Walk: Bagber and William Barnes
PUBLISHED: 16:20 21 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:20 21 October 2019
This month, Edward Griffiths retraces the footsteps of a romantic and a poet who was Dorset through and through
Distance: 5 miles/8 km
Time: 3½ hours
Start: Sturminster Newton Old Station car park (Grid Ref: ST787142)
Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195
Public Transport: South West Coaches X4 from Bourton, First X10 Yeovil to Blandford
Dogs: On leads where livestock is and in accordance with specific notices encountered on the walk and The Countryside Code
Refreshments: Poets Corner Café, Station Road, for coffee and lunches
The hamlet of Bagber, deep in the Blackmore Vale, is where farmer's son, scholar, teacher, permanently infatuated husband and favourite Dorset poet was born in 1801. In an idyllic childhood, William Barnes swam in the River Stour, fished in the River Divelish, played with other children under the 'girt woak tree', and walked where we will walk. He walked regularly to Sturminster Newton for school and his first job with solicitor Mr Dashwood. After working hard to improve his prospects over many years, to satisfy his future father-in-law, he married his beloved Julia and, together, they opened schools in Mere then Dorchester. His deep and abiding love for Julia is clear in several poems written after she died in 1853. Before picturesque Cutt Mill, where Barnes' country really starts, we visit a charming village with a fine manor house and an attractive pub. Then, we enjoy pretty cottages, delightful paths and country lanes with beautiful views.
1. Facing Streeter's Carpets, a former station building, go left to the pedestrian exit. Crossing into Railway Gardens, follow the path to the top exit by a section of railway line. At the traffic lights, cross Old Market Hill into Bath Road (B3092). Cross left to the pavement side. Follow Bath Road, passing various period houses. Cross to the right pavement at Workhouse Chapel and continue past Social Services offices. Cross Honeymead Lane, signed for 'High School and Leisure Centre'. After the sports fields and two right cottages, continue up the hill.
2. Through the right stone-pillared and footpath-arrowed gateway, follow Hinton St Mary Manor House's avenue drive. There are ever-widening views right to Shaftesbury and left to Barnes' country and Stalbridge. Through the end gateway, pass the Manor's ornate gates right and continue along Ridgeway Lane. Past the left Estate Yard, right buttressed stable-block and St Peter's Church, arrive at a crossing. Turn right. Past The White Horse and White Horse Lane, take left Castleman's Lane. Pass several stone cottages, swinging left/right down to Veals Lane T-junction. Go left down to the B3092.
3. Cross into the footpath-signed track. Passing right of the garage, turn right at the footpath-arrow to the field gate/stile between two sheds. Over, bear half-left across the field to the hedge's dual footpath-stiles. Into another field, turn right into the corner and round to follow the rising hedge past a wide gap. Continue over and down to the right bridleway and footpath-arrowed path into the woods. Follow the path to join a grass track with younger right trees. Keep straight on, eventually narrowing, to Cutt Mill Lane, signed back '¾ Wood Lane'. Turn left down past a 'Sturminster Newton 2' signed footpath and a thatched cottage. Explore around Cutt Mill, but carefully.
4. Cross the hand-railed footpath across the dam to the bridleway half-gate into the field corner. Through, follow the left fence to the corner 1½ gates. Through, follow the left hedge up through two more fields to the bridleway ¾-gate. Into the hedged grass path, rise to a bridleway-gate into a grass yard between a house and Pentridge Farm Barn. Through 2½ facing gates, signed back 'Cutt Mill ½', go right along the lane. Pass Lower Bagber Farm track right. Around the left bend and over the old Somerset and Dorset Railway bridge, continue along the lane with farmland both sides. Pass right gabled Bagber House Farm just before descending to the T-junction. Turn left up the lane, passing right Manor Farmhouse.
5. At the triangle T-junction, go left into 'Halter Path to Stur-Newton', Barnes' route to school. Pass left Manor House and ascend slowly with good views through the trees. Pass the 'girt woak tree' with an old sunken path below it, parallel to our track. Then, seeing Sturminster Newton ahead, continue between fields and past a right wood, becoming a sunken stony path after vehicle barrier-posts, and widening temporarily approaching River Divelish bridge. Ascend gently to emerge onto Stalbridge Lane at Oaks Farm. Down the sunken lane, pass left Colber Farm House and right 'Pleak House Farm ¾' footpath. Continue for 'Newton ¾'.
6. In 250 yards, take the left '¼ Colber Bridge' kissing-gate into the field corner. Follow the right hedge. The colonnaded house seen above the railway arches is Bonslea House built in 1905. Through the footpath kissing-gate, bear half-right to Colber Bridge. Over, follow the straight stony path, over the crossing and through the 'Market Place ¼' kissing-gate. Ascend the path to another kissing-gate. Through, follow Brinsley Mead and The Row to the T-junction with Market Place. Cross into Station Road. Walk down past Poets Corner to Old Station car park where you started.