Dorset walk around Bronkham Hill and Martinstown
PUBLISHED: 11:13 13 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:13 13 February 2018
We explore the chalk hill valleys and ancient farmed downs in an area which is renowned for its intriguing barrow sites
There are 118 barrows in Winterborne St Martin (Martinstown) parish, more than any other in Dorset. Thirty of these form the Bronkham Hill Group, one of the best preserved groups in the county, a mile-long linear cemetery running along the skyline of the Ridgeway. They include a double-bowl barrow and four bell barrows, and all were built between approx. 1700B.C. and 1000 B.C. This exciting walk over the chalk hill valleys and ancient farmed downs offers extensive views and a chance to visit these intriguing barrows. Look out for, and be careful of, round solution hollows and areas prone to collapse due to gravels and sands overlying the chalk.
• Distance: 5½ miles /8.75km
• Time: 4¼ hours
• Exertion: Fairly strenuous. After early stiles, some quite steep ascents, and mud
• Start: Lay-by in Martinstown opposite St Martinsfield (road to Village Hall). Grid Ref: SY647889)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194
• Public Transport: First X51
• Dogs: On leads where livestock are grazing
• Refreshments: Martinstown Village Store and the Brewers Arms
1. Walk up the road towards the Brewers Arms. Over the Winterborne stream bridge, take the right bridleway-signed drive along the stream to the Sheepwash and swing left to Washing Pool Cottage. Turn right up the track, passing a right footpath. In 50 yards, take the left footpath-stile and follow the left fence up the field to the corner footpath-stile near the left cottage. Over, cross the track to the fenced footpath left of the barn. Over the end stile, continue across the sloping field. Through into a longer field, with the road and stream below, keep straight on to the facing footpath-stile. Over, through bushes, follow the diagonal path up to the right corner hedge stile. Over, turn left along the hedge to the corner footpath-stile. Over, follow the path along Rew Manor’s wall through a snowdrop wood.
2. Over the end stile, drop down to North Rew Lane and join the main road. Walk along the left side for occasional verge refuge, with beeches all around. Change sides around the bend by Whitway House, then change back again and continue into Winterborne Steepleton. Pass right St Michael’s Church and left Steepleton Manor. Follow the stream, now on your right, around a long left-right bend, and pass left Manor Farm. In 200 yards, take the left ‘Bronkham Hill 2½’ bridleway into a yard. Past left garages, fork right under trees to the bridleway-signed track, rising through trees to a bridleway-signed bend. Go left up the fenced grass track, beginning a long ascent, steepest before the overhead cables. Keep straight on up, soon seeing Hardy Monument ahead and Bronkham Hill left.
3. Emerging into a large field at a bridleway-gatepost, follow the left beeches, then hedge, then more beeches before losing all edging between high fields with views to Dorchester. You’ve performed a sweeping 90 degrees bend on the way up. Meeting the facing hedge, go right along it, then bend left for the last 3/8 mile, steepening to the road gate. Through, cross right to the ‘Bronkham Hill, Coryates 1½’ bridleway-gate. Through, follow the left fence up the field, with Hardy Monument right, to the corner bridleway half-gate. Through, turn left along the undulating gorse-edged path with sea glimpses and view to Portland. Pass a ‘Bincombe 5¾’ bridleway-sign. Through the end bridleway-gate, keep following the track along the right fence, rising to pass Bronkham Hill’s left barrows.
4. Through another bridleway-gate, keep straight on. Pass a left ‘Martinstown 2’ bridleway-track and continue along the fence and past more barrows. Through the far bridleway-gate with a right pointer to ‘Hell Bottom ½’, continue down the path through gorse, then over open ground, then more gorse. Through the gate into a storage-tank area, keep down the track with a right fence. Cross a farm track with ‘Corton Hill ¾’ bridleway right. Continue for ‘Bincombe 4¾’. Through facing 1½ bridleway-gates, continue beyond three overhead cables to a 3-way bridleway-pointer. Take the left ‘Martinstown 1¾’ grass track passing left of the barrows. Now begins a long descent.
5. Through 2½ bridleway-gates, continue down to another right barrow. Here, veer off left to the fence above the valley. Go through the bridleway half-gate and follow the path slowly down the valley side to the far bottom left corner bridleway-gateway by a wood. Follow the chalk track along the valley bottom’s left hedge to a facing gate. Through, in 70 yards, pass a bridleway-arrow post. Continue for another 80 yards, then fork right onto a grass path. Past another bridleway arrow-post, follow the grass track along the left fence above the right valley. Veering into the left wood through a bridleway-gateway, ascend the track. Through the top half-gate, walk straight up the field to the facing bridleway half-gate onto a fenced Tarmac drive. Follow it down to emerge into Martinstown opposite St Martin’s Church. Turn left back to the lay-by where you started.
• Winter walks in Dorset - When the weather gets colder, there’s not much more refreshing than a brisk walk across the countryside, and there’s plenty of that here in Dorset…