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The longest long distance walk in Dorset with a guide book

reviewed by Brian Panton

Rarely does one get the opportunity to review a book that you think is really good. This is one of them.

Prepared by former teacher Steven Crockford of Christchurch this is a guidebook in the unashamed style of the master, Alfred Wainwright himself and his pictorial guides.

It is all there - each page has directions and items of local interest plus excellent sketch maps and superb hand-drawn illustrations. One minor quibble - a personal one - I am not keen on the type set used, but I have got used to it now.

The length of this walk is some 181 miles taking a circular route always just within the Dorset county boundary. Starting from the entrance to Poole Harbour it visits such places as Hengistbury Head, Verwood, Cranborne, Sixpenny Handley, Ashmore, Shaftesbury. Stalbridge, Sherborne, Yetminster, Evershot, Mosterton and Charmouth. The route then turns eastwards mainly along the South West Coast Path - taking the so-called Inland Route north of Weymouth and a deviation to Corfe Castle to finish at the entrance to Poole Harbour.

Steven has written and researched this guide single-handed. There has not been any support from the authorities - indeed I understand none was sought. It does not therefore have any official recognition from Dorset County Council nor any special signposting or waymarking. Nevertheless it is the longest single walking route in Dorset with a guidebook. By its location it sits comfortably along with the RA's own routes of the Jubilee Trail and the Wessex Ridgeway. This is definitely my next long distance walk in Dorset.

It is a robust book of over 200 pages that measures 230 x 157mm (or 9.2 x 6.1 inches). A must for those who enjoy walking in our beautiful and often unexplored county. It is also a book with its own website the author inviting comments on A Round Dorset Walk-Long Distance Footpath - The Illustrated Guide (ISBN 0-946418-49- 7) is published locally by Hobnob Press and sells for £8.95 and can be obtained from local bookshops.

Pals on a mission to walk around county

WEATHER and blisters might be a problem for walker Steve Crockford and his pals as they set out to hike around Dorset but there is no risk of them getting lost - he wrote the guidebook they are following.

To mark the publication this week of his A Walk Round Dorset retired teacher Steve, 55, from Christchurch, set out at 6am on Wednesday to trace the 180-mile route he mapped out in the book.

Steve Crockford (left) with friends Ian Barnes and Alwyn Dominey set off in the rain towards Hengistbury Head on Wednesday at the start of their 180-mile walk around Dorset to mark the publication of Steve's guidebook to the county

Steve Crockford (left) with friends Ian Barnes and Alwyn Dominey set off in the rain towards Hengistbury Head on Wednesday at the start of their 180-mile walk around Dorset to mark the publication of Steve's guidebook to the county. Picture: Jo Harvell.

Starting from Sandbanks - in a thundery downpour - Steve and friends lan Barnes and Alwyn Dominey headed along the coast to Hengistbury Head before striking inland through Christchurch, Verwood and Cranborne.

They are due to complete the circumnavigation of the county on Sunday afternoon when their route brings them full circle to South Haven Point on the other side of Poole Harbour.

Steve, who has been walking and running through the hills and vales of Dorset for more than 20 years, spent around two years scouting and mapping the continuous network of footpaths described in his book.

As well as detailing the route Steven has illustrated his guide book with more than 150 of his own line drawings, maps, and snippets of information about the history, geography and folklore of the places along the way.

Book takes walkers on a tour of county

by Stephanie Manley

A NEW book for ramblers wanting an exciting challenge has been published by an enthusiastic local walker.

A Round Dorset Walk by Steve Crockford aims to guide long-distance walkers around 181 miles of the county.

Country walk: Steve Crockford and fellow walkers Ian Barnes and Alwyn Dominey set off on a walk featured in the new book A Round Dorset Walk by Mr Crockford. Pictures by Len Copeland

Steve Crockford and fellow walkers Ian Barnes and Alwyn Dominey set off on a walk featured in the new book A Round Dorset Walk by Mr Crockford. Pictures by Len Copeland

The walk takes in the whole of Dorset's perimeter along ancient paths and trackways, from Sandbanks to Christchurch, across Cranborne Chase to Shaftesbury, then Sherborne, Evershot, Charmouth, Bridport, Upwey, Corfe Castle, Swanage and back via Studland to the starting point.

It includes walking through an ancient deer park, past early examples of old hill forts, along the coastline, and through picturesque villages.

Reading Rambler: Steve Crockford arrives at Marnhull

The book includes comprehensive and understandable descriptions of the routes and maps that can be read by inexperienced map readers.

It has taken Mr Crockford, aged 55, of Christchurch three years to research and write the book, published by The Hobnob Press.

