'Dorset Year Round Walks' – get chapter 1 for FREE
Great news, walkers of Dorset! Our new book Dorset Year Round Walks is out.
Even better news: we’re giving away the first walk, exactly as it appears in the book, absolutely free below!
You’ll find this is particularly timely, as the route it covers (an easy 4-miler around Pamphill) takes you right into the heart of bluebell country. It’s the perfect spring ramble.
And if you enjoy this guided walk, you’ll find another 19 just like it in our lovingly created guide. Anyway, without further ado, here’s the walk itself!
Oh, one last thing, if you want to download this walk and take it with you, click here!
1. Pamphill & Abbott Street Copse
There is nowhere quite like Pamphill, where you start this superb walk – and in spring there’s arguably no better place to see bluebells in bloom. As part of the vast Kingston Lacy Estate, now bequeathed to the National Trust but owned for many years by the Bankes Family, the village has slumbered peacefully through the centuries almost untouched by time.
Here there is no recognisable village street, only a scattering of mainly deep-thatched, half-timbered cottages and farms set among the open greens of a still medieval landscape.
From the village the walk descends into the Stour Valley to follow the riverside rich in wildlife before crossing an ancient green and taking a sunken path back to Pamphill. But before you reach the village a path leads you to the highlight of this walk, Abbot Street Copse.
Terrain: Easy walking, apart from one gentle uphill.
Map: OS Explorer 118 Shaftesbury & Cranborne Chase.
Starting point: Pamphill Green car park (GR ST 991008).
How to get there: Pamphill is about a mile west of Wimborne Minster. From Wimborne Minster, take the B302 in the direction of Blandford. Just after the Pamphill Dairy sign, turn left for Pamphill, Cowgrove and Kingston Lacy church. Pass Pamphill Dairy on the right and a lane to Pamphill Farm on the left, and take the next left in front of the church. Pamphill Green car park is on your right.
Sat Nav: BH21 4ED.
Refreshments: The Parlour Café at Pamphill Dairy serves morning coffee, lunch and teas
1. From Pamphill Green car park turn right to walk over the grass of the cricket field with the road close by on your left. You will see the small thatched cricket pavilion ahead. Join the road and continue past Pamphill school car park on your left. Now Pamphill First School, the building you see on your left has an interesting history. Endowed by Roger Gillingham, it was built in 1698 with a school in the higher classical centre flanked by eight single-room almshouses. When you have passed the school the road divides.
2. Take the left hand road signed for the Stour Valley Way. Just past a parking area for the Vine Inn on the right, turn right up the lane to Little Pamphill, a delectable group of colour-washed cottages standing high on a ridge with beautiful views over the Stour Valley. Bear left to complete a circle and return to the road opposite the Vine Inn. We were surprised to see the cottages in this tiny place were numbered in the five hundreds! Evidently the Bankes family numbered all the houses on their estate consecutively and as their lands extended south to the Purbecks you will find number one in Studland. Turn right to leave the Vine Inn on your left and continue downhill to a road.
3. Cross the road and go through the squeeze stile opposite. Bear right over the field towards a farm gate passing a cottage on your right. Go through another squeeze stile beside the gate and keep ahead under a height restriction barrier to the parking area at Eyebridge. Walk down to the river, the site of an ancient ford, now crossed by a modern footbridge. An information panel describes life here in Roman and medieval times.
4. Do not cross the bridge but turn right to follow a beautiful path following the riverside. The river is on your left. The Stour runs slowly between grass-covered banks and overhanging bushes and trees which provide food and shelter for a wide variety of wildlife. You will find tempting seats at intervals along the riverside. Pass a path on your right and cross a bridge to continue beside the river.
5. The path bears right here away from the river to run through woodland and you have a choice of routes. You can follow the upper narrow path beside a fence or a parallel lower track on your left which can be muddy. The paths wind north past some magnificent trees among them a splendid oak known as Waterman’s Oak reputed to be over three hundred years old. Keep straight on past a squeeze stile and footpath on your right and when the upper path becomes overgrown continue along the lower track.
6. Leave the woods to follow a path which bears right over a small bridge to bring you to the edge of Cowgrove Common. Follow the path ahead over the common with a tiny stream on your right and go past a gate to Cowgrove Road. A thatched, half-timbered house is on your right and opposite is Poplar Farm.
7. Cross the road to the track in front of Poplar farm. Cowgrove Pond is on your left. Turn left along the gravel track marked with a blue arrow bridleway sign to leave the farm on your right and the pond on your left. Keep straight ahead passing a squeeze stile and footpath sign on your right. The track runs past a cottage on the right and continues over an open green, past a house on the right.
8. Immediately past the house you meet a road. Do not follow the road but turn right up All Fools Lane (a footpath) signed for Pamphill. This path dates from Saxon times and was originally All Souls Lane as it once led to a chapel at the top of the hill. Follow the path uphill until you see a small iron gate on your left.
9. Turn left through the gate and cross the field to go through a second gate into Abbot Street Copse. The Copse is famous for its sea of bluebells in spring and has an interesting history. The trees conceal the embankments of the first ‘Kingston’, a royal residence built by the Saxon king Ine in the seventh century. Follow the path straight ahead across the copse before it curves left to bring you back to the iron gate. Retrace your steps over the field to return to All Fools Lane and turn left. Just before you meet the road turn right over the grass then right again to return to Pamphill Green car park.
What to look out for
The Stour is exceptionally rich in wildlife. The numbers of otters are increasing and if you do this walk at a quiet time there is a good chance you may see one. Listen for its loud chirping cries. You may also see water voles. Kingfishers perch on overhanging branches above the water and herons stand watching in the shallows.
The banks are colourful with wild flowers including marsh marigolds, purple loosestrife and water forget-me-nots. Among the butterflies they attract are the peacock and orange tip. Shortly after the end of the surfaced path look for the large wooden carving of an otter holding his fish on the left of the path. Apart from his size he is very lifelike!
Did you enjoy this walk?
There are 19 more just like it in the book Dorset Year Round Walks, available by clicking right here, including top recommendations for every season.
- Alex Batho