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The Dorset Walk — Chetnole, Melbury Osmond and Melbury Bubb

Chetnole, Melbury Osmond and Melbury Bubb - Matt Wilkinson and Mark Bauer go on a church crawl

The church of St Peter at Chetnole
The church of St Peter at Chetnole,
right at the start of the walk

Even if you are not interested in churches, this is still a walk with plenty of variety, starting and finishing across typical Blackmore Vale pastureland, but taking in en route the park of Melbury House with its glorious trees and satisfying undulations. Melbury House is really three houses in one, the original having been built in about 1540 and added to in the 17th and 19th centuries. One of the churches on the route stands in the grounds.
Of the other three, St Peter’s at Chetnole dates to the 13th century and has rather a battered-looking 15th-century tower, but its charm lies in its spacious churchyard right in the middle of the village.
St Osmund’s in Melbury Osmond is where Thomas Hardy’s parents, Thomas and Jemima, were married in 1839. The church was re-built in 1745, having fallen into ruin, and the arch beneath the tower is the only survival from the original medieval church.
The last church, St Mary’s at Melbury Bubb, is in many ways the prettiest and oddest of all. Its setting below Bubb Down is magnificent and 19th-century restoration has not interfered with the older feel of the church. Its most remarkable feature is its font, on which beautiful carvings of animals are entangled with strand-like decorations – but all upside down!
Close by is St Edwold’s at Stockwood, reputedly the smallest church in England. Because of how the rights of way run, it was not possible to include it conveniently on the route, but it is well worth a visit while in the area.

Distance: About 7 miles
Start: Near the church and pub in the middle of Chetnole. OS ref. ST602082.
How to get there: Chetnole is signed at a turn to the east off the A37 Dorchester-Yeovil road, about 13 miles from Dorchester and about 7 miles from Yeovil. Follow the road to a T-junction, where turn left. The church and pub are on the right in a little under ½ mile.
Maps: OS Explorer 117 (Cerne Abbas & Bere Regis); OS Landranger 194 (Dorchester & Weymouth).
Refreshments: The Chetnole Inn at Chetnole

1. Turn left out of the road between the pub and the church and in about 100 yards turn right into School Lane. At the end of the lane continue straight ahead on a narrow path alongside the Old Smithy. Emerge into an open field and follow the right-hand edge round to the second gate on the right. Beyond this, go under the railway and through the left-hand of the two gates immediately beyond. Bear left to cross the field diagonally to a gate in the far left-hand corner. Walk straight across the next field to a stile and a bridge. Follow the left-hand edge of the next field to cross a bridge about 50 yards to the right of the top left-hand corner. Bear slightly left to reach a stile visible in the middle of the far side of the field. Cross a bridge and continue up the left-hand edge of the field beyond. In the corner cross another stile and bridge and once again go up the left-hand side of the field beyond. A few yards past the first corner, turn left to cross another bridge and stile. In the field beyond, bear left to a gate in the middle of the left-hand side of the field. Go through it and continue straight ahead to the gate visible at the far end of the field.

The handsome gates at the end of the stretch through the park of Melbury House
The handsome gates at the end of the stretch through the park of Melbury House

2. Cross the very busy main road and walk along the lane into Melbury Osmond. Turn left down the drive to Barton Hill Cottages and enter the churchyard. Walk straight through and continue downhill on the road beyond. Cross the bridge just past the magnificent copper beech. Shortly afterwards, the road narrows and bends to the left, uphill. Follow it round to the right in front of Walnut Tree Cottage and continue through a gate onto the drive to Melbury House. At the end of the drive, bear right and stay on the drive as it passes estate buildings and swings left to cross a cattle grid. In ½ mile use the steps provided to cross the wall next to an impressive pair of gates. In a further 300 yards, double back to the left and follow a rough track uphill through woodland. Follow this track, partly through woodland and partly with open country and impressive views to the right, for ¾ mile to reach a T-junction. Turn right, signed ‘Bridleway to A37′. Stay on this track for 350 yards until it turns sharply right at the end of a wood. Continue straight ahead, up the field, towards a gate into a belt of woodland at the top of the field. Go through it and walk through the wood to reach the main road.

Splendid views from the high ground before Melbury Bubb
Splendid views from the high ground
before Melbury Bubb

3. Cross to a gate and go through a second gate. Follow the path uphill through woods to reach a broader track. Turn left and follow this to a T-junction in ? mile. Turn left, downhill, to a gate, after which immediately double back to the right. At the end of this track, emerge into an open field with wonderful views to the east. Head for the far right-hand corner of the field, passing a trig point on the left. Turn right through a gate and walk downhill, following the trees round to the left to reach a gate in front of a large barn with a corrugated iron roof. Go through this gate and the one beyond the barn and continue straight ahead down the drive. It swings right and left, passes Melbury Bubb church and reaches a road.

Descending to Melbury Bubb
Descending to Melbury Bubb

4. Turn left and in about 65 yards go through a gate on the left and walk down the field to a gate in the far right-hand corner. After the gate, cross the railway and go through the left-hand gate ahead. Walk up the right-hand edge of the field beyond to a stile a few yards to the left of the next corner. Bear slightly right to cross the field beyond, heading for two houses with red-tiled roofs and a single chimney each. Go through a metal gate and along the right-hand field-edge. At the end of the field, a gate, an enclosed path and another gate lead to a road. Turn left and walk up through the village to the church, the pub and your car.

The intriguing and picturesque font in St Mary's, Melbury Bubb
The intriguing and picturesque font
in St Mary’s, Melbury Bubb

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