Hardy and Barnes celebration at the Exchange
On Saturday 15th June in the Stour Hall in the Exchange the literature festival gala event takes place. It is a
I often find myself driving over to Sturminster Newton to walk my cockapoo dog Muffin. Sturminster is a lovely little town with great amenities and several wonderful walks.
Here are my four favourite dog walks in and around Sturminster. They are all easily accessible. There are no stiles to climb over. Often there are paths to meander along, paths that criss-cross and routes that take as long or as short as you care.
Park in the Station Road carpark behind The Exchange and the Co-op. (£1.20 for two hours). The trailway is tucked at the bottom end of the car park near the Factory Shop. The surface of the path is good and flat, although you do have to share it with cyclists. It’s an especially good walk in the winter months as there is far less mud than elsewhere.
As you progress across the Hammoon Road you come to land bequeathed to common use by the near famous Angela Hughes a well known local ecology fan before it was even a subject. Making your way along this section of the trailway you pass a woodland cemetery and hen share the route with a small Goat farm. Keep buster on a lead! Crossing Haywards Road by the old railway bridge you quickly reach the Shillingstone steam railway station, closed by the be-loathed Beeching (Did he wear his special glasses for short sighted thinking?) and their excellent café (click here for opening days and times).
Passing the station and its engines you see the incredible Hambledon Hill iron age hilltop fort on your left. Amazing to think it was occupied by Neolithic man some 5000 BC. The trailway then meanders through typical Dorset fields and copses all the way to Blandford. Some 6 miles in total.
For a shorter walk that also takes in the fields and local wildlife take the Trailway from the Station Road Car Park and walk to the bridge over the River Stour. Branch off to the right here (a finger post signing the way is clearly visible) and walk across fields along the riverside to a weir and Fiddleford Mill. As well as much of the old Mill there are fascinating old industrial footbridges, gears and windings still remaining and huge slow-moving ponds full of fish. If you have time you can make your way round to Fiddleford Manor. An old medieval manor-house maintained by English Heritage. Always open and free to enter the house is in near perfect architectural order and gives a fascinating glimpse of times past. There are many information boards to give you a detailed history of the house and its uses. Again, keep Buster on the lead. Return to the Mill and weir paths and continue across an old footbridge lined with gears and cogs and the path then takes you through signposted fields on a loop back onto the Trailway very near to the carpark where you began. It takes about 15/20 minutes from the carpark to the bridge and 45/55 minutes for the circuit. This walk is difficult after heavy rain, wear wellies and expect to give your hound a good wash at the end!
Sturminster Mill has been around since the year dot. It is still active and regularly opens to visitors offering guided tours and bread making sessions. Great to visit in its own right you can check opening times by visiting their website.
There is free parking at Sturminster Mill. To get to the mill take the road south out of Sturminster Newton and go across the ancient bridge that crosses the Stour. The bridge is just outside the Town so not too difficult to find! At the bridge make a right turn into the Mill access road and make your way to the designated parking areas.
At this location find (easy) then take the steep steps down to the Mill that cross over the weir and the River Stour via the walk ways. Make sure your pooch is safe and comfortable before taking this challenge on.
This crossing will take you into a large field. Walk up with the river on your left-hand side. The path then skirts the left edge of the playing field/recreation area as you head from the Mill and then drops left down a steepish path into woodland at the top corner. Just follow the main path. There is a board walk to cross that avoids some of the winter mud and water, and then you go out into fields, through another copse with a tiny stream, more fields and a lane and on, ultimately to Hinton St. Mary where you can stop at The White Horse pub. This would probably take about 50/55 minutes one way. This walk is actually along the Stour Valley way. It meanders alongside the beautiful Stour river and offers lovely peaceful walking and extensive views over the fields towards Bagber and beyond
Alternatively, you can do a shorter circuit. Once you have crossed the big field after the boardwalk, stay in the field and turn left before entering the copse. You can then double back on yourself, walking back down by the river. I would estimate this would take about 35/40 minutes.
To get to the walk’s start take the road south out of Sturminster Newton and go across the ancient bridge that crosses the Stour. The bridge is just outside the Town so not too difficult to find! At the bridge make a left turn and then go immediately right before the pub up Common Lane. Up Common Lane bearing first left into Copse Hill. Look out for a free parking area on the left-hand side. In Spring Piddles Wood becomes and enchanting carpet of bluebells. The ancient deciduous wood is criss-crossed by paths and always has a lovely atmosphere as sunlight shoots through the beech and Oak. This is particularly beautiful in the spring. Because there are various paths to explore, so this walk can be as long or as short as you wish. Beware of winter walking. Like much of the Stour Valley it can be very wet especially after heavy rain. Wear wellies and expect to wash Buster after a long trek.