The Dorset Walk – Ibberton
Matt Wilkinson and Andy Farrer head for the hills
Published in March ’16
The walk starts on the line of hills that forms the south-eastern boundary of the Blackmore Vale – Bulbarrow, Woolland, Ibberton, Bell and Okeford. It crosses Bell Hill, which supposedly takes its name from its shape. Any resemblance to a bell is not immediately obvious, but the hill’s label has been established long enough to be part of the name of Belchalwell, the village that nestles under its north-western slopes.
Turnworth Park used to surround Turnworth House, a particularly handsome Jacobean mansion that burnt down shortly after the War. It had been the home of, among others, the Parry-Okeden and Twinyhoe families. Thomas Hardy, who as a young architect had masterminded the renovation of Turnworth’s parish church and knew the village well, used Turnworth House as the inspiration for Hintock House in his novel, The Woodlanders.
There is more arable in this part of Dorset than in most, interspersed with pasture and dotted with patches of woodland that enhance the landscape at any time of the year. It is not a spectacular corner of the county, but it is very satisfying and provides some wonderful views.
1 Walk back onto the road from the parking area and turn right. Pass Bakers Folly on the left and then a turning to Ibberton, also on the left. About 180 yards after that, turn right on a track that leads up to two gates. Go through the left-hand one and continue on a track that leads up onto, and along, the ridge of Bell Hill. The track becomes a path, and 350 yards after that, turn right onto a path that leads up to a gate.
2 On the other side of the gate, turn right to pick up the right-hand edge of the field. Keep a sharp lookout for a gate in the right-hand fence about 300 yards after entering the field and just before the remains of some earthworks. Go through the gate and bear left to follow the hedge on the left initially. The path then bears right into an open field; cross this field diagonally to its far right-hand corner and continue down a track through a wood. Emerge into a valley with impressive trees on the other side and follow the track as it curves downhill and becomes paved.
3 At the bottom of the hill turn left and in 25 yards right to join a track which curves to the left, uphill. Entering an open field, bear right off the track towards a post visible on the skyline. Continue in the same direction over the shoulder of the hill to reach a stile on the far side of the field. Bear slightly right from the direction in which you were previously walking, to an opening about three-quarters of the way along the field’s left-hand edge. Continue in the same direction to cut off the corner of the next field and to reach an opening onto a track that runs straight downhill. Ignore the track and bear left, downhill, to a gate in front of some buildings in the bottom of the valley.
4 Here double back to the right, on the track along the valley, which soon forks. Take the left fork, uphill. At the top of the rise, turn right then left onto a track that runs along the left-hand edge of a large field. Follow it right to the very bottom of the field (ignoring an opening about halfway along), where there are two openings about 80 yards apart. Go through the right-hand one and follow the left-hand field-edge downhill.
5 At the bottom of the hill, turn right onto a track. In about 700 yards the track forks twice in quick succession. Take the right-hand option at the first fork and the left-hand option at the second, through a gate and onto a track that heads uphill and crosses under some power lines. A mile further on, the track finishes.
Go straight ahead through two gates onto an enclosed path. The path becomes a track again and leads back to the parking space. ◗
Distance: About 4¾ miles
Terrain: So much of the route is on tracks that it takes a lot of rain to create a serious mud problem. There are some climbs, but nothing exceptionally demanding.
Start: The parking space on Ibberton Hill. OS reference ST792071. Postcode DT11 0EN.
How to get there: At the staggered crossroads on top of Woolland Hill (approach via Milton Abbas from the south-east, via Hilton and Ansty from the south-west, via Woolland from the north or via Hazelbury Bryan and Stoke Wake from the north-west), take the road that runs north-east along the hillside. The parking space is on the right in one mile.
Maps: OS Explorer 117 (Cerne Abbas and Bere Regis); OS Landranger 194 (Dorchester & Weymouth).
Refreshments: None on the route.