A ramble around Iwerne Courteney and Child Okeford
PUBLISHED: 11:42 25 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:02 25 February 2019
Discover some of Dorset's Civil War history on this walk and scale an impressive hill fort which offers far reaching views
The parish of Shroton results from the combination of three settlements of which Iwerne Courteney was at the centre. St Mary’s Church features in Dorset’s history during the Civil War. A band of around 4000 Dorset yeomen and tradesmen, with no allegiance to either side, were fed up with having their farms and towns overrun by troops who seized their goods and animals. They petitioned for control over Dorset garrisons until the King and Parliament ‘agreed their proposal’ for peace terms. The King’s reply was favourable but Fairfax, who was sensing final victory, banned all Clubmen’s gatherings. On 4 August 1645, when Cromwell’s troops moved north to attack Sherborne, they encountered 2000 Clubmen drawn up on Hambledon Hill. When they refused to surrender, Cromwell’s troops ‘put them to flight’ but killed less than 12 of them. 400 Clubmen were imprisoned in Shroton Church overnight and freed the next day after, in Cromwell’s words, the ‘poor silly creatures had promised to behave themselves in future’.
1 From ‘Shroton Church’ signposted T-junction, walk into Fairfield Road for ‘Child Okeford 2½’. But first walk south to visit St Mary’s Church before returning to this T-junction. In Fairfield Road, around the right bend, continue to the ‘Wessex Ridgeway’ and bridleway-gate before the left cricket pavilion. Through, turn ¾-left up to the chalk track with the left stone wall. Up along the wall, turn right onto the ‘Wessex Ridgeway’ chalk track signed ‘Hambledon Hill Bridleway ¾’. Through another gate, continue slowly uphill, passing into the second field. Continue to the OS trig point and ‘Wessex Ridgeway’ bridleway-post.
2 Cross the grass track to 1½ bridleway-gates. But first, to explore the hill-fort’s ditches and banks, turn right down to the half-gate onto Hambledon Hill and return here later. Through the 1½ bridleway gates, bear half-right down the hill towards the right fence. Into the fenced track, descend alongside Hambledon Hill’s banks and ditches. Follow the fence to the iron gate and continue down the enclosed track under trees. Round a left bend with ‘Hambledon Hill’ kissing-gate right, continue downhill and alongside a left field to the road. On the roadside’s right corner, take the footpath-signed stone-stile into the enclosed footpath with a right field. Continue to a T-junction where a left-gated track leads between cottages to the road.
3 But turn right and take the left fence’s nearby kissing-gate. Through, turn half-right across the field corner. Follow the left fence around and up to St Nicholas’, Child Okeford boundary wall. Over the footpath-arrowed stone-steps, walk straight to the south porch, then follow the Tarmac path past the tower and leave by the west gate. Down the road to the war memorial with Baker Arms opposite, turn right and right again into the ‘Iwerne Minster, Shaftesbury’ road. Past several cottages and The Surgery, continue along the road. After left Hambledon Cottage, there’s a fine view of Hambledon Hill’s north-east end. Reaching a sweeping left bend, fork right into the signed bridleway-track.
4 In barely 100 yards, take the signed footpath left of the drive-gate. Ascend the medieval hollow-way called Sandy Lane. Through the top bridleway-gate, with Hambledon Hill’s north-east end on your right, turn left and follow the left hedge grass track down the field to the bridleway-signed corner gate onto New Field Road. Cross right to the opposite bridleway-gate. Into the field, follow the right hedge’s grass track down and round the right bend, then left in the corner to the right gateway under conifer trees. Through, follow the right hedge track, bending left/right around a wooded pond. Continue along the track, enclosed past left solar panels.
5 Pass a right footbridge and left footpath-arrow. In 100 yards, go through the right multi-arrowed footpath-gate into a field corner. Follow the right hedge up to hedged Bessel Lane’s kissing-gate. Turn left. Continue around a right bend with a left turning. Continue, passing thatched cottages and ‘Bessels’ house. Then, past Georgian Manor Farm house and buildings, bend left. Continue to Shroton Cross with The Old Bakery on the right corner. Turn right into Main Street and walk back to ‘Shroton Church’ T-junction where you started.
Distance: 4 miles
Time: 3 1/4 hours
Exertion: Easy after initial 420ft ascent of Hambledon Hill
Start: Shroton Church. Park in Main Street or St Mary’s car park outside services times (£1 charge)
Dogs: On leads where there is livestock and in accordance with specific notices encountered on the walk and The Countryside Code
Refreshments: The Cricketers, Shroton for lunches and bar meals