Dorset walk: Pimperne Long Barrow and Hinton Bushes
PUBLISHED: 15:27 14 January 2016 | UPDATED: 12:12 05 October 2017
On this winter walk, Edward Griffiths visits an impressive Neolithic barrow situated on a chalk ridge at the edge of Cranborne Chase
Situated on the summit of a chalk ridge north of Blandford Forum, at the edge of mysterious Cranborne Chase, Pimperne Long Barrow is ‘one of the finest surviving burial mounds in Wessex’ (Royal Commission on Historical Monuments Volume IV North). Built at 370ft above sea level between 4000 and 3500 BC, this early-Neolithic barrow is an incredible 330ft long by 65ft wide and is still 9ft high. The east side ditch is still 40ft wide and 4ft deep even after 6000 years of erosion.
This varied walk takes you right up to the barrow, and follows mostly very clear tracks over some of Cranborne Chase’s typical low chalk hills and shallow valleys with lovely views abounding. There are clear paths through several woods as well, many still being coppiced beneath some fine ancient oaks. Take your time and go quietly and listen for the beautiful birdsong, which you can hear crystal clear in the fresh winter air.
In Pimperne itself, St Peter’s Church was completely rebuilt in 1873-4. The builders kept the 15th-century tower but heightened it above the new higher nave roof, and added the battlements. They also incorporated some of the original Norman sections including the arch between the porch and church, the ‘dogtooth’ arch on the chancel’s north side and the painted east window.
• Distance: 5 miles (8 km)
• Time: 4 hours
• Exertion: Not too strenuous. Only gentle slopes and no stiles. Some mud after rain.
• Start: Pimperne Village Hall (Grid Ref: ST903097) next to the new school or outside St Peter’s Church in Church Street (Grid Ref: ST904095)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195
• Public Transport: Damory 184 Blandford to Salisbury, Farquharson Arms stop
• Dogs: Mainly on leads
• Refreshments: The Farquharson Arms at Pimperne is a dog-friendly pub and is popular for its delicious home cooked food and well-kept beers. Closed Tuesdays.
1 From the Village Hall, walk back into the village, passing left St Peter’s Close and right Manor Close, before turning left into Arlecks Lane. Alternatively, from St Peter’s, continue along Church Road and turn first right into Arlecks Lane. Now, ascend between houses and gardens to meet another lane coming from your right. Continue straight up slowly through footpath-arrowed gates signed ‘Stud Farm and Westleigh’. On a Tarmac track with a right hedge, pass left barns and sheds, World War II buildings and a phone mast. Continue up, with an open field left and ever improving views over gently rolling hills and valleys. In another ½ mile, the track ends at a bridleway post before remains of a walled building and a storage tank. Pass right of these and continue up against the left hedge.
2 Reaching the end corner gate with three-way bridleway signs. Here is Pimperne Long Barrow, all 330ft length of it. Turn left along the left hedge. In 100 yards, take the bridleway signed grass track meandering down the long field - basically diagonally left. Arriving at the two-way bridleway sign, turn left at the T- junction. Follow the left Hinton Bushes coppice wood’s edge, ignoring the right bend, then follow the left hedge through the valley field and into a hedged track up to a bridleway sleeper post after a left gate. Follow the path with another left coppice and old oaks. Just past a right bridleway gap, take the left bridleway opening into a field with Hinton Bushes still left.
3 Follow the wood’s edge path, with fine views. Leaving the left wood, with Home Farm below right, bear ¼-right diagonally down the long field, aiming for the visible three-way bridleway signs in the bottom-right hedge corner, and passing left of a solitary oak. If planted or rough ploughed, follow the left hedge to the field end and turn down against the left hedge to that three-way bridleway post. Through the opening, turn left up the hedged farm track. Past field gateways, follow the track straight on with Pimperne Wood coppice left and hedge right. Don’t fork left into Pimperne Wood! Reaching a bridleway crossing with a right cantilever gate, continue down the grass track, still with Pimperne Wood left, to a bridleway arrowed sleeper into Gunville Down high field.
4 Follow the left hedge down Gunville Down, up and round above a left valley filled with fluffy white seed heads of traveller’s joy. Down to the bottom left corner bridleway path into another wood, meander down to a bridleway fence post at a bridleway and footpath T-junction. Turn left along the fenced track in the valley floor with a left field and right ‘Private’ hanging wood. Joining a wider track at a right bungalow and bridleway post, keep straight on with a left wood and right field. Becoming Tarmac just before a left two-way bridleway sign, continue on the hedged ‘proper’ road along the shallow valley floor. Pass a young right wood and a three-way pointer at a reverse-right fork for ‘Jubilee Trail’ and ‘Pimperne’. Soon, past the left school, you’re back at the Village Hall, or keep straight on for another ¼ mile if you started at St Peter’s Church.