Compton Abbas. Cross right of ‘Old Forge’ to the lanes’ junction. Take the instant-right footpath-signed steps into trees alongside the A350. Through the old school playground and down steps, cross to the 1868-1968 gates into St. Mary’s Church. After visiting, return through the old school and trees to the lanes’ junction. Walk straight into the facing lane. Past the old chapel, continue down the hedged lane.
6. Past thatched ‘Horders’ and a right turning, continue up, past ‘Lots Cottage’ and ‘Twintown’ houses. Pass a left footpath-stile from Melbury Beacon. Past more houses and thatched Melbury Hill House, ascend into East Compton. Through the gate by the mounting block, visit the church tower and preaching cross. Then, continue along the lane and turn right at the triangle to pass Lower Lane House.
Now ‘Unsuitable for Motors’, continue down to a right bridleway but bend left up the hedged lane. Past a left white cottage, continue into the grass track, soon sunken with chalk bed-rock. Continue uphill, varying in steepness, with fine backward views, to Spreadeagle Hill where you started.
Distance: 4 ½ miles
Time: 3 ½ hours
Exertion: Strenuous in parts, up to Melbury Beacon and returning to the start. Several stiles.
Start: Spreadeagle Hill car park near Compton Abbas Airfield on C13 Shaftesbury – Blandford road, south of Melbury Abbas.
Dogs: On leads where there is livestock.
Refreshments: Café at Compton Abbas Airfield.