Dorset walk around Mappowder and Nettlecombe
PUBLISHED: 16:45 24 November 2015 | UPDATED: 12:13 05 October 2017
Edward Griffiths enjoys the windswept heights of The Dorsetshire Gap, an area steeped in history and the site of a junction where five ancient tracks meet
If you can find your way along the narrow lanes to Mappowder, you should find your way around this lovely Dorset walk following the directions below. Former Yetties singer/songwriter Bonny Sartin recommended taking a ‘survey map’ in his evocative poem The Dorsetshire Gap, but that was before he’d been there with me. I think his poem brilliantly captures the essence of this delightful and somewhat mysterious spot that is steeped in history, and the rest of the walk’s not half bad either.
• Distance: 5¼ miles (8.5km)
• Time: 4 hours
• Exertion: Not too strenuous. Two short steep fields but no stiles. Some mud after rain.
• Start: Hammond Street, Mappowder, thoughtfully outside Church of St Peter and St Paul (Grid Reference: ST736060)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194
• Public Transport: None really suitable
• Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock and on roads
• Refreshments: The Fox at Ansty for lunches and bar meals
1 Walk south past the church railings. Immediately, take the left footpath-signed stile/gate into a wide field. Cross to the hedge’s footpath-stile, aiming just right of Mappowder Court. Over, turn left across the field corner to the stone wall’s footpath-stile. Into Quar Lane, turn right. Past right 18th-century Mappowder Court, continue along the enclosed bridleway-path to the end. Into the lane’s corner, keep straight on, then bend left. Down into Saunders Farm, continue across the gated yard, passing the right farmhouse and down the concrete track to 1½ facing bridleway-gates. Into the rising field, bear half-right up over the top to the opposite hedge’s 1½ bridleway-gates.
2 Through, keep straight on over the high field to the opposite hedge’s 1½ bridleway-gates. Through, bear ¼-left through a clump of trees and down the field to the bottom corner twin bridleway half-gates. Into a wood with a stream junction, go over the first footbridge and over the facing bank and turn left (ignoring the right footbridge) onto the vague path with the stream down right. Continue along the rising hoof printed damp ‘track’ to the bridleway-gate into a long rising field with woods below right. Keep following the left hedge and ditch up for about ¼ mile. At the top, go through the left bridleway-gate into the adjacent field. Turn right along the same hedge on the grass track.
3 At the end, go through the bridleway half-gate into Breach Wood and follow the path through for ¼ mile. Emerging into a barnyard, go through the cantilever gate into a Tarmac lane’s corner. Turn right along the lane with oaks and plant tubs to the facing farmhouse. Fork right, signed ‘Dorset Gap ½’ up the concrete bridleway-track into the farmyard. Walk up past the bridleway arrowed right barns. Through the top gates, continue to three facing gates. Through the right ‘Dorset Gap’ bridleway-gate, bear right, vaguely parallel with the right wood to the top corner ‘Wessex Ridgeway’ half-gates onto the grass ridge. Follow the ridge, with fabulous views, and through the ‘notch’, onto the grass track down into the old sunken track to the bridleway-gate into ‘The Dorsetshire Gap’.
4 After exploring, leave down the sunken ‘Armswell Farm’ track on the hill‘s shady side. Through the bridleway-gate onto the valley head’s old grass track, veer off left up the field with Nettlecombe Wood left and getting steeper, to the top hedge’s bridleway-gate with more fabulous views. Through, cross to the bridleway-post and descend the steep walkers’ steps. Follow the right fence to the far corner’s two half-gates. Through, turn left to the tracks T-junction. Go through the facing half-gate and turn half-right over the sloping field, towards Ball Hill, to the lower fence’s two-way bridleway half-gate.
5 Through, cross the track to the bridleway half-gate into the descending field. Follow the left hedge. At its end, continue over the field with Armswell Farm and Ball Hill left, aiming at a red-roofed garage. Reaching the two-way bridleway-gate, go through and turn right along the road. Passing Little Monkwood Hill Farm, Park Farm, Monkwood Hill Farm with fine views, and a right turn to Saunders Farm, you’ll arrive back at Mappowder Church where you started.