Dorset walk around Wynford Eagle and Compton Valence
PUBLISHED: 09:55 19 June 2014 | UPDATED: 10:07 19 June 2014
Edward Griffiths enjoys a hilly walk over chalk downs and sheep-filled vales in the land of the eagle
Distance: 5 miles (8 km)
Time: 4 hours
Exertion: Two ascents of around 273ft each, one long, the other shorter and steeper. There are the equivalent descents as well, so take your time.
Start: St Laurence’s Church, Wynford Eagle, on the Bridport road (Grid Ref: SY582959) Park thoughtfully on the verge uphill from the church.
Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194
Public Transport: None
Dogs: On leads near livestock. There are lots of lambs and pregnant ewes about.
Refreshments: The Chalk and Cheese, Maiden Newton for bar meals and good ale
The name ‘Wynford’ comes from the Wyn Stream, the ford now superseded by a bridge. The land was given to Richard de Aguila, hence ‘Eagle’, after the Norman conquest. The vast estates are still run by the Wynford family today. The present Manor House dates from 1630 and has a huge eagle perched over the west front’s central bay. Both of the hamlets encountered on this delightful walk over chalk downs and sheep-filled vales lie in the bottom of deep lush valleys.
Wynford’s position is wide and open, but Compton Valence sits in a more enclosed dip, surrounded by trees. The views on this walk are constantly changing, but all are far reaching and superb in the early-May sunshine. Look out for roe deer, sika deer, buzzards, swallows skimming the ground, and brimstone butterflies.
1 From St Laurence’s, take the footpath-signed stile left of ‘Wynford House’ drive. Follow the fence to the corner with the Old School right. Through the facing footpath-arrowed gate, turn left along the left hedge. Over the clear Wyn stream footbridge, continue to the footpath half-gate and go up the short steep hill to the roadside footpath half-gate. Through this, cross the lane to the bridleway-signed gate onto the chalk track, with the left hedge, ascending the valley-side field. Past a right barrow and through the bridleway-gate, continue up the long field, passing a left barn and a right bridleway-fork at the facing hedge gap.
2 Continue alongside the left hedge through another long field, passing a left gap, up to the far left corner’s hidden bridleway half-gate. Through this, above a left valley, follow the right fence, not ascending for a change, to the corner bridleway half-gate. Through, pass behind the small tree clump to the two-way bridleway half-gate. Don’t go through. Turn left along the right fence and through the nearby bridleway-gate. Follow the right-fenced track to the track’s left turn. Here, go through the right gateway into the right field. Follow the left fence to the corner, then left along the left hedge, meandering past a pond. Pass right barns and meet the road. Turn right.
3 Past the left barn, turn left for ‘Compton Valence’ at ‘Greenford Lane 584935’ sign. Follow this hedged lane with great views, passing ‘Compton Valence Farm Drier’ sheds. Enjoy the steep descent (signed 14%) into the deep tree-lined valley, arriving at Compton Valence’s Church of St Thomas of Canterbury. Continue down past the seat and telephone box and left cottages. At the right bend, take the left bridleway drive through Lower Dairy cottages and buildings. Go through the Macmillan Way gate onto the left-fenced valley-floor track. Sweeping right, reach a five-gates complex. Take the left of three signed bridleways, through the gate and up against the steep valley-side field’s left fence.
4 At the first bridleway-gate, go through and follow the right fence, then the right-sweeping grass track up to the facing bridleway-gate. Through this, walk left along the fence, round the right corner and up to the horse-jump and 1½ gates onto the hedged track. Turn right and enjoy the views again. Down to the right barn, take the left bridleway-gate and follow the grass track across the field and alongside the right wood. After the wood ends, pass a right footpath-stile and keep following the right hedge, signed for ‘Greenford Lane’, to meet a crossing track at the field corner. Go left, up the right hedge to a barn and 1½ bridleway-gates onto the road. Cross over and go through the bridleway-signed gap into the field. Turn right along the roadside hedge.
5 Reaching the farm on the other side of the road, turn left along the signed bridleway which starts from the two roadside gates, across the field to the right bridleway-gate on the hedge/fence corner. Through this, follow the right hedge, passing the left half-hipped brick barn. Wynford Eagle is ahead, below you, in the valley. After the barn, bear away from the hedge. Follow the faint grass track left of the electricity poles leading to the gorse-bordered gateway onto a descending chalk track. Down through the next gate under trees, the track swings left at a right chalk quarry and descends to Manor Farm. Through to the road, signed back ‘Greenford Lane ¾’ cross over into ‘Bridport 8¾’ road. Walk to the Wyn stream bridge and the church where you started.