Dorset walk - Hermitage and Middlemarsh
- Credit: Archant
Edward Griffiths admires some ancient trees on this winter walk which also offers superb views over the Blackmore Vale
This walk has a wealth of ancient gnarled trees to admire - in woods, field hedges and standing sentinel in several fields. Some have colourful beef-steak fungus on their massive trunks or anonymous fungi sprouting around their feet. At this time of year pheasants are keeping their heads down but you may scare some from their cover, they will then fly off in noisy alarm as you approach. After rain, several fields and paths are quite damp underfoot on this route, so wear suitable waterproof boots. For a Christmas holiday walk this has it all - views, farms, fields and woods - and the delightful church of St Mary’s, Hermitage is there to welcome your safe return.
• Distance: 5 1/4 miles (8.5km)
• Time: 4 hours
• Exertion: Not too strenuous. Several stiles and misaligned gates to climb over
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• Start: St Mary’s parking area at the end of the cul-de-sac by Hermitage’s fenced village green (Grid Ref: ST649069)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194
• Public Transport: None to Hermitage. Damory Coaches 216 Dorchester to Sherborne stops at Lyons Gate on Point 3. Not Sundays
• Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock or where requested and also on roads
• Refreshments: The Hunters Moon, Middlemarsh for lunches and bar meals
1 From the parking area, take the Lyons Hill Farm path up to the half-gate into a sloping field. Walk up the centre to the bridleway half-gate into cleared woodland. Follow the path through to the bridleway half-gate into the field corner. Turn left down the fence to the bottom bridleway-gate. Through into the wood, cross the stream-bridges, go through the bridleway-gate and follow the left fence up, with High Stoy right, to the corner bridleway-gate. Through, follow the zig-zag fence up around Prince’s Wood to another gate into trees. Continue up against the meandering left fence, becoming a grass track, over the top to a bridleway-gate into a high field.
2 Keep following the fence down to the corner bridleway half-gate. Through, pass a left half-gate and keep following the fence for 100 yards. Go through the left bridleway half-gate, and a second gate into the field. Follow the field’s left edge down and along Lyons Wood’s edge to the bridleway-gate into the wood. Around a boggy half-gate, follow the path to a bridleway-signed track. Turn right through trees down through the bridleway-gate and up to the A352. Turn right. In 100 yards, at a stone-mullioned house, cross into the opposite lane by the bus shelter.
3 At left Laurel Cottage, take the signed grass bridleway-track. Through the bridleway-gate into the field, walk right up to the top corner hedge-gap. Through, turn right up to the bridleway-gate. Over into the rough field, follow the right hedge-line for about 70 yards then bear half-left down the scrubby slope to the bottom wood. About 100 yards from the left fence, find the bridleway-footbridge into the trees. Go through the half-gate and the wood to the bridleway half-gate into a rolling field. Bear half-right up to the bridleway-posted hedge-gap. Through, walk up and over to join a gravel track down to another bridleway-gate.
4 Follow this track to a gates’ junction and onto Lyons Head Farm Drive. Turn left to the road with a backward-pointing bridleway-sign. Turn left. Cross into Lower Revels Farm footpath-signed track. Immediately, to avoid a muddy cattle-yard with myriad gates, the farmer says: ‘Take the left hedge-gap into the yard with the right barn and left roadside hedge. Through the facing gate, cross the field diagonally right to the corner gate.’ Into the next field, turn left along the hedge to the corner footpath-stile. Over, follow the left hedge before veering to the corner footpath-stile right of the facing cottage. Over, keep left, around the corner to another footpath-stile. Over, join the drive going right. Continue through Tiley’s houses to Kennels Lane. Turn right.
5 Past Grange Farm’s barn, cross the left verge to the footpath-stiled footbridge. Over, go straight across the field, aiming left of Middle Marsh Farmhouse’s gable-end, to the footpath-stiled footbridge. Over, walk along the drive to the footpath-signed gateway, turn right along the road. In 100 yards, cross over. Past the footpath-pointer, turn into Oak Cottage’s driveway. Follow the right Leylandii hedge to the footpath-stiled footbridge into the field. Cross to the fence-stile and the next stile/gate. Over, turn right through the long field, passing the ancient oak tree. Well before the field ends, go over the left footpath-stiled footbridge into Black Wood. Follow the path to the footpath-arrowed deer fence.
6 Turn left. Follow the woodland path, crossing a five-ways junction, to the two-way footpath-gate. Over, cross the field centre to the footpath-gate left of facing Hurdley Wood. Through, follow the wood-side track, around the right bend and down to the gate. Through, past a bridleway-post, follow the track to Williford Farm’s drive. Continue, fenced and bending left, along the drive which becomes Gunville Lane. Continue between Hermitage cottages to the T-junction. Turn left and left again into a footpath-signed drive. Then, go through the footpath half-gate onto the path to St Mary’s church. Leave by the right corner half-gate. Cross in front of the cottage back to the parking area.