Walk: Cattistock and Wraxall
PUBLISHED: 16:49 08 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:49 08 October 2019
This hilly walk follows a beautiful ancient route – keep your eyes peeled for the fascinating listed buildings that you’ll encounter on the way
Distance: 4½ miles/7.25 km
Time: 3½ hours
Exertion: Quite strenuous. Lots of hills and valleys
Start: The Fox and Hounds, Cattistock (Grid Ref: ST593996) Park opposite or nearby
Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194
Public Transport: First B02 from Dorchester Trinity Street 07.00 returning 16.37 Monday to Friday
Dogs: On leads where livestock is and in accordance with specific notices encountered on the walk and The Countryside Code. There are a lot of cattle and sheep encountered on this walk.
Refreshments: Fox and Hounds for lunches and bar meals
From Cattistock, we walk 1¼ miles along the ancient route which can be traced all the way from Abbotsbury to Ryme Intrinseca. We visit Lower Wraxall and the 12th-century church of St Mary's. At Higher Chalmington, we pass a fascinating group of listed historic buildings, detailed in the walk notes, before walking alongside Castle Hill and returning to Cattistock.
Cattistock itself has its imposing Gothic Revival Church of St Peter and St Paul; according to Pevsner's revised Buildings of England, a 'Victorian masterpiece among Dorset churches and a thrilling combination of Sir George Gilbert Scott work in 1857 and his son George Gilbert Scott Junior in 1874'.
The Fox and Hounds, the local hostelry where this walk starts and finishes (maybe with a rewarding pint or bite to eat) dates back to the 1600s, shown by the front's original stone-wall (raised later) and the two three-light windows.
1. From the Fox, walk left of Savill Memorial Hall, along the lane and through the gates into Saints Peter and Paul's churchyard. Turn left down the path, past the freshwater spring, through the bottom gate and kissing-gate and onto the path between paddocks to the roadside kissing-gate. Turn right, under trees with Cattistock Cricket Club right. At the T-junction, turn right for 'Chilfrome'. Down the lane and under the railway bridge, continue over the River Frome bridge and up to the left bend at Chilfrome House. Take the right black (Frome Valley) and footpath-signed half-gate into the field. Follow the left hedge up to the top corner footpath-arrowed half-gate.
2. Into the next field, with good views behind to Castle Hill, walk up to the half-gate, right of the open barn. Through and over the bank, signed back 'footpath', turn right for 'Lower Wraxall 1¼', along the hedged lane. At the left bend to Grove Stall Farm, continue into the hedged track, its ancient usage being indicated by the cobbled surface. Now sunken and ferny-banked, with trees and coppiced hazel, keep undulating and cross a stream. Keep straight on and pass a right track, which goes to Sandhills, and continue, with lovely views through occasional right gates and sounds of trains whizzing by. Ascend, cobbled again to South Wraxall Farm on the top, and descend into Lower Wraxall at the River Frome's tributary ford.
3. Walk up the hill to visit St Mary's Church, opposite the beautiful stone-built Lower Wraxall House. St Mary's nave and chancel date from the late 12th century but the pierced bell-turret is from the 1840s restoration. Then return to the ford and follow the lane over the tributary bridge. Around the right bend, take the left unsigned track through the sparse wood to the right corner gate with a yellow blob on the post. Through, or over, follow the left hedge and standing trees to the top corner three-way footpath-arrowed gate. Through, go right and follow the enclosed grass track up for ¼ mile to the road with a two-way footpath-signpost. Turn left. In 100 yards, take the right footpath-signed gate into a high field. Follow the left hedge down with super views. Past a left 'Macmillan Way' gate, go through the facing corner-gate into a steep field.
4. Walk ¼-right down the field, keeping well right of electricity posts and aiming right of the largest trees at the bottom. Find the stiled railway-crossing point into the opposite hawthorn copse. Over the River Frome footpath-bridge, walk up the field, past the single electricity post, to the hedge's footpath-gate. Through, continue uphill, right of the stanchion, to a footpath-signed gate onto the lane. Turn right down past left Higher Chalmington Farm, a much altered 17th-century building, and stone cottages on a hairpin bend. Up the other side, pass long, stone-built Chalmington Farmhouse and gated Chalmington, built about 1770 incorporating a small 16th-century portion, and enlarged in 1867 when the Lodge and the opposite Stables were added.
5. Continue, shaded and past left apple orchards, to 'Chalmington Firs' T-junction. Into left 'Sydling' road, take the opposite bank's stepped footpath-stile. Over, turn half-right to the hedge's footpath-stile. The Castle's enclosure on your left covers 4¼ acres but its date isn't known. Over, go left to the fence-stile. Over, walk half-right over the field to the fence-stile or the corner-gate into the next field. Cross to the hedge's footpath-stile. Over, bear ¼-right past right sunken barns, down to the right corner footpath-stile and walk down the narrow enclosed footpath into Cattistock, signed back 'Chalmington'. Turn left. Walk past Cattistock's cottages of assorted ages and style and round left back to the Fox and Hounds where you started.