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The Dorset Walk — Tarrant Monkton and Manswood

Matt Wilkinson and Mark Bauer take to the trees

Cottage in Tarrant Monkton

A typical cottage in Tarrant Monkton

Springtime anywhere in Dorset is pretty good, but at this time of year the county’s woodlands are perhaps its greatest glory. The fresh green of the leaves is complemented by the colours of the low woodland plants, taking the chance to flower before the deep shadows of high summer close above them.

Woods are plentiful on the high ground between the valleys of the Tarrant and of the Allen, so this walk starts in Tarrant Monkton with its famous watersplash, 14th-century church and abundant thatch. On the other side it reaches the less well-known hamlet of Manswood, which was part of the Crichel Estate.

This is Cranborne Chase, and although the area lies a little to the south of the heartland of the Chase, the landscape shares its wide views and big skies. It is almost entirely arable country but the tracks are wide enough to accommodate both walkers and the modern agricultural juggernauts that pass for tractors – oh my Dexters and my Titans long ago!

The last part of the walk includes some terrific views across and along the Tarrant Valley. It is one of those rather hidden corners of Dorset, but in its way it is as lovely as any of the better-known and more frequented parts.

Distance: About 7½ miles
Start: Outside the parish church of All Saints at Tarrant Monkton. OS ref. ST944089.
How to get there: From the south, turn north of the B3082 Wimborne-Blandford road at Tarrant Keyneston, by the True Lover’s Knot. Drive up the Tarrant Valley for a little over 3 miles and turn left at the signpost to Tarrant Monkton. Drive up through the village and the church is on the left. From the north, turn south off the A354 Blandford-Salisbury road at Tarrant Hinton, turn right through the ford at Tarrant Monkton and continue straight ahead to reach the church.
Maps: OS Explorer 118 (Shaftesbury and Cranborne Chase); OS Landranger 195 (Bournemouth & Purbeck).
Refreshments: The Langton Arms at Tarrant Monkton.

Open country on the hills near the start of the walk

Open country on the hills near the start of the walk

1. Walk away from the church, with the Langton Arms and then the village war memorial to the
left. Cross the footbridge alongside the ford, then continue straight on along the road. When the road swings to the right, continue straight ahead on a track which soon becomes a path which climbs the hillside. At the top, turn left onto a track alongside a wood. Where a track joins from the left, bear right round the end of the wood. Where the track parts company from the wood, stay on the track. At a cross-tracks, bear slightly left to walk along the edge of the next wood, keeping it to the right. At the end of this wood, stay on the track and follow it as it bears slightly right to follow the edge of the next wood. At the end of this road the track bears right and eventually becomes a paved lane. Follow this as it bends to the left, and at the T-junction, turn right. Walk carefully down through Manswood for a little over ½ miles to where the road bends sharply to the left.

 A view from the track near Deans Leaze Farm

A view from the track near Deans Leaze Farm

2. Here continue straight on down a track labelled ‘Private Road’. Where the main track bends to the right in about 250 yards, continue straight ahead on a slightly narrower track. In a further 100 yards, this track bends to the right through a gate. Ignore it and walk straight ahead on a grassy track to the left of the trees. At the end of the trees, continue straight ahead towards another wood just to the right of the track. At the end of this wood, turn left onto an enclosed track and in 150 yards, just beyond a line of trees, turn right on a grassy path to reach the buildings of Deans Leaze Farm. Turn right in front of the buildings on a wide grassy track, then left to go down the side of them, then first right on a path leading away from the farm and towards a wood. At the edge of the wood, turn left and follow the path as it goes to the right, round the next corner of the wood. At the next corner, bear right then immediately left to walk away from the wood, with a hedgerow on the left. At the bottom of the slope turn right onto a paved track. In 600 yards a track runs up the edge of a wood on the right to a grain store. In a further 150 yards, a rough track runs off to the left.

Just before the descent back to Tarrant Monkton

Just before the descent back to Tarrant Monkton

3. Take this and follow it through woodland until it bends to the right to enter an open field. Follow the left-hand field-edge and in the next corner, turn left to reach a path, where turn right up to a gate. Beyond the gate, follow the right-hand edge of the field. In the next corner, go through the gate and turn right on a paved track. In 500 yards, turn right at a T-junction onto a rougher track. In another 300 yards, with a gate into an open field ahead, bear right onto a path which follows the edge of the wood. At the end of the wood, fork left on a path which begins to descend. In just over ½ mile turn left, downhill between hedges, with the communication mast at Blandford Camp dead ahead on the other side of the valley. At the bottom of the path, go straight across into the lane opposite, follow it across two bridges and round to the right, and walk up through the village to your car.

 Blandford Camp from across the Tarrant Valley

Blandford Camp from across the Tarrant Valley

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