Dorset walk around Chardown Hill and Whitchurch Canonicorum
PUBLISHED: 15:45 08 October 2015 | UPDATED: 15:53 08 October 2015
Edward Griffiths enjoys some sensational sea views stretching from Dorset to Devon on this coast and countryside walk which also takes in the River Char Valley
After ascending Chardown Hill at the start of this walk you will be able to enjoy the stunning seascape which stretches from Portland across the border to East Devon. The country lane from Morcombelake allows beautiful views into the River Char valley, and the long stroll through the River Char’s lush meadows filled with wildflowers is accompanied by birdsong. All in all, this is a most enjoyable walk that richly rewards the initial effort of ascending the re-routed South West Coast Path from Charmouth to Stonebarrow Hill.
Distance: 5½ miles (8.75 km)
• Time: 4 hours
• Exertion: An initial ascent of 450ft but, after Chardown Hill, it’s all downhill or level. Some mud in meadows after rain.
• Start: Newlands Bridge in ‘The Street’ over the River Char on the eastern edge of Charmouth (Grid Ref: SY370935). Park thoughtfully anywhere in ‘The Street’ or in the Car Park off Lower Sea Lane.
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 193
• Public Transport: First Dorset X53 Jurassic Coaster, 31 and X31
• Dogs: On leads on roads and in fields with livestock
• Refreshments: The Royal Oak, The Old Bank Café and Charmouth Fish Bar, The Street
1 From the bridge, walk east to Stonebarrow Lane (the ‘Coast Path Diversion’). Ascend the steep ¾ mile tree-clad lane, with increasing River Char Valley and Jurassic Coast views. Through the woods and ‘National Trust Stonebarrow Hill’ Car Park gateway, take the instant right ‘Coast Path Diversion’ path. In 60 yards, at the next path’s junction, take the ‘Golden Cap Coast Path’ east. Through the kissing-gate, follow the path through bracken, passing a left pine wood, to a paths’ crossing.
2 Go left onto the wider path with Golden Cap forward right. Reaching a fork, keep right for another 200 yards to another fork, signed ‘8’. Join the right track. Keep straight on up through banks of bracken. Past the ‘National Trust Westway Farm’ notice, continue up into Stonebarrow Down Car Park. At the right end turning area, go through the right bridleway and footpath-gate and fork left for ‘Chardown Hill’ over grazed grassland. Through the facing footpath-gate, keep straight on, with a bracken-filled valley and fine sea views right. Continue to the footpath-gate. Through, keep straight on. Past a left bench, continue on the left fork path. Through the gorse gap, turn left towards two gates.
3 Go through the left ‘Bridleway Morecombelake ½’ gate, and a second gate into the high field. Turn right along the fence and down the sunken track with gorse and bracken. Passing the right ‘St Gabriels’ stile, continue down to the ‘National Trust Chardown Hill’ bridleway half-gate. Go down the stepped path to Brackendene’s drive. Out into the lane, turn right. Past several cottages, turn left opposite ‘Ship Farm’ with the mansard roof. Reaching the A35 crossing, very carefully cross into the ‘Whitchurch Canonicorum’ lane and keep straight on for one mile, with increasingly fine views to Charmouth and Lyme Regis.
4 Pass a left footpath pointer and two right Taylor’s Lanes. Pass a right turning with a corner cottage which would take you into the village and church. Keeping straight on down, pass another left footpath at Cockwell Farm. Reaching Berne Lane crossroads at ‘Old Cross’ cottage, continue down Becklands Lane to the River Char. Just before the bridge, take the left ‘Charmouth 2½’ kissing-gate. Cross the field diagonally left to the hedge-gap’s half-gate. Through, cross to the corner half-gate. Through, meander through the narrow scrub field, with the River Char right, to the half-gate into the meadow with Conegar Hill right. Follow the left edge to the half-gate under trees. Through, follow the right river. Through the gap into the next field, follow the river to the footpath-gated tributary footbridge.
5 Over, bear half-left along the long meadow’s path, with the river meandering right, to the far right corner into trees. Follow the footpath-arrowed path over another tributary footbridge and up steps into a field. Turn right along the edge. In about 50 yards, go down right steps to the half-gate into another field with the river right. Keep following the right edge path along the not always obvious river. Reaching a half-gated bridge, cross the small field into the right corner’s hidden half-gate. Through, join the fenced path going right to the Char bridge. Over, and through the footpath-gate, bear left along the path through another long meadow, with the river left, to a two-way footpath-gate with mobile homes over left and another gate into a field.
6 Keep following the left river to 1½ gates into another field. Now follow the right hedge to the corner half-gate. Through, cross the field to the hedge’s half-gate. Through, follow the left river for about 30 yards and go through the left footpath-gate onto the riverside, possibly overgrown, path. Push through to emerge at a half-gate into a track with Charmouth by-pass bridge left. Cross right to the half-gate. Through, follow the hedged grass track, then rising alongside the A35, then into trees. Emerging at the footpath signpost into the Catherston Leweston road, turn left. Over the A35 bridge, continue down into Charmouth. At the T-junction, turn right to wherever you started this walk.
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