The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Lytchett Matravers – Booton Foot Trails

Peter Booton goes for a gentle walk around a village which is both ancient and modern

Lytchett House from St Mary’s churchyard

The growing village of Lytchett Matravers, situated a few miles north-west of the Poole conurbation, has changed considerably since the Manor of Litchet was held in 1086 by a Norman knight Hugh de Mautravers. Its name derives from old Celtic lit chet which means grey wood. When the Black Death swept through Dorset during the latter half of the 14th century, the surviving villagers of Lytchett moved away from the area around the ancient church to set up home on higher ground to the south-east. Traces of the original settlement can still be seen near the church of St Mary the Virgin.

The centre of the village today consists mostly of 20th-century housing, but a number of attractive old thatched cottages remain and many of these, such as Holly Cottage in Bartom’s Lane and Prospect Cottage in Wareham Road, are now Grade II listed buildings.

 

Yew of great age in the churchyard

Although the age of St Mary’s church is uncertain, it is thought to date from c1200 when its founder was probably Sir Walter Maltravers who went on a crusade to the Holy Land at around this time. The west tower, nave and chancel are the oldest surviving parts of the church which is otherwise largely medieval. Considerable alteration and restoration was carried out at the beginning of the 16th century when the north arcade was added. A brass plaque set into the floor near the pre-15th-century Purbeck stone font suggests that the benefactor of the works was Margarita Clement, as it is inscribed, ‘generosa benefactrix reedificacionis huius ecclesie’. St Mary’s boasts an unusually large hagioscope, or squint, affording a view of the high altar from the north aisle.

Brass plaque to the church benefactor, Margarita Clement

Beneath an elaborate black marble grave slab in the north aisle is the tomb of Sir John, 1st Baron Maltravers (1292-1365) who is reputed to have cruelly murdered Edward II at Berkeley Castle in 1327 following the king’s deposition by his French wife Isabella and her favourite, Roger de Mortimer. One of the most powerful English knights at that time, Sir John was sentenced to death in 1330 but fled abroad. Later, he was pardoned by Edward III and returned to his Dorset estates. Alongside St Mary’s church stood the manor house which was the home of the Maltravers family for 300 years. Sir John’s granddaughter Alianor, or Eleanor, heiress to the Manor, married an earl of Arundel and 200 years later, in 1587, the manor was sold by the Arundels to the Trenchard family of Wolfeton House, near Dorchester.

The Trenchards preferred the manor house at Lytchett to Wolfeton and lived there for 250 years before deciding to demolish the old house and build a new one, complete with a ballroom and tower, possibly at around the end of the 18th century. When the direct line of the Trenchards foundered in 1829 the manor of Lytchett passed to the Dillon family who chose to add the Trenchard name to their own. They, however, decided not to live in the manor house which was then leased to a succession of tenants during the 19th and 20th centuries. Lytchett House, as it is now known, has clearly undergone considerable alteration in modern times. The tower has gone and only part of the east wing remains. The Royal Commission on Historic Monuments (Vol 2 South-East) notes, ‘It has been completely remodelled and converted into a modern dwelling’.

A footpath known as Church Walk heads south-east from St Mary’s churchyard and passes the garden gate of the former rectory, now Lytchett St Mary, an elegant and substantial dwelling which is privately owned today. Picturesquely sandwiched between mature woodland on one side and rolling fields on the other, Church Walk must surely have delighted successive rectors as they trod the path to St
Mary’s door.

After a fund-raising campaign that began in the 1950s and continued for 20 years, the people of Lytchett Matravers gained a splendid new village hall which was officially opened on 9 December 1972 by the then Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, Sir Joseph Weld. The site on which Victory Hall was erected, alongside the recreation ground in High Street, was donated to the Parish by the owners of the land, the Trenchard Estate. Community facilities prior to this had been served by an old army hut with a corrugated iron roof which was purchased by public subscription from Wareham Camp after the First World War. Heath Cottage Surgery is across the road from the village hall and, in its lawned front garden, stands a pedestal-mounted sundial commemorating the eightieth birthday of the Women’s Institute
in 2000.

