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)|
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.
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:
|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):
Tea (Dorchester Ending):
Tea (Portesham/Bus to Weymouth Ending):
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk