Milton Abbas to Winterborne Clenston


Milton Abbas


6.5 miles (10.4kms)

755ft (230m)

About the walk

Rarely do you find a village as symmetrical as Milton Abbas. It is the natural order of villages to grow over generations, to sprawl a little, develop secret corners and reflect different ages and tastes in their buildings. But in Milton Abbas you will find regular, whitewashed houses, identical in design, placed neatly on either side of a narrow valley. They face each other across the open street, thatched cowl facing thatched cowl. On closer inspection, you see that rebels have managed to sneak on a porch here, a coat of cream-coloured paint there, but nothing to seriously spoil the effect. No concessions were made to the two houses that were once the bakery and the forge, although the tailor’s house had bow windows for extra light.

The explanation for this curiosity lies with the great house round the corner, the dream of Joseph and Caroline Damer, who bought Milton Abbey in 1752. It was on a fabulous site, first picked out by King Athelstan in ad 935, but the house left much to be desired. In 1771 the Damers decided to build something altogether grander, and more in keeping with their rising social status, to include a landscaped park by the most fashionable gardener of his day, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. One thing was getting in their way, however: the untidy township that had grown up around the abbey was spoiling the view. It would have to go. Consequently a neat, new hamlet was built out of sight in a narrow valley, with a new church of pinkish stone. The houses look generous, but in fact each little block was two independent family dwellings, separated by a shared central hall. There were not enough new houses to go round, and overcrowding was a problem. The steep terraced gardens that were eventually dug out are one of the most attractive features of Milton Abbas today. The Damers are buried in splendour in the abbey church. Meanwhile, nearby Winterborne Clenston is altogether more organic. It has a Tudor manor house and a medieval tithe barn covered by a steep, chequerboard roof of alternating red and black squares. The Gothic-style Church of St Nicholas dates from 1840.

Walk directions

From the church take the road up the hill. Just after the Old Village Hall picnic area, take the second left turn (not the five-barred gate) through woodland. At the top keep right, into a residential road, and right again, to meet the road into the village by Hill Lodge.

Cross over and go down the private road, signposted as a bridleway. Follow this down and bend left, then right. Before a green metal gateway turn left up the steep path, signed as a bridleway and ‘Jubilee Trail’. Descend to a track. Turn left and in a few paces, go up to the right. Bear right (signed ‘bridleway’) at the top, onto a track. Follow this track, ignoring forks to left and right, for about 1 mile (1.6km) to a crossroads in a dip. At the crossroads keep straight ahead. At a fork of waymarked bridleways bear right.

Emerge at a field to follow the path down, with Higher Clenston Cottages coming gradually into view. At the bottom turn right on a road through Winterborne Clenston, with its manor house, thatched barn, tiled tithe barn and Gothic Revival church. Turn left to visit the church. Retrace your steps to the thatched barn and turn left up the unsigned steep bridleway. This becomes an unmade track, passing below Clenston Lodge.

Bear left off the track near the top to pass beside a metal barrier, and follow the overgrown path, which bends to the right. Ignore minor forks and walk 0.5 miles (800m) through the woods, over two crossings of paths, the first of which appears to be a fork at first sight – go ahead here (the left option). After some time, the path narrows and bends right, to a field by a gate. Turn right to skirt the field inside the forest fence. At the bottom, turn left along a track.

At a junction turn right. After 0.5 miles (800m) and just as the track is about to curve up to the right look for a path on the left, and follow this to the field corner. Turn left up a steep path. Continue up the edge of the field, to swing right at the end to follow the hedge to the road.

Cross over and walk straight up the lane, passing Luccombe business units. Pass a pair of cottages and turn right through a gateway, up a track signed ‘Jubilee Trail’. Where it almost meets the road at a fingerpost in trees to your right, bear diagonally left to go through a gate in the fence. Drop down to a second gate, and a clear path, signed ‘Jubilee Trail’, descends to emerge on the village street. Turn left to return to the start of the walk.

Additional information

Village high street, easy forest roads, muddy bridleways, minor road, farm tracks

Villages, mixed forest, rolling farmland with hidden valleys

Mostly good but some road walking

OS Explorer 117 Cerne Abbas & Bere Regis

Roadside parking on The Street, Milton Abbas

None on route

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About the area

Discover Dorset

Dorset means rugged varied coastlines and high chalk downlands. Squeezed in among the cliffs and set amid some of Britain’s most beautiful scenery is a chain of picturesque villages and seaside towns. Along the coast you’ll find the Lulworth Ranges, which run from Kimmeridge Bay in the east to Lulworth Cove in the west. Together with a stretch of East Devon, this is Britain’s Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, noted for its layers of shale and numerous fossils embedded in the rock. Among the best-known natural landmarks on this stretch of the Dorset coast is Durdle Door, a rocky arch that has been shaped and sculpted to perfection by the elements. The whole area has the unmistakable stamp of prehistory.

Away from Dorset’s magical coastline lies a landscape with a very different character and atmosphere, but one that is no less appealing. Here, winding, hedge-lined country lanes lead beneath lush, green hilltops to snug, sleepy villages hidden from view and the wider world. The people of Dorset are justifiably proud of the achievements of Thomas Hardy, its most famous son, and much of the county is immortalised in his writing. 

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