Turning off the Swanage road after Corfe Castle village, the high level B3069 road to Swanage crosses Corfe Common which exists because of the underlying Wealden grit and sandstone geology. The B3069 then continues as a meandering and steep climb up the north face of the ridge, formed by folded limestone beds, to Kingston village. Along these northern slopes, between Kingston and Langton Matravers, Purbeck Marble was extensively quarried, mostly in the 13th and 14th centuries, resulting in the growth of ‘quarrying hamlets’ which now survive only as isolated farms or barns. Present day farms are West Orchard, Blashenwell, Scoles, Afflington, Downshay, Quarr (recently re-opened for working Purbeck Marble again), and Wilkswood. Downshay supplied marble for Salisbury Cathedral in the 13th century, and Afflington still had a population of 50 as late as 1800.

The Walk

Great British Life: The Square and Corfe Castle from St. Edward's Church. The Square and Corfe Castle from St. Edward's Church. (Image: Edward Griffiths)

1. From The Square, walk south along West Street, passing St Edward’s Church left. Keep straight on for ½ mile, between mostly stone cottages with hardly two alike. Rising under trees at the far end, go through the facing gate/half-gate/cattle grid onto the lane. Follow it down across Corfe Common, ignoring any side grass tracks and seeing West Hill far right. Around the bottom right bend, go through the gate. Continue, level and bending right, to another 1½ gates and cattle-grid, signed ‘The Scott Estate’. Now, between fields and bending left at opposing gates, the lane continues with hedge left and field right. Passing a left ’No Entry’ fork as the lane rises, continue for ‘Blashenwell’.

2. Now fenced, the Blashenwell lane continues to ‘Willwood House. Private No Access’. So, go through the facing wooden gate and follow the old track to stone gateposts and the bridleway signpost with a pond behind. Through, continue past the left waterwheel to the facing stone wall signed ‘Deep Water’ with footpath arrow left and bridleway right. Go left. Through the footpath-gate by a stone barn, follow the track with Blashenwell Farm itself left. Keep straight on at the footpath-arrowed fence corner post. Now on grass, with a left hedge/fence, go through the facing wall’s footpath-gate. Pass a left ‘Private’ gate and continue up against the left hedge and then up the track through a hanging wood. Pass a footpath-stile below-left. Over the facing footpath-stile, follow the left fence/bushes up the field to another footpath-stile.

Great British Life: Encombe Estate's wood, filled with wild garlic at this time of year. Encombe Estate's wood, filled with wild garlic at this time of year. (Image: Edward Griffiths)

3. Over, go half-left up the sloping field, passing left of the electricity post, to the fence’s footpath-stile on Encombe Estate wood’s edge. Over, follow the path up through the wood, with carpets of wild garlic at this time of year, to a T-junction with forest track and footpath-arrow on the left corner tree. Turn right. In 50 yards, go left at the footpath-post. Follow the narrow tree-rooted path up through scattered trees to another T-junction with forest track, signed footpath back and bridleway right. Turn left and exit onto Kingston’s West Street. Cross to the stony path up to St James’ Church. After admiring the enormous 1880 ‘Cathedral of Purbeck’, leave past the stone memorial bench into West Street. Walk down to the Scott Arms and cross carefully on the B3069 bend. Keeping left, walk on for ‘Langton and Worth Matravers’ up the road. Immediately past redundant 1833 St James’ Church left, take the left footpath-stile into the high field corner.

Great British Life: The 1833 St James' Church, known as the 'Cathedral of Purbeck'The 1833 St James' Church, known as the 'Cathedral of Purbeck' (Image: Edward Griffiths)

4. Follow the left stone wall down to the footpath-stile/half-gate. Don’t go through. Keep following the stone wall down the long field with fine views over Corfe Common to Corfe Castle. Continue down to the footpath-gate. Through, continue against the stone wall with Purbeck Ice Cream factory down left. Under trees and undulating over hollows and bumps, pass a footpath-arrowed electricity post. At the next fence-stile, go over into the path which descends through bushes. At the next paths’ junction, go left and, if muddy, just keep pushing through to meet a stony farm track coming down from your right. Go left. In just a few yards, take the left footpath and ‘Purbeck Way’ (PW) arrowed path. The bridleway-track continues down to Afflington Farm.

Great British Life: View to Corfe Castle and Common from the high field. View to Corfe Castle and Common from the high field. (Image: Edward Griffiths)

5. Follow the green path to the footpath/PW kissing-gate. Through, turn left along the track (possibly muddy) to another footpath/PW kissing-gate. Through into a descending field, walk down by the left trees with a deep gulley and stream inside. The scattered buildings over to the right are part of old Afflington hamlet. Down to the footpath kissing-gate, go through. Continue along the left trees down to another gate and footpath kissing-gate. Through into the field corner, follow the left trees down again to the footpath kissing-gate. Through, cross the footbridge over the wood’s stream to the footpath/PW half-gate. Through into the field, turn right down past the right shed and the stone-roofed cottage’s gateway. Go through the facing footpath/PW half-gate onto the path through trees to another PW kissing-gate onto a timber boardwalk. Cross to the PW signpost for ‘Corfe Castle 1’ straight on. This is Corfe Common again. Follow the green path, more or less straight up through gorse and into more open heath, aiming for the low stone post on the top. This marks a paths’ junction. Go left, arrowed for PW and bridleway, to 1½ gates onto the B3069.

6. Cross quickly to the opposite 1½ PW gates, signed ‘Corfe Castle ¾’. Go straight on for 300 yards to another low stone post and turn right. Walk down and up past the end house, then along the right hedge to the corner half-gate. Through, follow the path between houses and gardens down to the road. Go left and past ‘Bungalows 14-18’ notice, then around the right bend and left turn. Out of Halves Cottages onto A351 East Street, Corfe Castle, turn left. Follow the road, noticing the many variations in houses’ ages and styles, back to The Square where you started.

Great British Life: Looking back along East Street to The SquareLooking back along East Street to The Square (Image: Edward Griffiths)


Distance: 5 miles/8 km

Time: 3½ hours

Exertion: Mildly strenuous up, easy down

Start: Corfe Castle Square near Castle entrance (Grid Ref: SY960821). Parking at National Trust Car Park

Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195

Public Transport: More Breezer 40

Dogs: On leads in Corfe Castle village and near livestock, follow The Countryside Code

Refreshments: Corfe Castle’s N.T. tea shop, the Scott Arms at Kingston, several inns close to The Square