Walk: Wareham Town at Christmas
PUBLISHED: 11:28 03 December 2019
Edward Griffiths guides us on a leisurely stroll around this lovely Dorset town, which is the perfect way to soak up the festive spirit
On this fine walk around Wareham you will learn something of this town's intriguing past, before browsing its many independent shops for unusual Christmas presents.
Distance: 1¾ miles/2.75 km
Time: 1½ hours
Start: Wareham Quay (Grid Ref:SY924872). Note Quay Market on Saturday
Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195
Public Transport: First CoastlineX53, Morebus 40
Dogs: On leads at all times during this urban walk.
Refreshments: Numerous and varied pubs, cafés and coffee shops
1. From the Quay, cross Stoborough causeway road at the 1927-built South Bridge. Holy Trinity Church on the right, dating from the 1300s, was the town's parish church before the 1762 fire. On Abbots Quay, go around the far bend at 'Castle Garden' into Tanners Lane. Tanning needed lots of water, and here is very close to the river. Continue to Pound Lane. On the facing corner is The Old Rectory, home of Reverend Hutchins. Between 1744 and 1773, Hutchins compiled every Dorset historian's dream reference The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset. Turn left. Pass the Old Brewery site and 'Castle Close'; here stood Wareham's early-12th century motte-and-bailey castle overlooking the Frome crossing and involved in fighting during 1135 - 1152 civil war. Only the motte remains.
2. Continue to left Town Pound. Here, stray animals were kept by the hayward until claimed and a release fee paid. Where right West Street meets left Worgret Road, cross into Stretche Road. West Street leads to Churchwood Court, the old Non-Conformist Church, on St Michael's Road corner. In Worgret Road, one end of the 'New' Stretche Almshouses dated 1908 overlooks the car park. Wareham's massive earthen banks were built by the Anglo-Saxons as a defence against the Viking raids of 876 during Alfred's reign. At this end of the walls, Bloody Bank is where Peter de Pomfret and his son were hanged in 1213 for offending King John.
3.Follow Stretche Road around the left bend and past Christmas Close. The name is thought to commemorate a 16th-century Robert Christmas with connections to this area. The 1837 Workhouse is now part of Wareham Hospital. At the school gates, fork right through the footpath-signed 'West Mill Private' gateway. From the gravel area, bear right down to the water meadows. Follow the path, first below the slopes then, through a kissing-gate, below North Walls with left River Piddle. Continue to North Mill's Piddle Bridge. Double-back right past Walls Cottage and up to Shatters Hill.
4. Turn left, with views over the mill and water meadows. At the end, turn right through North Walls into North Street. Cross to St Martin's-on-the-Wall Church, Dorset's most complete late¬Saxon church. The east chancel and north and south walls of the narrow 30ft nave are early-11th century. Inside is a fine effigy of T. E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia. From St Martin's, follow the footpath east to St Martin's Lane. Go left and right into Folly Lane. Take the left fork path onto Wareham Walls. The Bowling Green was used for weekly markets from the 13th century and for archery practice in the 15th and 16th centuries. Follow the Walls path round to the right with ancient common and trees below left, then with right houses and left allotments to Bestwall Road. Turn right into East Street.
5. Walk along East Street. The star-shaped plaques on several cottages are Fire Insurance signs, indicating that the house should be saved in the event of fire. Left John Stretch 1741 Almshouses, which replaces the 1418 building, has the old town hall's bell-tower. Reach North, South, East and West Streets' junction. The 1870 Town Hall is on the near-right corner. The Red Lion on Market Place corner replaced the original lost in the 1762 Great Fire. Along North Street to the right, white-painted and black bow-windowed Anglebury House Restaurant dates from the 16th century. Turn left into South Street. Lloyd's Bank stands where the 1762 fire started on Sunday 25th July in the Bull's Head Inn, destroying two-thirds of the town's houses.
6. At the Old Police Station, turn left into stone-paved St John's Hill. Continue through the car park. Look left to see W Pond & Co's 15th-century barn. Turn right, still St John's Hill, to Lady St Mary Church. This pre-Conquest Church was built in the time of St Aldhelm who died in 709. Brihtric, King of Wessex, was buried here in 802. Past the West Tower, the left private gravel lane leads to the Priory Hotel. There was a monastery on the Priory Hotel site in 876. The Minster church and its possessions were given to the Norman Abbey of St Wandrille before 1086. Around 1150, Robert, Earl of Leicester, gave it to the Abbey of Lire which established the Benedictine Priory of Lady St Mary here. Bear right then left down the stone-paved lane back to The Quay.