• Start: St Andrew’s Church, Okeford Fitzpaine (grid ref ST807108)
  • End: St Andrew’s Church, Okeford Fitzpaine (grid ref ST807108)
  • Country: England
  • County: Dorset
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub: Royal Oak, Okeford Fitzpaine for real ale, pub lunches and bar meals
  • Ordnance Survey: OS Landranger 194
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Edward Griffiths walks along ancient trackways to discover the real Blackmore Vale

Edward Griffiths walks along ancient trackways to discover the real Blackmore Vale

Distance: 4 12 miles (7.25km) Time: 3 hours Exertion: Easy

This is a lovely walk with super views over the Blackmore Vale and the long chalk ridge of Bulbarrow Hill, Okeford Hill and Bell Hill, which overlooks our route. On a lovely sunny day, when the birds are singing and the cows are contentedly grazing, its like a stroll through days gone by. Follow route instructions through the fields carefully; as Ive said before, I do the getting lost so that you wont have to and can enjoy the walk!

The Walk


Walkers with cars, park in Greenhayes approach road outside St Andrews Church. Follow the raised pavement, then fork right for Fifehead Neville and Sturminster Newton. Past The Olde Bell Stores, cross Castle Lane, bearing right. At the Royal Oak, turn left into Lower Street. Continue through the village. After right Mary Gardens, the pavement runs out. Keep going. Past left Bowey turn right into Darknoll Lane. Leaving the village, follow the hedged lane over the stream bridge and up. Pass Etheridge Farm where the hedged track is shaded by oaks.


At right Darknoll Farm, fork left into the sunken hedged and shady track. This is all part of the ancient way between Okeford and Sturminster Newton. The path itself becomes narrow, stony and more sunken before emerging onto a wide track at Fiddleford Mushrooms. Reaching the lane, turn left. The hedged and rising lane passes left Banbury Cross Farm and Banbury Farm. Up to the right bend, keep straight on into the signed bridleway into trees, not the left footpath.


Through the first vegetation-rich section, pass gates either side and continue through more bracken and bramble for another 100 yards (92m). Through the end gate into the open field, stop. Now, follow the instructions carefully, as not all gates and stiles will have footpath-arrows. Follow the right hedge down to the first right gate. Dont go through but turn left across the field towards Okeford Common woods, bending slightly right down to the footpath-stile signed Dogs on leads. Over this, follow the faint path straight through the woods. The woods are only narrow, and damp underfoot, so dont go wandering off!


Over the exit stile, follow the left hedge up the rising field with Shillingstone Quarry and Okeford Hill to your left. Negotiating any temporary fences, go through the far gate into the lane, signed Footpath both ways. Cross the opposite footpath-stile into the field. The backward panorama encompasses Alfreds Tower at Stourhead, Melbury Beacon and Hambledon Hill. Go over the top left corner footpath-stile into the high field. Follow the right hedge to facing footpath-gate. Through this, follow the left hedge, passing the 121m OS trig point, and continuing down to the bottom left corner gate. Belchalwell church is forward-right on your way down.


Through the gate, go through the instant right gate and walk down to the gate and concrete bridge over a stream. Through here, if the field isnt planted with crops, bear half-right up the long field to the far gate. If planted, use tractor tracks to reach the single large oak in the opposite hedge. Then, turn right and cross the field corner to the same footpath-gate. Through this, turn left at the three-way footpath-pointer. Follow the long hedged track up and over. Reaching the road, turn right and walk mile (0.4km) into Belchalwell village. Turn left up the Church only lane. In front of St Aldhelms church gates, go over the two-way footpath-pointered stile into the field.


Follow the right hedge round then cross to the left corner stile. Over this, bear right down past two old oaks to the footpath-gate in the fence. Through this, keep straight on across the field to the tied-up hedge gate. Over this, bear -right to the footpath-stile in the right hedge. Over this, continue down the field to the footpath-stiled rotting wooden bridge over a stream. Over this, bear half-left past the corner oak and along the left hedge and trees. Find the stile and concrete bridge lurking right of the narrow end. Over this, bear half-left up the field towards the hidden gateway halfway up the left hedge.


Through this, go over the instant right footpath-stile. Cross the next field diagonally left to the hedge stile into another field. Over this, follow the left hedge to the stile down to the roadside stile and half-gate, signed back Belchalwell 1. Into the road, turn left and walk through Okeford Fitzpaines many cottages. Reaching the junction before The Olde Bell Stores, turn right along Shillingstone road back to St Andrews.


Start: St Andrews Church, Okeford Fitzpaine (grid ref ST807108)

Map: OS Landranger 194

Terrain: Field paths, country lanes and sunken tracks, some with bracken and brambles. Many stiles dont have steps. Some mud after rain

Dogs: On leads or under close control in fields to avoid disturbance to farm animals and wildlife; specific notice at one point.

Refreshments: Royal Oak, Okeford Fitzpaine for real ale, pub lunches and bar meals

Public transport: Damory Coaches 309 between Blandford, Gillingham and Shaftesbury

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