Circular Dorset Pub Walk: Trent and Nether Compton

Charlock Hill near the villages of Trent and Nether Compton in Dorset

Charlock Hill which rises to nearly 500ft and shelters the villages of Trent and Nether Compton - Credit: Edward Griffiths

Discover the fascinating churches at Trent and Nether Compton, as well as the two historic village pubs of The Griffin's Head and The Rose and Crown Inn, in this lovely summer ramble with Dorset magazine's walks writer Edward Griffiths   

Charlock Hill is a long and winding escarpment which rises to nearly 500ft and shelters the villages of Trent and Nether Compton from the worst of the easterly winds. This fine walk takes in these charming villages, both blessed with elegant churches and some truly exquisite houses and cottages built from the local Ham Hill stone. Surrounding, is the most glorious countryside, with low valley fields and high ancient woods, crossed by a lattice of ancient tracks, worn deep by centuries of continuous use by travellers, traders and itinerant workers. 

Village green at Nether Compton in Dorset on a sunny summer day

The pretty village of Nether Compton where you start and end your walk - Credit: Edward Griffiths

The two churches on this walk are exceptional, each being the centuries-old centre point of its own village and each with a rare carved chancel screen which separated the people in the nave from the priest performing his rites in the chancel.

Carved oak screen from 15th century in St Andrew's Church, Trent , Dorset

The 15th century chancel arch with carved oak screen in St Andrew's Church in Trent - Credit: Edward Griffiths

During the Reformation, most churches’ chancel screens were removed so that the congregation could participate more in the services. Trent’s 13th-century St Andrew’s Church had its chancel rebuilt in the 15th century, and still has its ornate carved oak screen.

Inside the 15th century church of St Nicholas in Nether Compton, Dorset

Chancel arch in St Nicholas' Church, Nether Compton with its 'modern' chancel screen - Credit: Edward Griffiths

Nether Compton’s 13th-century St Nicholas’ Church was much altered in the 15th century, when its tower was added, but the carved stone chancel screen was listed only as ‘modern’ in 1952. It seems odd that ceremonial was separated from the people once again in modern times. 

St Nicholas# Church in Nether Compton, Dorset dates from 13th century

The village church of St Nicholas in Nether Compton, dates from the 13th century - Credit: Edward Griffiths

The Walk 

1 Before leaving, visit St Nicholas’ Church. Notice the sundial on the west tower and the ‘modern’ stone chancel screen inside. The lead-lined font is 14th century. Then, with the green right, walk down the street away from St Nicholas’. The village’s charming stone cottages mostly date from the 17th century, including those opposite the green. Pass the left turning signed ‘Over Compton’ and ‘Yeovil’ with Old Police House right. Continue, with a right stream, to the T-junction with The Griffin’s Head, built in 1599.

The Griffin's Head pub in the village of Nether Compton in Dorset

The Griffin's Head in Nether Compton, the village pub was built in 1599 - Credit: Edward Griffiths

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Turn left. As Crossfields bends right, keep straight on, signed ‘Bridleway Trent Mill ½’, into the tree-lined, gently rising cobbled track, then descending slowly as the track narrows and meanders through trees. Possibly a little muddy after rain at the bottom alongside the left stream. Reaching a T-bend, with a two-way ‘Bridleway’ sign, Trent Mill is down the left bridleway but turn right up the hedged lane, rising gently. 

Trent Mill in Dorset

Trent Mill which you pass on the start of the walk - Credit: Edward Griffiths

2 In ¼ mile, after some left sycamores, take the left footpath-bridge. Into the wide field, cross to the right end of the facing thatched Rose and Crown Inn which dates from the early-18th century.

The Rose and Crown Inn, a country pub in the Dorset village of Trent

The Rose and Crown Inn, Trent dates from the early 18th century - Credit: Edward Griffiths

Over the footpath-stile/1½ gates, go past the inn to the road. Turn right. Pass left St Andrew’s raised churchyard and The Chantry next door.