War Memorial and modern housing, off High Street

The village War Memorial is a little further west along High Street. In addition to honouring the fallen from the Great War and World War 2, the memorial also remembers two local soldiers who lost their lives in recent conflicts abroad, namely; Sgt Les Hehir of the Royal Artillery, in Iraq 2003, and Cpl Seth Stephens of the Royal Marines, in Afghanistan 2010.

 

Please note: St Mary the Virgin is open on Saturdays only until the end of October.

 

The Walk:

1. Park considerately in St Mary’s church car park in Colehill Road (please avoid times of Sunday services when parking is limited). Return along the drive, with Lytchett House on your right, and go left into
Colehill Road.

2. Shortly after Dullar Lane, cross the stile on the left, signed Wareham Forest Way, and follow the right-hand field edge to a stile after 200 yards. Follow the left side of the next field to a stile at the end, where proceed ahead onto a farm track. Follow Wareham Forest Way signs along woodland paths to join a farm track leading uphill to a metal gate and stile. Continue on the track to a field with distant views of Purbeck on a clear day. Keep to the left field edge and cross the stile onto a woodland path. Continue to a lane at the end on Crockett Hill.

3. Ignore the Wareham Forest Way signpost ‘East Morden ¼’ and go left onto a tarmacked lane, with glimpses west of St Mary’s church, Morden through the trees, and follow to a bend in the road after 600 yards, where go left onto a wide bridleway to reach a stile in 100 yards.

4. Don’t cross the stile but go right onto a bridleway through coppiced woodland for 600 yards. Where the bridleway forks left cross the stile into a fenced woodland area.

5. Follow an indistinct path along the right side of woodland to ascend the grassy slopes of Dolman’s Hill. Keeping to the right side of the next three fields, cross the stile at the end of each to arrive at a fourth stile alongside Dolman’s Hill road.

6. Turn right onto the road and after 10 yards join the bridleway on the left beside ‘Little Garth’. Follow for 600 yards over Bartom’s Hill, to the end, where go right onto Eddy Green Road and after 80 yards turn left into Bartom’s Lane. Pass thatched Holly Cottage, noting its unusual brick chimneys, and follow the lane to the end.

7. Turn right onto Middle Road and follow for 300 yards to an unmade road (bridleway) on the left signed ‘Bulbury Lane ¼’. Continue along the bridleway between various farm and equestrian buildings to the end, at Halls Road, where turn left and after 150 yards reach Wareham Road.

Prospect Cottage in Wareham Road

8. Cross the road carefully onto the far-side footpath and head north towards the village centre, passing Lytchett Matravers County Primary School and Prospect Cottage on your left, to reach the crossroads with the Rose and Crown PH on your right. Before the pub was built in 1912, it is said that ale had been dispensed from a cottage on the site since the
15th century.

9. Go left at the crossroads into High Street (signposted Almer) and pass Purbeck Parade shops (with Post Office and pharmacy) and the recreation ground. Victory Hall is just after on the left. Continue past the the War Memorial and the Chequers Inn to Jenny’s Lane at the end of High Street. Shortly after, in Colehill Road, Lytchett St Mary is on your left and just beyond is Church Walk, which passes alongside Row Park cemetery and into the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin. Continue on to the car park.

 

Distance: 5 miles.

Terrain: Mostly easy-going, with gentle ascents, on woodland paths, grass fields and tarmacked roads/footpaths.

Start: Car park of St Mary’s church in Colehill Road. OS grid reference SY936 962.

Postcode: BH16 6BS.

How to get there: Turn west off A350 Poole – Blandford road into Wimborne Road at Barrow Hill crossroads and follow to junction where turn left into Wareham Road. At next crossroads turn right into High Street and follow to Colehill Road. The driveway to St Mary’s church is on your left.

Map: OS Explorer 118 Shaftesbury and Cranborne Chase. OS Landranger 195 Bournemouth and Purbeck.

Refreshments: The Rose & Crown, junction of Wareham Road and Huntick Road, is open for food 12.00-14.30 & 18.00-21.00. Tel: 01202 625325. The Chequers Inn, High Street, 01202 622215

Public transport: Damory 347 Bere Regis-Poole and Damory 387 Dorchester-Poole, Mon-Fri & Sat. Wilts & Dorset X8 Poole-Blandford, Fri, Sat, Sun
& BH’s.

Note: If arriving by bus, alight at Rose & Crown and commence walk at point 9.

 

Dorset Directory