Dorset walk around Bournemouth's Stour Valley
PUBLISHED: 16:21 22 August 2016 | UPDATED: 16:21 22 August 2016
Edward Griffiths is enchanted by the Stour Valley Nature Reserve, a wildlife haven within easy reach of Bournemouth
Well within range of Bournemouth’s local buses, Stour Valley Local Nature Reserve is a haven for wildlife and a delight for walkers. Most of this walk follows the River Stour where, in summer, reed warblers chatter in the rushes, you’ll also see coots and moorhens and if you’re lucky the electric blue flash of a kingfisher as it speeds along the river. There are also dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies galore. The middle part of this walk follows the original Stour Valley Path into arable and dairy fields and, briefly, under the holiday flights-path from Bournemouth (Hurn) Airport.
• Distance: 7¼ miles (11.5 km)
• Time: 5 hours
• Exertion: Not too strenuous. Basically level, hardly any stiles.
• Start: Stour Acres Car Park, Granby Road, off Muscliff Lane, Bournemouth (Grid Ref: SZ098959)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195
• Public Transport: Yellow Buses 4b from Bournemouth Centre
• Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock or where requested and on roads:
• Refreshments: Herbie’s Fish and Chips, and Emily’s Sandwich Shop, both New Road, West Parley (100 yards off route)
1 From the car park, take the gravel path past the information board and the left barn enclosure down to the River Stour. Turn right for ‘Holdenhurst 2¼’. Follow the wide track with the river left. Past a right lane, stay on the main track to a wooden half-gate. Through, continue above the river with fields right. Through another half-gate continue along the enclosed path, getting closer to the river at an electricity pylon just before a right bend. The path now runs between fields and, after a gate at a ‘Muscliff and Redhill’ sign, swings back under the electricity cables. Continue to the lane at Berry Hill Treatment Works.
2 Follow Berry Lane, edged with trees and blackberries. In 3/8 mile, pass Muccleshell Farmhouse and meet Broadway Lane. Continue along Throop Road with flower-decked cottages. Past right Stour Walk and Wood Row cottages, continue past right Taylor Drive, still on Throop Road. Pass Throop Mill Cottage and left Throop Mill Car Park. Take the left ‘West Hurn 1½’ footpath down behind Throop Mill and across the sluice-gates onto the cross-field path to the River Stour weir bridge. Over, take the left Stour Valley Way (SVW) path to the half-gate into the path with the left Stour and right field fence. Through the end half-gate, keep on the grassy path, still with right fence and left river, until the river bends left and the path bends right at a SVW half-gate. Continue through grass and trees to a T-junction. Take the left SVW-track.
3 Through 1½ ‘Strictly Private’ gates, follow the wide track past the right Theme Park, past right Merritown Farm and the left Riding School. In 100 yards, on the right bend, take the left SVW-signed footpath-stile/gate into a large low field. Follow the right hedge, swinging slowly left, to the SVW-stile on the edge of Parley Golf Course. Over, follow the fenced path behind the driving range, bending right on the way, then between right buildings and left car park onto the white-fenced SVW-drive. Through the gate near the 4th Tee, continue over the drives’ crossing into the ‘Church Lane 2’ footpath-drive for Parley Court Farm. Continue between the left pond and right field with the airport beyond. Past right ‘Brambles’ and pond, left paddock and right cottages, take the right, clearly signed, footpath.
4 Over the ‘Footpath West Parley’ stile/gate into a paddock, turn left to the SVW-stile into a wild field. Keep left across here to the footpath-gap onto a track. Cross to another stile and follow the left barn and fence through the field to meet Parley Court drive. Continue between fields for 100 yards, then take the second-right track, faintly arrowed, fenced between fields and bending left to the SVW-gate. Through, keep following the grass track against the left hedge. Reaching a right turning, keep straight on, past the SVW-arrow. Against the right hedge now, go through the gate into another field, and another, then continue into the hedged track. At the end, go over the footpath-stile/gate into Church Road. Turn right. Follow the lane for ¼ mile to left Bramble Farm Cottages. In 100 yards, take the left footpath-gate into the enclosed track between fields.
5 Through the end half-gate into New Road, turn left. Between houses, then between fields, reach Stour Bridge. Over this, continue round the bend to left Brecon Close. Along this shady lane, reach Waterloo Farm’s gates. Turn right across the car park into Stour Valley Local Nature Reserve. Go left, past the information board, for ‘SVW Holdenhurst 3¾’ on the fenced path. Reaching the River Stour again, bend right and follow the hardcore path with the river left through meadowland and willows. Pass many benches and a beach. Past a right-fork ramp, keep following the now-wider path, becoming fenced left, then over a boardwalk and fenced again with houses right. In 50 yards, turn right back to Granby Road Car Park where you started.
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