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The Dorset Walk — The Piddle and Cerne Valleys

Matt Wilkinson and Pat Sheehan LRPS explore two of the valleys of central Dorset

Piddletrenthide today is a not especially attractive village which straggles along the Piddle Valley road. Users of the road might think that that is all there is to it but right at the north of the village, off the main road and surrounding the church, is the area of thirty hides (enough to support thirty households) which originally gave the place its name and which is as pretty as almost any Dorset village you may care to mention.

It is here that our walk starts before climbing up to the watershed between the valleys of the Piddle and the Cerne. This is empty downland where people seem far away and the only sounds are of birdsong and the wind in the trees. Heading down into the Cerne Valley via the curve of Bramble Bottom, the route reaches the tiny settlement of Nether Cerne. The church here is 13th century, although the Victorian restorers did their best to make a mess of it.

From Nether Cerne it is back over the hills to the Piddle Valley. This is serious farming country and the walk passes through a number of business-like farmyards and other buildings. The views on the descent into the valley are of a classic English agricultural landscape.

Distance: About 83/4 miles
Start: Church Lane, Piddletrenthide. OS ref ST703007.
How to get there: Church Lane runs west off the B3143 Piddle Valley road, at the northern edge of Piddletrenthide
Maps: OS Explorer 117 (Cerne Abbas & Bere Regis); OS Landranger 194 (Dorchester & Weymouth)
Refreshments: The European Inn, Piddle Inn and Poachers Inn are all on the stretch of the Piddle Valley road which runs parallel with and quite close to the last part of the walk.

1. Continue along Church Lane and pass the path up to All Saints Church. At the end of the lane, continue straight ahead, with Kiddles Farm on the left, onto a rough track. Follow this track for 11/3 miles until it becomes paved at Higher Southcombe Farm and rises to meet a main road. Go straight across the road onto a track which leads into a yard. Keep to the right of the yard and follow the right-hand edge of the field beyond down to a gate in the bottom left-hand corner. Turn left for a few yards, then left again onto a lane, uphill. At the top of the rise, just past a small raised reservoir with a trig point on it, turn right over a stile, bear left and head straight down the middle of the field towards the chimneys of Black Hill Farm. Cross two stiles in quick succession and walk up to the farm’s paved drive, where turn left.

2. After the last house in the farm’s group of buildings, turn right and head downhill towards a distinctive track running across the bottom of the open space. Turn left on this track, then right onto another track which runs steeply downhill. Follow it as it curves to the left and continues downhill to a gate. Walk along the field beyond, in the bottom of a valley with a steep, thickly wooded hillside to the left. In the next field, bear left up the side of the valley to a stile near the top left-hand corner. Beyond the stile, follow a rather overgrown path through the edge of woodland to reach another stile into an open field. Walk straight along the open field to a stile in the far right-hand corner and turn right onto a rough track. In the middle of the buildings of Pound Farm, turn left and leave the farmyard by a gate onto a path which runs along the right-hand edge of a narrow field. On the far side of the field, go through a gate and walk straight along the field beyond to a gate in the far right-hand corner. Continue on a rough track down to another track. Turn right, then almost immediately left.

3. A right fork goes down to Nether Cerne church, a worthwhile diversion, but the route of the walk takes the left fork, curves to the left and ascends the hill. At a fork in about 250 yards, take the left-hand option. At the top of the hill, go straight across the main road and bear right to a gap just down from the right-hand corner of the field. Immediately after the gap, bear left on a path which contours along the side of the rounded hill, then dips over the shoulder to run down to a gap in the hedge. Turn right, then left at the corner to follow the right-hand edge of this field and the next one. At the end of the second field, bear slightly left to cross the next field to a broad grassy track. Turn right on this, uphill, and follow it as it curves to the left, leaves the field and picks up the right-hand edge of the next field. Follow this field-edge down to a wood.

4. Go through a gate in front of the wood and turn left onto a track. Follow this track for 1½ miles until it becomes a paved lane. As the lane curves sharply to the right, turn left to follow an unpaved track which bends to the left and shortly afterwards to the right. Thereafter continue straight ahead for 2 miles, ignoring all turnings to left and right. The track briefly becomes a paved road, then the way ahead continues on a field path which eventually descends to a gate on the right, beyond which it continues as a track. The track crosses a road on a left-right dog-leg. Reaching Church Lane with Kiddles Farm on the left, turn right and walk back down Church Lane to your car.

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