In October 2022, the last of 22 pylons scheduled to be removed from the magnificent Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty between Winterbourne Abbas and Chickerell was ‘felled’ by the National Grid. Across England and Wales, around 22,000 of these pylons were erected in the latter half of the 20th century; in this area of Dorset, during the 1960s. The project to remove two of the three parallel lines’ 22 pylons and 8.8km of multiple overhead cables and replace them with underground cabling began in the summer of 2019. To achieve this, dual-carriageway width ‘tracks’ were carved through this Dorset landscape including excavation of the prominent strip lynchets on the Portesham Road south of Winterbourne Abbas. With Bronkham Hill’s famous skyline of Bronze Age barrows, and many others scattered throughout this area, it isn’t surprising to discover that more than 4,000 artefacts were uncovered during the excavations, some around 6,000 years old. This circular walk takes us through an ancient landscape which is now largely pylon free.


1. From the parking area, cross into the ‘Bincombe 6’ South Dorset Ridgeway footpath. Up to the top, the fenced path continues along the ridge but take the right ‘Corton Hill 2’ bridleway. Notice Hardy Monument on the right of Blackdown Hill. Follow the steep path down through gorse and bracken to the fence’s bridleway half-gate. Through, walk down the long field, keeping nearer the left side, to the gateway under sycamores in the bank/fence. Through into the next field, continue to the left fence-gate. Through, up the bank into the field, turn half-right to the bridleway-posted opening. Through, walk down the field, aiming at Portland’s south end at first, to the hedge/fence bridleway-gate where a left ascends Bronkham Hill. Through, continue on green path along the valley, passing a small concrete building and swinging left to the fence-gate left of Hell Bottom’s derelict and atmospheric farm buildings.

Great British Life: Derelict barn at Hell Bottom. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Derelict barn at Hell Bottom. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

2. Through the gate, continue along the right stone wall to the equally derelict farm cottage right. Notice the left footpath ascending Bronkham Hill. We pass its other end later. Through the bridleway-gate, follow the left fence (not the clear right track) with dry-stone walls everywhere. Don’t go through the facing dry-stone wall’s gate but go into the left-walled/right-hedged grass track above the right field. Through the next unsigned gate, continue along the right-banked track with the left fence to a bridleway half-gate in the fence corner. Keep straight on, but in the field below the banked track as the track peters out. Meeting a cattle trough with sheep path continuing past it, and slumping sheep tracks on the right hillside, go through the left fence’s bridleway-gate into the fence-enclosed bridleway-track.

Great British Life: Down to Coryates lanes’ T-junction. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Down to Coryates lanes’ T-junction. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

3. Follow this track to a concrete track T-junction, signposted footpath left-right and bridleway back. Go right, through the gate and down the tree-edged track to another gate onto a right-banked lane with slumping hillside opposite, signed back footpath and bridleway. Down to Coryates lanes’ T-junction, take the left footpath-stile at the ‘Coryates’ finial. Cross the stream footbridge and follow the faint path up and around the hill slopes, past a Jubilee Trail footpath sleeper-post and along sheep paths to a fence’s outside-corner footpath-post. Past this, continue near the right fence and straight on when it ends. Notice the low pylon on the facing hill and the new feeder-station where underground cables emerge to above-ground and pylons heading south. Follow the path swinging left past right trees to the half-gate to St Bartholomew’s Chapel below left Corton Hill. Just beyond 16th-century Corton Farmhouse.

Great British Life: St Bartholomew’s Chapel with Corton Farmhouse on the right. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)St Bartholomew’s Chapel with Corton Farmhouse on the right. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

4. Early 13th-century St Bartholomew’s Chapel was restored and re-consecrated in 1897. The view from the chapel is still punctuated by pylons heading south to Chickerell but more open than before. Leave through your arrival gate and swing right behind the chapel, up the green path to the footpath kissing-gate and path to the concrete track from Corton Farm. Turn left up to the Upwey to Portesham road with two-way footpath-pointers. Turn left along left Corton Hill. In ¼ mile, take the ‘Higher Corton Farm’ right bridleway-signed track. Pass right and left cottages. At the left Corton Farm track, follow the right fork at the right pylon. Cross the underground cables’ route, still apparent by the bends climbing Friar Waddon Hill behind you.

Great British Life: The ridgeway bridleway to Blackdown with Hardy Monument. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)The ridgeway bridleway to Blackdown with Hardy Monument. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

5. Keep ascending, savouring sea views and bending left. Notice the lines of barrows on Corton Down’s ridge top. Reaching the fence-gate with South Dorset Ridgeway signpost, back is ‘Corton Hill ¾’. Go through. Turn left for ‘Hardy Monument 1½’. Through the next gate, follow the track up and over an underground cables’ crossing and through another gate. Keep straight on up the sunken track. Pass barrows and storage tanks with fine sea views. Past a left footpath half-gate, continue up the path through gorse and bracken right, then with left fencing. Ascend to pass the left footpath-gate for ‘Hell Bottom ½’. Remember being there earlier?

Great British Life: Barrow and hollow on Bronkham Hill. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Barrow and hollow on Bronkham Hill. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

6. Through the facing gate, this is Bronkham Hill. Continue up the green track but visit the right barrows and ‘solution hollows’ where rainwater soaking through acidic gravels has dissolved the underlying chalk causing the surface to collapse. Continue along the left fence/wall with your outward route down below you. Pass a ‘Martinstown 2’ bridleway-post with ‘Hardy Monument 1’ ahead. Through another gate, continue, with more barrows right, to another gate. Through into the fence-enclosed path, keep straight on, rising then passing a left ‘Corton Hill ½’ bridleway turning with ‘Hardy Monument ½’ ahead. Continue undulating, passing a right bridleway half-gate and rising to pass the ‘Corton Hill 2’ bridleway where you turned off near the start. Now, descend to Blackdown lay-by where you started.

Compass Points

Distance: 4½ miles/7.25 km

Time: 3 hours

Exertion: Easy but one long 370ft ascent

Start: Forestry Commission’s Blackdown lay-by east of Hardy Monument (Grid Ref: SY616877)

Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194

Public Transport: None

Dogs: On leads where there is livestock (this is sheep country), follow the Countryside Code

Refreshments: Kings Arms, Portesham and Brewers Arms, Martinstown