• Start: Charlton Marshall
  • End: Charlton Marshall
  • Country: England
  • County: Dorset
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub: The Charlton Inn, Charlton Marshall, and The Woodpecker, Spetisbury (formerly Drax Arms)
  • Ordnance Survey: OS Landranger Sheets 195
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Edward Griffiths explores the western side of the Stour Valley on this walk which takes in the Iron Age hill-fort of Spetisbury Rings and the Trailway

Dorset walk for November - Charlton Marshall and West End

Edward Griffiths explores the western side of the Stour Valley on this walk which takes in the Iron Age hill-fort of Spetisbury Rings and the Trailway

Venturing into delightful countryside west of the Stour Valley villages of Charlton Marshall and Spetisbury, we discover ancient tracks, equally ancient woods, chalk downs with magnificent views to Cranborne Chase, and the Iron Age hill-fort of Spetisbury Rings. After a few hours exploring gentle hills, and mixed arable and dairy farmland, our return path follows the firm-surfaced Trailway through deep cuttings and along high embankments of the S and D Railway (Somerset and Dorset, or Slow and Dirty, whichever you prefer). This is a really pleasant walk in a scarcely-visited area of Dorset.

1 Walk along the A350 pavement to the church of St Mary the Virgin, with its dual sundial over the porch. Cross the A350 into Church Lane. In 50 yards, follow Church Lane left, bending then rising past a left orchard. Under the railway bridge, continue up the lane to the left cemetery where the lane becomes a sunken bridleway-signed track with overhanging trees. Past left Hillcrest, continue past a bridleway-arrow post. Then, past a right footpath, there are good views on both sides. Past a left footpath, start descendingthe narrower sunken path. Through the end bridleway-gate, there are super views over fields, hedges and woods.

2Keep on down the hedged track. Be careful not to go through the gateway into Birch Close Farm but take the bridleway-arrowed gate before it, into the left field. Cross the field diagonally left to the bridleway half-gate in the left corner. Through this, follow the right fence across the field. At the end, go through the right of two facing gates. Follow the track past left Glebe Farm and its barns. Follow the fenced drive, bending right and continuing to the road T-junction at The Glebe cottage with a bridleway-arrow pointing back. Turn left. In mile, past a left footpath, walk under overhead electricity wires, and take the right footpath-signed gate. Walk up the field, parallel with the right hedge, to the hedge opening underneath the electricity stanchion.

3 The footpath bears half-left here, but theres a fence barring the way without a stile. So, continue up the grass track and through the wire fences opening into the next field. Walk up to another electricity stanchion with footpath arrows at the end of the high left hedge. Through into the next field, turn instant left along the hedge track. Reaching the start of the left wood, at the ancient beech tree, youll pass the footpath where you should have been arriving. However, in 100 yards, at a crossing of unsigned paths, turn right along the grubbed-out hedge between two fields with super views over the Stour Valley.

4 Over the end twin-stiles into a field with lime trees, follow the path down before skirting around the left cob wall to a footpath-stile/gate. Over into West End lane, turn right up to the nearby left footpath-gate. Through this, cross the field to Spetisbury Rings. Through the gap, follow the right ring round to the 81metres OS trig point. Admire the views, then continue round, through some bushes, to the fence above the old railway cutting. Turn right down the steep bank and through scrub into a rough patch with a footpath-arrowed bench. Continue to more trees and along the left fence down to the corner footpath-stile. Over this, turn instantly left, above the Spetisbury nameplate, onto the tarmac path up to the Trailway above Spetisbury, through a deep cutting at first.

5 Follow the track past Spetisbury Halts platforms and bridge over West End road, under a bridge, passing right and left footpaths and above a right school, over another two bridges and under a concrete-panelled path bridge. In another mile, take the prominent fenced path descending from the railway above the childrens playground area. Through the fenced gap, walk down to the road. At the T-junction into Hopegood Close, turn left to The Close. Turn right down past houses and the right 1887 water-pump to the A350. Turn left back to St Marys where you started.


Distance: 5 miles (8 km)
Time: 3 hours
Exertion: Mostly easy. Any ascents are gentle. One sharp descent from Spetisbury Rings hill-fort bank.
Start: St Mary the Virgin church, Charlton Marshall. Parking in lay-by south of St Marys or thoughtfully in nearby side roads (Grid Ref: ST901041)
Map: OS Landranger Sheets 195
Public Transport: Wilts and Dorset X8 daily between Poole and Blandford. Damory Coaches 83 between Wimborne and Shaftesbury
Terrain: Mainly on tracks, country lanes and clear field paths.
Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock
Refreshments: The Charlton Inn, Charlton Marshall, and The Woodpecker, Spetisbury (formerly Drax Arms)

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