Stourton Caundle is a lovely Blackmore Vale village with some fine stone houses with mullion windows lining High Street. The Trooper Inn, where this walk starts and finishes, has been at the heart of village life for over four centuries. Formerly known as the Catherine Wheel, its name was changed during the early part of the 19th century as Stalbridge writer and historian Hilary Townsend explains: ‘The Trooper Inn gets its name from a table being erected outside to enable young men to join the army in the war against Napoleon’. In June 1953, villagers crowded into the lounge bar to watch Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation on one of only three televisions in the village at that time.

The Walk

Great British Life: Starting point The Trooper Inn. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Starting point The Trooper Inn. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

1. From the inn, walk up High Street (north-east), passing the left 1859 Congregational Chapel, old telephone box and a left turn where you will return at the walk’s end. At left, Melway Cottage, take right Drove Road. Past the Village Hall and cemetery, continue along the wide-verged and hedged lane. In 1/3 mile, at the triangular T-junction, turn left into Stokes Lane Reaching a descending left bend with twin right gates, go through the right hedge-gap three yards before those gates. Into the field corner, follow the left hedge path up for ¼ mile to the corner bridleway half-gate. Through, go left into the corner then right along the left hedge path up for another ¼ mile. Past a cattle-trough and gateway, the right wood is Holtham Plantation, the left wood is nameless.

Great British Life: On to Eastop Lane. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)On to Eastop Lane. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

2. Turn through the wide gap before the left wood into another large field corner (see Stalbridge Weston forward). Go right and follow the grass path alongside the wood fenced and ditched edge, descending slightly to the footpath-stiled ditch near the corner. Over, follow the right hedge down and bend left at the hedge-gate to the right hedge’s footpath-stile/sleepers. Over, cross the field half-right to pass the right cattle-trough and go through the hedge’s footpath-gate onto Eastop Lane, footpath-signed outside. Turn left along the verged lane and around the left bend. In a few yards, pass a footpath-signed crossing, continue over the stream bridge and along the lane, soon seeing Sturt Farm barns ahead. Reaching the left bend with Sturt Farm right, continue up the lane to a triangular T-junction with cottages left. Cross into the ‘¼ Stalbridge Weston’ lane and walk into the village, first passing right thatched Corner Farm, left Old School and right Old Inn.

Great British Life: Manor Farm's medieval chapel nave - now a barn. The farm was once owened by children's author Enid Blyton. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Manor Farm's medieval chapel nave - now a barn. The farm was once owened by children's author Enid Blyton. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

3. Reaching the raised right pavement at ‘Westerns’ cottage, don’t go around the left bend. Instead, cross to the opposite bank’s footpath-stile. Over, into the field with Manor Farm barns forward-right, cross ¼-right, west-south-west, into the dip to twin-stiles and sleeper in the hedge. Over, cross the field with Manor Farm over to the right and wide views behind you, to the footpath-gate in the corner. Through, follow the left wood’s edge to the footpath-gate. Through into the field, go right, still west-south-west, along the right fence-path. When the fence ends, over the hedge-stile into the field corner. Keep straight on across the field, along the left hedge with several openings, to the corner footpath-stile. Over, go straight across the high field to the hedge’s footpath-stile. Over, cross this high field to the hedge’s footpath-stile. Over, turn left along the hedge to the corner footpath-stiled sleepers under an oak.

4. Over, footpath arrows (and a stile) are all missing so follow these directions! Over that stile below the oak, bear ¼-right over the field to the unmarked hedge-gate. Through, bear half-left down the field to another unmarked gate in the bottom hedge, left of the facing wood with Cockhill Farm right. Through this gate, turn right to the unmarked gate facing you. Through, walk straight across the field, with Haddon Lodge right, to the left corner unmarked stile. Over, walk through the small copse to the two-way footpath-signed stile onto the road. Over, turn left. In 30 yards, go through the right unmarked hedge-gate into the field corner. Follow the right hedge to the footpath-gate. Don’t go through! Turn left along your field’s hedge down to the corner footpath-stile. Over, go through to the footpath-signed road. Turn right.

Great British Life: Late 18th century Woodrow Farm. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Late 18th century Woodrow Farm. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

5. Pass right Ramillies Farm and a right bridleway-gate. In 30 yards, take the left footpath-stile/gate into the Woodrow Farm and Groom’s Cottage track. Past Groom’s Cottage, go through the facing gate and pass the left footpath-signed gate. Continue down the sunken tree-banked track. Pass the left gate turning, keep straight on, grassy now. Past opposing gateways, the track bends right, passes a right ruined house, goes over a stream and passes a footpath-post. Up into a wide field with a right bench, turn left into the narrowing field (it’s an unsigned footpath). Walk down the centre into the narrow end and join the right-bending track over a footpath-bridge and stream. Into the next field, go half-left across the low corner into a nettled path to a sleeper and half-gate.

6. Through into the large sloping field, follow the left trees and stream to the corner hedge-gap with a footpath-gate left. Through the gap, with a footpath-post, keep following the large field’s left trees and stream to the facing fence’s cattle-trough and gate. Through, still follow the trees and stream to an unsigned gate into a fence-enclosed green track. Continue onto the concrete track, past a left footpath-bridge and around bends with a lake in left trees. Arriving in Manor Farm’s barnyard, pass right barns and footpath-arrow and continue straight past the left stone-built medieval chapel (now a barn) and through to the facing 16th-century stone-barn’s bridleway-arrow. Manor Farm itself dates from the 18th century, the children’s author Enid Blyton bought it in 1958, and would visit it on her regular trips to Dorset. It is believed that it was the inspiration for the Famous Five book Five on Finniston Farm. Turn left and cross the stream bridge, then ascend to a right bend, bridleway-arrowed back on the left gatepost. Go right and descend to High Street, turning left back to The Trooper Inn where you started.

Compass Points

Distance: 5¼ miles/8.25 km

Time: 3½ hours

Exertion: Not too strenuous. A few stiles.

Map: OS Landranger Sheets 183 and 194

Start: The Trooper Inn, Stourton Caundle (Reference ST715149). Park opposite or nearby

Public Transport: Damory Coaches 326 school bus

Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock and on roads, abide by The Countryside Code.

Refreshments: The Trooper Inn, open for supper and Sunday lunch, check for opening times (closed Mon, Tues, Thurs)