The Dorset walk — Chalmington, Chantmarle and Wraxall
Mark Wilkinson and Mark Bauer in the upper Frome Valley
Published in August ’09
The countryside to the north of Cattistock is not thought of as one of Dorset’s prime walking areas, but anyone following this route is in for a pleasant surprise. It is most notable for its variety as it crosses from little valley into little valley, providing constantly changing landscapes to enjoy.
The gem of this part of Dorset is Chantmarle, most of which dates from the early 17th century when a previous house was re-built by Sir John Strode, a younger son of the Strodes of Parnham. It has a handsome entrance front with a curved oriel window and its yellow stone glows in the sunlight: one of Dorset’s very best houses. Later generations of the Strode family let the house and it was not until the 20th century that a succession of owners halted its gentle decline and added to it. Later it became a police training college and it is now a Christian resource centre.
The route also passes through two hamlets, Chalmington and Wraxall, which are typical of rural Dorset at its best. All in all, it is a walk to make one marvel – and be grateful for – the beauty and variety of our county.
Distance: About 5¾ miles.
Terrain: It is something of a switchback route, but with no arduous climbs. Some stretches can be muddy.
Start: About ¼ mile north of Cattistock. OS map reference 589003; postcode DT2 0HQ.
How to get there: Turn north off the A356 by the stump of the cross in Maiden Newton. Take the second turning on the left, signed to Cattistock. Follow the main road through Cattistock and out the other side. Pass a turning to the right, signed to Chalmington, and where the road ahead bends to the left, there is room to park carefully on the right-hand side of the road, where a grassy track runs up straight ahead.
Maps: OS Explorer 117 (Cerne Abbas & Bere Regis); OS Landranger 194 (Dorchester & Weymouth)
Refreshments: None on the route, but the Fox & Hounds in Cattistock is nearby.
1. Continue up the grassy track. Go through a gate at the end of the track and bear slightly left down the field beyond to a small opening and a narrow plank bridge over a stream. Walk up the right-hand edge of the narrow field beyond to a stile and bear slightly right to cross the next field to another stile. In the next field bear right again and skirt the bottom of a slight rise, surrounded by an agricultural building in trees, on the right. Pass between a pole carrying power lines to the left and a belt of woodland to the right and turn right to reach a gate. Follow the drive beyond as it swings to the left in front of the buildings of Chalmington Farm, with a glimpse of Chalmington Manor to the right, and reaches a lane.
2. Turn left and follow the lane round a sharp left-hand bend. Opposite Higher Chalmington Cottage and Arden, cross a stile on the right. Walk up the overgrown slope and turn right onto a grassy path. Continue straight along the narrow field ahead to a stile. Emerge from the undergrowth into an open field and cross it diagonally, uphill, to go through the upper of two gates on the far side. Continue ahead, following the fence on the right until it falls away after about 150 yards. Go straight ahead, over the shoulder of the hill and past a group of trees. After passing between two oak trees, turn right and parallel the bottom of the field to reach a gate. Go through it and bear left, uphill, with some thin woodland to the right.
3. At the top of the hill, turn left on a rough track. The view to the south-west from here makes the climb worthwhile and, as the track swings to the right and passes a barn on the right, the view to the north opens up as well. Follow the track downhill to a T-junction, with the squat tower of St Mary’s at Frome St Quintin visible across the valley to the right. Turn right at the junction and walk down to a gate onto a lane, where turn left.
4. In front of the splendid thatch of Chantmarle Lodge, turn right. Follow the lane into the bottom of the valley, crossing in quick succession the Weymouth-Bristol railway line (on an unusually ornate railway bridge) and the stripling Frome. With the buildings of Chantmarle immediately to the left, walk up to a gate at the end of the lane. Go through the gate and follow what used to be a road straight ahead to a gap in the hedgerow. Go through this and turn left on a well-defined path through woodland to reach an open field. Walk straight ahead to a post visible on the skyline, where bear left towards a single tree in the middle of the field. As the buildings of North Holway Farm come into view, bear right to aim for their right-hand edge. This should lead to an opening onto a drive. (If the field should be sown with impenetrable crops, walk round the edge to the opening.)
5. Cross the drive and go through the gate opposite. Walk up to the far right-hand corner of the field. Go through a gate and turn right, up the right-hand field-edge. In the top corner of the field, reach a gate onto a lane with the Rampisham radio masts straight ahead.
6. Turn left on the lane and in about 75 yards right onto an enclosed track. Follow this downhill until it swings to the right, where go straight ahead into an open field and walk down its right-hand edge. Go through a gate in the bottom corner and turn left along a muddy path to another gate.
7. Turn right on the lane beyond and walk down into Lower Wraxall. In front of the long, low thatched building with a post box in its front wall, a short diversion to the right to inspect the pretty little church and churchyard of St Mary’s is worthwhile, but the route of the walk lies to the left, across a bridge and up a track. Follow this track for 2/3 mile until a distinct junction where another rough track runs off to the left. Take this and follow it to a road. Turn right and follow the lane over a railway bridge and back to your car.