The Dorset Walk – Corscombe and West Chelborough
Matt Wilkinson and Andy Farrer in the fields and woods of West Dorset
Published in November ’15
If one of the joys of Dorset is the variety of its landscape, the same can be said of individual parts of the county. Take West Dorset, for example: the grandeur of its coastal scenery around Golden Cap or its sudden valleys around Powerstock are balanced by a quieter countryside further north, still with enough hills to give interest but a more pastoral setting of fields and woods.
It is in this landscape that you find Corscombe with its rather unusual geography; it straggles along a main street, then seems to catch its breath before starting again with the part of the village that includes the church and the pub. Nearby is Higher Ground Meadow natural burial ground, where Rodney Legg, who founded Dorset – The County Magazine, the predecessor of Dorset Life, is buried.
The church of St Andrew at West Chelborough is one of the prettiest small churches in the whole of Dorset. It has no outstanding feature, although it boasts a 12th-century font and a 17th-century monument on the north wall to a Lady Kymer who died in childbirth. The church was restored with unusual restraint and taste in 1894, when wood from the old pews installed in the 18th century was used to create wainscoting for the nave. With a 17th-century tower and a two-decker pulpit designed in 1935, the church is something of a hotch-potch of styles, but it retains that air of homely reverence unique to small country churches and on its own makes the walk worthwhile.
Distance: About 4¾ miles
Terrain: This is a surprisingly damp part of West Dorset, so be prepared for mud even after dry weather and certainly after wet, and especially in gateways and along woodland paths.
Start: On the road close to the Fox Inn (or in its car park if you plan to patronise it at the end of the walk). OS reference ST525053. Postcode DT2 0NS.
How to get there: Turn north off the A356 Dorchester-Crewkerne road at Corscombe Cross, which is about 1¼ miles west of Toller Down Gate (where the Evershot-Beaminster road crosses the A356) and the same distance east of Winyard’s Gap. Drive down to a T-junction, turn right along the High Street and continue to another T-junction, where turn left
Maps: OS Explorer 117 (Cerne Abbas & Bere Regis); OS Landranger 194 (Dorchester & Weymouth).
Refreshments: The Fox Inn.
1 Continue along the road, signposted to Halstock and Yeovil. Opposite the first turning on the right, turn left on a track. Continue across the intersection of two drives to a gate straight ahead. Beyond the gate, bear right to an opening visible roughly in the middle of the far side of the field. In the next field turn right and walk up to the far corner. Go through two gates onto a lane and turn left. The road bends to the left, passes Mill House and bends to the right; on that bend, turn left through a gate and along the bottom of a large open field. This track curves to the right and passes Merrylands Farm to reach a lane.
2 Turn left, and in about 700 yards right, doubling back down a narrow drive. Follow this drive round to the left and past a new house on the right. On the next right-hand bend, go straight ahead through a gate. Cross the field, passing just to the right of a solitary telegraph pole, to reach a gate visible on the far side. Cross the next field in the same direction, and the one after that, reaching a gate in its furthest corner. Ford a stream on a slight diagonal to the right and climb the other side, through a gate, to emerge into an open field. Aim towards the left-hand end of the buildings of Wood Farm ahead.
3 Go through a gate to the left of all the buildings except a corrugated iron barn, and turn right on a paved drive through the farm buildings. Leave by a gate at the far end of the farmyard and turn left, down to another gate. Beyond it, bear right to the left-hand of two gates about 20 yards from the far left-hand corner of the field. Walk up the next field to a gate in the very far left-hand corner, then continue along the left-hand edge of two fields. At the end of the second, join a brief stretch of enclosed track, then continue on a track along the left-hand edge of a third field. Turn left to cross the bottom of the farmyard of Manor Farm to a gate and a lane, where turn right.
4 In only about 50 yards, turn right, back into the farm buildings. Turn left round the end of the buildings, then stay on the track as it swings to the right and descends to enter an open field. Bear right on a grassy track across the field to a gate near the bottom right-hand corner. Bear slightly left to walk down the next field to a gate in its very bottom corner. Cross a bridge, go through another gate and continue up the field ahead. At the very top of the field, go through a gate and follow a track as it curves up to the church at West Chelborough.
5 After inspecting the church, turn right out of its gate and walk along the drive, past Church House Farm and Ewens Farm, to Dairy House Farm. From the far right-hand corner of the buildings, a short track runs down to the right, to a gate into an open field. Walk down the field to a gate in the bottom corner. Continue straight ahead, just to the left of a line of telephone wires, to reach a gate into woodland. Beyond the wood, bear slightly right to cross another open field into more woodland. Bear left through the wood on a reasonably well-defined path, which then bends right and descends to a bridge. Beyond the bridge, climb up to a gate and another open field. Once again, bear slightly right to cross the field and enter yet another wood. A broad path leads straight ahead through the wood to emerge alongside a white cottage. Continue straight ahead along a paved lane to a T-junction, where turn left to reach your car. ◗