Dorset walk around Abbotsbury Castle and Ashley Chase
PUBLISHED: 16:23 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 16:23 20 February 2017
Edward Griffiths embarks on a challenging walk which rewards with sensational vistas across coast and countryside
On a cold winter’s day when the chill wind has cleared the skies, the views over the fields, valleys, downs and woods of Ashley Chase are outstanding. Couple these with the magnificent panoramas from 700ft above Chesil Beach, over to the Isle of Portland and along the coast to Golden Cap, Lyme Regis and Devon, and inland over the River Bride villages to distant Lewesdon Hill, Pilsdon Pen and Lambert’s Castle, and you’ll be thoroughly enchanted. The long pull up from Ashley Chase Dairy to Abbotsbury Castle will be rewarded a hundredfold, and afterwards there’s always a steaming bowl of soup waiting in one of the cafes, tea shops or pubs in Abbotsbury itself.
• Distance: 5½ miles (8.75 km) plus Abbotsbury Castle exploration
• Time: 4½ hours
• Exertion: Intermittently strenuous and easy. Total ascent about 300ft. Some mud after rain
• Start: Pull-in (5-6 cars) where South Dorset Ridgeway bridleway crosses the Gorwell Road north of Bishop’s Kiln picnic area above Abbotsbury (Grid Ref: SY588866) or outside Gorwell Farm’s gateway (2 cars) at Point 1
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194
• Public Transport: First Jurassic Coast X53 between Lyme Regis and Weymouth into Abbotsbury only, except Sundays Buses emanate from The Square
• Dogs: On leads through farms and in fields with livestock and also on roads
• Refreshments: The Old School House Tea Room, The Bellenie’s Bake House, Abbotsbury Tea Room and The Ilchester Arms, all in Abbotsbury nearby
1. Walk up the road, passing the right ‘Coast Path Hardy Monument’ stile with fine views over Abbotsbury Plains to the Isle of Portland. In 200 yards, double-back left onto the Tarmac drive. At the cattle grid and gateway signed ‘Private Gorwell Farm Only’ and ‘Public Footpath Only’, the right fork leads to ‘The Grey Mare and her Colts’, the remains of a Megalithic burial chamber ½ mile away. However, take Gorwell Farm’s fenced drive with superb views. Continue down, through the gate and past right barns. Further down the valley, pass a left bridleway-gate and continue down between woods with wide grass verges and left ponds. Go through Gorwell Farm and past the Farm Shop. Pass the right bridleway-track into a valley - which would also take you up to the Grey Mare and her Colts.
2. Pass a left fork track and pass right houses. Through 1½ bridleway-gates, keep following the track, not Tarmac now, with fields both sides of the valley. Another grass bridleway turns half-right up the field. Through the gate, without an arrow, in the hedge, follow the grass track straight on across the big sloping field with a wood down to your left, then bending right to the facing hedge’s right end gate. Through this, pick up the track again, swinging left between the left down-slope and the right fenced rocky up-slope. Now, Shipton Hill is ahead, then Golden Cap forward left. Through the far gate, with bridleway-arrows on the other side and Litton Cheney ahead, turn left down the steep, fenced and hedged, Tarmac drive.
3. Pass right Ashley Dairy’s turning and a left bridleway arrow. Over the stream bridge and crossing tracks, keep on up the drive through a wood. Leaving the left part of the wood, pass two right cottages and continue over the tracks’ crossing with ‘Ashley Chase Estate Office’ on the right corner. Keep on up, through a gate and meandering past a right footpath-gate and a left footpath-stile. Up past a right wood, and between fenced fields, see Abbotsbury Castle forward-left. Past left ‘Wears Farm Ilchester Estates’ gateway, the hill gets steeper with woods left and the Abbotsbury Castle embankments right. At the top car parking area, go up the path to explore Abbotsbury Castle at your leisure. Then return here and go through the 1½ ‘South Dorset Ridgeway’ arrowed bridleway-gates on to Wears Hill.
4. Up onto the ridge, follow the clear green path with lines of barrows and super views all round from the distant left A35 road to right Portland. Pass through 1½ bridleway-gates and continue with a left fence. Notice Abbotsbury Swannery and St Catherine’s Chapel below. Through the bridleway-gate, left of a second gate, follow the right fence straight on. Through another bridleway-gate, keep along the right fence. When it bends right at a ‘Hardy Mon 2½’ bridleway-post, keep straight on over White Hill along the green path with woods over to your left and a fence and gate ahead. Passing the gate, continue along the left fence to the corner bridleway-gate with the three-way pointer. Through into the next field, signed ‘Hardy Monument’, follow the right fence and hedge over and down to 1½ bridleway-gates back into the parking place.
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