The Dorset walk – Plush and Lyscombe
Matt Wilkinson and Dan Bold enjoy a mid-Dorset route
Published in November ’10
The walk goes across the rather muddled pattern of hills between the Piddle Valley, the Dorsetshire Gap and the southern edge of the Blackmore Vale. Muddled they may be, but the hills give some beautiful views and a sense of being in a most typical pastoral Dorset landscape.
For many, the highlight will be the Lyscombe valley, where the stream, the stone farm buildings and the valley opening up into the wide bowl of Lyscombe Bottom combine to make this one of Dorset’s magic places. The jewel, though, is the restored chapel. The oldest parts date from the 12th century, when it was an out-chapel of Milton Abbey, and after the Dissolution it was used as a farm-worker’s cottage and a bake-house. The restoration involved repairing the walls and putting on a new thatched roof. The former Bishop of Sherborne celebrated Communion there to mark the end of the work. The priest’s house, immediately alongside, was beyond repair but its ruins have been stabilised. The restoration deservedly won awards from the Civic Trust and RIBA.
The walk climbs up the side of the valley before descending again, then goes up Ball Hill and Church Hill, and descends to the start/finish by one of Dorset’s nicest country pubs.
Distance: 6¾ miles.
Terrain: The lanes, field paths and tracks make for generally easy going underfoot but there are two or three demanding climbs.
Start: Plush. In the ‘patrons only’ car park of the Brace of Pheasants if you plan to become one; otherwise carefully on the road. OS ref ST714022. Postcode DT2 7RG.
How to get there: Turn east off the B3143 Piddle Valley road in Piddletrenthide, signed to Plush. From the north, turn right in Hazelbury Bryan, signed to Mappowder and Plush.
Maps: OS Explorer 117 (Cerne Abbas & Bere Regis); OS Landranger 194 (Dorchester & Weymouth)
Refreshments: The Brace of Pheasants at Plush.
1. From the road junction immediately in front of the door of the Brace of Pheasants, take the road signed to Piddletrenthide and Dorchester for a little over ¾ mile to a sharp right-left dog-leg, where a track goes off to the left. Take this track and follow it round to the left, then to the right and uphill past New Barn Farm on the right to reach a lane. Turn left and walk for a little under ¾ mile to a lay-by on the left in a dip. A gate leads off the lay-by: go through it and bear right up the field, heading for a line of assorted trees visible on the skyline. At the top of the field, scramble up the bank into the next field and walk across it to a gate visible on the far side.
2. Go through the gate and bear slightly right to a gate in the hedgerow about 200 yards to the left of some farm buildings. Walk down the next field, heading somewhat to the left of the buildings of Lyscombe Farm, down in the valley. Go through a gate in the bottom left-hand corner of a field and go straight ahead to ford a stream and to inspect the chapel. Then go through the gate to the left of the chapel as you look at it and bear left up to a gate visible on the skyline in the top left-hand corner. Continue uphill across the field beyond, to a gate in the far right-hand corner. Follow the right-hand edge of the next field. In the top corner, go through a gate and head for the top right-hand corner of the next field.
3. Go through the gate and continue straight ahead, signed to Nettlecombe Tout. Walk up the right-hand side of this field and the next one until some power lines crossing the middle of the field. Here turn left and cross to the far side of the field and turn right to reach a metal gate on the left and a smaller wooden gate straight ahead. Go through the wooden gate and down an enclosed path which descends to meet a track. Turn right on the track and follow it down to a lane.
4. Go straight across and up the path on the far side. Near the top of the hill, go through a gate and continue ahead with an open area on the left and the hedgerow and gorse on the right. The next gate leads into an open field; follow the track along its right-hand edge straight ahead. Stay on the track as it goes through a gate and enters woodland. At the end of the wood, go through a gate onto an open area and walk straight ahead, closing with a hedgerow which comes up from the right. Follow this hedgerow along the top of the hill to a gate. Don’t go through the gate but turn left and walk downhill, with the field-edge to the right and, in due course, a steep slope to the left. Head for a gate at the bottom of the field, at the top of that slope. Go through the gate onto a track. Follow it down to a lane, where turn left to reach the junction in front of the Brace of Pheasants.