Dorset walk around Piddlehinton and Dole’s Hill
PUBLISHED: 14:23 26 February 2014 | UPDATED: 14:23 26 February 2014
Edward Griffiths enjoys a ramble through the beautiful Piddle Valley with its eponymous gin clear chalk stream, far reaching view and big skies
Distance: 5½ miles (8.75km)
Time: 4 hours
Exertion: Not too strenuous, on undulating lanes and field tracks, and over high downs. Some mud after rain, especially on Piddle bridleway-tracks on the return.
Start: St Mary’s Church, Piddlehinton (Grid Ref: SY716972). Parking in left lay-by for three cars in Rectory Road just beyond right Paynes Close on the Cerne Abbas road, or considerately in Paynes Close.
Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194.
Public Transport: Damory Coaches 307 Sturminster Newton to Dorchester. South West Coaches 109 Wincanton to Dorchester. Bus stop near St Mary’s Church.
Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock and on roads.
Refreshments: The Thimble in Piddlehinton, and the Piddle Inn at Piddletrenthide for good real ale and pub lunches.
The fine clear chalk stream known as the River Piddle meanders along the valley alongside, and sometimes through, the twin villages of Piddlehinton and Piddletrenthide, both of which are flanked by high chalk downs. Up on these downs, there are glorious views over the surrounding countryside of proverbial rolling hills and gently sloping valleys. Our route leads you straight into a land almost devoid of human habitation where you will probably meet the odd deer and almost certainly a couple of buzzards patrolling their hunting grounds. At this time of year, arable fields are planted and resting before the spring’s sun urges them to greater effort. So, without tractors ploughing, spraying or harvesting, it’s really peaceful. Enjoy the open skies and the long views on this delightful walk - and take your time.
1 From St Mary’s church entrance in Rectory Road, turn up the hill past the war memorial green and cross the B3143 into London Row opposite. Slowly ascending past left cottages and right London Close, continue up the hedged lane between high downs fields. Pass a left Permissive Path half-gate and continue to right Dorchester Mill. Take the left bridleway-signed lane ‘Carter’s Barn Farm’ lane. Past the converted farm buildings, continue into the hedged grass track to the bridleway T-junction.
2 Turn right along the hedged track with lovely views, especially after the right hedge gives way to a fence. Continue down into and across the shallow valley, now unfenced. Over into the next valley, you meet a bridleway T-junction on the left corner of Dole’s Hill Plantation. Turn left past the steel barrier onto the valley bottom grass track running for ¾ mile through a huge field, passing a left beech wood and bending around two blackthorns on its way to another bridleway T-junction - with no signs. Turn left along the ridge, with extensive sweeping views, to exit this huge field through the hedge corner’s bridleway half-gate.
3 Through this, follow the path along the left hedge over another huge field, passing a right oak clump and a left opening. In another 100 yards, take the narrow left hedged and muddy unsigned bridleway path. Locals seem to walk through the field alongside but we can’t recommend it because it isn’t an official path. Emerging to meet a grass track from your left, keep straight on down the hedged track. Past a left hay-barn and a left track, the track rises again. Over the top, still with super views over endless rolling fields, begin a final descent on the concrete track. Reaching the B3143 again in Piddletrenthide, cross into the footpath-track by the thatched cottage. Over the River Piddle, continue along the grass path up to the stepped-stile into a relatively small field.
4 Turn left on the arrowed bridleway along the field’s left hedge. Through the corner bridleway-gate, follow the hedge through another small field to the next bridleway-gate. Through, follow the left hedge across the bigger field with the Piddle meandering through the left field. Through the end gate, follow the drive past the left house to the facing bridleway-gate onto a hedge track, ignoring the left bend. Through, keep straight on and cross the field to the gate left of the cottage ahead. Through, continue along the hedged track with the Piddle close by on your left for a while.
5 Past another left track, continue to a gates’ junction and follow the track round left to meet a right-joining bridleway drive at the two-way bridleway sign. In a few yards, bear right up through the bridleway-gateway into the field. Follow the left hedge and fence to the bridleway-gate and the same through the next field to the next corner bridleway-gate. Through this, bear right up under trees. Ignore the facing narrow path but turn left along the tree-lined track. Through the bridleway-gate, continue along the hedged track. At a left-right bend, pass the left Piddlehinton Millennium Green and footpath. Continue to Rectory Road, Piddlehinton and turn right to parked cars or left over the River Piddle to St Mary’s and the bus stop. n