A Roman Road and Ancient Droves from Martin Down

This 19.8 mile /31.8 km circular walk from Martin Down follows tracks and the Ackling Ditch Roman Road, visiting attractive Dorset villages on the eastern edge of Cranborne Chase.  Sections of the walk follow quiet country lanes, but they are not completely devoid of traffic so care needs to be taken.
Walk Grade:

19.8 miles / 31.8 km

7.5 / 8.5 hours

The walk starts from a car park on Martin Down Nature Reserve besides the A354 (SP5 5HR) (Grid Ref: SU036200). There are no parking fees.

Walk Route:
From the southern end of the car park pass a metal barrier beside information boards. Initially the path heads through shrub, before opening out onto the vast expanse of the nature reserve, there are over 850 acres of protected land here providing a haven for flora and fauna.  

Follow the track towards the dominant rifle range butt for 400 metres. Before reaching the butt take a path on the right (Grid Ref: SU039197) to head across the Bokerley Dyke. At the dyke pass through to reach the fence-line of a field (Grid Ref: SU038196). Enter the field and take a footpath on the right that continues along the edge of the field with the fence to the right.  The path follows the edge of the field and soon turns south with a hedge line to the right.  At a junction of paths (Grid Ref: SU039192) continue straight on to reach a gate besides a crossing of paths (Grid Ref: SU039189).  

Here continue along a tree lined path still heading south towards Pentridge.  As the path reaches farm buildings it becomes a tarmac lane, stay with this into the village. The route continues south through the village and passes Manor Farm and joins a farm track.  At a junction of paths (Grid Ref: SU032171) turn right and follow a track heading uphill along the edge of a field. The path crosses the next field, at a fork in the path (Grid Ref: SU024173) keep left to head towards the edge of Salisbury Plantation.

Stay besides the plantation to reach the edge of the woods and the course of the old Roman Road, the Ackling Dyke (Grid Ref:SU020174). Turn left and follow the route of this Roman Road for 1.2km to the B3081 (Grid Ref: SU015162).  Cross the road and go through a gate to follow a path running besides the overgrown Ackling Dyke.  Continue to follow the route of the Roman Road for 2km, crossing a farm track and then entering trees on the edge of the Drive Planation to reach a minor road (Grid Ref: SU007144).

After crossing the road ascend through the edge of woodland continuing along the Ackling Dyke for a further 1km to reach a crossing of paths at Harley Gap (Grid Ref: SU002135).  Turn right besides a memorial stone to a John Ironmonger (1919-1986).  Follow this path for 700 metres to a junction of paths (Grid Ref: ST995135).

Turn left onto a drove going along the top of Gussage Hill, this soon starts to descend and then turns left and then right before reaching Lower Farm on the edge of Gussage St Michael (Grid Ref: ST987115).  Here the track becomes a tarmac road leading into the village and passing A G Edwards & Sons Hardware store.  Continue to a junction opposite St Michael’s Church (Grid Ref: ST985114). 

Turn left and walk out of the village on a country lane for 1.5km to reach Gussage All Saints.  At a road junction turn left, then cross a stream to the War Memorial (Grid Ref: ST998107).  Turn right and head east through the village passing the Village Hall and the Drovers Inn.  Continue on the lane to a crossroads at Amen Corner (Grid Ref: SU004103). Go straight over towards Bowerswaine.

After 400 metres just before a bridge take a footpath on the left, Brockington Lane, (Grid Ref: SU007100). This path leads northeasterly for 1.3km to Brockington Farm (Grid Ref: SU018106). At a minor road in front of Brockington Farm farmyard turn left. After 145 metres, as the road bends to the left, take a path following a track towards Farringdon Copse.  After passing through a small copse the path continues across a field and then reaches a stile besides a minor road (Grid Ref: SU026117).

Turn right and follow this road into Wimborne St Giles.  Cross the River Allen and continue into the centre of the village.  This is an attractive spot with St Giles church prominent besides a stunning row of almshouses.  From the church retrace your steps to pass the village school and then turn right beside a small island with the village sign (Grid Ref: SU030120).

Follow this minor road through the village, passing attractive cottages. At a road junction (Grid Ref: SU028124) turn right and walk past the Manor House heading north along a minor road following the Hardy Way.  After 500 metres at a track on the right leave the minor road to follow the Hardy Way footpath along Ringwood Lane.  Keep with the trail way markers as the route turns left to head north and then right (Grid Ref: SU037130) besides a field heading towards the B3081. 

The path runs on the field side of the hedge rather than the road side. Nearing Creech Hill House the path goes through a gap in the hedge to cross the road (Grid Ref: SU040131).  Continue heading east along the minor road towards Cranborne.  As the road bends to the right stay with the Hardy Way and take a path on the left (Grid Ref SU045132). 

The route heads across fields to reach a common.  Cross a stream and continue beside it to reach the village, there are pubs and a shop here.  The route heads out of Cranborne along Salisbury Street.  At a fork in the road keep left taking a tarmac lane signposted “Bridleway to Pentridge” (Grid Ref: SU053136).  

This lane heads steadily uphill, passing houses to reach a gate across the track.  Continue along the bridleway for 3km ignoring paths to the left and right heading towards Pentridge Hill. At a gate besides a junction of paths (Grid Ref: SU037164) go through and keep to the path up to the summit of Pentridge Hill with a fence to the right.  Go through another gate and continue to the trees on Penbury Knoll topping Pentridge Hill.  

At Penbury Knoll ignore a footpath on the left and continue along with a fence to the right to reach a fork in the track (Grid Ref: SU044175). Leave the Hardy Way and follow the left hand  grassy path heading steadily downhill towards Whitey Top Farm.  After crossing a stile (Grid Ref: SU042180) join a footpath heading north on the Jubilee Trail along the edge of an arable field.  Pass through a gate to continue along the edge of a copse to reach Martin Down at Bokerley Ditch (Grid Ref: SU050187).

On the downs turn left and walk on the track besides the Bokerley Ditch for 1.4km to reach the rifle range butt.  Here turn right walking beside the butt to reach a track, turn left and follow the track back to the car park.

To follow this walk you will need Ordnance Survey Outdoor Explorer Map 118 Shaftesbury & Cranborne Chase.

There are no public toilets on this route.
Toilets are available in the pubs on this route during opening hours.

Gussage All Saints: The Drovers Inn
Wimborne St Giles: The Bull Inn, Village Shop and Post Office
Cranborne: The Fleur de Lys Inn, The Sheaf of Arrows, Cranborne Stores.

Additional Information:
A narrative of this walk with pictures, historical information and points of interest can be viewed on my associated Two Dogs and an Awning website.

© Walking Moonraker (2020)

All information on this site is provided free of charge and in good faith and no liability is accepted in respect of damage, loss or injury which might result from it.  Walking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk.  It is your responsibility to check your route and navigate using a map and compass.

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