Dorset walk around Badbury Rings and Park Lane
PUBLISHED: 16:08 29 September 2016 | UPDATED: 16:08 29 September 2016
Edward Griffiths walks the ancient drovers’ routes around an Iron Age hill fort, before admiring an avenue of beech trees in their full autumn glory
Badbury Rings Iron Age hill fort, barely two miles from Wimborne Minster, is the atmospheric starting point of this excellent autumn walk. From here, there are fabulous views over Cranborne Chase, with distant horizons including the Isle of Wight and Wiltshire’s Win Green hill at 911 ft.
Dorchester-born Sir Frederick Treves, Royal Surgeon to King Edward VII, retired back to Dorset in 1905 where he cycled through every corner of the county compiling his book Highways and Byways of Dorset. He wrote about: ‘The Kingston Lacy road which traverses the pretty village of Shapwick. Above this place is the great fort of Badbury Rings and it is worth while to visit Dorset, if for no other purpose than to visit this romantic spot. It might be a grass grown Mont St Michael, or a Mount Calvary approached by purgatorial steps’.
Park Lane is a long country lane which has lovely views over the Stour valley from Sturminster Marshall to Spetisbury. Probably the easiest part of the walk, Park Lane connects the ancient drove road around the Kingston Lacy estate with Sweetbriar Drove at one end and Swan Way at the other end. On the way, it crosses the Roman road from Dorchester to Badbury Rings. The Roman road comes up from the ford crossing of the River Stour at Shapwick and arrives opposite the entrance to Badbury Rings car park where it is flanked by three prominent bowl-barrows.
• Distance: 6 miles (9.5 km)
• Time: 4½ hours
• Start: Badbury Rings car park off the B3082 Blandford Road (Grid Ref: ST962032)
• Exertion: Not too strenuous. Mostly on country lanes and tracks. No stiles. Some mud after rain.
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195
• Public Transport: None really suitable
• Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock and on roads
• Refreshments: The Anchor at Shapwick for lunches and bar meals
1 From the car park, go through the end barrier and half-gate and turn right into the field, crossing over the clear grass-covered Roman Road and continuing up into Badbury Rings entrance. Go up onto the third ring’s bank, heading clockwise, with the central trees on your right. Immediately, there are extensive views over Cranborne Chase. Approaching the O.S. trig point at 309ft, the Isle of Wight’s chalk cliffs are visible ahead. In 100 yards, go down the right steps and swing left down the gravel and grass paths out of the last ring. Turn left at the ash tree up to the facing half-gate in the hedge. Through, under trees, turn right past two benches. Walk down the hedged grass track called ‘Heron Drove’.
2 In ½ mile, through the barrier into the car park, turn left onto the B3082 Beech Avenue’s grass path. In 5/8 mile, when Blandford Lodge comes into sight forward-right, carefully cross the road into the gravel track and car park. Through the barrier, continue along the wide hedged drove road with Kingston Lacy’s Conygar Copse left and fields right. Over the top of a rise with woods both sides, continue for another 300 yards to a left bend with a T-junction. Turn right at the bridleway-post. This is Sheepbriar Drove, starting with trees left and a hedge right.
3 After passing twin gates either side, there are old beech trees practically meeting overhead, with views to Charborough Park’s Highwood folly tower left. Pass a right National Trust half-gated bridleway-track before reaching the road with Badbury Cottages on the right corner. Cross into Park Lane, signed for ‘Shapwick’. Continue for 1½ miles, passing left New Barn Farm and cottages early on. Pass a left barriered bridleway. Reaching left Higher Dairy Farm and Priory House on the right corner, cross High Street, the Roman Road coming up from Shapwick, into the banked and hedged ‘No Through Road’. In 100 yards, at the open-fronted left barn and Elm Tree Cottage on the corner, turn right into the hedged grass bridleway-track called Swan Way.
4 Pass a left footpath-stile before 2½ gates and keep straight on up for one mile, passing left Swanway Cottage on the way. Stop occasionally to admire the views. Out through the end 2½ gates, turn right along the Beech Avenue alongside the left B3082 road for ¾ mile. Reaching the ‘Shapwick’ road again, cross the B3082 back into the Badbury Rings entrance. Look out for the three barrows behind the right hedge on the way back to the car park where you started.