Dorset Walks: Abbotsbury and Portesham

Down to West Elworth Farm

Down to West Elworth Farm - Credit: Archant

Edward Griffiths follows in the footsteps of the other Hardy on this fabulous coastal walk.

The view over Abbotsbury from the Bridport road, encompassing Chesil Beach and Portland, is well known. Within this impressive scenery lies Abbotsbury, built from beautiful local oolitic sandstone. If you can, allow time to visit one of the tearooms here, which are always filled with the mouth-watering aroma of home baked cakes and delicious lunches. Indeed, Abbotsbury is a splendid place to spend the day. But there’s also a fine circular walk between here and Portesham - a lovely village nestling below the South Dorset Ridgeway. Spend some time exploring Portesham before starting the return journey. There are some lovely old stone houses, including the house of Admiral Hardy (Nelson’s beloved comrade) where he spent his formative years.

If it’s been raining it can be muddy just after West Elworth Farm. To save soggy boots take three strong plastic bags with you - two for slipping over your boots when needed and the other one to pop the muddy bags in to take home.

Distance: 4¼ miles (6.75km).

Time: 3½ hours.

Exertion: Not too strenuous. A couple of mild ascents. If it’s been raining there can be wet muddy patch after West Elworth Farm so be prepared with bags for your boots.

Start: Strangways Hall, Abbotsbury (Grid Ref: SY576854).

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Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194.

Public Transport: First 753, Jurassic Coast X53, Damory 253.

Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock and on roads.

Refreshments: In Abbotsbury - Ilchester Hotel and The Swan Inn plus several excellent bakehouse/tearooms. In Portesham - the King’s Head.

The Walk

1 Facing the Ilchester Hotel, turn left into Market Street. Follow the B3157 left bend round into Rodden Row along the raised pavement. Continue past the right Swan Inn. Cross Glebe Close and take the left ‘Portesham 1¼’ bridleway-track. Bending right, don’t go to the house, but keep left up the track to the gate into the old station yard. Passing the engine shed, follow the old track-way path through trees above right fields with Gorwell ridge up to your left.

2 Continue for a mile, through a cutting, along more elevated track and through another cutting with an old sleeper-shed. After the track descends to a gate, pass right corrugated-iron barns. At the T-junction, bear left. Past a left turning and Manor Farm house, descend to the B3157, signed ‘Abbotsbury 1¼’. Turn left along the pavement and continue to the ‘Weymouth’ right bend. The fine stone house on Goose Hill corner is Admiral Hardy’s House. From here, explore the back lanes of Portesham. Look out for fine old houses and cottages in Back Street and New Street, and William Weare’s wall-tomb outside St Peter’s Church.

3 Leave Portesham along the Weymouth road with the King’s Head on your left. Past the Texaco garage, take the right footpath-signed Portesham Dairy Farm Camp Site drive, straight down to the footpath-gate onto the fenced-path. Across the footpath-bridge, follow the path to a footpath half-gate into a long field. Follow the left hedge, with lovely views along the shallow valley, meandering round to the left corner footpath-stile. Over this, follow the left hedge down to the footpath-gate. Through this, turn right to the Permissive Path half-gate onto a fenced path around East Elworth Farm buildings, rising into trees, over the stile and .into a high field

4 Follow the left edge up to the crossing bridleway. Turn right up the wide grass strip between two fields, bending right. Through the hedge’s bridleway-gate, turn right down the lane. Pass the right ‘East Elworth’ track and meander down for ‘West Elworth ¼’. Through the gateway, pass between the right dairy yard and the left house. Facing a thatched cottage, turn left up the bridleway-track, bending right past the right paddock. Here, the track could be shallowly filled with wet mud. If so, slip the bags over your boots. Hold the handles and plough slowly through. Fifty yards before the track ends at a facing gate, go through the left unsigned gate into the ascending hedged grassy track.

5 Put your muddy bags into the clean one and continue up the hill. Over the top, go through the footpath-gate onto Merry Hill. Take the right ‘Coast Path’ stile onto the path through scrub with views to the sea and Portland. Over the end Coast Path stile, follow the left hedge/fence across the field to the stone-stile. Over this, keep following the fence/scrub into an open field. Keep along the left edge above the valley. Past a Coast Path post, cross the track and keep following the left hedge to a fence-stile. Over, pass the ‘Abbotsbury 1½’ milestone and follow the right fence, meandering along Linton Hill. Past another footpath-post, go over the step-stile.

6 Follow the quarry-hollowed ridge down past more Coast Path posts to another stone-stile. Over this, follow the right fence down to the Swannery road stile. Turn right. In 200 yards, go into the car park. Follow the left hedge past WCs into the ‘Residents Only’ and ‘Tithe Barn ½’ track. Stay on the track past left cottages and Mill House. Keep straight on for ‘Tithe Barn’. Emerging onto the lane, facing the Tithe Barn, turn left. Round the bend, take the right track with the right pond, then turn left up the ‘Car Park Church’ fenced path. Past the ruined abbey gable-end, cross the drive into St Nicholas’ churchyard. Leave by the north corner gate into Church Road. Turning right, continue into Market Street back to the start.

South West Coast Path Photo Competition

This coastal walk offers you the ideal opportunity to take a brilliant photo which could win the South West Coast Path Photo Competition. This year’s theme is wildlife and nature on the South West Coast Path. The winning photographs will feature in the 2015 South West Coast Path calendar. First prize will win a £700 voucher towards a stay in any of Cornish Cottage Holidays’ stunning holiday homes. To enter visit where you will find information about how to submit your entries, terms and conditions and a full list of prizes. Deadline for entries: 31 December 2013.