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

07-Aug-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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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

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

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)

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)

04-Aug-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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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

Length 24.3 km (15.1 mi), of which 6.6 km (4.1 mi) on tarmac or concrete. Cumulative ascent/descent: 382m.
Toughness 7 out of 10 Time: 5 ¾ hours walking time. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 12 hours.
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 [Stop K6, a 5 mins walk to Weymouth station]), with a roughly hourly service in the summer (last bus 20.07 hours daily). 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.
Maps OS Landranger Map: 194 (Dorchester & Weymouth) OS Explorer Map: OL15 (Purbeck & South Dorset)
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. 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 9/10.
Lunch and Tea

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. Open Tue-Sat 12.00-15.00 and 18.00-23.00 and Sun 12.00-16.00. Food served Tue-Sat 12.00-14.15 and 18.00-20.30 and Sun 12.00-15.00.

Tea (all walk options):
The China Mermaid Retro Café Hardy Monument Car Park, Black Down, Portesham, Weymouth, Dorset, DT2 9HY (01305 871 903). The China Mermaid Café is a 1970s retro catering caravan serving simple locally produced food and drink served on retro china, in the National Trust car park at the Hardy Monument, next to some benches with stunning views across Black Down out to sea. It is located 13.3 km (8.3 mi) into the walk. Open (weather permitting) 11.00-16.30 Wed-Sun and Bank Holidays, from Good Friday to September.

Tea (Dorchester Ending):
YC’s Café Wine Bar Brewery Square, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1GA (01305 260 185). YC’s is a collaboration of the award-winning Yalbury Cottage hotel and Yvon’s Artisan Patisserie. Open 07.30-17.00 Mon, 07.30-19.00 Tue-Sat and 09.30-15.00 Sun.
Costa Coffee Open 06.00-19.30 Mon-Fri, 07.00-19.30 Sat and 08.00-18.00 Sun.
The Brewhouse and Kitchen 27 Weymouth Avenue, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1QY (01305 265 551). Housed in the fully renovated original station master's house, on the footprint of the former Eldridge Pope Brewery.
Vivo Lounge, Carluccio’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 Kings Arms has recently been refurbished, and has three open fires and a large garden, complete with large Cypress tree, Pétanque terrain, and a stream running through the garden. Summer Opening Hours: 11.00-23.00 daily. Food served 12.00-21.00 daily. Else: Open Mon-Thu 11.00-15.00 and 18.00-23.00 and Fri-Sun 11.00-23.00. Food served Mon-Fri 12.00-15.00 and 18.00-21.00 and Sat-Sun 12.00-21.00.
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. Farmshop open 08.00-19.00 Mon-Sat and 08.00-16.00 Sun. Café open 08.00-16.00 daily.

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Start DT1 1QX Map Directions


National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234


Oct-18 Thomas G

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Walk Directions  

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