The best of Dorset in words and pictures

The Dorset walk — Wimborne St Giles, Monkton Up Wimborne and Gussage All Saints

Matt Wilkinson and Pat Sheehan LRPS on Cranborne Chase

This thatched cottage is typical of the picturesque houses in Wimborne St Giles

Is Wimborne St Giles the prettiest village in Dorset? Everyone has their own favourite, of course, but it is probably near the top of most lists. It benefits from being an estate village – the ‘big house’ is St Giles’s House, formerly the seat of the Earls of Shaftesbury – so its development was planned, there is lots of green space and the architecture of the houses is for the most part pleasingly consistent. The church, the almshouses and the school all look out onto the village green, from which runs one of the main drives to St Giles’s House. If only the green were big enough for a cricket pitch and the pub were not quarter of a mile away across the River Allen, this would be the perfect village scene.

The Allen is our companion for part of the first section of the walk, which follows the river almost to its source. Perhaps the loveliest of Dorset rivers, the Allen’s clear water is a mass of white water crowfoot in the early summer. It rises near Monkton Up Wimborne, a tiny hamlet once important (as its name suggests) for its chapel, the estate being owned then by the abbot of Tewkesbury.

From Monkton Up Wimborne the route goes up onto Tenantry Down, a typical Cranborne Chase height with big skies, wide fields and noble woodland. Then it descends to Gussage All Saints, one of three Gussage villages; the name means ‘gushing stream’ and refers to the little tributary of the Allen that rises near Gussage St Andrew and flows through Gussage St Michael to Gussage All Saints. The Drovers Inn at Gussage All Saints used to be called the Earl Haig.

Following the River Allen between Wimborne St Giles and Monkton Up Wimborne

Distance: About 6¼ miles
Start: Wimborne St Giles village green (OS ref. SU032120)
How to get there: From Wimborne, take the B3078 towards Cranborne. In about 7 miles turn left and pass Knowlton Church on the right. At the next T-junction turn right and continue to Wimborne St Giles, bearing right at the beginning of the village.
Maps: OS Explorer 118 (Shaftesbury & Cranborne Chase); OS Landranger 195 (Bournemouth & Purbeck)
Refreshments: The route passes the Drovers Inn in Gussage All Saints. The Bull Inn is close to the start/finish on the other side of Wimborne St Giles.

1. Face the school and take the lane which runs up the left-hand side of it. Follow this lane to a T-junction and turn left. In 35 yards turn right up some steps and onto an enclosed path. When the fence on the left peters out, bear left into a farmyard. At the end of the farmyard go through a gateway into a field and turn right to follow the right-hand field-edge. Turn left at the first corner to keep following the right-hand edge of the field to the very far corner. Here bear right to a stile, turn left on a track and almost immediately right onto a lane. After almost ¾ mile on this lane, turn left on an enclosed track opposite Manor Farm in Monkton Up Wimborne with its chequerboard chimney and post box outside the front gate, about 50 yards before Manor Dairy.

On Tenantry Down

2. Follow the track uphill. With a wood on the left at the top of the hill, ignore a turning on the right and then one on the left at the end of the wood. Continue straight ahead until the track bends to the right, downhill, then left to follow the edge of a large wood. At the end of the wood, continue straight on the track, slightly uphill at first, then down towards Gussage All Saints. On the outskirts of the village, opposite houses called Badgers and Shire Barn, turn left into the farmyard of College Farm. Leave the farmyard on the unpaved drive to a house. Just before its gate, bear right on a narrow enclosed path to reach a stile. Follow the right-hand edge of the field beyond. At the end of the field, go down onto a path and turn right. Walk down to the road and turn left by the Drovers Inn.

3. Walk to the crossroads (which devotees of 1960s pop groups will be pleased to know is called Amen Corner) and go straight across. In ¼ mile, just before a bridge and the cricket field, turn left. In about 120 yards, bear left, away from the stream and cricket field, onto an enclosed grassy path. Follow this – with glimpses of Horton Tower on its ridge away to the right – until it emerges onto an unpaved track. Turn left and walk down to a lane. Turn left and follow the lane as it bends to the right.

A roadside safety mirror provides an unusual view of the cottage at Amen Corner

4. On the next bend, which is to the left, turn right on the unpaved track to 1 Brockington Cottages. Walk past the cottage and on into woodland. In the wood, where the track swings to the right, go into the left-hand of the two fields straight ahead and follow the right-hand edge. The field-edge curves to the left to reach the corner. Here leave the field and bear right, down onto a track. Turn left and follow the track down into a dip and up into some farm buildings. By the first of the buildings turn left over a stile alongside a double gate. Turn right on the lane beyond and walk down into Wimborne St Giles. Bear right over exquisite Bull Bridge, pass Mill House on the left and the old stocks on the right and so back to your car.

The stream and cricket field beyond Amen Corner

Dorset Directory