The Dorset Life Walk – Portesham, Rodden and Waddon
Matt Wilkinson and Dan Bold find much to admire just inland from Weymouth
Published in October ’14
If you can ignore or avoid the many pylon lines, there is good walking to be had to the north-west of Weymouth, between the Ridgeway and the Fleet. The land undulates gently down to the sea and accommodates a mixture of pasture and arable. It is a landscape of mostly small settlements and hamlets, some of them no more than a large farm, but this route starts near one of the larger villages, Portesham, where a stream rushes down beside the main street and an old green telephone box stands on the village green. It was home to Thomas Hardy – not that one but Thomas Masterman Hardy, who was Nelson’s flag captain at Trafalgar (‘Kiss me, Hardy’) and whose monument dominates Black Down, to the north of the village. Older residents still pronounce its name as ‘Possum’, and ‘Possum Fes’ Wik’ was a seven-day celebration held in the village annually until about a century ago.
The walk passes two of the most attractive and interesting houses in this part of the county. Rodden Manor is an early Georgian gem, somewhat monochrome in its facing of Portland ashlar, but beautifully proportioned and with a most handsome doorway. Waddon House stands in a dominating position under Waddon Hill and is older, parts dating from the 16th century. It was re-built by Colonel Bullen Reymes, who inherited through his wife in 1651, but was badly damaged by a fire in 1704. It served as Squire Boldwood’s home in John Schlesinger’s famous 1960s film of Far from the Madding Crowd.
Distance: 5 miles
Terrain: Generally good underfoot, although stiles and gateways may be muddy. The hill out of Rodden is steep, but there are no other major climbs. Care is needed on the lanes, but they are not heavily used by traffic.
Start: A space on the left of Winters Lane, about 1/3 mile from its western end in Portesham. Take care not to obstruct the lane nor the drive to Portesham Farm. OS reference SY604858. Postcode DT3 4ER.
How to get there: Turn north off the B3157 coast road by the Kings Arms at Portesham and take the first turning on the right, or turn south off the A35 at Winterbourne Abbas and stay on the B3159 that runs over Black Down and down into Portesham. Winters Lane is signed to Coryates, Friar Waddon and Upwey.
Maps: OS Explorer OL15 (Purbeck & South Dorset), OS Landranger (Dorchester & Weymouth).
Refreshments: The Kings Arms at Portesham.
1 Walk back into Portesham, turn left at the end of Winters Lane and walk down to the main road. Here turn left, and in 250 yards right into Portesham Dairy Farm camp site. Go straight ahead to a metal gate onto a path that leads into an open field. Follow the left-hand edge of this field and the next to reach a stile by the tiny settlement of East Elworth.
2 Over the stile, turn right to a gate in the corner next to the buildings and walk along a narrow path that winds around the buildings and enters woodland before reaching a stile. Continue on the path beyond, up to the top of the rise, where turn left through a gate. Walk along the top of the ridge for two fields. In the third field bear slightly right and walk quite steeply downhill to a gate. Turn left, follow the lane round to the right and at the T-junction by Rodden Manor, turn left.
3 In just over 200 yards, on a gentle right-hand bend, double back through a gate on the right and climb straight up the field to a stile at the top. Walk through a strip of undergrowth and straight across an open field, passing to the left of a power pole. Once on the brow of the field, bear slightly right, staying on the same level, to a stile on the far side of the field. Go straight across the next field, cross a busy main road and go through the right-hand of two gates straight ahead.
4 Follow the left-hand field-edge to a stile, and in the next field walk down to the very far left-hand corner, where there is a stile. Follow the next field to an opening in the next corner, and in the field after that walk up to the corner just to the right of the house on the skyline. Turn left on the lane and walk past West Shilvinghampton Farm to reach a T-junction. Turn left and walk for slightly less than ½ mile.
5 Just after some power lines and a track on the right, turn right onto a boardwalk through a small patch of woodland. Emerging from the woodland, bear right and follow the right-hand edge of two fields. About 40 yards before the end of the second one, cross a stile on the right, go left round a cow-byre and then bear right on a track leading to a metal gate into a field. Walk straight up the field in the direction of Waddon House, clearly visible under the hillside ahead.
6 At the top of the field, cross a stile, an open space and a track which was the track-bed of the Abbotsbury branch railway line. Cross another, narrow field and head for the top right-hand corner of the following field. Here join a track that leads up to a lane directly opposite Waddon House. Turn left and return to your car in ¾ mile. ◗