Sometimes the weather is just perfect and it’s time for a perfect Dorset walk.
Stoke Abbott is one of those tucked away villages, reached down narrow lanes and holloways, hidden in the folds of the hills. It is spoilt for choice when is comes to picture perfect thatched cottages.
This is a favourite walk; a circuit around Stoke Abbott. With holloways, hills, views, fields, and woodland. It takes about an hour. Walking through the countryside is sometimes hazardous – mud, livestock, overgrown stiles. But when it goes right there’s just nothing better for lifting the spirits and making it good to be alive.
Take the bridleway heading north, which is the drive up to Chart Knole, a dramatic holloway (more on these later). Towards the top you get a view of Gerard’s Hill – one of those cartoon bumpy little hills with trees on top that is clearly identifiable for miles around.
Turn right onto the footpath that leads to the top of the hill.
The path up isn’t steep and the reward is a spectacular view in every direction.
And a meadow full of wild flowers for good measure.
After pausing to take it all in, follow the path down the other side. Then take a right turn onto the farm track between the hedges.
This track leads down the hill and becomes the most dramatic holloway.
These sunken lanes are a distinct feature of west Dorset. Over thousands of years the soft bedrock has been worn down by people, animals and rain water, becoming hidden, deep, deep gulleys overhung by trees, with roots and ferns hanging from their sides. They feel like portals into a lost world.
Follow this down to the lane, turn left and then right towards Willow Farm. There’s a footpath to the right before you reach the farm. Follow this across the field, through a wilderness of himalayan balsam and down towards the river (more of a stream really).
Cross the lane and take the footpath back towards the village which winds through a small wood – full of spent wild garlic at the moment.
Cross the little bridge at the end of the wood you reach a meadow which runs below the south Stoke Abbott. A footpath leads back towards the road.
And you’re back where you started!