Walk 2 June 11 Compton Abbas and Melbury Beacon
Mon May 23 00:00:00 BST 2011
- Start: Spreadeagle Hill parking area on higher Shaftesbury to Blandford road (grid ref ST886187)
- End: Spreadeagle Hill parking area on higher Shaftesbury to Blandford road (grid ref ST886187)
- Country: England
- County: Dorset
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub: Milestones is a 17th-century tearoom with pretty garden at the foot of Melbury Hill (01747 812197) or try Compton Abbas Airfield Restaurant, which boasts amazing views (01747 811767).
- Ordnance Survey: OS Landranger 183
- Difficulty: Medium
Join Edward Griffiths on a stroll through Dorset's downland and make a detour to an Armada beacon
Compton Abbas and Melbury Beacon
Distance: 3 or 4 miles (5.25 or 6.75km) Time: 2 to 3 hours Exertion: Medium
Join Edward Griffiths on a stroll through Dorsets downland and make a detour to an Armada beacon
The superb views from Melbury Hill and Fontmell Down over the Blackmore Vale, the pretty valerian-strewn lanes and Compton Abbas two churches make this a superb walk. The fine Victorian church of St Mary has a lovely spire and an unusual apse. A short stroll away, the rugged greensand tower is all that remains of East Comptons earlier 15th-century church. After passing this tower and East End Farm, a field track leads to the diagonal ascent of Melbury Hill. Reaching the saddle, you have to decide whether to take the one-mile excursion to Melbury Beacon, built in 1588 to warn of the Spanish Armada, or settle for the shorter return to the start.
1From the car park, go through the National Trust gate onto Fontmell Down. Melbury Beacon is over to your right, Blackmore Vale is spread out in front and the two Compton villages are below you. Follow the well-walked path along the left fence, slowly descending the wide ridge of Fontmell Down for one mile. When the track turns left to a National Trust gate, keep straight on down the bridleway-arrowed grassy track. Through the bottom bridleway-gate, walk through trees into a low field. The footpath goes into the left corner and turns right along the fence, but common usage has created a diagonal path, to the 1 gates in the corner.
2Through here, walk up and over the field against the left fence to the corner bridleway half-gate into a shady path, sunken in its second part, and meeting the fledgling Fontmell Brook. Arriving into the Compton Abbas lane, turn left. Pass Willis Farms right gate and ascend to a left bend. Here, turn right into the sunken, shady, garlic-strewn footpath which emerges up steps to Willis Farms other gate. Walk up the drive into the open area before the Church of St Mary the Virgin, where the Number 83 bus stops.
3After visiting the church, cross to the hand-railed footpath beyond the 1953 seat. Up steps into the Old School yard, follow the stepping stones and go through the trees, to the T-junction. Keep straight on, passing The Old Forge on your left. Stroll through the village, passing Twintown, for mile. Round a left bend and rise to meet East Comptons old church tower. Past East End farmhouse, turn left at the triangle. Take the instant right chalk track, and go through the bridleway-arrowed gate onto the long track between fields towards Melbury Hill. Reaching a facing gate, follow the track along the right side of the hedge to the bridleway-gate.
4Through this, go through the nearby bridleway-gate onto National Trust Melbury Hill. Follow the stepped chalk path up the steepening slopes, joining the wider, more ancient track and ascending the sheep-pathed hillside slowly. Nearing the fence, bear left to the twin-bridleway-arrowed National Trust half-gate on the saddle of Melbury Hill. Through this, turn right to go straight back to the starting point, saving one mile of walking.
5For the more energetic, turn left and follow the fence up to the stile for Melbury Beacons OS trig point at 263 metres. There are superb views to Shaftesbury and along the northern escarpment of Cranborne Chase into Wiltshire. Returning to the twin-bridleway gate, I counted 870 paces (about mile). Now, everybody, follow the right fence up and along to the National Trust gate. Through this, follow the enclosed path, parallel with the road, back to the car park.
Start: Spreadeagle Hill parking area on higher Shaftesbury to Blandford road (grid ref ST886187)
Map: OS Landranger 183
Terrain: Field paths, country lanes and farm tracks with two long climbs
Dogs: On leads or under close control, on short leads in open country and common land 1 March and 31 July
Refreshments: Milestones is a 17th-century tearoom with pretty garden at the foot of Melbury Hill (01747 812197) or try Compton Abbas Airfield Restaurant, which boasts amazing views (01747 811767).