The Dorset walk 1 – Upwey and Bincombe
Matt Wilkinson and Andy Farrer are pleasantly surprised on the outskirts of Weymouth
Published in August ’15
Although its natural setting is lovely, Weymouth itself is not a particularly attractive town. Some of its surrounding villages – one hesitates to call them suburbs – are very pleasant, though, and none more so than Upwey. Clustered round the River Wey, it has a variety of interesting houses and gardens to look at, and the occasional glimpse of pleasant open countryside. At the spring which is the source of the river stands the famous Upwey Wishing Well, which has been a tourist attraction since the 19th century. George III is said to have stopped here to drink the water for its supposedly curative properties. The parish church of St Laurence nestles in the trees at the northern end of the village.
The route takes in the eastern end of the South Dorset Ridgeway. This ancient trackway is known for its profusion of barrows and tumuli; most of these lie to the west, towards Hardy’s Monument, but the walk passes a couple of eastern outliers on Bincombe Down.
Bincombe, peaceful and agricultural, is something of a forgotten village, hiding away from the traffic roaring up and down the A354 less than a mile away. Parts of its church, and the font, date from the 12th century. Thomas Hardy’s tragic love story, ‘The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion’, is based on the true story of a Bincombe doctor’s daughter. Her lover was executed by firing squad and his gravestone can still be seen in the churchyard.
1 Walk up Church Street with Westbrook House and the river on the left. In a little under ½ mile, by the Wishing Well, the main road swings to the right but continue straight ahead on the left fork. After passing the church of St Laurence, the road becomes an unpaved track. As it bends right and approaches a gate, fork left onto a path. Cross a bridge then a stile and walk along the bottom of an open field and back over the stream on another bridge. Go over another stile and turn left onto a drive that soon leads up to a lane.
2 Turn right and walk down to the main road. Cross it to a gate to the left of the broad drive to Bayard Dairy. Walk up to another gate into an open field and go straight up the field, aiming some way to the right of a gate visible on the skyline. On a level with that gate, the field narrows; walk up the bottom of the dry valley that runs up the middle of it. Go through a gate and follow the valley up the next field to a gate in the far left-hand corner. Beyond the gate, turn right on a broad track with a dry-stone wall immediately to the left. This is the South Dorset Ridgeway and in about 500 yards, following a right-left dog-leg, it crosses the busy A354 on a bridge.
3 About 60 yards past the end of the bridge, turn right onto another track; deep beneath your feet is the London-Weymouth railway line in Bincombe Tunnel . Follow the track round to the left until the main road comes into sight (and sound) again. Here fork left on a path that goes through a gate and continues uphill, between gorse bushes. Emerging into a field follow the right-hand edge to a gate. Do the same in the next two fields, across Bincombe Down. At the end of the second one reach a lane, where turn right. Walk down to a T-junction, where turn right on a track.
4 Follow the track, which eventually climbs over the shoulder of Bincombe Hill and descends to meet a lane. Continue ahead and turn left at the next T-junction, next to Granary House. Walk down through Bincombe and in front of East Farm and the church of the Holy Trinity, bear right. In a little over ¼ mile, just before the top of a rise, turn right on a track that runs along the right-hand side of a large field. In the first corner. cross a bridge and turn right to follow a clear path round two sides of the next field.
5 At the top of the field go through a gate, turn left and follow the left-hand field-edge round to the right and then straight ahead, with the flank of the hill known as The Knoll away to the right across a field. Cross the main road on another bridge and then go under the railway line into a residential road which leads down to the road through Broadwey. Turn left, then take the first on the right into Stottingway Street. Where this bends to the right and becomes Church Street, your car is on the left. ◗
Distance: About 5¼ miles
Terrain: Good going underfoot – mostly tracks and well-used paths. A couple of climbs, but nothing too demanding.
Start: The bottom end of Church Lane, Upwey, just before it becomes Watery Lane. OS reference SY666843. Postcode DT3 5QB.
How to get there: From the west, fork right off the A35 in Winterbourne Abbas onto the B3159 through Martinstown to Upwey. Otherwise, take the turning signed to Broadwey off the new section of the A354. In Broadwey, turn west on Stottingway Street, signed to Martinstown. The start is on the first right-hand bend.
Maps: OS Explorer OL15 (Purbeck & South Dorset); OS Landranger 194 (Dorchester & Weymouth).
Refreshments: Only the Upwey Wishing Well on the route, but there are pubs in Upwey’s near-neighbour, Broadwey.