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The Dorset walk — Cheselbourne and Bingham’s Melcombe

Matt Wilkinson and Mark Bauer take to the hills in the centre of the county

Over the hill from Cheselbourne
The drive in the valley over the hill from Cheselbourne

The beginning and end of this walk have lots of ups and downs: nothing too fierce, but the gentle undulations of typical Dorset downland. The centre section is flatter, following mainly woodland paths along the top of the ridge.

The route begins in Cheselbourne, which not even its greatest fan could call Dorset’s most attractive village. However, the shallow valley in which it is set is pleasant, it has an interesting church and one or two good pieces of thatch make up for the generally rather undistinguished architecture.

As well as the views from Combe Hill later in the walk, perhaps the highlight is the church of St Andrew at Bingham’s Melcombe. It is actually the parish church of Melcombe Horsey, which covers Bingham’s Melcombe – which is now really just the name of the house next to the churchyard – and Melcombe Bingham, a mile or so to the west: they go in for confusing names in this part of Dorset!

There are monuments in the charming church to the Horsey and the Bingham families. The latter lived at Bingham’s Melcombe for over six hundred years until the late 19th century. Sir Richard Bingham was an Elizabethan soldier with a monument in Westminster Abbey; John Bingham led the Parliamentarian forces during the siege of Corfe Castle; and Sir George Bingham was in charge of Napoleon’s guard on St Helena for five years.

Distance: About 6 miles

Park and start: In the approach road to Cheselbourne village hall, opposite the school towards the north of the village. OS ref ST761001.

How to get there: From the A354 Dorchester-Blandford road in Milborne St Andrew, take the road signed to Dewlish and Cheselbourne. In Dewlish continue straight over the cross-roads. At the next T-junction turn right. Drive into Cheselbourne and continue through the village to the village hall.

Maps: OS Explorer 117 (Cerne Abbas & Bere Regis); OS Landranger 194 (Dorchester & Weymouth).

1. Turn left out of the village hall approach and walk down through the village for ½ mile to Hayes Cottage on the right. Here turn left up a track which runs to the left of Badgers Knapp. When the track runs into an open field at the top of the hill, bear slightly right to cross the field at its narrowest point. Go through an opening into the next field and bear slightly left, heading for the right-hand of two bushy trees just visible over the brow of the field. Pass into the next field by this tree and follow the left-hand edge. Continue straight on along the bottom of the field after that, with woodland to the right. Go through the gate to the left of the barn at the end of the field, turn left then immediately right on a drive.

Devil's Brook
Devil’s Brook

2. As the drive swings right, turn left through a gate and bear right to cross a bridge over the Devil’s Brook which gives nearby Dewlish its name. Turn left along the field on a sunken path. Just before the fenced enclosure of a water treatment works on the left, go through a gate in the right-hand hedge and continue straight on along an enclosed path which emerges into an open field. At the end of the field, bear right up to a gate. Go through it and bear right up to another gate. Walk up to the top left-hand corner of the field beyond and continue straight ahead through a series of gates and across some tracks onto a narrow enclosed path through woodland. Follow this for about ½ mile to a junction of several tracks. Turn left, and in a few yards a track leads to the left through a gate into an open field and another to the right, continuing in the same direction as we have just come. Our route lies straight ahead on a path through woodland. This is the rather charmingly named Bramblecombe Lane. Follow it across a lane and up to a gate into an open field. Walk up the left-hand edge to Combe Hill Farm. Walk round to the right of the farm buildings and into a field. Go through a gap on the left into a field at the head of a deep combe, with wonderful views beyond. Follow the right-hand edge of this field up to a gate and a road.

Penbury Knoll with Cranbourne Chase beyond
Penbury Knoll with Cranbourne Chase beyond

3. Turn left on the road for a few yards, then left through a gate. Follow the left-hand field-edge down to another gate, beyond which the path begins to descend, parallelling the edge of the combe. It swings to the right, away from the combe, and descends more steeply. Near the bottom of the hill, it swings to the left into a field. Follow the right-hand field-edge to a lane, where turn right. Follow the lane round to the right and in about 50 yards cross a stile on the left. Follow the left-hand field-edge for about 80 yards to an opening on the left, beyond which is a bridge over a waterfall and a grassy path alongside the churchyard wall of St Andrew’s. At the end of the path, continue on the gravel drive and turn left in front of the house, still on the drive. The drive ends at some gates where pillars are surmounted by handsome eagles.

Waterfall at Bingham's Melcombe
Waterfall at Bingham’s Melcombe

4. Here go straight ahead on a lane for ½ mile. On the right are two openings into adjacent fields. Walk up the left-hand edge of the right-hand field. At the top, cross into the field on the left and continue up an enclosed path. At the top of the hill turn right for 50 yards, then left to head downhill towards Rose Hill Dairy. The track through the buildings swings left, right then left and right again to climb a small hill before descending again to reach a lane. Turn right and at the T-junction at the bottom of the lane turn left. Reach the school, the village hall and your car in a couple of hundred yards.

St Andrew's, Melcombe Horsey
St Andrew’s, Melcombe Horsey

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