The best of Dorset in words and pictures

The Dorset walk 1 – Lyme Regis and Charmouth

Matt Wilkinson and Dan Bold in the far west

Coming back into Lyme Regis

The coastline hereabouts is chronically unstable and prone to landslips, which, sadly, means closed paths and no chance to explore safely the beach, the tangle of undercliff known as the Spittles or the cliffs of Black Ven. Instead this walk has to make use of some main roads, particularly in the latter stages.
Charmouth’s  main growth was as a resort in the 18th and 19th centuries, but before that it was visited by Catherine of Aragon in 1501 and Charles II, on the run after the Battle of Worcester, in 1651. Catherston Leweston is worth a short diversion to see its church. Built in the 19th century on a site where there has been a church since the 1300s, it contains some beautiful carvings in both wood and stone, as well as a bell cast from a Russian cannon captured at Sebastopol.

1 Turn right out of the car park onto the main road, back up the hill. Opposite the entrance to the cemetery, turn right through a kissing-gate and walk diagonally across the field to another kissing-gate. In the next field bear left, uphill, to the far corner, and in the field after that turn left towards a thick wood. On the edge of the wood, go through a kissing-gate and turn left on a path to reach a gate. Continue straight ahead, downhill, to the main road. Cross and turn right, then just before a bus stop, bear left on a road which runs along the left-hand edge of a caravan park. At the end of the caravan park go straight ahead on a track.

2 When it reaches a junction, go straight ahead on a paved drive. Ignore the fork on the left but continue round to the right, still on the paved drive, until it bends right into Coppers Cottages. Here continue straight ahead on a track which passes between a house on the left and a converted barn on the right. Go left round the end of the fence, then first right, downhill and into woodland. Cross a stream and bear left, then stay on the path, which is fairly easy to follow, through the woodland for almost ¾ mile until it emerges into an open field.

3 Bear slightly right to cross the field to a gap in the trees on the far side, beyond which turn right on a path (which at this point marks the Dorset-Devon border) and re-enter woodland. Once again, the path is easy to follow and once again, it ends at a gate into an open field. Go straight ahead up the field, then turn right round a mound in the middle of it to leave by a path which runs from the top right-hand corner. Go through a gate and up to a road. Turn left and cross the main road very carefully into the drive of Penn Farm. Bear right in front of a house and continue along the drive.

4 About 25 yards before the buildings of the farm, turn right through double gates onto an open space, and leave by a small gate in its far left-hand corner. Follow the left-hand field-edge downhill. In the first corner go through another small gate and head across the field to another gate visible under a large tree on the other side. Walk straight across the next field and, entering the one after that, turn right to its bottom left-hand corner. Here turn right over a stile and continue ahead for about 25 yards to the next gate on the left. Go through it and turn right to follow the right-hand field-edge. Go through the first opening on the right onto a rough track and follow this downhill as it runs along the edge of an open field, passes the end of a large farm building and reaches a large open space.

One of many wide-open vistas along the route

5 Here turn right and continue, with a stream on the left, to an opening into a long, narrow field. Walk to the end of this field and continue along the left-hand edge of the next one. A few yards into the field after that, turn left, cross a bridge and turn right on a well-defined path that follows the stream and emerges onto a track. Turn right and walk between a house on the left and its outbuildings. About 30 yards after the house, look out for a path on the left, running up into the trees. Follow this to a gate and go straight on, following a clear path through woodland. Go through a gate into an open field and bear slightly left to cross the field to an opening about 50 yards up from its far right-hand corner.

6 Continue along the left-hand edge of a narrow field which opens out into a wider one. Cross into the next field and cut across its corner to a gate a little way up its right-hand side, cross the small field beyond and go up the right-hand side of another one. Go through a gate and bear slightly right to pass just to the left of a dead tree and reach a double stile and bridge about 60 yards up from the far right-hand corner. Go straight across a narrow field to three stiles in quick succession, then head for another stile visible on the far side of the next field. A somewhat overgrown path leads to a stile, after which cross a narrow field to reach a lane, where turn left. Walk into the outskirts of Wootton Fitzpaine, but at the junction by St Paul’s church, turn right.

7 Stay on this lane for 1¼ miles, passing Catherston Leweston and crossing the A35 on a bridge, to a T-junction. Turn right and walk up through Charmouth. Almost at the top of the village, turn left into Old Lyme Hill and immediately take the right fork. In about 350 yards, opposite South Molle, turn right on a track which leads into the buildings of Lily Farm. Turn right then left between a restored stone building on the left and an open barn on the right. Cross a stile on the left into an open field. Bear right to leave by its bottom right-hand corner, then follow the right-hand edge of the next field down to a stile. Cross it and turn left on the pavement.

St Andrew's church, Charmouth

8 Turn left again onto the A3052 (towards Lyme Regis), follow uphill for ½ mile to the far side of the grounds of the Fernhill Hotel. Here turn left through an opening, then immediately right under a large oak tree. Follow the well-defined path beyond and climb the hillside, emerging onto Lyme Regis golf course. The path straight across the course is clearly indicated by white stone markers, but keep an ear open for cries of ‘Fore!’ when crossing the fairways.

9 On the far side of the course, turn left on the pavement, then fork left on a road which passes the golf club entrance then starts to descend. In about 600 yards it bends sharply to the right. Here turn left to a gate and continue to a kissing-gate on the right in about 100 yards. The route is now following in reverse the start of the walk, so go through the gate and head straight down the field to its bottom right-hand corner. Here turn right into the next field and cross this one diagonally to a bridge and gate some 30 yards to the right of its bottom corner. The next field is also crossed diagonally, to reach the main road. Turn left and walk down to the car park. ◗

Distance: About 8 miles.
Terrain: A route for the more dedicated walker, given its length, its hilly nature and the ground, which is good in most places but rough in some and muddy in others.
Start: The Charmouth Road car park, Lyme Regis. OS reference SY343926. Postcode DT7 3DN.
How to get there: It is the first car park on the left after entering Lyme Regis on the A3052 from the A35.
Maps: OS Explorer 116 (Lyme Regis & Bridport), OS Landranger 193 (Taunton & Lyme Regis).
Refreshments: On the route in Charmouth, and plenty of choice in Lyme Regis.

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