Walking route: A ramble around Culpepper’s Dish and Affpuddle

St Lawrence's Church and the mill-race

St Lawrence's Church and the mill-race - Credit: Archant

This challenging winter walk takes in one of the natural swallow-holes on a wooded ridge above the village

Culpepper's Dish

Culpepper's Dish - Credit: Archant

Culpepper’s Dish is one of several natural swallow-holes on the wooded ridge above Affpuddle. Started by an underground stream tapping a layer of running sand, these sink-holes, also known as a dolines, first appear as vertical shafts. Natural slippage forms the characteristic crater-like shape over time. Over 100 years ago, when Sir Frederick Treves was writing Highways and Byways of Dorset, a lone tree at the bottom of this doline looked like a pestle in a giant mortar, hence ‘Culpepper’s Dish’ after the famous herbalist. Its approximately 277ft diameter and 140ft deep.

The village’s surviving listed cottages, mostly built of cob with thatched roofs, belong mainly to the second half of the 16th century or first half of the 17th century. St Lawrence’s Church was built around 1200AD, partly rebuilt about 1400 and restored 1875-78; the old vicarage was built in 1792. The former mill-race for Affpuddle Mill and the River Piddle run alongside St Lawrence’s churchyard.

The Walk

1 In the car park, take the path passing the left fenced-pond to the half-gate onto a wide track parallel with the road. If it’s too muddy, the road is an alternative in the quieter winter months. Whichever you choose, in ¾ mile, pass a two-way bridleway sign on the left side of the road pointing into the woods. This is your way, but first continue to Culpepper’s Dish car park and cross the road to admire Culpepper’s Dish. Returning to the bridleway-post into the woods, follow the path down and up to a four-way tracks junction. Turn right for ‘Briantspuddle’ bridleway.

2 In 200 yards, past a left ‘Private’ barrier, fork left off the track at a ‘Briantspuddle’ bridleway-post. Follow this track, past another ‘Private’ barrier, and start descending towards Briantspuddle. However, before the first thatched cottage, turn sharp left at the four-way signpost for ‘B3390’ footpath. Follow this track along the woodland’s hillside, locally called ‘Bluebell Walk’. Continue undulating through some really old oaks. Dropping down into a beech glade, pass a right footpath into a field. Keep following the track, negotiating an S-bend around fledgling swallow-holes, then veering deeper into the wood, leaving the right fields. Still undulating and meandering, pass an enormous beech and another ‘dish’ left.

3 Now, on the narrowing path, ascend towards the barrier onto the B3390, signed back ‘Briantspuddle ¾’. Don’t go out. Go back 28 yards and take the path you passed on your left. There’s a Permissive Path arrow-post 15 yards in. Follow this meandering path, parallel with the road, through holly, beech and oak and round a fallen holly to the exit onto the road. Opposite is a fence and bridleway-sign into the pinewood’s track. Follow the grassy track, ignoring crossing tracks and paths. Reaching a clearing with young pines, continue down the decreasing path to another right ‘dish’ and T-junction. Turn right down and bend left at the fence’s bridleway-arrow. Keep following the path over and down to a forest track, Go right and instantly right again to the bridleway-gate into a field.

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4 Pass right of Wood Barn and ‘ski-jump’. Scan this area for lapwings, redwings and fieldfares. Through the bridleway-gate into the next field, continue along the track. Then, seeing Affpuddle church tower ahead, go through the next bridleway-gate into the enclosed track, arriving in Affpuddle past a telephone box opposite St Lawrence’s Church with the old rectory right. Turn left, but visit the church and the River Piddle with its snowdrop bank first. Amble through the village with views across the right fields to Tolpuddle. Between two thatched right cottages, take the left bridleway-signed lane rising to an area with four left gates. Past these, continue through the bridleway-gate into the hedged track, rising between fields.

5 Bending left, the track goes through another bridleway-gate into a large field and continues rising along the left hedge. Through another bridleway-gate, keep following the track up towards the pinewoods ahead. Eventually, reaching the corner ¾-gate into Broomhill Plantation, go through to the other side’s bridleway T-junction. Turn left with fields outside before veering further left into Sares Wood on the main track and rising slowly to a staggered crossing. Keep to the clear track, level now and passing a left track. Then, sweeping left, pass another left track and go around the facing barrier onto Bladen Wood track. Turn left. In ¾ mile, go through the barrier’s half-gate and cross the B3390 back to the picnic area where you started.


Distance: 4½ miles

Time: 3½ hours

Exertion: Fairly strenuous. Undulating terrain. Expect mud during rainy periods

Start: Forestry Commission’s Affpuddle picnic area on ‘Bere Regis’ road corner off the B3390, 1 mile south of Affpuddle

Dogs: On leads

Refreshments: Martyr’s Inn, Tolpuddle for lunches and bar meals