"The Woodpecker Walks"
A Series of Short Walks around Spetisbury
We are very fortunate in Spetisbury to be surrounded by some stunning countryside, and what better way to enjoy it than on foot. There is a wide range of routes available, to suit all ages and fitness levels. For those who may wish to design their own walks, numerous public rights of way crisscross the village, and all are marked on OS Maps "Explorer 118" and "Pathfinder 1300". For those who would rather follow planned walks, there are a couple of options:
The North Dorset Trailway
The Spetisbury to Blandford St Mary section of the "The North Dorset Trailway" runs for 2.5 miles along a flat, surfaced, 2-metre wide track suitable for push chairs, horses, bicycles and walkers. The Spetisbury section starts at the East end of the village on Louse Lane, and passes alongside the Iron Age hill fort at Spetisbury Rings (well worth a detour) and the remains of Spetisbury Halt railway station, currently being restored by a group of enthusiastic volunteers - see following link for details http://www.spetisburystationproject.wordpress.com
This section ends just short of the "Tesco" roundabout on the outskirts of Blandford Forum.
A leaflet is available to download via the following link showing all five sections of the Trailway currently open to the public, and stretching from Spetisbury to Sturminster Newton: https://www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/article/409629/North-Dorset-Trailway
The Woodpecker Walks
The Trailway also provides a useful focal point for a number of short walks around the village; these are described below, but can also be seen on the board "Spetisbury 2000" positioned at the top of the steps leading to the old railway station. All walks (of which there are five) begin and end at the village pub - THE WOODPECKER - a village focal point and welcoming place to rest and appreciate some appetising food and drink after enjoying the sights of Spetisbury and the surrounding countryside. Walkers are invited to park in the pub car park, and can always be sure of a warm welcome from the landlord - Simon. The Woodpecker Walks are approximately 3.5 miles long and suitable for all the family (although not for push chairs, and stout, waterproof boots are recommended - especially after a spell of rain!). The walks are a combination of footpaths, bridleways and minor roads, and can be used by walkers along the whole walk and by horse riders and cyclists along those parts of the walk where marked. All the walks are signed; footpaths have yellow markers or may just say "footpath", while bridleways have blue markers, or a sign with the silhouette of a horse and rider. Please follow the paths and observe the Country Code: leave no trace of your visit and take any litter home; leave gates and property as you find them; keep dogs under effective control; and always consider other people enjoying the outdoors with you. The markers are maintained (voluntarily) by Mr Simon Lauder (01258857343), who should be contacted with any comments / concerns over their positioning or visibility.
WALK 1 - Tarrant Abbey Circuit
Leaving The Woodpecker car park, cross over the main A350 road, turn right and follow the pavement past the Church and Village School. Cross back over the A350 opposite the school, and then turn right down the lane to Clapcott's Farm. Follow the footpath signs over a long, raised metal footbridge (which passes over the Mill House garden) and through a small iron gate into the open water meadow.
Go straight across the meadow (easterly), over two wide bridleway bridges to Keynston Mill House, which lies just over the second bridge and alongside the river Stour. After passing through a wooden five-bar gate in 25 yards, turn right, and keeping on the worn path between two fences follow the boundary until reaching an iron gate. Cross the minor road and follow the tarmac track, with Tarrant Abbey House on your right, until reaching St Mary The Virgin Church, Tarrant Crawford. This simple and evocative Church dates back to the 12th century, and is all that remains of a wealthy Cistercian nunnery - the 13th century Tarrant Abbey - to which it may have been a lay chapel.
With the church in front of you, turn right and then almost immediately left, through an iron gate. Follow the signed bridleway up the incline with the Abbey House on your right. Follow the path through the field at the top of the incline until you reach the minor road crossed earlier, again at an iron gate.
Cross the road into the field opposite, follow the bridleway through three gates, bearing left parallel to the river, to a further iron gate joining the minor road. Turning right, follow the road and cross over the beautiful Crawford Bridge (the bridge has a reset stone on the East side inscribed 1719, and was scheduled as a listed monument in 1955). Go straight over the A350, up Louse Lane, and join the start of the Trailway on your right. Follow the Trailway past Spetisbury Halt station until you come to a bridge over the path. Take the steps on the right just before the bridge; go over the stile on your right, through the small field with a metal stile on the far side and re-join the A350 with The Woodpecker across the road on your right.
Approximate Distance: 3.5 miles
WALK 2 - North Farm Circuit
Leaving The Woodpecker car park, cross over the main A350 road; turn right and almost immediately left at signed footpath over an iron stile and through the field to the wooden stile opposite. Over the stile, descend the steps on the left of the bridge, and turn right along the Trailway. After approximately 300 meters turn left at the sign "FP10", and proceed over the wooden stile and then diagonally across the field (half right) to an iron gate at West End Lane opposite the west end of the commercial watercress beds.
Turn left along the tarmacked lane for one mile until reaching North Farm on your left. Immediately before the farm buildings turn left through double gates within the cattle stalls and then up a steep hill to the tall beech tree on the ridge due south of North Farm.
Stop and admire the view (in every direction!); then turn left at the tree and proceed along a chalky (and often rather muddy) path, passing Charlton Hill coppice on your left until reaching the southern corner of Home Planation wood (slightly to your right and at the end of an open field). Proceed straight on, keeping Home Planation wood on your left until you reach the familiar bridge over the Trailway where your walk started. Cross over the bridge and through the meadow and metal stile until you see The Woodpecker Inn on your right as you emerge onto the A350 road.
