Dorset walk with Edward Griffiths around Symondsbury and North Chideock
PUBLISHED: 13:38 19 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:53 19 February 2020
Edward Griffiths enjoys wild daffodils and fabulous views towards Golden Cap and Colmer’s Hill as he explores the ancient tracks surrounding Quarry Hill
Distance: 5½ miles (8.75km)
Time: 4 hours
Exertion: Not too strenuous, but some long ascents. Expect mud after rain.
Start: St John the Baptist Church, Symondsbury (Grid Ref: SY445936)
Map: OS Landranger Sheet 193
Public Transport: Damory Coaches 76, Wednesday only
Dogs: There are a lot of sheep on this walk, so keep dogs on leads in fields with livestock and also on roads
Refreshments: Ilchester Arms in Symondsbury and The George Inn at Chideock for lunches, bar meals and real ale
This fascinating walk circumnavigates Quarry Hill, where Forest Marble and Inferior Oolite (not really inferior at all, but a form of limestone) was quarried for centuries. The route follows some of the ancient, and ever-deepening, tracks where heavy carts carried stone down for building the surrounding villages including Symondsbury, Chideock and Bridport. We also explore part of the River Winniford valley where, after long spells of rain, tracks might become shallow streams, but easily passable with suitable footwear.
The views over sheep-clad hills to the coast, Marshwood Vale, forested Langdon Hill and, later, to Golden Cap, are stunning and well worth the moderate amount of effort needed to scale the slopes.
The Parish Church of St John the Baptist, where the walk starts, is built with stones brought down from Quarry Hill in the early 14th century, although there was an earlier building here nearly a thousand years ago. Built on a base of Forest Marble, the walls are mostly of Inferior Oolite. Look out for different rocks in the ground as you go and, if your timing is right, you will see lots of wild daffodils on your walk as well.
1 Facing the churchyard's circular steps, turn left to the grassy island. Turn right up Shutes Lane, passing left Shutes Farm with its sturdy 16th-century oak doorway. Like the church, the cottage has Forest Marble foundations and walls of Inferior Oolite. Continue up the sunken 'Public Route to Public Path' ('PRtoPP') track, or take the right-fork footpath and continue through the fields immediately above the lane to re-emerge through double-gates. Still following the sunken track, keep left at the next fork and at again at the fork by the thatched cottage. Climbing through the 'gorge' of Thorncombe sandstone, continue up to the T-junction's multi-arrowed post and bear right. Later, you'll be coming back here from the left track. However, at the next green-arrowed junction, keep straight on.
2 The fenced and hedged path offers great views to Langdon Hill and the sea, then good right views, with Axen Farm nearest right. Reaching the bridleway to right Axen Farm, keep straight on into the hedged track, instantly passing left-fork bridleway-gates. At the 'Private' right bend, continue into the sunken hedged path, instantly passing a left 'Monarch's Way' half-gate. Through the small wood, descend to another 'Private' right turn. Here, take the left bridleway-gate and walk straight down the field to the bottom right corner bridleway-gate. Through this, descend to the bridleway-gate on North End Farms' track. Through this, continue past right cottages and down the cattle-gridded drive with open views through fields, with Chideock Hill ahead.
3 Continue down, past a right turn, into a hedged section to Venn Farm. Here, bend round left onto the hedged lane. In ¼ mile, take the left footpath-stile/gate and cross the field half-right to the fence-stile onto the fenced track. Go right. Pass opposing gates and cross the gated stream-bridge. Through the facing stile/gate, continue and turn left along the fenced track. Go through Wells Farm yard to the footpath-gate and the road. Turn right. Pass left thatched Champ's Land Cottage, a footpath and more left cottages. Bending right, pass South West Garlic Farm and Well Cottage. At the 'island' T-junction, turn sharp left into Hell Lane with facing footpath-steps.
4 Past right Hell Cottages and left Perryhay Cottages, pass opposing footpaths and continue along the 'stream' track for 200 yards. Look out for the footpath-stile on the right bank (arrow on the other side). Over, bear half-left up the very long and tiring field, passing right of four oaks early on, to find the footpath-stile/gate under pines at the top end of the right hedge. Quarry Hill faces you all the way up. Through the gate, follow the fenced track with Quarry Hill left, passing opposing footpath-stiles and emerging into the hillside field. Follow the right fence to the next gate, then follow the left fence up the hill and round until the fence suddenly turns sharply uphill.
5 Here, aim across the field towards the white-cottage on the A35 before bending left to the footpath-stile in the hedge. Over into sunken Quarr Lane, turn left. Follow the lane past right and left cottages with Colmer's Hill ahead and good views to Bridport. Continue into the hazel hedged 'PRtoPP', rising slowly through the gorge before seeing Colmer's Hill right and undulating for ½ mile to the multi-arrowed T-junction where we came up from Symondsbury earlier. Turn right and follow the sunken track all the way back down into Symondsbury where you started at the church.