Dorset walk around Blandford Forum and Fox Ground Down
PUBLISHED: 11:09 22 March 2016 | UPDATED: 11:09 22 March 2016
Edward Griffiths explores the Georgian town of Blandford Forum before strolling through the nearby countryside
This walk through rolling farming countryside is a real treat, mostly following good tracks and bridleways through well-maintained farming-and shooting estates. There may be a few muddy patches but, with the right boots, these will be a minor inconvenience.
On this north Dorset walk we wander through the Georgian town of Blandford Forum, stroll across beautiful countryside and amble through woods where you could see long-tailed tits, mob-handed as always, flitting across your path, or hear robins, blackbirds and chaffinches in full song; their melodious chorus occasionally broken by a distinctive screech of a jay in Broadley Wood.
• Distance: 7 miles (11.25km)
• Time: 4½ hours
• Exertion: A few slow ascents. Not many stiles. Some mud after rain.
• Choice of two starting points: 1: Blandford Forum Market Place (Grid Ref: ST885063) | 2: Stour Meadows car park by Tesco’s off the A350 (Grid Ref: ST888060)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194
• Public Transport: Damory 83, 309, 310, 311, 368 Wilts & Dorset 183, 184. Not Sundays.
• Dogs: On leads through Down House and Canada Farm estates
• Refreshments: Plenty of pubs and cafés in Blandford
1 From Market Place, walk east past the Church of Saints Peter and Paul into East Street. Continue to Damory Street traffic lights and turn right onto the block-paved pavement. Continue into the car park behind the supermarket. Follow the building’s wall to the corner ‘Langton Meadows’ entrance. Instantly go right, over the bank, and cross the River Stour footbridge. Follow the Tarmac path across the meadows towards the brewery and bend left alongside the right bank before swinging right to the bank-gap to Stour Meadows car park entrance.
2 From Stour Meadows car park, follow the road past Tesco‘s turning to the A350 roundabout. Turn left and cross over. Cross the A354 at the ‘Badger’ roundabout. Follow the pavement. Past ‘Lower Blandford St Mary’ lane, take ‘Wards Drove’ right bridleway-track. Past left cottages, go through the gate-gap. Follow the hedged track, passing left ‘Trailway’ gates, gently uphill for ½ mile, passing a solar panels farm, before descending with fine views ahead. Past a right barn and left house, go round the right/left bend and continue to the A354. Cross into bridleway-signed Down House Estate’s private drive. Keep straight on, passing a left barn and wood. Fifty yards after left dairy buildings, fork left onto the rising bridleway-track between fields. This is Fox Ground Down.
3 In ½ mile, pass right Plantation Wood and a right fork. Keep to the left fork bridleway-track. In 50 yards take right 1½ bridleway-gates into Little Down field. Follow the right fence’s ½ mile grass track to the half-gate onto a bridleway-track. Turn right through another bridleway half-gate. Follow the meandering grass path against the left coppice-wood with views to Charborough Park’s tower and Blandford Camp. Through the end corner half-gate, follow the path through The Plantation coppice-woods, narrowing into a muddier section near the end. The path ends at a bridleway-T with a left gateway. Continue along the fenced/hedged grass track with a solar panels field right.
4 Meeting the Tarmac drive, continue to the bridleway-signed ‘Canada Farm’ estate exit. Turn left, carefully walking along the road, hopping onto the verge as necessary, around the right bend with the left bridleway-gate. In another 150 yards, go through the bridleway-signed cantilever-gate into Broadley Wood. Follow the forest track. When the track bends left, take the right-fork bridleway-track. Keep straight on until the coppice-wood, soon only on your left, finally ends. Keep following the hedged grass track between fields to the end gate into Quarleston Farm with multiple gates and turnings. Fork right through 2½ bridleway-arrowed gates. Pass a left dairy building.
5 Opposite a right open-barn, take the left 1½ bridleway-gates and bear ¼-right across the field to the bridleway-gate under four trees. Through, bear ¼-right down to the bridleway-gate into Old Warren Plantation woods. Down the woodland track, join the lower track and keep straight on, somewhat muddy after rain, and cross another track. Emerging at a bridleway-gate, follow the path through a rough field, with a brick/flint barn and cottages left, to the top-end bridleway-gate. Through onto the path with left woods, right fence and point-to-point obstacles, walk up and over to find views ahead to Blandford. When the wood ends at a right bend, keep following the track down between fields to a hedge-gap onto a concrete drive.
6 Instantly, take the left footpath-stile into the high field corner. Look ahead for dormer-windowed cottages. Aiming for these, walk down to the hedge’s footpath-stile/gate. Over, continue around equestrian taped enclosures to the far left corner footpath-signed stile/gate. Into New Road, turn right. Past the ‘dormer’ cottages to the T-junction, turn left. Walk through Blandford St Mary, passing right Stour Inn, to the roundabout, with ‘Bryanston School’ gateway left. After crossing Stour bridge, follow the pavement along West Street past Crown Hotel and back into Market Place. If you started at Stour Meadows car park, return using instructions from Point 1.
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