Dorset walk - Pentridge and Bokerley Ditch
PUBLISHED: 16:14 05 March 2015 | UPDATED: 16:15 05 March 2015
Edward Griffiths embraces both war and peace on this walk on the Hampshire border which takes in an area once besieged by invading Saxons and an Iron Age hill fort
The little churchyard of St Rumbold’s church in Pentridge always reminds me of Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard - ‘Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife’. St Rumbold’s was mentioned in the Domesday Book but the present church, with its little spire, was rebuilt in 1855. All of Pentridge’s houses, old and new, stand well back from the road behind hedges of mixed origins so, without looking sideways, you wouldn’t know they were there at all.
Leaving the village, the walk takes you to Bokerley Ditch which was built around AD370 to keep the invading Saxons, who already dominated Wiltshire, out of Dorset. Pentridge Hill, much of which is an SSSI site, is rich in chalk-land flora and, on its peak is Penbury Knoll, an Iron Age hill fort with ramparts and banks.
• Distance: 4 3/4 miles (7.5km)
• Time: 4 hours
• Exertion: Mildly strenuous with several gradual ascents. Some mud after rain.
• Start: Two possible start points. *Point A: Lane in Pentridge village, park thoughtfully (Grid Ref: SU035178). **Point B: Verge by Bridleway gate before village (Grid Ref: SU033182)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 184
• Public Transport: None
• Dogs: On leads when requested and where there is livestock in the fields
• Refreshments: The Inn at Cranborne for lunches and bar meals
1 The walk can be started from either A or B. From *Point A: walk along the lane, passing the turning by which you arrived with thatched Penbury Cottage on the corner. Reaching Whitey Top Farm, bend right up the hedged track, At the dairy yard, go through the facing 1½ gates into the hedged/fenced track with views right to pine-clad Penbury Knoll hill fort. Continue, past or through two more gates, to the left fence corner. Note: ‘Please Keep Dogs on Lead’. Go round the corner. Follow the left fence track, parallel with the farm track over the fence, down the field and bending right to the bridleway-gate into a fenced track, again ‘Please Keep Dogs on Lead’, alongside the long pine wood.
From **Point B: go through the bridleway half-gate and follow the right hedge down the field to the hedge’s half-gate into the open area in front of right twin cottages. Walk down the drive past St Rumbold’s Church to the village road with a backward pointing bridleway sign. Turn left along the lane and meet Point A. You are now on the same track.
2 Follow this track slightly downhill. At a bridleway T-junction, keep straight on down the grassy track alongside the wood, with the banks of Bokerley Ditch getting closer. When the wood track ends at a ‘Forde Abbey 90 miles’ sign, wander through the ditch-and-banks into ‘Martin Down National Nature Reserve’. Turn right up the grass track, alongside the ditch, with skylarks galore and fine views over Martin Down. Confession - you’re in Hampshire, but you’re not out of sight of Dorset. Keep on up the grass track, with a series of natural grass steps, and a thrush in the high wood.
3 Meeting a tracks’ junction with the main track crossing in front, turn right, past the corner bench, through the banks. Up the sunken chalk track, with barrows in the left field and hazels right, arrive into the wood with two-way bridleway arrows. Turn sharp right and go past the facing gate. In 50 yards, take the left 1½ bridleway-gates onto the woodland track. Emerging into a grass path along the right fenced field, there are views to the ditches and Salisbury road. Rising slowly for ¼ mile, this is the muddy bit. Past a bridleway-arrow, emerge into a high field. Follow the right edge up to the three-way Jubilee Trail pointer. Fork left over the field towards the high trees in the corner.
4 Through the trees, go through the bridleway half-gate onto the slopes of Pentridge Hill. Follow the faint grass track up the hill, near the left fence, and joining another track from your reverse-right. There are good views down to, and beyond, Pentridge in the valley. Along the meandering track, see Penbury Knoll‘s banks ahead. Reaching the pine trees, explore at will, and find the O.S. trig point, but rejoin the track along the left fence. Through the bridleway-gate, keep following the fence to the end bridleway-gate. Don‘t go through but turn sharp right through spindly bushes and along the left fence down the hill to the farm-gate.
5 Through onto the track, keep on down still enjoying the views. At the bottom, the track bends right to a gated T-junction. Keep straight on along the hedged track into and through Manor Farm with its listed 18th-century thatched barn. Continue into the village road and turn left up the bridleway-signed track to visit St Rumbold’s Church. To return to Point B: bear right past the twin-cottages to the right bridleway half-gate and return through the field to the parking verge. To return to Point A: return to the village lane and turn left back to the lay-by.
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