The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Treasures of Dorset – The Dorsetshire Gap

John Newth on the strange lure of a place of multiple crossings

❱ As well as showing how many paths cross here, one can also see the location of the waterproof store for the visitors' book

❱ As well as showing how many paths cross here, one can also see the location of the waterproof store for the visitors’ book

 

It may not be the Arlberg or the Brenner, but the Dorsetshire Gap is the closest the county has to a mountain pass, as it is where one of the ancient routes from the south breaks through the chalk escarpment into the Blackmore Vale. It could also be called Dorset’s Spaghetti Junction, since it is a major junction with the ridgeway track running from west
to east.
It would have been an important spot for our ancestors as they carried their wares or drove their stock along what were two of the county’s main thoroughfares. The Iron Age hillfort on Nettlecombe Tout is close by. The deep-cut paths are evidence of the number of feet and hooves that have passed this way over the centuries. Perhaps it is this that makes it so atmospheric, along with its remote position: a mile from any road and hidden deep in the greenwood. How the place affects visitors may be read in the book that used to be kept in a biscuit tin but is now protected by a sturdy plastic box. There has been such a book here for at least forty years.
A walk to the Dorsetshire Gap and back is a slow business, not so much because of the gradients but because, no matter in what direction you are travelling, there will be many stops to admire the sensational views. ◗

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