Dorset walk - Stalbridge Park and Purse Caundle
PUBLISHED: 12:57 29 May 2015 | UPDATED: 12:57 29 May 2015
On this fine Blackmore Vale walks Edward Griffiths visits an ancient Dorset village, an impressive manor house and enjoys many beautiful vistas
• Distance: 6 1/2 miles (10.5km)
• Time: 4 1/2 hours
• Exertion: Moderate, gentle ascents, several stiles. About half is easy country lane walking. Expect mud after rain.
• Start: The Hub and Library car park, Station Road, Stalbridge (Grid Ref: ST737183)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 183
• Public Transport: First 58, 58A. Damory Coaches 317 and 368
• Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock and on roads
• Refreshments: Dikes, Stalbridge, for morning coffee and The Swan for lunches and bar meals
In 1636, the Earl of Cork, Lord Treasurer of Ireland, acquired the manor and estate of Stalbridge and built himself a grand manor house. In the 18th century, a stone wall was built around the edge of previously unenclosed common land to create Stalbridge Park. When the Earl died, the property passed to his son Robert Boyle, he of the famous Boyle’s Law. The old mansion was pulled down in 1822 but most of Stalbridge Park’s five miles long wall remains as a lasting reminder.
On this fine Blackmore Vale walk, where we have long views in every direction, we go through the wall into the Park and, after visiting Purse Caundle, we follow the wall for two miles. Purse Caundle is an ancient Dorset village which has two fine buildings dating from the 15th century – the Church of St Peter and an impressive manor house.
1 Leaving the car park, turn left up Station Road to High Street, facing the Post Office. Cross into Barrow Hill then fork right into Grove Lane. Walk slowly up, past a variety of houses, passing Grove Lane Close left, to Gold Street T-junction. Keep straight on between stone walls and bend left onto the elevated pavement. At the next bend, go through the footpath-signed corrugated-iron gate into Stalbridge Park. Follow the short path through to the stile into a high field corner for your first fine views beyond the old walled garden and farmhouse to Stalbridge church on your right. Follow the left hedge, past the hollow tree, to the corner footpath-gate/stile.
2 Over, follow the right hedge to the corner footpath-stile. Over, follow the right hedge down to the corner footpath-gate. Through, cross the corner to the left hedge footpath-gate onto Old Barn track alongside a right hedge descending to a footpath-gate by the left copse. Through, follow the left fence up to the facing footpath-gate/stile, and continue to the footpath-gate onto the road. Cross over into ‘Stalbridge Weston’ and ‘Stourton Caundle’ lane down to and over the stream bridge with a left footpath-sign. Continue up to the right footpath-signed gate/stile into a high field. Follow the grass path along the left hedge and wood’s edge above the right valley, rising slowly. Meandering past a left gap at the wood’s end, continue along the hedge into another field at a footpath-arrow post. Through the next footpath-gate, continue along the shortened hedge and on to the facing hedge’s footpath-arrowed stile/footbridge/stile. Over these, cross the field corner to the footpath-signed stile into the road.
3 Over, turn right. Through Manor Farm, continue along the wide hedged track. Past a left bridleway-gate, continue, with superb views all around, to the gate into a banked field with a meandering track against the right hedge. Through the end gate into the high field’s corner, walk straight past the solitary oak then on down to the end of the left trees to find the sunken bridleway half gate. Negotiating the clay mud, walk into the narrow, sunken path down into Plumley Cottage’s gravel drive. Past the footpath and bridleway pointers, walk down the lane towards Purse Caundle, passing Hardy’s Cottage and Old School on the way.
4 After visiting St Peter’s Church and the Manor House, come back to the footpath-signed gate by the telephone box and post box at Church Farm’s entrance. Through the gate, follow the left barn and hedge to the corner footpath-gap into the left field and cross the corner to the footpath-gateway. Through, cross the field to the opposite hedge-gap with the two-way footpath-post. Fork left up against the left hedge into the top corner and cross the ditch into the used path running inside the wood’s right edge. Follow it to the footpath-post into a field’s corner. Ascend against right Frith Wood and through the corner gap. Into the next field, keep following the wood’s edge. As Copse House appears ahead, go through a right stepped footpath half gate into Frith Reservoir field.
5 Turn left along the hedge to the facing gate. Through, follow the track around some cottages to Frith Farm’s drive with the back-pointing footpath-sign. Turn left, passing the cottages’ front gardens, to the road. Cross over into Landshire Lane (not signed) against right Stalbridge Park’s stone wall, instantly passing Copse House, for a nice easy 1½ miles stroll with excellent views. Reaching Cherry Bolberry Farm, see Henstridge church down to your left. Shortly after Roundhill Lodge, meet the A357. Turn right, still along Stalbridge Park’s wall. After the entrance gateway, pass St Mary’s church and continue along High Street to Station Road and return to your starting point.
• 7 of the best farm shops in Dorset - Want to keep your food miles low and your taste experience high? Alice Cooke reveals some of the county’s best farm shops
• 9 of the best things to see and do in Christchurch - Embracing both coast and countryside, and yet within easy reach of the New Forest, Christchurch is a delightful riverside town which celebrates its rich history, waterside location and vibrant food scene with relish