Dorset Walks: King Down and Ackling Dyke

PUBLISHED: 09:48 27 November 2013 | UPDATED: 09:51 27 November 2013

Beech avenue old and new at Kingston Lacy

Beech avenue old and new at Kingston Lacy


Edward Griffiths follows a Roman Road, enjoys views from an Iron Age hill-fort, discovers two Bronze Age barrows and admires a magnificent beech avenue.

This walk has it all. In order of approach, the 2½ mile-long beech avenue leading to Kingston Lacy from Blandford was laid out in 1835 by William Bankes. Lodge Farm House, with some 15th-century windows, was probably converted from a medieval barn. Badbury Rings is an Iron Age hill-fort which commands wide views in all directions. Ackling Dyke was built during the Roman conquest and was part of their complex road system between Dorchester and Bath. The 700-year-old Sterely Bushes wood, now known as The Oaks, is a rarity these days. The trees are allowed to reach maturity and die of old age, their rotting branches and trunks providing refuge for a wide range of beetles, insects and fungi. Bradford House was built in the early 18th Century and extended in the 19th. The two remaining barrows on King Down are Bronze Age. The land on which they stand, and thousands more acres besides, is carefully managed by the National Trust and its dedicated tenant farmers for future generations to enjoy.

Distance: 5¼ miles (8.5km)

Time: 3½ hours

Exertion: Easy. No stiles. Mostly firm farm tracks; a little mud after rain on short bridleway section.

Start: National Trust’s Blandford Lodge Car Park. Out of Wimborne on the B3082, pass left Kingston Lacy House entrance and Blandford Lodge. In 50 yards, take the left track into the car park (Grid Ref: ST973020).

Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195.

Public Transport: None.

Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock and roads.

Refreshments: Pamphill Dairy Farm Shop Restaurant and The Anchor Inn at Shapwick.

The Walk

1 Out of the car park, cross the B3082’s 2½ mile-long beech avenue and turn right to Lodge Farm House drive. When the drive bends towards the house, go straight on to the footpath-stile/gate into ‘Kingston Lacy Estate’. Walk down the field’s grass path, bending left alongside the long hedge. Passing through the hedge into a second field, continue, rising slowly, towards the mixed wood. In the corner, the path bends left to follow the wood’s outside edge, swinging right with Badbury Rings defensive banks to your left.

2 Reaching a T-junction with two benches, bear right onto National Trust Walks 1 and 2 under trees onto the hedged footpath with views to Pentridge Hill and beyond. Pass a left horse-jump and continue down the path to a four-way tracks crossing. It says ‘Sterely Bushes’ left but this is now known as ‘The Oaks’. Cross over onto the ‘Witchampton’ bridleway-track down to King Down Farm with ‘The Oaks’ on your left. Reaching a left track, keep straight on down on the Roman Road (Ackling Dyke from Badbury Rings to Old Sarum or Salisbury). Arriving at a right bend bridleway with a left footpath-stile, keep straight on into the narrow, grassy and hedged path. This is also a bridleway, with a little mud after rain.

3 In ½ mile, with trees either side, emerge into a clearing with a hedge gap right and a bridleway left. Keep straight on for another ¼ mile, with glimpses of the old banked road in the left bushes, to a road T-junction with a left footpath horse-jump. Turn right onto the lane for a pleasant easy stroll, intermittently hedged both sides. Cross the tributary of the River Allen. At the top of the rise, pass the attractive Bradford House, outbuildings and cottages, and continue along the lane. Pass a right turn and a corner house. Reaching the left bend, keep straight on into the ‘National Trust’ track, rising under trees before joining a wider bridleway-track. Through 1½ gates, keep straight on, enjoying the long open views for over ½ mile, with Badbury Rings appearing forward right.

4 Reaching another left bend with a right bridleway-track, go round the bend and, in 100 yards, take the right arrowed gap onto a clear path leading up to the right of two barrows. Past these, continue to the arrowed fence-gate and join the farm track, bearing right. Around a left bend, reach a staggered cross-tracks. Cross into the grassy bridleway-track and keep straight on for ½ mile, becoming narrower before the exit onto the B3082 road. Turn right, opposite Blandford Lodge. Cross Lodge Farm House drive and continue along the wide verge before crossing back to the Car Park drive where you started.

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