Dorchester Circular or to Portesham walk

Pre-historic landscape of the Dorset Downs with splendid views out to the Jurassic Coast from the South Dorset Ridgeway. Longer extension to the Valley of (Sarsen) Stones

Hardy Monument and Memorial Bench SWC Walk 275 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham

Hardy Monument and Memorial Bench

SWC Walk 275 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham

23-Aug-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Maiden Castle Iron Age Hillfort, in the evening sun SWC Walk 275 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham

Maiden Castle Iron Age Hillfort, in the evening sun

SWC Walk 275 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham

07-Aug-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Hell Stone Burial Chamber SWC Walk 275 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham (Extension)

Hell Stone Burial Chamber

SWC Walk 275 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham (Extension)

16-Aug-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Barrows and Sheep on Bronkham Hill SWC Walk 275 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham

Barrows and Sheep on Bronkham Hill

SWC Walk 275 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham

23-Aug-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Clandon Barrow from Grove Hill Bottom SWC Walk 275 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham

Clandon Barrow from Grove Hill Bottom

SWC Walk 275 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham

23-Aug-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Bridehead Lake Outflow (The River Bride) - Detail SWC Walk 275 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham (Extension)

Bridehead Lake Outflow (The River Bride) - Detail

SWC Walk 275 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham (Extension)

31-Aug-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Nine Stones - off the A35 near Winterbourne Abbas, access via Permissive Path from the Little Chef SWC Walk 274 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham (off-route)

Nine Stones - off the A35 near Winterbourne Abbas, access via Permissive Path from the Little Chef

SWC Walk 274 Dorchester South Circular or to Portesham (off-route)

04-Aug-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Length 24.3 km (15.1 mi), with 423m ascent/descent. For a longer walk and an Alternative Ending, enabling shorter versions, see below Walk Options.
Toughness 6 out of 10, with 5 ¾ hours walking time. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 12 hours.
Walk Notes Rewarding expedition from the county town of Dorset through the pre-historic landscape of the Dorset Downs with splendid views out to the Jurassic Coast from the South Dorset Ridgeway.
Maumbury Rings, an ancient British henge earthwork converted by the Romans for use as an amphitheatre (the largest of its kind in Britain), is walked through early on. Then Maiden Castle, the largest – and one of the most complex – Iron Age hill fort in Europe, with its up to four banks and three ditches and remains of a Romano-Celtic temple, is explored in detail. Settled from 4000 BC, it was one of the most powerful settlements in pre-Roman Britain, the Durotriges were the last tribe to have lived there.
From there the route follows the narrow South Winterbourne Valley to lunch in Martinstown before a long ascent up to the heathery Black Down, crowned by the 22m-high Hardy Monument (to Sir Thomas Hardy the Admiral, not the writer), with some stunning views to the Jurassic Coast and the Isle of Portland. Continue with views out to sea atop Bronkham Hill, with an interesting group of barrows and shakeholes on its ridge. On the descent from it you pass more barrows, en route back to Dorchester.
A long extension adds more pre-historic highlights – the Valley of (Sarsen) Stones, one of the finest examples of a boulder ‘train’ in Britain, several impressive barrows and two stone circles – and leads through the very pretty Bride Valley.
Walk Options You can omit parts - or all - of the loop through Maiden Castle: cut up to 2.3 km and 75m ascent.
You can omit the final ascent to the Hardy Monument: cut 1.1 km and 50m ascent.
You can add a ‘pre-historic’ loop from the Hardy Monument via the Valley of Stones, Littlebredy and various Stone Circles and Barrows, adding up to 13.1 km (8.2 mi) and 477m ascent/descent to the walk (10/10). This includes 1.0 km of optional out-and-backs to Bridehead Lake & Waterfall and to a couple of Barrows, as well as an option to cut out 1.1 km distance and 78m ascent between the Valley of Stones and Littlebredy. The resulting very long walk should take about 9 hours net to complete.
An Alternative Ending at Portesham (then bus to Weymouth) enables two more variations:
  • a very short walk Dorchester to Hardy Monument to Portesham: 16.0 km (9.9 mi), 435/439m ascent/descent, rated 4/10;
  • a long walk Dorchester to Hardy Monument, extended with most of the ‘pre-historic’ loop, but ending in Portesham: 25.5 km (15.9 mi), 726/730m ascent/descent, rated 8/10.
Maps

OS Explorer: OL15 (Purbeck & South Dorset)
OS Landranger: 194 (Dorchester & Weymouth)

Travel Dorchester (South) Station is on the London Waterloo to Weymouth Main Line, with two trains per hour Mondays-Saturdays (journey time from 149 mins) and an hourly service on Sundays (journey time 168 mins). Portesham (opp. Kings Arms) is a stop on line X53 (Axminster – Weymouth King’s Statue [a 5 mins walk to the station]), with a roughly two-hourly service (last bus around 19.00 Mon-Sat, and 18.03 Sun). Buy a Dorchester South return ticket – or a Weymouth return for the Portesham Ending.

Saturday Walkers’ Club: Take a train no later than 8.45 hours.

Lunch

The Brewer’s Arms Martinstown, Dorchester,Dorset, DT2 9LB (01305 889 361). The Brewer’s Arms is located 8.7 km (5.4 mi) into the walk. It is a pub with rooms with a large courtyard garden.

Tea

Tea (Dorchester Ending):
Yalbury Café Brewery Square, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1GA (01305 260 185).
Costa Coffee
The Brewhouse and Kitchen 27 Weymouth Avenue, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1QY (01305 265 551). Housed in the renovated station master's house of the former Eldridge Pope Brewery.
Vivo Lounge, Luciano’s, Pizza Express, Nando’s, Zizzi, Wagamama, Côte Brasserie, Morrish & Banham Wine Merchant Tasting Room. All on Brewery Square.

Tea (Portesham/Bus to Weymouth Ending):
The King’s Arms 2 Front Street, Portesham, Weymouth, Dorset, DT3 4ET (01305 871 342). The King’s Arms is an award winning historic pub with rooms located at the end of the Alternative Ending. Portesham was first mentioned in a charter dating back to 1024 when King Canute granted Porteshamme land to one of his ministers. Admiral Hardy, as in “Kiss Me, Hardy”, of HMS Victory fame, lived in Portesham House, opposite the pub.
The Ducks Farmshop and Café Bramdon Lane, Portesham, Weymouth, Dorset, DT3 4HG (01305 534 111). The Ducks is located right by the bus stop in Portesham at the Alternative Ending.

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Version

May-22 Thomas G

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This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk