Legging it in Dorset – Trent and Nether Compton
Rodney Legg ventures along Dorset's northwest border
Published in June ’11
The boundary parish of Trent was one of Somerset’s losses to Dorset in the boundary changes of 1896. Its historical associations are therefore with the monks of Glastonbury, rather than the diocese of Salisbury. St Andrew’s Church has three mediaeval effigies, pre-Reformation pew ends and rood screen, and an elaborately-carved Dutch pulpit. What makes the building distinctive is the spire rising from the three-stage west tower.
This was a village of two manors. The main one, Trent Manor, was held by the Royalist Gerard family, and the lesser one – now Church Farm – by the Parliamentarian Young family. There is also a Chantry, several other impressive houses, and a scattering of substantial stone and thatched farmhouses. All are in golden Hamstone with mullioned windows, exposed beams and inglenook fireplaces.
The main manor became the home of the Wyndham family after Ann Gerard married Colonel Francis Wyndham in 1647. In their time, Trent was the key hiding place in the fraught escape of fugitive monarch Charles II, from defeat at the Battle of Worcester. In imagining him climbing trees, squeezing into priest holes and riding in disguise, you have to remember that this handsome young man was 6 feet 3 inches in height. That he slipped through a nation-wide search was quite incredible.
He spent a total of 19 days at Trent – interrupted by a failed attempt at joining a boat from Lyme Regis at Charmouth – and eventually escaped to France via Shoreham, Sussex, on 15 October 1651. Loose talk about a mystery man at the manor caused fears of a Parliamentary raid but Colonel Wyndham spiked the talk by having the King’s companion, Lord Wilmot, impersonate his kinsman Bullayne Reynes at a church service. Rumours that the King had been killed were marked by the ringing of bells and lighting of bonfires. This led to the Wyndhams refusing to let Trent ringers celebrate the Restoration of the monarchy, in 1660, and calling on Compton campanologists to take their place. The tradition continues each Oak Apple Day (29 May). Sir Francis Wyndham died in 1676.
Subsequent owners of the manor included the Seymours, from 1740 until 1935, when it was bought by Ernest Cook. The notable ‘improving’ rector was Rev. William Turner, from 1835 to 1875, whose wife founded the Turner’s
The ninety-ninth Archbishop of Canterbury, Baron Fisher of Lambeth, retired to Trent Rectory in 1962 and took services here until his death ten years later. One of his colourful copes is displayed in a case in the church. Its brightly covered hatchments are those of the Gerard family. A notice in the porch reads: ‘All Persons are requested to take off Pattens and Clogs before entering the Church.’
The Rose and Crown at Trent, in the time of Charles and Nancy Marion-Crawford, faced what they claimed was ‘a nine-year vendetta’ with environmental health inspector William John between 1993 and 2002. In the first year, 33 hygiene charges were thrown out and Mr Marion-Crawford exonerated, but a total of £10,000 in fines and costs were eventually awarded against Mrs Marion-Crawford. Their cause was championed by columnist Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph and Dr Richard North described the conduct of West Dorset DC as ‘over the top’.
The village also has a post office and a cottage currently offering duck eggs and kindling wood. There is a delightful little natural corner, in which semi-wild duck have their pond and nest. This six-mile walk is across flat countryside with a mixture of paths, green lanes and quiet roads. The circuit is also crossed by a rural railway, the branch line from Bath to Weymouth, which was built in 1857.
1 Set off westwards along the drive beside the Chantry, passing the church gate, and proceed to the end of the stone wall beside the gable-end of the Manor House in 125 yards. Turn left into the laurel bushes and follow the narrow track through the trees. This is Lady’s Lane, which brings us to a stile beside a farmyard. Cross the road to the gate and stile.
2 Proceed straight ahead, over the railway bridge, and turn right on the other side, into and across the meadows. Head for a gap in the hedge on the far side. Keep walking straight ahead into the distant corner of the next field. Cross the footbridge and stream. Bear left in the field, under the power cables, to the riverbank where we turn right. Keep the River Yeo to your left and follow it to the stone remains of Mudford Weir.
3 Here we leave the river and turn right, following the hedge around the corner, back towards the electricity cables. Join the grassy track – Barrows Lane – and turn right along it. Turn left at the end of the left-hand arable field, beside a triangle of ash trees, and follow the hedgerow to the road.
4 Turn right, passing the thatched Lyes House and continue straight ahead at the junction, towards Adber. Pass the thatched Hummer Farm and cross Hummer Bridge.
Turn immediately right on the other side.
5 Cross to the far side of the arable field. The point at which we enter scrubby Birch Hill Gully is 300 yards to the left of the wood (beside the first pheasant pen). Follow the chicken fencing, taking care not to trip on anti-fox wires, along a path through the trees to a footbridge over the stream. Continue straight ahead in the field, uphill to the stile, to the right of the barns at Gore Farm. Exit from the goat paddock through the gates between the barn and farmhouse.
6 Turn left, to the next junction, near Glebe Farm. Turn right just before reaching the road sign. The path follows the garden hedge, beside the thatched cottage, via the stile, to follow the left-hand side of the hedge. Go into the end of the field. Do not cross the stile, but instead turn left, to follow the other side of the field. Cross a stile in 100 yards and turn right along Rigg Lane.
7 Pass Flamberts which is the double-winged house with a 1658 date-stone and a dainty box-hedged garden. This was
a Red Cross hospital during WW1. Turn left at the junction and then right at the cross-roads, into Plot Lane. Pass to the right of the third cottage where the road becomes a grassy path. Continue straight ahead, keeping the stream to your right, on entering the fields.
8 Go under the first line of electricity cables and continue straight ahead, under the second line of power wires. We are heading into Nether Compton. The path joins the village street beside the 1599-dated Griffin’s Head. Its original date-stone is above a modern window. Bear right into the often-muddy farm road to the left of Crossfields.
9 This passes the Rectory and becomes a bridleway between the fields and down across the field and down through a wood. Spot the outlines of mediaeval fields to the left of the ox-bow on Trent Brook.
10 Join the road at the Old Mill and turn right along it. Proceed for 400 yards, passing the sewage works, and turn left across a footbridge, after the trees. Head towards the church spire. Pass the thatched Rose and Crown and turn right to return to the Dairy House and Chantry.