The best of Dorset in words and pictures

The Dorset walk

‘Twixt Sydling and Cerne - Matt Wilkinson and Mark Bauer enjoy a walk along the roof of central Dorset

Sydling Water
Sydling Water

Actually the title is something of a misnomer, as the route lies mainly along the Sydling side of the watershed, so most of the views are to the west, although there are occasional glimpses to the right over the steeper, more secretive Cerne Valley.

The walk starts in Sydling St Nicholas, one of those quiet and unpretentious villages which reveal Dorset at its best. Along the village street runs the Sydling Brook, or Sydling Water; for some reason it is never dignified by the title of a river. Rising near Up Sydling, it runs for five peaceful miles to join the Frome above Grimstone. There follows a climb up onto one of the ridges that run up through central Dorset like the fingers of a splayed hand, before eventually descending to the brook, or water, again.

Most of the walking is on tracks or lanes, so the going underfoot is usually good.

Distance: About 8 miles
Start: Park considerately in Sydling St Nicholas’s village street, near the Greyhound Inn. If you are planning to become a customer of the inn on your return, no doubt you can get permission to use its car park. OS ref SY631996.
How to get there: From the A37 Dorchester-Yeovil road, turn right (if heading north) at the northern end of Grimstone. From the A352 Dorchester-Sherborne road, turn west at the Cerne Abbas cross-roads and left just before the ford.
Maps: OS Explorer 117 (Cerne Abbas & Bere Regis); OS Landranger 194 (Dorchester & Weymouth).
Refreshments: The Greyhound, Sydling St Nicholas.

1. Walk south down the village street. Almost ½ mile from the Greyhound, turn left by Huish Forge Cottage and almost immediately right. Follow the paved track past the buildings of Huish Farm on the left and continue to follow it as it rises slightly and becomes unpaved. After bending to the left round a byre with a new-looking corrugated roof, the track rises more steeply and becomes paved again. At the top of the paved section, continue straight ahead, downhill. At the bottom of the hill, the grassy track swings right then left along a little valley. Continue to a division in the grassy tracks and take the left-hand option, which swings away uphill before forking again: take the right-hand option, which climbs up the side of the hill to the top left-hand corner of a small wood.

Huish Farmr
Huish Farm

2. At that corner, cross a stile and walk straight along the hillside, with a fence on the left, to a wooden barrier. Cross it and continue to a gate in the left-hand edge of the field beyond, just before the field falls away steeply downhill. Turn left through the gate onto an enclosed path which leads uphill into an open field. Continue up the left-hand edge to reach a gate in the top left-hand corner. Turn left through the gate and pass a cairn in memory of Harriet Tory, with the enviable epitaph, ‘She brought joy – be joyful now’. Just past this and straight ahead is a gate into a field. Go through it and follow the left-hand field-edge to the next gate. Go through this one as well, back onto the open hillside, and continue in the same direction to reach Higher City Farm in 1¼ miles. Pause from time to time to admire the view, which stretches from the Hardy Monument to the aerials at Rampisham.

Near Higher City Farm, Sydling Water
Near Higher City Farm

3. Shortly after Higher City Farm, cross a lane straight onto an enclosed unpaved track. Pass a radio mast in ¾ mile, after which the track becomes more grassy. Continue for a further mile to join an unpaved track which swings to the left, downhill. Turn left and follow the track downhill
with some splendid views of the Sydling Valley ahead. At the buildings of Up Sydling Farm, continue straight ahead, cross the stream and follow the lane on the other side down to a cross-roads. Go straight across and walk down to Sydling St Nicholas and your car.

The Sydling Valley on the descent to Sydling St Nicholas
The Sydling Valley on the descent to Sydling St Nicholas towards the end of the walk

Dorset Directory