He hopes it will enable others to share in the enjoyment of walking the routes which he found most delightful.

"The book grew out of ramblings around the county. It has taken around three years to complete because the first year was taken up by discovering the routes," said Mr Crockford.

Mr Crockford completed the walk himself last week, primarily for pleasure but also to promote his book.

"The walk went really well despite us going from wet to soaking on the first day. There were some problems with overgrown paths on the second day but apart from that we are enjoying the beautiful countryside."

A Round Dorset Walk review on LDWA

The Long Distance Walkers' Association are carrying a review of the book on their website. Click here to read it.

Daily Echo press cutting, Friday 16th June 2006

Writer gets pals in step with guide

From The Daily Echo, 16th June 2006

RETIRED teacher Steven Crockford from Christchurch is leading a Last of the Summer Wine band of friends on a 180-mile hike around Dorset next month following a path mapped out in a guide book he has just written.

To mark the publication of his A Walk Round Dorset on July 5, Steven, 55, and his three pals will set out from Sandbanks that day to walk the network of paths described in the 112-page volume he has compiled after two years of scouting sorties around the county.

If all goes according to plan, a punishing 40-miles-a-day schedule will see the intrepid quartet complete the trek five days later on the opposite shore of PooIe Harbour at South Haven Point.

As an avid walker and ardent admirer of the county where he has lived most of his life, Steven was spurred to embark on the book, the realisation of a long-held ambition, by a throwaway remark by a television presenter who referred to Dorset as "a little place you pass through on the way to the west country".

After poring over maps and reconnoitring the landscape, Steven came up with a continuous route around Dorset taking in all the high points of its landscape from the Jurassic coastline to the rolling hills of Hardy's Wessex.

Daily Echo press cutting; Steve Crockford at St Catherine's Hill, part of A Round Dorset Walk

Dorset on the Map

From The Daily Echo magazine, July 2-8 2005
Pictures: Hattie Mills

Scott Neil meets walker Steve Crockford who has mapped out a 185-mile walk round Dorset

A throwaway line by TV host Richard Madeley about Dorset being "that tiny place you pass through on the way to the West Country" sparked an ambitious project to create an epic 185-mile walk through the Dorset countryside.

It has been mapped out by a Bournemouth man inspired by Albert Wainwright's famous hiking guides to the Pennines. In places, the unique walk follows long-forgotten ancient pathways, some so old the trackways have been worn away by the passing of feet and are furrowed grooves sunken below the level of the surrounding undergrowth.

Now retired teacher Steve Crockford aims to test his draft guidebook of directions by completing the entire rural walk over nine days, camping out along the way. It has taken four years to compile the book, A Round Dorset Walk, which features his own line drawings of landmarks, sketch maps and detailed descriptions of the countryside that the walk passes through.

Once Steve is happy his directions will not send intrepid walkers heading off the wrong way, he is seeking a publisher for the book. Steve, of St Catherine's Hill, near Christchurch, said: "Part of the motivation was down to Alfred Wainwright's walking guidebooks."

Daily Echo press cutting; Steve Crockford on A Round Dorset Walk

He has tried to reflect the same style and feel in his Dorset version. Steve has taken part in walks and runs across the Pennine Way and a coast-to-coast walk across northern England.

But what really sparked him to action was that chance remark on the Richard & Judy TV show.

Steve wanted to show what the TV presenter was missing as he passed through the county heading for Devon and Cornwall. "I've loved Dorset all my life and I wanted to set a challenge for people to walk all the way around its perimeter," said Steve, 53, a founding member of the Poole Runners club in 1981.

"I've walked through ancient trackways that are so overgrown I was probably the first person to use them in years."

The circular walk starts and ends at Poole harbour entrance and presents a challenge for long-distance walkers wishing to do the whole trek in a single outing. However, it can also be walked in shorter stages. Steve has walked the route bit by bit, taking photographs and making notes and drawings along the way to create the comprehensive guidebook. He hopes it will also be of interest to non-walkers for its descriptions of the countryside and historical asides about landmarks, such as the belief that Bincombe Hill is the place immortalised by the nursery rhyme line about the Duke of York marching his troops up the hill and back down again.

The symmetry of starting and finishing the walk on opposite sides of the harbour entrance means walkers can set off with their heels touching the water and know they have completed the walk when their toes touch the water on the Studland side.

A group of local businessmen and colleagues will also test out the route once Steve has made the inaugural non-stop trek this month.

He intends to watch over the first group of walkers who will trial his draft guidebook independently. He will follow at a short distance to see how they cope with finding their way around. Once satisfied the guidebook works, Steve will focus his attention on finding a compiler and publisher for the book.