• Start: Sydling’s village centre chestnut tree (grid ref SY632994)
  • End: Sydling’s village centre chestnut tree (grid ref SY632994)
  • Country: England
  • County: Dorset
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub:
  • Ordnance Survey: OS Landranger 194
  • Difficulty: Hard
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Edward Griffiths follows the ancient tracks that criss-cross Sydling Valley's glorious chalk downland

Sydling St Nicholas and Combe Hill

Edward Griffiths follows the ancient tracks that criss-cross Sydling Valleys glorious chalk downland

The Walk

Harry Ashley summed up Sydling St Nicholas as an unpretentious village... along the little Sydling Water with tiny connecting bridges to the ancient cottages which line its banks. From the chestnut tree near the stump of the village cross, passing close to St Nicholas Church, the walk picks up the first of many ancient tracks over this landscape. Much of the chalk downland here is a National Nature Reserve; sheep grazing in winter create a mixed sward, and in summer cattle reduce taller grasses and prevent scrub encroachment. This particularly applies to Hog Hill, but Combe Hill is equally delightful and the views are outstanding.

Boots on? Lets go!

1 From the tree, walk up the lane signed Church and Maiden Newton 3. Visit St Nicholas Church then continue round the right bend to join the wide bridleway-track. In 100 yards, take the left bridleway (a footpath straight on) into trees with a right field. Becoming a sunken track, here comes the first ascent. Through the end bridleway-gate, keep straight on into the descending track, bending right then left with hills all round.

2Across the valley floor, the path rises up the coppiced track after passing the signed right bridleway turning. Through the top bridleway-gate, keep climbing near the left hedge. Pass the left gate, after 100 yards go over the left footpath-stile. Walk down the hill to the valley floor and continue to the footpath-stile in the bottom hedge. Over this, follow the left hedge and enjoy the lovely Sydling Valley views.

3Down into the corner, go right past the footpath arrow-post to the left gate. Through this, follow the grass track by the left fence across the valley. Reaching the tree-line, zig-zag right-left onto the bridleway-track with St Nicholas ahead left. After the stile which leads to the church, by the lovely old barn, go through the gate and turn right in the farmyard onto the hedged bridleway-track. Through two more gates, join the hedged track. Just past a left bridleway-track (this takes you back to Sydling if you want the 2 mile walk), bend right before the facing gate onto the hedged track.

4Start rising again, coppiced and sunken, just like the earlier track, and bending round behind the right hanging woods edge. At the top, go through the half-gate before the facing gate. Ignore the bridleway-arrows direction but turn right keeping not far from the woods continuing edge to the bridleway-arrowed left one of two gates. Through this, follow the right hedge up the high-downs field with superb views. Nearing the top hedge (with a right Scots pine), veer left and follow the top hedge, on your right, to the bridleway gate.

5Through this, keep following the right hedges sheep path, aiming for the top side of the woods across the valley. Before the next facing farm gate, go through the bridleway half-gate 50 yards to its left. Through the scant trees, follow the right fence across the valley head. At the top edge of the woods, go through the end 1 gates with barns right. Turn left onto the fenced track with the ancient coppiced wood left. When the track bends right, go through the left gate instead, near the woods edge (bridleway-arrow on the other side).

6Descend the long field, picking up the old rutted track down the centre, then bending right and left before it becomes concreted. Through the Hog Hill Reserve exit gate, turn right down to the Sydling road. Turn left and walk past an array of pretty cottages to Sydling St Nicholas village centre.


Start: Sydlings village centre chestnut tree (grid ref SY632994)
Map: OS Landranger 194
Terrain: Strenuous with separate ascents of Combe Hill and Hog Hill on tracks and field path. Expect mud after rain
Dogs: On leads as this is sheep country
Public transport: First 213 Wednesday am only from Broadwindsor and Beaminster
Refreshments: The Greyhound Inn, 26 High Street, Sydling St Nicholas (01300 341303, This 18th-century coaching inn was Dorsets Dining Pub of the Year in 2009 and has crackling log fires, real ales including Sydling Bitter, St Austell HSD and Wadworths 6X and excellent food

Distance: 2 miles or 4 miles (3.2km or 7.24km) Time: 212 Hours Exertion: Strenuous (longer route)

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