Dorset walk: Okeford Common and Fiddleford
PUBLISHED: 09:55 02 August 2016 | UPDATED: 09:55 02 August 2016
Edward Griffiths enjoys a nature-filled walk through the Vale of Blackmore and admires a medieval manor house with a magnificent oak beamed roof
Blackmore Vale is a delight at this time of year with beautiful views unfolding from every high field. A thrush interrupts the ubiquitous rooks’ calls, swallows and house-martins swoop around barns and farmyards. And if you keep your eyes peeled you may even see the electric blue flash of a kingfisher hunting along the Stour below Fiddleford Mill, a building that is mentioned in Domesday. Take your time on this walk - this is a nature stroll to be savoured. And don’t miss the chance to admire the magnificent medieval timber roof inside Fiddleford Manor.
• Distance: 6½ miles (11.75 km)
• Time: 4½ hours
• Exertion: Quite easy. Expect mud after rain.
• Start: Sturminster Newton car park, Station Road (Grid Ref: ST787142)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194
• Public Transport: Damory daily 307, 309, 310
• Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock, farms and on roads
• Refreshments: Fiddleford Inn for coffee, lunches and bar meals
1 Leave car park in top corner. Past Poets’ Corner, continue up Station Road. Cross the B3092 into ‘The Row’. Continue to the end kissing-gate. Down the path/steps to the kissing-gate, follow the ‘Stalbridge Lane’ path. Over Colber Bridge, bear half-left for ‘Stalbridge Lane’ across the meadow to the footpath-arrowed kissing-gate. Follow the hedged path to Stalbridge Halter Path. Across, over ‘Road Lane Farm’ footpath-stile, bear half-left to the footpath-gateway by the trough. Through, follow the hedge’s other side up the field to the corner’s hidden footpath-stile. Over, follow the right hedge down to the gate and trough. Through, take the left ‘Rolls Mill’ gate onto the left-fenced track. Around the sweeping-left bend, take the sharp right ‘Rolls Mill’ track and footbridge.
2 Follow the meandering left river for ¼ mile, passing several arrows, to the footpath-stile into the left wood. Over the footbridge, follow the path along River Divelish to the A357 footpath-stile. Cross into the footpath-signed ‘Riverside’ driveway at Rolls Mill Bridge. Instantly, take the steel ‘Glue Hill’ gate into the field, bearing right to pass right barns. Through the footpath-gate, walk up the large field, keeping left of the twin oaks, to the hedge’s footpath-stile. Over, past the three-way pointer, bear half-right for ‘Puxey Farm’ down to the footpath-gate onto a farm track. Over the footpath-bridge left of the ford, walk up to the footpath-gate. Through, turn right to the gate between the barn and Puxey Farmhouse.
3 Cross the yard diagonally. Between corner barns, walk up the track. Through the gate, turn sharp-left for ‘Plumber Manor’. Through the bridleway-gate, continue to a T-junction. Through the facing fence’s bridleway-gap, cross the long field, aiming for distant Bulbarrow Hill’s masts, to the hedge’s half-gate. Through, cross the field to the facing gateway, then straight across to the half-gate onto the road. Cross into Plumber Manor’s bridleway-drive. When the drive bends left, continue into the track. Over the bridge, follow the drive past left buildings and through the yard to the top track. Past Nos. 1 and 2, go through the facing gate. Follow the bending track, then the left fence. Through the gate into the next field, walk up, with left trees, to the bridleway-gate. Into the next field, follow the left trees’ grass track up to the gate. Through, cross the field with a right fence to the hedge’s bridleway-gate.
4 Across the road, pass through the yard to a T-junction. Past a three-way pointer, continue along the ‘Belchalwell’ lane, passing Knoll Farm. At Common Farm, take the left footpath-gate and turn sharp-right up the field, parallel with the road, to the top. Passing right gates, turn left down the right hedge to the wood’s stile. If you can’t get through Okeford Common Wood to the far footpath-stile, come back, go through the gate to your right, then through the left gate onto the track through the same wood. Out into the field from stile or track, bear half-left up the field, aiming 80 yards right of three wide trees. Go through the top corner gate into a hedged path with Broad Oak left.
5 Out the far end, continue along Angers Lane, passing Banbury Farm and Fiddleford Mushrooms. At Banbury Cross T-junction, keep straight on. Down into trees, take the left footpath-gate/stile into a field. Cross to the footpath-gate. Over, follow the left hedge into the footpath-arrowed corner and turn right along Piddles Wood’s long edge to the corner footpath-gate. Through, keep following the wood’s edge for ‘Fiddleford’ over and down to the gate/stile. Over, continue down to the footpath-gate/stile by a clay-tiled building.
6 Onto the A357, turn right. Carefully, cross the bridge and turn left to Fiddleford Inn. Follow the lane, ignoring all side footpaths, for about ½ mile. Across another bridge before a T-junction, go straight on, or left first to visit Fiddleford Manor. Pass Fiddleford Mill and its outbuildings, cross the sluice-gates and go through the end kissing-gate. Turn right for ‘Sturminster Newton via Railway Path’ along the River Stour with stiles and over a footbridge to the kissing-gate and path up to the ‘Trailway’. Turn left for an easy one-mile stroll back to Sturminster Newton car park where you started.
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