Dorset walk: Bere Down and Elderton Clump
- Credit: Archant
A crisp winter’s day during the Christmas holidays is perfect for savouring the high downs and superb views of this ancient landscape, says Edward Griffiths
The high downs fields on this very pleasant walk afford some superb views in all directions. Any mud patches are more than compensated for by flint farm tracks and grassy bridleways alongside hedgerows with ivy ‘flowers’ and colourful spindle berries.
Recent archaeological digs in the area prove that these downs were settled back in the Iron Age, and later still by the Romans. Excavations by Bournemouth University revealed an enclosed late Iron Age banjo enclosure and a Roman masonry building. The banjo enclosure is roughly oval, having a long narrow entrance with parallel ditches, and this was the first such site found in Dorset. It probably represents a wealthy farming community with round houses and animal pens, granaries, storage pits and outbuildings, and there’s still more to be uncovered.
The BBC’s ‘Domesday Reloaded’ project in 1986 refers to Elderton Clump as: ‘Obviously a place of some importance in prehistoric times, since there are many remains of the Iron Age in the vicinity. It was also the meeting place of a number of prehistoric tracks, and the Roman road to Dorchester passes close by’. Now it’s your turn to walk these high downs and enjoy the views across this ancient landscape.
• Distance: 5 miles (8 km).
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• Time: 3 hours.
• Exertion: Not strenuous - mildly undulating on field and farm tracks. Some mud after rain.
• Start: West Street, Bere Regis (Grid Ref: SY846949). There’s a car park in Manor Farm Road, or park unobtrusively in West Street.
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194.
• Public Transport: First 387.
• Dogs: On leads in fields with livestock and also on roads.
• Refreshments: The Royal Oak and the Drax Arms for reasonably priced lunches and evening bar meals. The Drax Arms also serves cooked breakfasts from 10am.
1 Do visit St John the Baptist’s Church before you leave Bere Regis. Then walk west along West Street until you reach Butt Lane on the right. Walk up here, between cottages and past the Congregational Chapel, opened by Mr Backway in 1930. Continue into the hedged Jubilee Trail (J/Tr) signed bridleway. Over to the end gateway, carefully cross the A35 Bere Regis By-Pass onto the opposite sunken grass track, which starts rising gently. Past a J/Tr and bridleway-post at a right opening, continue between hedges into a large field.
2 Follow the right hedge across, with views to Muddox Barrow Farm through a right gap. At the farm’s right track, your track becomes firm flint. Keep straight on, through twin J/Tr-gates. Up to the hilltop mobile phone mast, there are superb views clockwise from East Field Farm right and Charborough Park tower, nearer Woodbury Hill, the distant ridge overlooking Purbeck, Black Hill above Bere Regis, Hardy’s Heath and the downs above Piddle Valley. The track, open left and hedged right, continues straight on with the twin-pines of Elderton Clump ahead. Through twin J/Tr-gates, continue down the fenced track, with the left valley descending to farm buildings. At the next tracks’ T-junction, the Jubilee Trail turns left. Cross over to the bridleway-gateway into the field. Follow the right fence and hedge up towards the twin pines.
3 Through the far corner bridleway half gate, bear half left as shown by the arrows, past the twin pines and down the field, aiming for the line of the hedge seen left of the electricity pole. Through the bottom hedge into the second field, keep straight across. Through the facing bridleway hedge-gap to ‘that’ hedge-line, keep straight on with the hedge on your left. Up to a wide left opening, go through the facing hedge gap. Cross the field to 1½ bridleway gates onto the road, with two pointers. Don’t go through, but double back left up along the right hedge. Look out for the barrow in the hedge. Continue to the corner bridleway-gap.
4 Through here, follow the right hedge again over and down the field and into the next field, rising now against the right hedge to the corner bridleway half-gate. Through here, where you meet the Jubilee Trail again, turn left and follow the left hedge grass track, through a gate into the second field and on to a four-way bridleways’ crossing. Through the facing J/Tr half-gate, follow the left hedge again to a wide opening. At the two-way bridleway-post, turn left along the left hedge to the corner J/Tr half-gate. Don’t go through, but turn right along the left hedge/fence.
5 Descending, pass the left opening and go through the facing gate. Follow the hedged track to the two-way bridleway pointer onto the lane. Follow the lane to the Milborne St Andrew road at the ‘Bere Down Farm’ notice. Keep straight on along the road, with sparse traffic, passing left and right barns and two bungalows. Here, join the pavement, crossing to the left side before the By-Pass exit slip road, and go under the bridge. Stroll back into Bere Regis, passing the stone commemorating Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.