Dorset walk around Tarrant Rushton & Manswood
PUBLISHED: 11:01 25 April 2017
Edward Griffiths starts this bluebell walk in Cranborne Chase at a remarkable airfield that was once home to two Glider Pilot Regiments which played a key role on D-Day
The starting point for this delightful Cranborne Chase ‘bluebell’ walk is Tarrant Rushton Airfield. Built in 1943 for the planned invasion of Europe, the airfield was used by 298 and 644 Squadron Glider Pilot Regiment. They used Halifax aircraft as tugs for Horsa and Hamilcar gliders which were designed to carry troops and heavy cargo such as tanks. Vitally important on D-Day (6 June 1944), 298 and 644 Squadron captured Pegasus Bridge, and flew further missions for four weeks. SAS and SOE operations and tactical bombing missions followed.
Now largely returned to arable farmland, the sunlit fields and overhead skylarks are a joyful reminder of what this former airfield at Tarrant Rushton achieved for Britain in the Second World War.
• Distance: 6½ miles (10.5km)
• Time: 4½ hours
• Exertion: Easy. No significant ascents, no stiles. Some mud after rain.
• Start: Tarrant Rushton Airfield. Park clear of yellow hatched area outside gates (Grid Ref: ST950062)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195
• Public Transport: None
• Dogs: On leads in fieldswith livestock and on roads
• Refreshments: The Langton Arms, Tarrant Monkton for lunches and bar meals
1. Take the footpath-signed gap onto the airfield, passing the left hangar. Turn left along the concrete ‘apron’ and pass the hangar’s enclosure. From the left turning area, continue for 225 yards to the end of the left field and the start of the right hedge. At the angled left fence, follow the faint path down along the fence to the half-gate by a horse-jump. Through, continue down the left hedge to the half-gate onto the road, signed back ‘Bridleway’. Cross left to the ‘Public Footpath’ track. Through the cantilever-gate, follow the old concrete track around left Sheep Park Coppice. In ¼ mile, passing a left thatched cottage, the hedged track rises gently between fields.
2. Pass between old airfield buildings left and right Hogstock Coppice to a tracks’ T-junction. Go right, still with Hogstock Coppice right with bluebells and wood anemones. Reaching facing double-gates, take the right-fork arrowed-bridleway along the same right wood with fine views over Tarrant Valley villages. At a left bridleway arrow, pass a left-fork descending track and keep straight on. Past the cantilever-gate and bridleway arrows at a right turning, continue on the track, soon bending right into Little Down wood. Continue, slightly downwards, and meet a left field. Swinging right to a bridleway T-junction, go left onto the gravel track between the left field and right wood. Undulating to a bridleway-post opposite the young left wood, turn right on the bridleway-track between rolling fields.
3. Entering Chetterwood (unsigned), keep to the main track with coppice, bluebells, anemones, primroses and daisy-like stitchwort. Ignore all side tracks. Reaching a right hairpin bend with a bridleway straight on, go around the hairpin. In 100 yards, the track bends left at a bridleway-post. Continue round and up to a six-ways (one grass) junction. Cross over and continue, past the sold wood bench and between dark pine woods. Past a two-way bridleway-post at a right sweep, pass through the fenced Crichel Estates huts area, leaving the woods behind. Along the hedged track, pass right barns. Through the cantilever-gate, pass left thatched cottages. At the Manswood road junction, cross over into the bridleway-signed hedged track and turn right. It’s safer than the road.
4. Meeting the road again at a three-way bridleway-pointer, cross into ‘Dean Hill Piggery’ bridleway-track. Follow the left fence to its end, passing right cottages and two right forks. Past the facing gate, follow the meandering track down the fields with Deans Leaze Farm visible ahead. Passing another right bluebell wood, turn left at the bridleway-track. Follow the left hedge down the field. Into the second field, turn right along the grass track with a line of right trees. Immediately before the open barn, turn right onto the grass track along the left beech hedge. Around the left corner, next turn right along the wooden fence to facing bluebell wood. Turn left at two bridleway-arrows along the fenced grass track. Through facing double-gates, turn right on the grass track along right Birch Coppice with fine views.
5. When the wood ends, continue down the hedged track past left Dean Farm to the tracks T-junction. Turn left. Through 1½ gates, follow the hedged track to the road, signed ‘Dean Farm’ and ‘Bridleway’. Cross onto the gated concrete track up to Hemsworth. Reaching the tracks’ junction, go past the first right cottage and stay on the main track, bending right at the bridleway-arrowed electric-post. Keep to the drive past the left walled-garden. Bending left/right, pass ‘Fox View’ cottage. Now hedged, pass the right house and barn before rising and bending right. Pass the new left hangar. Through facing 1½ gates, keep following the left-fenced bending track, becoming concrete, over fields. Round more bends, go through 2½ facing gates and turn right onto the airfield roadway. Swinging left, pass the fork where you turned off earlier and continue past the right hangar to the gates where you started.
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