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This Week's Walks - Archive

Please see the Saturday Walker's Club This Week's Walks page.

This is an archive of walks done by the Saturday Walker's Club. You should only need to use this page if the SWC website is down.

Blog Archive

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Saturday Walk - Pre-Historic Dorset: Dorchester Circular or to Portesham [New Walk! Walk-Check!]

Dorchester (South) Circular
Length: 24.1 km (15.0 mi) [longer and shorter walks possible, see pdf]
Ascent/Descent: 565m; Net Walking Time: 5 ¾ hours
Toughness:  7/10                       
Dorchester (South) to Portesham (then bus to Weymouth)
Length: 25.5 km (15.9 mi) [shorter walk possible, see pdf]
Ascent/Descent: 823/827m; Net Walking Time: 6 ½ hours
Toughness:  10/10

Take the 08.35 Weymouth train from Waterloo (09.01 Woking), arrives Dorchester South 11.04. From Clapham J take the 08.27 Exeter train to Woking and change there.
Return trains from Dorchester are on xx.13 and xx.33 to 19.33, then 20.22 and 21.22, journey time from 156 mins. The trains depart from Weymouth 10-13 earlier. 
The bus from Portesham to Weymouth runs 16.27, 18.23 and 20.39 (!Note that with this last bus your only train back to London is the 21.10, arriving Waterloo at 01.04! You have been warned).
Buy SWT Promo-Day singles to Weymouth and back (they are the same price as Dorchester ones) for £14 each (i.e. pay £28 in total). Book no later than the night before!

Strenous but 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.

Lunch: The Brewer’s Arms in Martinstown  (8.7 km/5.4 mi, food to 14.15).  
Tea:  plenty of options in Dorchester, a pub and a cafĂ© in Portesham (while waiting for the bus) and lots in Weymouth. See the pdf for details.

For summary, map, height profile, photos, walk directions and gpx/kml files click here.T=swc.275


DAC said...

Intend going.

Anonymous said...

It appears that the cheap excursion tickets are only available this year if you book them on line. This was the information I received at my own station.
may be attending anyway as I love Dorset.jfk

Karen said...

n=6 w=bit_grey_to_start_but_mostly_sunny

6 off the train at Dorchester South including one first-timer. Within 5 minutes we had our first encounter with prehistoric Dorset when we walked through the Maumbury Ring, a Neolithic henge that was later used as a Roman amphitheatre. Leaving town, we could see in the distance more recent architectural innovation in the form of Poundbury, a modern development backed by Prince Charles. Looming ahead was Maiden Castle, Europe's largest Iron Age Hill fort. We walked around the ramparts and dipped into the centre every now and again to read the info panels that explain the various features. We enjoyed the fine views across the county and the adorable offspring of the sheep that graze the hilltop. Everyone declared the site magnificent.

Lunch came quite soon after and four of us had a good lunch in The Brewers Arms in Martinstown. Friendly service, good portions, freshly prepared food. Well-fortified, we began our ascent to Hardy's Monument. Again, more fine views to be had here. The group split at this point, with one walker doing the main walk option - Dorchester South Circular - for walk check purposes, and 5 opting to check the Portesham ending. We had a fantastic afternoon walking through more lovely countryside, with rolling hills, farmhouses nestled in little valleys, some ascents and descents, and lots of sarsen stones and stone circles. In the lovely hamlet of Bridehead, we encountered a local man who asked us if we were visiting as a result of the 'Broadchurch effect'. A pivitol scene in the latest series of the ITV drama was filmed by the waterfall and has been attracting fans.

Despite the forecast, the weather was good all day and the mood in the afternoon was high when we finally accepted that we would get away with not deploying our raincoats. The mood was raised even higher when the walk leader's football team scored a last-minute goal to win a pivitol game. Amazing multitasking here - walk checking as well as following football scores on his smartphone. The descent into Portesham at the end was lovely and we had time for a quick drink in the garden of The Kings Arms. Bus back to Weymouth in time for the 19:03 train to London, arriving in Waterloo at about 21:50. Everyone agreed the walk was worth the journey. Another good day out.