Approximate Distance: 3.5 miles
Walk 3 - Charlton Marshall Circuit
Leaving The Woodpecker car park, cross over the main A350 road; turn right and almost immediately left at signed footpath over an iron stile and through the field to the wooden stile opposite. Cross the wooden stile and go over the old railway bridge and up the slope in a SW direction with Home Plantation wood on your right.
At the brow of the hill stop to admire the view: left to the old earthworks of Spetisbury Rings with its trig-point visible; and behind you to the East, the Stour valley with Bradbury Rings a prominent hump on the horizon about four miles away to your right.
Continue with the wood still on your right. At the end of the wood a copse border of high hedges remains on your right for 200 meters. At the end of the copse you have a wonderful view of the distant Purbeck Hills to the South. Turn 90 degrees to your right and follow down the field with a fence to your left. A wide vista opens up to the West and North as the path descends to an iron gate at the bottom of the field, opposite the west end of the commercial watercress beds. Turn left along the tarmacked lane for about 150 meters to the footpath sign on your right. Cross the stile and walk diagonally left aiming for a stile in a gap in the hedge. Cross two stiles, then immediately turn sharp right along the edge of the field and over a further stile. Bear right through the field to a stile in the hedge with telephone wires above. Now aim for a stile NE and on the opposite side of the next field; proceed diagonally on the worn track across the field towards the left of the farm buildings ahead. Cross the stile at this point and proceed down the lane to your left and under an old railway bridge reaching Hopegood Close in the village of Charlton Marshall. Turn right at Hopegood Close, past the playground and back onto the Trailway. Turn left and follow the Trailway for one mile past Spetisbury School and St John The Baptist Church until you reach the "FP10" sign. Go through the wooden gate on your left, then diagonally across the field to the familiar metal stile from the beginning of the walk. You will see The Woodpecker Inn on your right as you emerge onto the A350 road.
Approximate Distance: 4 miles
Walk 4 - Middle Dairy Circuit
Leaving The Woodpecker car park, cross over the main A350 road; turn right and almost immediately left at signed footpath over an iron stile and through the meadow to the wooden stile opposite. Over the stile, descend the steps on the left of the bridge, and turn left (South) along the Trailway. At the next Bridge in 300 meters proceed down the steep ramp on your right to the lane below. Turn right, and at 100 meters turn left at the large metal gate signed to Spetisbury Rings and the ancient earthworks. Follow the path up the field to the gap in the earthworks, and at this point it is worth deviating slightly from the planned route by continuing on up to the trig point located at the top of the Rings, and spending some time enjoying the wonderful views in every direction (including the Stour Valley, Bradbury Rings and the Purbeck Hills).
Returning to the approach path at the top of the field, turn half right (facing the Rings) and make for the signpost in a hedge to your right. With the hedge on your right, follow the worn path diagonally across two fields, crossing two stiles and leading to the buildings of Middle Farm Dairy where the signed path lies over a stile adjacent to the sludge pond and leading onto the metalled lane. Note: This last stretch of path is sometimes overgrown and boggy, and a more preferable route is to pass it on your left and continue between the farm buildings until reaching the lane.
Once on the lane turn sharp left and continue (up a fairly steep hill - and then down again) until you come to a minor road (Louse Lane). Keep left down this road for about 100 meters and re-join the Trailway on your left. Take the Trailway for approximately 0.5 miles until you reach the second railway bridge, and the steps you used to first join the Trailway at the beginning of this walk. Retrace your steps through the meadow, and you will see The Woodpecker Inn on your right as you emerge onto the A350 road.
Approximate Distance: 3 miles
Walk 5 - Glebe Farm and Gorcombe Circuit
Leaving The Woodpecker as in Walk 5, but on reaching the Trailway turn right (North) and after approximately 300 meters turn left at the sign “FP10”. Proceed over the wooden stile and then diagonally across the field (half right) to a metal gate at West End Lane opposite the West end of the commercial watercress beds. Turn left on the metalled lane and after approximately 40 meters turn right at the footpath signpost. Cross the field diagonally half-left, towards a gap in the thick hedge, at which point cross two stiles into a second field and continue diagonally towards a gate at the southwest edge of this field.
Turn right onto the farm lane and continue straight on (keeping the farm cottages and buildings to your right) until you come to two fields. Take the right hand field, and follow the left hand edge to an aged iron kissing gate at the bottom of the field and dividing the hedge. The path continues across to the next farm track where you turn left. (Look out for lots of mud on the track, especially after any rain). Continue between the farm buildings and slightly uphill staying on the obvious track until it flattens out by a gate at the top of the incline. Go straight ahead on the marked track, taking care to ignore an unmarked but well worn farm track leading off to the left. Continue on the path until you reach Gorcombe farm. Continue past the farm, taking the tarmac road until it bends sharply right, at which point turn immediately and follow the path, which drops into a shallow valley after about 400 meters before climbing to join the lane (after a further 600 meters) that leads down to North Farm. Turn left and follow the lane until you reach the metal gate referred to earlier opposite the watercress beds. From here retrace your steps to the Woodpecker.