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Dorset walk: Grimstone Down and Bushes Bottom Farm

The long views from Jackman's Cross. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)
The long views from Jackman's Cross. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

Located at 585ft on Grimstone Down, when surveyed by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments in 1952, all that remained of Jackman’s Cross was the squared base and a rectangular socket. Now there is a Second Millennium wayside cross where an ancient ridge-top track crosses Hog Hill. Nearby on the walk’s route, there are remains of Celtic field systems and settlement enclosures which were probably occupied from the Iron Age to Romano-British times. Jackman’s Cross, the subject of many local myths, the most prevalent referring to someone named Jackman who was hanged here for sheep-stealing, was the intended focus of this 4-mile walk but a local gentleman, accompanied by fine seven-year-old rescue golden retriever, persuaded me to extend the walk to Bushes Bottom Farm. This detour, and the additional fine views which followed, added another 1½ miles to the walk but it’s worth it. At the farm, the remaining derelict buildings include the brick barn and the two-storey stone cottage which is now used as another barn and still has its open fireplace and bread oven.

The 2014 Forcey’s Bell Tower, created by West Dorset artist Guy Martin, commemorates the Forcey family who lived and farmed here until finally leaving in 1914, and celebrates local farming practice. It also marks the transition to a more sustainable way of working and living to protect the native flora and fauna of this area’s beautiful valleys and downs environment.

The Walk

Great British Life: Sydling St Nicholas road and Sydling Water. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Sydling St Nicholas road and Sydling Water. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

1. Walk north to the ‘Sydling St Nicholas 3’ and ‘Greyhound Inn’ turning and go under the multi-arched railway bridge. Follow the road round to the left, noticing the track with the thatched cottage down which you will be returning later. Follow the level lane between the clear chalk stream called Sydling Water left and the rising field right. After the stream comes down across the left field, pass the right coppice wood and continue along the meandering hedged lane. On a right/left bend with a farm drive gate right, continue over Sydling Water bridge. Now, with fenced fields both sides, take the right Langford Farm ‘Public Bridleway’ track. With Langford House forward-left, follow the tree-lined track and pass right Langford Farm cottage and left Langford Valley Barn. Continue along the hedged track to the 1½ footpath and bridleway-gates.

Great British Life: Crete Bottom from the rising track. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Crete Bottom from the rising track. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

2. Through into the long wide valley field, follow the central green track around the left arc with woods on your right and ahead. Then, ignoring the right fence’s farm-gate, fork right up to the fence’s un-arrowed half-gate with a track visible behind it. Through, walk up the chalk path through young deciduous woodland with some older Holm oaks. Up to the T-junction with a farm track, signed ‘Private’ right, go left and around the bend to the field gateway. Through, at the ‘Bridleway. Dogs Under Close Control’ sign, go left along the left coppice’s fence to the facing bushes’ two bridleway half-gates. Through, walk straight across the hill field, towards the Dutch barn at first, then swinging right over the slope and along the left fence grass track to the bridleway-gate. Through, turn left on the green track with right hillside and the left fence above Crete Bottom shallow valley. Continue past a left gate and cattle trough with a bold blue arrow. Through the facing bridleway-gate, keep straight on, still along the left fence, swinging slowly right.

Great British Life: Forecy's Bell Tower designed by Guy Martin commemorates the Forcey family who left Bushes Bottom Farm in October 1914. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Forecy's Bell Tower designed by Guy Martin commemorates the Forcey family who left Bushes Bottom Farm in October 1914. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

3. Through another bridleway-gate, continue along the left fence and through the end bridleway-gate into Bushes Bottom Barn abandoned farmstead, made picturesque by the magnificent trees framing the stone and brick barns. After admiring the farm buildings and Forcey’s Tower, go right on the green track to the bridleway-gate. Through, turn left on the green track, still along Crete Bottom valley, straight on at first. Then, on a slightly-left bend, take the right-fork bridleway at the arrow-post and ascend the long left-swinging grass track above a left ‘bowl’ with right scrub. Through the top bridleway-gate, sign-posted ‘The Turning Point’ ahead, walk straight up the rising field to the facing hedge and five-way sign-posted junction with ‘Godmanstone’ through the facing gate.

Great British Life: Bushes Bottom Farm, with Forcey's Bell Tower by Guy Martin to the right. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Bushes Bottom Farm, with Forcey's Bell Tower by Guy Martin to the right. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

4. Take the right ‘Dorchester 6’ green track along the left hedge over high sheep downs. Through the hedge-corner bridleway-gate, walk along the long hedge-enclosed multi-furrowed grass track following the crest of Crete Hill for¼ mile. Through the end bridleway-gate, the left bridleway-track comes up from Godmanstone. But keep straight on for ½ mile, still following the crest of Crete Hill, wider but still hedge-enclosed and rutted. Pass two right gateways, then two left gateways with distant views. Through the end bridleway-gate, cross a bridleway-track which comes up from the right-fork and crosses to the left bridleway-gate. But keep straight on over Grimstone Down along the left hedge to a bridleway half-gate. Through, with good views right, follow the wood’s edge to the signed crossing of bridleways at Jackman’s Cross.

Great British Life: Jackman's Cross. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Jackman's Cross. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

5. Keep straight on along the left wood with open field right. Joining the left ‘Private’ track coming out of the woods, go through the facing 1½ facing bridleway-gates into the settlement earthworks field. Walk across, aiming for the twin wood clumps ahead, and go through the 1½ bridleway gates right of the covered reservoirs. Follow the stony track down the open fields, passing the two right clumps, with a Bronze Age barrow inside the second clump. Continue down into the hedged track, then fenced left then open left. Down through Grimstone Dairy Farm’s yard to the T-junction, turn right on the concrete track. Passing the right barn and farmhouse, continue down the sunken tree-shaded track and past Viaduct Cottage right. Then return under the railway bridge back to where you started.

Compass Points

Distance: 5½ miles/8.75 km

Time: 4 hours

Exertion: Moderate. One longish gentle ascent. No stiles. Some mud after rain

Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194

Start: Lay-by on east side of A37 Dorchester Road, 120 yards south of the ‘Sydling St Nicholas’ turning (Grid Ref: SY640944)

Public Transport: South West Coaches 212 Dorchester to Maiden Newton. Not Sundays

Dogs: On leads where there is livestock and when requested abide by The Countryside Code

Refreshments: The Greyhound Inn, Sydling St Nicholas


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