13th century St Andrew's Church and The Chantry in Trent, Dorset

St Andrew's Church and The Chantry in Trent - Credit: Edward Griffiths

At the tree-shaded triangle, notice the gate-piers onto the drive to Trent Manor House which is medieval but altered in the 17th century. When the future Charles II was defeated at Worcester in 1651, the 21-year-old tried to escape to France from Lyme and this is where he was hidden from pursuers during his flight to freedom. Go through the half-gate to pass behind The Chantry, built in the late-15th or early-16th century for a chantry priest of the church.

Notice in St Andrew's Church, Trent in Dorset about removing clogs

A polite request to the rural congregation of previous centuries at St Andrew's Church in Trent - Credit: Edward Griffiths

At St Andrew’s, there’s a sundial on the buttress against the staircase door by the south porch. Notice Church Farm’s 18th-century barn over the wall behind the west tower. The gable end’s carved head corbels are distinctly ecclesiastical. Now, continue along the lane, passing the large originally 15th-century Rectory right and Turners Close Almshouses. These were built in 1846 with an ornate octagonal well-head in the yard. Here, turn right into Down Lane, signed ‘Sherborne 4’ and ‘Village Hall’. 

17th century stone built Manor Farm House in Trent village Dorset

Manor Farm House in the village of Trent, built in 1660 - Credit: Edward Griffiths

3 Follow the lane, with the left stone-slab pavement, a blend of houses and the school, passing left Fisher’s Close and right Trent Memorial Hall 1914-1919. Most original Trent cottages are 17th century including the next left bend’s twin-gabled Manor Farm House with the date-stone ‘1660’. Continue along Down Lane past left Abel’s Lane, left ‘High Pavement’, right Mill Lane and left Rigg Lane until the pavement ends at an S-bend with side lanes branching off. With Plot Lane right and a pond on the left corner, keep straight on into the sunken, rising and hedged lane. This becomes a track at the right thatched cottage. Now, Charlock Hill is spread out ahead and right. 

Shallow pond with rocky path in the village of Trent in Dorset

Pond at Plot Lane in Trent - Credit: Edward Griffiths

4 Note the ‘Keep Dogs on Leads’ sign for the protection of game and wildlife. The track becomes more deeply sunken as it rises. At a right bend with a left gate, keep to your bridleway-signed track. Soon, surprisingly, there’s a short descent to a gates’ crossing but then, under trees, start slowly ascending again, grassier now. Reaching a sharp right bend, ignore the left bridleway half-gate which leads walkers, somewhat exhaustingly on a hot summer’s day, to the top of Charlock Hill. Keep to the hedged track around the bend, rising a little more steeply to another sharp right bend. From here, the track runs along Charlock Hill’s lower slopes. It may undulate but it’s generally downhill from now on. 

Rutted sunken dirty track leading to Charlock Hill in Dorset

Sunken track before Charlock Hill - Credit: Edward Griffiths

5. Notice Yeovil suburbs ahead, but this is the right way. Pass a left bridleway-signpost and continue down, more steeply, stony and sunken. Ignore all side gates and a right grass track. There is a probably-muddy section of track, but it’s firm underfoot where the water rivulet flows. Emerge into Nether Compton at right Folly Cottage then continue, with right stream and ford, around a left bend and onto The Griffin’s Head. Turn left and walk back to St Nicholas’ church where you started. 

Bridleway in summer on Charlock Hill in Dorset

Bridleway on Charlock Hill's lower slopes - Credit: Edward Griffiths

Compass Points

Distance: 3½ miles/5.5 km 

Time: 2½ hours 

Exertion: Easy to moderate. Two gentle ascents. Damp patches on route possible after heavy rain. 

Start: St Nicholas’ Church, Nether Compton. Park thoughtfully alongside the green (Grid Ref: ST598173) 

Map: OS Landranger Sheet 183 

Public Transport: South West Coaches X11, First Bus 58, 58A and X10 

Dogs: On leads where there is livestock or ground nesting birds (abide by The Countryside Code), through villages  

Refreshments: The Griffin’s Head, Nether Compton and The Rose and Crown, Trent  

Click here for a Bronze Age Dorset walk at Winfrith Heath