- Start: St Mary, St Cuthburga and All Saints’ Church, Witchampton
- End: St Mary, St Cuthburga and All Saints’ Church, Witchampton
- Country: England
- County: Dorset
- Type: Country
- Difficulty: Easy
Edward Griffiths enjoys a fragrant walk in the bluebell woods of Cranborne Chase
Distance: 6¾ or 4¼ miles (10.75 or 6.75 km)
Time: 4½ or 3 hours
Exertion: Easy with no perceptible ascents or descents. Good farm and woodland tracks.
Start: St Mary, St Cuthburga and All Saints’ Church, Witchampton. Park in road below church. (Grid Ref: ST988064)
Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195
Public Transport: Only one 300 about mid-day from Wimborne Square
Dogs: On leads at Hemsworth Farm and along roads
Refreshments: Witchampton and Crichel Club and shop for chocolate, crisps, biscuits and cold drinks.
Carpets of fragrant bluebells, beech woods in bright green leaf, sweeping fields of blindingly yellow oil-seed rape, soaring buzzards in wide blue skies and a cacophony of bird song will great you on this walk. This is beautiful Cranborne Chase at its very best. This walk is a little longer than our usual length, but it is early summer and there’s plenty of daylight, so take the time to enjoy it. I have given you a shortened version of the walk if you prefer, just follow the instructions at point 3 which cuts off part of the walk and rejoins you at point 6 towards the end of the walk. After such a long wet and cold winter it is a delight to get out into the Dorset countryside and see, hear and smell the spring at last!
1 From the church, walk down to the ’mirror’ bend. Take the right-arrowed footpath into the Village Hall Car Park. Take the stepped footpath into the field’s rising fenced path. Joining the road by the Wesleyan Chapel, turn left. Down to the junction, cross into the ‘Bradford’ lane. Follow this for a pleasant ½ mile to the T-junction. Cross to the footpath-stile into the field’s corner. Ignore the bridleway. In the field, walk diagonally up to the farm buildings on the horizon. Walk around the left edge if planted. Through the gap into the barnyard, cross to the right open-fronted barn. Walk round the barn’s left end onto the fenced track which bends left, passing a right footpath, to a junction of tracks.
2 Turn right down the fenced drive to leave ‘Hemsworth Farm and Manor’. Cross the lane into ‘Dean Hill Coppice and Farm’ bridleway-track. Follow this between fields with Dean Farm right. Before the left bend, take the right bridleway grass track, still with Dean Farm right, rising alongside the left bluebell wood. Reaching a fork, keep following the wood’s edge, with a right cottage. When the wood ends, follow the right fence, turning right at the bridleway-arrow. Bend left/right around Deans Leaze Farm. Reaching a T-junction of tracks, at a right barn‘s gable end, turn left along the left row of trees. When the trees end, bend left on the grass bridleway-track.
3 In 100 yards, take the right bridleway-track alongside the left bluebell wood, then cross the huge field on the wide grass track. After left estate cottages, arrive at a road. Long Walk - follow the bridleway-track parallel with the road. Short Walk - take the right bridleway track between fields for ½ mile to meet the Long Walk at the bridleway junction at Point 6. Long Walk - reaching the right bend, take the left signed bridleway. Over the road, past right Nickyhouse Cottage, follow the hedged track, passing a left barn, into an area of iron sheds. Through here, follow the track past a bridleway-post into mixed pine and deciduous woods.
4 In ¼ mile, arrive at five-ways ‘Copper Beech’ crossing. Cross straight over, past a bridleway-post, into the only track with deciduous trees on both sides. This is Chetterwood, with swathes of bluebells under mostly beech trees, and a right bending track. Reaching a bridleway T-junction, take the sweeping left bridleway. Ignore any tracks off. After ½ mile of meandering, the track leaves the wood and continues outside with a right field before leaving Chetterwood completely behind. At the next bridleway junction, turn right up the track with left woods, then between fields, passing a left bridleway and descending past right bluebell woods.
5 At the next crossing, turn right at the bridleway-post and follow the long track along the right bluebell wood’s edge. Passing left and right tracks, continue between fields and alongside another left wood, soon with Chetterwood over on the right. Through the gateway, follow the drive past cottages to the road. Turn right. After the left thatched cottage, take the left ‘Manswood P. O.’ footpath. After the brick wall, follow the grass path along the left hedge to a bridleway junction. Bear right. In 100 yards, take the left footpath through scrub. Walk behind Manswood’s long row of thatched cottages, one being the old P.O. to the end.
6 Bend right. Walk down to the road. Cross into the bridleway-track. Past the Old School, join the narrower hedged track. Follow it above left fields and past a right bridleway. Short Walk - join this bridleway and turn right. Everybody together, continue along the bridleway-track, widening past Hilda Cottages, to the road. Turn left. Follow the hedged lane past right Sheephouse and up to the hilltop. At the T-junction, turn right. In 100 yards, take the left footpath after the Chapel. Follow the footpath back down to the Village Hall and return to St Mary, St Cuthburga and All Saints’ church.