Edward Griffths enjoys a lovely summer walk through the glorious rolling downland that overlooks Purbeck and Portland

Delightful Chaldon Herring is always associated with the three prodigiously talented Powys brothers, and writer and journalist Sylvia Townsend Warner who lived here for many years with poet Valentine Ackland. These two ladies were inspired by their surroundings, especially Chaldon Hill and the skyline barrows called ‘The Five Marys’. They often walked up there and, as they put it, ‘sat on a Mary’, to enjoy the views. This lovely summer walk explores the valleys, cornfields and pastures of Chaldon Down, which overlooks the coast between Purbeck and Portland. Many farmers in this area are supporting the Countryside Stewardship Scheme by returning arable fields to downland, and clearing existing downland of scrub by grazing, which in turn helps to maintain and enhance the associated downland wildlife. So there is plenty of local flora and fauna to look out, for especially skylarks.


• Distance: 6 1/4 miles (10 km).

• Time: 4 1/2 hours.

• Exertion: Fairly strenuous with 300ft of ascent then undulating. Some mud after rain. Second half is an easier, mostly downhill.

• Start: New Close Car Park, 1/4 mile east of East Chaldon (or Chaldon Herring). Signposted from village green (Grid Ref: SY796834).

• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194.

• Public Transport: Damory 104 except Sundays and holidays.

• Dogs: On leads as there are lots of sheep, cows and ground-nesting skylarks.

• Refreshments: The Sailor’s Return, East Chaldon for lunches and bar meals.

The walk

1 Follow the chalk track up from the car park. Through the 1½ gates, follow the track down into a long green valley. Passing a right fork ‘Chideock Farm’ footpath, continue for ‘Daggers Gate 1’, through the gate and along the track, now slowly ascending. Past two left ash trees, go through the 1½ bridleway-gates for ‘Daggers Gate 1’. Follow the right-fenced ascending grass path below left Winfrith Hill. Through the next 1½ gates, follow the faint path, signed ‘Daggers Gate 4/5’, bending right, and passing the cattle trough, to meet the rising track against the fenced quarry.

2 Through the bridleway-gate, continue up through the field with an exultation of skylarks and a very Hardy-ish view back down the valley. Through the top hedge’s 1½ gates, follow the track up to the Sleight Buildings yard and the three-way pointer. Continue up the ‘Daggers Gate’ bridleway-track, over the high field with increasing long views, and the sea ahead. Descend the track to and through Daggers Gate barns. Before the road, double back right up the hedged track. It’s signed ‘Bridleway Ringstead and White Nothe’ at the road. In ¼ mile, with your first glimpse of Portland, you’re 147m above sea level, having started at 56m, so you’ve climbed nearly 300ft.

3 Now with long views right, the track passes into another field and ends along a fenced section to 1½ gates. Through, follow the right fence to 1½ gates with ‘Newlands Farm and Scratchy Bottom’ signed left. Keep following ‘Ringstead and White Nothe’ near the right fence. Bats Head is down below you. Through the next fence’s half-gate, cross the field to the top right corner gate with the 3-way footpath stone marker. Through, keep following the right fence to another 1½ gates, and again follow the right fence, with a concrete obelisk to your right. Behind, there are fine views over Lulworth to St Aldhelm’s Head. Pass two Powys memorial stones. The third is missing. Then pass a second obelisk below left.

4 When the fence ends, keep straight on over Chaldon Downs on the sheep path to a cluster of gates before fenced barrows. The marker-stone indicates left for ‘White Nose’. Go through the 1½ ‘South Down’ bridleway-gates and follow the right fence with the deep valley below. Soon, pass a kissing-gate into the valley, with good views over Winfrith. Through the next 1½ bridleway-gates, marked ‘South Down 1’ ahead, follow the bending track, then descending towards red-roofed Holworth House. Through another 1½ gates-wide opening, take the right 3-way bridleway 1½ gates’ turning marked ‘West Chaldon 1’.

5 Follow the left hedge up the rising field and pass left of the corrugated-iron barn. It’s somewhat overgrown but push through to meet the verdant track on the other side. Keep straight on to meet a wooden bridleway-pointer, if it survives. Bear ¼ right for ‘West Chaldon’ across the large field, aiming towards Chaldon Hill’s right end ahead. Through the facing hedge gap, cross the track and the field, under electric cables, down to the hedge’s bridleway half-gate. Through into the huge field, bear half-left, under the wires and aiming for Chaldon Hill’s right end again. Past the ‘West Chaldon’ bridleway pointer, aim down-field towards the road below Chaldon Hill.

6 Through 1½ gates, go down the ‘West Chaldon’ track and through the gates into the village. Turn right along the road with Chaldon Hill left. Keep straight on for a mile into Chaldon Herring, passing ‘Beth Car’, Theodore Powys’ house. Look left here to see the Five Marys. If you wish visit the church, then continue down the lane to the village green. Turn right to the signpost and keep straight on for ‘Winfrith Newburgh’, passing the bus shelter, ‘God’s Pocket’ field, Vicarage Farm and a left stone cottage. At the left bend, turn into New Close Car Park.