Dorset walk - Milton Park and Oatclose Woods
PUBLISHED: 15:39 26 November 2014 | UPDATED: 12:14 05 October 2017
Edward Griffiths enjoys some superb colours on this woodland walk near the picturesque village of Milton Abbas
Milton Park Wood, Charity Wood, Whatcombe Wood and Oatclose Wood together form a considerable tract of forest, all administered by the Forestry Commission. In November, the beeches, sweet chestnuts, sycamores and larches display their beautiful colours, followed by oak and ash, but the timing is dependant on many variable weather conditions. Go too early and everything is still green; too late and you’ve missed it, especially if seasonal gales have stripped the sleeping leaves. On a sunny breezy day, this is an exceptional walk, with the heady aroma of pines and bracken in the woods and bracing country air in the high fields. There’s the chance to visit Winterborne Clenston with its fine Manor House, outstanding barns - one thatched, one chequer-board pattern tiled - and Victorian St Nicholas’ church. Nearing the finish, the walk crosses Milton Abbas main street, so you could divert to explore the picturesque village before heading home.
• Distance: 5 1/2 miles (8.75km)
• Time: 4 hours
• Exertion: Not too strenuous. Several slow gradients. Some mud in woodland bridleways after rain.
• Start: Catherine’s Well road, north of and parallel with Milton Abbas main street. Park thoughtfully. (Grid Ref: ST810022)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194
• Public Transport: Wilts and Dorset 183. Damory Coaches 311. Neither on Sundays
• Dogs: To protect wildlife dogs are requested to be on leads in woodland and where advised.
• Refreshments: Hambro Arms, Milton Abbas
1 Walk back to Catherine’s Well turning and cross into the opposite signed bridleway-drive. Past houses on either side, the bridleway becomes a track descending into ‘Milton Park Wood’ and swinging left and right. Take the left bridleway-path before the barrier, rising into the wood’s-edge path. Then descending to the bridleway-post at the forest track, turn left. In 25 yards, take the right bridleway-path up through trees to meet the forest track again at another bridleway-post. Turn right, rising. At a left fork, keep straight on the bridleway, then levelling and passing another bridleway-post at a crossing. You have now passed into Charity Wood.
2 Now descending slowly to another crossing, keep straight up the opposite bridleway-arrowed track to an arrow-signed fork with Jubilee Trail left to some ancient trees. Keep straight on, following the bridleway and becoming narrower with open fields visible ahead. Veer off the path as necessary to avoid puddles. Go through the end bridleway-gateway out of Charity Wood into a huge field and follow the left narrow wood/hedge down for over ½ mile, passing through a short wood on the way. At the bottom, go through the bridleway-signed gate onto the Winterborne valley road and turn right. Reaching left Clenston Manor, take the right, probably unsigned, bridleway-track opposite the thatched stone/brick/flint barn.
3 Up into trees, go through the barrier and look out for views of Clenston Manor below in the valley. Past a right turn and garage, go through the bridleway-signed barrier onto the grassy track, with Winterborne Clenston church down to your left. Bear right to pass the ‘Oatclose Wood’ information board. Ascending slowly to another more vague fork, bear right again on the more-used path rising slightly to a Y-junction. Turn left onto the barely ascending path, heading generally south. After a few crossings, the path swings slowly right to follow the inside of the wood’s left edge to a field gate. Go right of the gate onto the bridleway-arrowed fenced path with the field left, descending steeply to the valley track with more bridleway-arrows.
4 Turn left with the left field and right Whatcombe Wood. At the bridleway/footpath crossing, turn right onto the probably un-arrowed bridleway-track. Pass a right turning and a deer-fenced enclosure. About 50 yards after the fence ends, take the left-fork bridleway-signed path off the main track. Approaching the field corner, turn left up the steep bridleway-signed track through hazel. Out into the top field, keep following the left wood up the field. Before the facing hedge-gap (the arrow-post has fallen down), turn right along the hedge’s grass track with the field valley right and good views. Reaching the roadside gates, cross into Luccombe Farm’s Riding and Trading centre’s hedged drive. Continue past the centre and up the drive past East Luccombe Farmhouse.
5 Immediately after right Dairy Cottages, take the right bridleway-signed track. Through the gate, follow the fenced track up through trees, ignoring right turnings. Emerging into the high field at the ‘Milton Abbas Church’ footpath left pointer, continue along the right hedge and wood bridleway with long views. At the next signpost for ‘Milton Abbas’, veer left across the field corner to the fence’s half-gate. Cross the short field to the footpath half-gate into the hanging wood and follow the footpath arrows down to the steps into Milton Abbas main street, signed back to ‘Hoggen Down’. Turn right, passing the picnic area. Take the left bridleway-path up into the cul-de-sac and keep on up into Catherine’s Well where you started.