A ramble around Stourton Caundle and Thornhill Park
PUBLISHED: 10:22 01 May 2018 | UPDATED: 10:22 01 May 2018
The quiet country lanes around this Blackmore Vale village offer delightful walking, but the fields before Thornhill Park are more of an adventure, as Edward Griffiths discovers
Stourton Caundle is a lovely village where you will find St Peter’s Church with its sturdy 14th-century tower, and there are some fine stone houses with mullion windows. Our high point at Thornhill Park enjoys a sweeping panorama from Shaftesbury to Bulbarrow. Thornhill House was home to Sir James Thornhill (1675 – 1734). Born in Melcombe Regis, he was one of the finest mural artists of his generation and was made court painter by George I in 1718. Thornhill did the painting on the inside of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral; more locally his mural depicting Ovid’s Metamorphoses decorate the entrance hall and staircase of Sherborne House. He also painted the altar piece, featuring the ‘Last Supper’ at St Mary’s in Weymouth.
1 From The Trooper Inn, walk south up High Street. In ¼ mile, after passing the right fork for Bishops Caundle, continue round the left bend into Cat Lane. Over a brook bridge, start rising with good views over fields and passing Brunsell Farm right. Reaching a T-junction, turn right for Lydlinch and Sturminster Newton. Follow Waterloo Lane with good views all around. At the top, pass left Brunsell Knapp Farm. Reaching the A357 T-junction, turn left and carefully cross the road to the hedge-gap with the footpath pointer. Cross the field, passing left of the solitary oak (or if field is planted go anti-clockwise around the edge). Over twin footpath-stiles at the facing hedge’s right end, by Caundle Brook, follow the brook to the footpath half-gate.
2 Through, bear half-right across the field, with the brook meandering over to your right, to a red-painted footpath-stile and ditch. Across, bear ¼-right, with two oaks left, to a brook-bridge and footpath half-gate. Over, turn right, along the field with the brook meandering on your right, then with a left bank hedge where the field narrows. Continue to the far fence’s footpath-gate. Through, bear half-right, not as shown by the arrow, to the concrete bridge over Caundle Brook, your only clear sighting of the brook all day. Do not cross, but turn around and bear half-right over the same field to the far corner where the fence meets the hedge. Over the twin footpath-stiles, turn left up the field to the facing hedge’s footpath-stile and ditch-bridge. Over, cross the field, towards left Hewish Plantation wood.
3 In 200 yards, a footpath-arrowed stile and footbridge lead into this wood - don’t take this as there isn’t a stile in the wire fence on the other side to let you out again. Instead, ignore the stile and footbridge and continue up the field against the left wood to the gate near the top corner. Through/over this gate, follow the wood up to the second left gate. Go through and cross to the opposite gate. Through this, bear half-right up to the hedge’s footpath-stiled sleeper-bridge right of Thornhill House’s folly. Over, follow Thornhill Park’s left steel fence to the first gate. Through, cross the drive and keep straight on through young trees, passing near the ornate entrance gates and the ha-ha. Meeting the drive again, don’t go through the deer fence gate or over the cattle grid.
4 Go through the fence’s half-gate and follow the left deer fence to the corner footpath-arrowed twin-stiled sleeper-bridge. Over, follow the left hedge to another footpath-arrowed twin-stiled sleeper-bridge. Over, bear half-right across the field valley above Thornhill Farm to the footpath-stile under a large oak. Over, cross the avenue drive, with Thornhill obelisk left, to the footpath deer-fence-gate in the deep hedge. Through, turn left along the hedge down to the bottom corner tunnel and barrier onto the A357. Be very careful - listen for traffic! Cross and turn left along the verge, passing Cooks Farm. In 150 yards, turn right onto the bridleway-signed lane for ‘Antioch’. Walk between fields with Holtham Plantation high ahead. Rising to ‘Antioch’, bend left along the tree-lined lane passing right apple trees and stone farm buildings.
5 Over another cattle-grid, pass a right house with a hedged garden. Through the exit bridleway-gate, continue up the lane to the corner of Holtham Plantation where the lane bends right to Stalbridge Weston. Keep straight on along the signed bridleway-track. When the wood ends, go through the bridleway-gate into the field corner. Follow right Sturt Coppice down. Pass a right footpath stile/gate, a hedge gate and a trough. In another 50 yards, veer left towards the bridleway half-gate under a large ash. Through, follow the right hedge down to the corner path onto the hedged lane. Turn right and continue up to the T-junction. Turn left along High Street. Continue through Stourton Caundle, passing several lovely old stone houses and St Peter’s Church, back to The Trooper Inn.
Distance: 4¾ miles/7.5 km
Time: 3½ hours
Exertion: Not too strenuous. Some mud after rain
Start: Lay-by opposite the Trooper Inn, Stourton Caundle (Grid Ref: ST715149)
Map: OS Landranger Sheets 183 and 194
Public Transport: None suitable
Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock and on roads
Refreshments: The Trooper Inn for bar meals, sandwiches, coffee and real ales