Dorset walk: Minterne Parva and Wancombe Hill

The footpath above Yelcombe Bottom

The footpath above Yelcombe Bottom - Credit: Archant

Edward Griffiths enjoys a walk through the superb landscape of the Cerne River valley

The initial gradual 423ft ascent from Cerne Abbas up the side of Yelcombe Bottom offers excellent views of the rolling chalk downs with yellow patches of harvested oil-seed rape and corn fields. Steering clear of the ubiquitous giant, our route enjoys fine views over the Cerne River valley before dropping down to visit the charming hamlets of Minterne Magna and Up Cerne. After climbing 325ft to Wancombe Hill, we stroll along Sydling Drove with superb views over the Sydling Water valley. This really is a delightful Dorset walk with some great rewards for the extra effort.


Distance: 6 miles (9.5km)

Time: 4 1/2 hours

Exertion: Fairly strenuous with 748ft of total ascent. Some mud after rain.

Start: Picnic area car park in ‘Village Hall’ lane off Duck Street south of Cerne Abbas Giant viewpoint (Grid Ref: ST663015)

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Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194

Public Transport: Damory Coaches 216 Dorchester to Sherborne. Not Sundays

Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock or where requested and on roads

Refreshments: Royal Oak and The New Inn at Cerne Abbas for lunches and bar meals

The Walk

1 From the car park, walk left. Take the right signed footpath before Fettle Bridge. Follow the streamside path, passing a right turn. Over the footbridge, follow the cobbled path into Abbey Street. Turn right to timber-framed ‘Pitchmarket’. Turn left at St Mary’s Church. Continuing into Long Street, pass right Piddle Lane. At Simsay Fields, take the left-fork signed footpath to the kissing-gate into the field. Cut across left to the corner half-gate. Through, walk up to the top corner footpath-stile into a shady hollow-way. Turn left, with a bridleway-post. Ignoring side paths follow the rising bridleway, eventually becoming more open with steep hillside on your left.

2 Continue ascending above right Yelcombe Bottom to ‘Giants Walk’ gate. Through, follow the fence with fine views, through another gate into a short track to a bridleway junction. Go through the left 1½ bridleway-gates and cross over the field to the four-way bridleway-post. Follow the ‘Wessex Ridgeway’ down along right trees to the ‘Giants Walk’ corner-gate. Through into trees, take the nearby right bridleway half-gate. Follow the right fence with fine views over Minternes Parva and Magna before hazel and hawthorn hide them. Opening out after a right bridleway half-gate, bear left around the bushes’ end down to a solitary bridleway-post. Now, bear right down to the bridleway-path into trees. Through the half-gate, walk straight down the field to the bridleway-pointer at the hedge-corner gap. Through, follow the left hedge down to join a farm track.

3 Continue to the three-way pointer. Turn left for ‘Up Cerne ¾’ down the track. Meander through Minterne Parva Farm, with its 18th-century circular granary, and down the lane. At the A352, take the left ‘Up Cerne ½’ bridleway through the wood. Emerging, cross into the ‘Up Cerne’ lane. Past right ‘Farm Hill’ turning, continue above Cerne Park and down the tree-lined lane into pretty Up Cerne. Keep straight on up before descending along a double avenue. At the left bend, take the right track - it’s a bridleway - rising through trees. Ignore the left fork. The chalk track keeps climbing, eventually passing a left wood. In 100 yards, fork left through the bridleway-posted hedge-gap. Walk right up the field to the track along the top hedge.

4 Go through the gap at the track’s right bend. Keep following until it bends left - but don’t! Go through the facing hedge-gap with a low bridleway-post behind it. Aim across the field towards the central tree to find the hedge gap 50 yards to its right. Through onto Sydling Drove track with the three-way bridleway-pointer, turn left. With Eastcombe Bottom and Sydling valley right, pass a right wood and a two-way bridleway-pointer. Immediately before the high mast, take the left ‘Cerne Abbas 1’ footpath through the hedge-gap. Along the short right hedge, cross the high field on the ‘wildlife corridor’ to the two-way footpath-pointer. Turn right for ‘Cerne Abbas’ along the wood’s edge. In 50 yards, take the left ‘Cerne Abbas’ path into Park Pale woods where deer were corralled at the end of the chase.

5 Walk straight down, steeply, to the ‘Cerne Abbas ¾’ footpath-stile/gate into the valley field. Follow the left hedge to the two-way arrow, then turn down past the solitary oak to the footpath-stile/gate signed back to ‘Cerne Park’. Through, walk to the corner footpath-stile/gate. Over, follow the right hedge into the chalk track below the left hill. Reaching the footpath-junction, go over the facing gate under bushes and take the instant right footpath-stile into the field. Follow the left hedge down to the left footpath kissing-gate. Through, follow the right hedge around the field all the way to the footpath half-gate onto the A352. Carefully cross left to the ‘Duck Street’ footpath at Number 36. Through the gate, follow the left hedge to ‘Duck Street’ half-gate into the steeped path into the lane. Cross over to the corner gap into the car park where you started.