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Dorset walk - Wool and Coombe Heath

PUBLISHED: 11:32 19 June 2015 | UPDATED: 11:32 19 June 2015

View to the valley from the 'Bindon Abbey and Wool' footpath

View to the valley from the 'Bindon Abbey and Wool' footpath

Archant

From the fascinating ruins of a 15th-century church to admiring views across a military firing range, Edward Griffiths easy five miler offers plenty of variety for a weekend stroll

The ruins of old St Mary's church East StokeThe ruins of old St Mary's church East Stoke

This fine walk offers ever-changing scenes and smells: from pine woods and ancient woodland to high fields and heather moorland. On our route we will visit Dorset Wildlife Trust’s East Stoke Fen Nature Reserve, the sparse ruins of East Stoke’s original 15th-century church with gravestones dating back to 1698. Along the way we will enjoy views into the army’s Coombe Heath Firing Range, and some lovely cottages in old Wool village. Not bad for a five mile stroll through the Dorset countryside.

The  'Coombe Heath' bridleway alongside the firing rangeThe 'Coombe Heath' bridleway alongside the firing range

Information

• Distance: 5 miles (8 km)

• Time: 3 1/2 hours

• Exertion: Not too strenuous. A few stiles. After substantial rain, there’s some mud and surface water but, with proper footwear, you’ll really enjoy this walk.

• Start: Church of the Holy Rood, Church Street, Wool (Grid Ref: ST886187) Parking in The Cross or thoughtfully in Church Street or Station Road

• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194

• Public Transport: Damory 103, 104, X43. First X53

• Dogs: On leads in fields or paddocks with livestock and on roads

• Refreshments: The Black Bear in Wool for coffee, lunches and evening meals

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The Walk

1 Walk up past the church to Blandfords Bottom turning area. Through the 1½ ‘Bindon Abbey/Colewood’ footpath-gates, follow the right hedge across the field to the corner footpath half-gate and another into a second field. Continue along the right hedge. Through footpath half-gate into third field, turn left signed ‘Bindon Lane’ down the left hedge to 1½ gates onto the road, signed back ‘Woodstreet’. With farm buildings opposite, turn right along the road. After ½ mile, take the left 1½ footpath-gates into the field. Cross to the visible opposite footpath half-gate into trees. Over the footbridge into the field, follow the left DWT East Stoke Fen Nature Reserve fence to the far corner gateway and stiled footbridge.

2 Over these, bear right. Follow the left trees before veering left across the drainage channel to the half-gate to visit the remnants of old St Mary’s Church. Then, rejoin the drainage channel and continue to the facing fence’s ‘Diverted Path’ stile. Over, negotiate the boggy patch and footpath-stile into a field corner. Turn left along the hedge all the way into trees. Go over the facing footpath-stile, footbridge and stile into another field corner. Follow the right fence to the footpath-stile into a fenced path leading to kissing-gate and steps, signed back ‘Wool’. Turn right along Church Lane.

3 Past Manor Farm’s turning, then Camping Park, houses and more camp sites, reach Holme Lane. Cross into ‘Highwood’ lane for ½ mile of easy walking with woods and several houses. After a left bend with left tennis court, there’s a right bend. Take left ‘Coombe Heath 1’ bridleway-track. This becomes a grassy path along the left Military Firing Range’s fence, then between two fences and bending right. Continue to the facing bridleway-gate. Through, keep following the path, round a left bend at a red-flag, still meandering inside the wood’s edge. The path is clear until it turns left away from the wood’s edge into a boggy patch. But carry on, picking your way from tree bases to grass clumps, aiming for a bridleway-bridge and half-gate back into a path along the Firing Range fence. Follow this out of woodland into Coombe Heath’s heather moorland, still along the red-flagged fence and rising to drier ground.

4 Over the top, slowly descending, look out for right bridleway-pointers about 100 yards before another red flag. At this three-way T-junction, turn sharp right for ‘Woodstreet 1’. Follow the track up and over through heather and gorse. Observing right barns, meet a fork. Bear right along the narrow path and right fence to the end bridleway half-gate. Through, with Oak Tree Farm right, follow the track for ¼ mile to cross tracks with a right lane. Cross into the lesser track, rising through trees. Follow the peaty path, not the stream bed, to the bridleway-gap into a hedged track between high fields. Over the top, continue down, then along the right deer-fenced wood. Around the cantilever-gate, bend right. In 90 yards, take the left bridleway-gate into the field. Follow the left hedge to the bridleway-gate onto the road.

5 Turn right, then take the left ‘Bindon Abbey/Wool’ footpath, rising into woodland. Arriving at a crossing, signed back ‘Woodstreet ¼’, bear right then left into the arrowed footpath at a point we’ll call ‘X’ into Cole Wood. Follow the meandering path for ¼ mile to a T-junction at footpath-post, called ‘Y’, and turn right. At ‘X’ there may be a barrier saying ‘Trees Down’, if so go back to the ‘Woodstreet ¼’ crossing and take the opposite unsigned path. This clear path meanders inside Cole Wood’s edge for ¼ mile before meeting the ‘Trees Down’ path coming from your right at footpath-post ‘Y’.

6 In 10 yards, fork left to a nearby footpath-post, then left again, then right to a footpath half-gate into the high field. Turn left to the corner ‘Bindon Lane’ signpost and half-gate where you arrived earlier. Then follow the left hedge through the fields, the way you came earlier, back to Blandfords Bottom gates and Wool Parish Church.

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