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Notes and route updates

Notes from the Inaugural Walk

July saw the release of the illustrated guide to the A Round Dorset Walk. By way of a launch, three friends and I set off to complete the route in five days. The walk was well publicised in the local press (see here) which tended to dwell on our ages (they even described us as 'a last of the summer wine' group of friends), or they dwelt on the fact that we were attempting to do the whole thing in so short a time. Neither factor however was within our control, whoever said that as you get older you have more time on your hands must have an uneventful life, or a remarkable healthy bank balance. In fact five days was the limit we could afford from one or all of our diaries.

The fact is I don't necessarily advise rushing such a walk, unless record breaking is your intent. Having said that, I am in no doubt some reader out there will, at this very moment, be thinking that four days is now the target to go for. Be my guest mate and let me know how you get on. I hope however that more of you will want to spend a little longer and get to know the route and the county of Dorset a little better. For all of you however, who might be contemplating the walk, I have a few observations that might be helpful to you, based upon our experiences in July 2006 that is..

Firstly, about little used and therefore poorly maintained rights of way

The majority of the paths we found to be clear and easy to walk. There is no doubt that most land owners in Dorset have, if not always embraced the walker, at least accepted them as an occupational inevitability, and as a result, done much to enhance the quality of the landscape to the visitor. I applaud their efforts and they deserve our unreserved support. Perhaps there should be an annual award! Sadly there were a few problems to report however, though not all are the responsibility of the landowner. If we have rights of way then they need to be used if they are to remain open and viable.

Gotham Farm. GR 0811116 (p15)

The footpath between Gotham Farm and 'Purbeck Lane'

Footpath at this point is poorly maintained and may be overgrown. Stile into wooded valley is hard to locate, as is the path out of the wooded area (Stand beneath the overhead cables and turn down in the direction of the pylon in the field beyond the wooded valley). Once out of the wooded area above the stream, head 1/4 left up the slope in faith that you will find a break in the hedge.

Farnham. GR 953154 (p23)

The footpath across field between Farnham and New Town.

This field seems to be regularly over planted with no trace of a right of way. It is there however. So with your face set like flint, head 1/2 right towards the furthest corner.

Stubhampton. GR 918136 (p25)

The footpath alongside field

From the 'sewage works' was overgrown and difficult to negotiate. You may be tempted to head down to the road, and on turning left, make your way towards the left bend in the road where the track towards Hanging Coppice can be joined.

North East of Stour Provost. GR 805219 (p33)

The footpath between Angel Lane and B3092

The double stile into the pasture leading to the B3092 was broken and difficult to cross.

South of Stour Provost (Trill Bridge). GR 791204 (p33)

The field to the North of the minor road beyond Stour provost was planted with maize. The footpath across this field is not maintained. It seemed prudent to walk anticlockwise around the field.

The footpath around the ponds south of the minor road towards the Stour was overgrown. The 'path' passes just below, or to the right of a line of young trees below the dried-up pond or hollow to the right of the large pond.

Bridle way into Clayhanger. GR 701169 (p37)

Bridle way was made very difficult to negotiate by overgrown nettles etc in its latter stages (after it narrows into a lane (below a spring) towards the hamlet of Clayhanger). Get a long stick or walking pole at the ready to beat a clear path. You can justifiably bask in a warm, self-righteous glow knowing that you clear the way for others that will follow you.

Bridle way alongside Plumley Wood. GR 698160 (p37)

The right of way was overgrown by nettles etc and we were forced to resort to dropping right into the woodland and there make our way along the top of the wooded valley before using a gate back into the field some 50 yards before its end at the gate alongside the now renovated cottage.

Footpath onto Blackdown Hill. GR 397029 (p53)

The correct way on to the hill should pass from behind the phone box. Once again however, it was choked with nettles and we were forced to take the alternative path 1/4 mile to the north. Not a major problem, but at the end of a long day's walk, not a blessing!

Route Amendment and Clarifications

During this inaugural walk, I was able to take a back seat and watch Ian and Alwyn wrestle with the guidebook. By-and-large, they did remarkably well which was a relief really, especially as Ian is geographically confused and liable to get lost on an athletics track.

They both rapidly learned to using both maps and the written directions together and not to depend upon one alone (a valuable lesson). That said, inevitably, there were occasions when I helped out a little. What difficulties they experienced were not overly significant and would certainly not have resulted in any irretrievable, or not immediately obvious error.

Over time, it would be good if we could use this resource to ease any potential problems the ARD walker might experience. With that in mind, here is the first:-

GR 423053 East of West Swillets farm. (p51)

5th paragraph, 3rd line reads, "follow the fence line round to a gate on your right on to a small green lane or 'drove'". The gate in question is in fact the second gate on the right. The first merely opens into a field. Hopefully you would have worked this out for yourself but I would not like to think of you traipsing around the field looking for the drove!

Alwyn Dominey (left), Ian Barnes (right) and myself above Durdle Door on the Coastal footpath at the end of day 4

Alwyn Dominey (left), Ian Barnes (right) and myself above Durdle Door on the Coastal footpath at the end of day 4