Dorset walk through Chettle and Tarrant Gunville

Looking across the fields to St Mary's in Tarrant Gunville

Looking across the fields to St Mary's in Tarrant Gunville - Credit: Archant

Edward Griffiths enjoys an early autumn walk featuring open fields, vast skies and wood-topped hills

The highest spot on this lovely walk is only about 350ft above sea level but it all feels much higher with lashings of fresh air, wide open skies, and long views to woods and forests crowning almost all of the distant hills and ridges. At this time of year the trees are just beginning to find their autumn colour, and there’s a slight chill in the early morning but you’ll probably shed most of your jumpers before you’ve gone far from Chettle. This is a lovely little village with a magnificent Queen Anne house built for George Chafin M.P and Cranborne Chase Ranger. It was remodelled in 1912 by Edward Castleman who promoted Dorset’s first railway. Half way around the walk, we visit Tarrant Gunville which has its own magnificent park and the remaining stable block and gateway of Sir John Vanbrugh’s palatial Eastbury House built for George Doddington between 1718 and 1738.


• Distance: 4 3/4 miles (7.5km)

• Time: 3 1/4 hours, with exploring

• Exertion: Quite easy, just a couple of gradual ascents. Some mud after rain.

• Start: Chettle Village Hall. Parking for several cars (Grid Ref: ST952135)

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• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195

• Public Transport: None

• Dogs: Signs request ‘All dogs on leads’

• Refreshments: Chettle Village Shop for snacks, drinks and pies, or the Castleman Hotel.

The Walk

1 From the Village Hall, walk to the T-junction and turn left for ‘Village Shop’. Past the shop and notice board, turn left onto the signed footpath-track to the hidden fenced path leading to a working yard. Turn right through twin unsigned gates and walk up the centre of the long field with the impressive Castleman Hotel to your right and woods to your left. Reaching the far hedge-gap, unsigned, go through and follow the right hedge path up through two wide fields, under electricity wires in the first, and getting steeper as you go. Through the next hedge-gap, with the two-way bridleway-post, turn left along the left hedge path. There are long views to hilltop woods and forests all around.

2 Through the gap into a second field, turn right along the right hedge path. That’s Chettle Long Barrow forward left in the trees. Follow the field edge round to the barrow and, at the electricity post with footpath and Jubilee Trail arrows, go over the right stile. Over this, turn left along the barrow’s other side and turn right in the corner to follow the left hedge to the corner footpath-arrowed gap. Across the farm track, continue along the wide, grassy, hedged ‘All Dogs On Leads’ track. At its end, go through the half-gate into the fenced path with glimpses of Eastbury House’s stable block and park beyond the beech avenue.

3 Through the end bridleway half-gate, follow the path through the wood and round to between houses into School Road with Gunville House prominent in the far trees. Walk down to the T-junction and turn left - but first, turn right/left to visit St Mary’s Church. It’s well worth the detour. Its yew tree was certified as 350 years old in 1988. Back to the T-junction, follow the road, which can sometimes be fairly busy, past the old Bugle Horn Inn and Eastbury House’s gateway with the Tarrant River bridge. A little further, there are good views of the old stable block left and St Mary’s back along the right field. Reaching the right bend, turn left, past the gateway to White Kennels.

4 Walk up the lane and straight into the long shady track between fields. Reaching twin telephone masts, turn right onto the signed bridleway-track with right trees. There are fine views north to Pentridge Hill. At the tracks’ T-junction, turn left then, at bridleway-arrows, right around the barn. Follow the track against the right trees and around the left bend. Pass a right track and walk straight down the 5/8-mile long track between open fields with vast skies. Through the narrow wood at the bottom, turn left along the wood’s-edge grass track, passing a left footpath arrow. In the far corner, follow the track around the field’s edge to the clear gap in the left trees.

5 Go through into the narrow field and follow the grass track along the right hedge into the next field at a bridleway-post. Down into the woodland track, Chettle House is on your right. Meander through the trees, turn right at left Chettle Caravan Park, walk through the gate and past bridleway-pointers. Keep following the main track with your first field left and Chettle House right. Visit St Mary’s church through the arched gateway. Edward Castleman’s memorial is the draped urn on the pedestal near the church doorway. Then continue along the lane, past the left duck-pond, to the Village Hall where you started.