A ramble around stone circles and chambered tombs in Dorset
PUBLISHED: 13:21 04 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:28 04 February 2019
In the first of two walks, we visit three stone circles from the Bronze Age and some impressive Neolithic chambered tombs
Three of Dorset’s four stone circles - Nine Stones Circle, Kingston Russell Circle and Hampton Circle - are within easy reach of the Valley of Stones north of Portesham, as are two Neolithic chambered tombs - Grey Mare and Her Colts and the Hell Stone. We’re visiting all except Nine Stones. These stone circles are listed as Bronze Age megalithic constructions; they were all built using huge sarsens, conglomerates of limestone with inclusions of flints and pebbles, from the Valley of Stones.
1 A few yards up the road, with fine views over Chesil Beach and the Fleet, take the right ‘Inland Coast Path Hardy Monument 2’ bridleway half-gate. Follow the path through scrub below a left fence. In ¼ mile, go through the left footpath half-gate into a fenced path up to another half-gate. Through, follow the left hedge. Hampton Stone Circle is right of the corner gate at the top of the field.
Now, return to the road and turn right up the hill. In 200 yards, double back left onto ‘Gorwell Farm’ lane, signed ‘Kingston Russell Stone Circle and Grey Mare and Her Colts’.
2 At Gorwell Farm’s private gateway, fork right for ‘Kingston Russell etc’ bridleway. On the right bend, take the bridleway and ‘English Heritage’ arrowed 1¾ gates into the enclosed track. Follow this track for ¼ mile. Just past a right field’s corner gate and a footpath and bridleway arrow-post, go over the left hedge’s footpath-stile. Follow the facing hedge right to the gate into the adjacent field corner. Here is the Grey Mare and Her Colts chambered tomb.
3 Return to the footpath-stile and turn left along the ‘Kingston Russell Stone Circle’ bridleway. After one mile, at a junction of footpaths and bridleways under some trees, Kingston Russell Stone Circle is on your right after the field gate.
4 Back to the bridleway-track, cross to the facing bridleway-gate into a high field. Follow the left hedge to 1½ gates into a descending field with superb views to Golden Cap and Lyme Regis. Follow the hedge down to another gate. Through, go down the hill and around the fence corner right of the cottages below you. Joining the footpath and bridleway drive, turn left. Through the gate, pass two left cottages, then right Gorwell Farmhouse and farm shop and several converted cottages. Keep following the drive up the wooded valley. Past a right pond, turn right up the concrete ‘Macmillan Way’ and bridleway-track along the right wood’s edge. When the concrete ends, go through the facing bridleway-gate and continue up the enclosed grass track to the top bridleway half-gate.
5 Through, take the left bridleway-gate and walk half-right up onto White Hill ‘downs’ high point. Over the top, you’ll meet a fence. Turn left along the well-used grass path, with Abbotsbury church and tithe barn and St Catherine’s Chapel below you, and views over Weymouth to Portland. Through the facing bridleway-gate, pass a Coast Path and ‘Hardy Mon 2½’ bridleway-arrow post where the fence turns away right. Keep straight on along well-used path, keeping a good 100 yards clear of the left wood. Reaching a left field’s corner post with a bridleway-arrow, Hardy Monument appears ahead. Follow the left fence to the corner and go through the bridleway-gate signed ‘Hardy Monument 2¼’. Follow the right-banked track down to the 1½ gates where you started.
Distance: 3¾ miles/6 km
Time: 3¼ hours
Exertion: Not strenuous. Undulating, some mud
Start: Park in lay-by with 1½ gates on right bend in Bishop’s Road, a continuation of Back Lane rising east out of Abbotsbury
Public transport: None
Dogs: On leads
Refreshments: Lots of tearooms in Abbotsbury
Grey Mare and Her Colts
Grey Mare and Her Colts is considered to be Dorset’s best preserved chambered long barrow tomb. Positioned on high ground, the barrow mound is aligned north-west to south-east (midsummer sunset and mindwinter sunrise) with seven large fallen stones and several smaller ones at the south-east end. The larger stones once supported the capstone above the stone chamber which held the remains. The 72ft long mound is all that survives of the original earth-and-turf barrow.
Kingston Russell Stone Circle
Kingston Russell Circle stands in a field on Tenants Hill, less than a mile from the Grey Mare. Roughly circular about 78ft diameter, with 18 recumbent stones, the largest being about 8ft long, the circle is best seen in winter before the vegetation has grown.