On a pleasant mid-October morning, 20 walkers and 4 dogs gathered on the village green before driving through some autumnal mist to the little village of Dewlish, there to embark on a walk which, surprisingly in the light of so much of Dorset's footpaths having been trodden by the Mileaters in the past, was unfamiliar to most, if not all. As the sun rose and we headed up onto downland, the mist lifted and the countryside spread out before us in all directions.
We mastered our three stiles early on in the walk, the last of those being a somewhat troublesome double one, which presented a bit of a challenge to those slightly less agile, but thereafter only gates to pass through and fairly gentle inclines to ascend. A coffee stop a little before the delightfully named Gallows Corner at the halfway point and a short pause later to take advantage of the blackberries clearly demanding to be picked and eaten provided a couple of breaks.
Three Martinstonian dogs and their nineteen mile-eating companions enjoyed three days of sunshine and clear September skies at the Northfield Hotel located in the quiet and charming outskirts of Minehead, on the edge of Exmoor. We enjoyed the beautiful garden and terrace and the braver of us made good use of the indoor pool and the temperamental jacuzzi.But of course we were there primarily for the walking.
Our thanks must go to whoever we believe organised the weather and all the more to Nick whom we know devised and led the walks. This year he had to do that without face to face knowledge of the area relying on his skill and perseverance. Nick created walks that were varied, taking in woods, dramatic cliff views, open countryside. They included Dunster, Selworthy Beacon and Selworthy village, and the remnants of Burgundy chapel just (deeply) off the coastal path.As we have come to expect, he built in flexibility to cater for different needs and capacities; and as always he led with quiet authority and good humour.
An unusual addition to a Mileaters’ holiday, afternoon hotel tea, was appreciated. Even those initially sceptical were seen tucking into the scones and cake. And it afforded the opportunity to celebrate Louisa’s birthday. She seems to be making a habit of having her birthday in September, the traditional month for these annual excursions.
Keeping it Local
22 MIleaters met for their September walk in Dorchester for unusually, a partly town-based walk. It was an easy, mostly flat route over 5.75 miles taking us to Stinsford and back via the Roman Town House, Borough Gardens and West Walks.
The change of emphasis planned by Rosie and Gerald Duke was intended to give newer friends a glimpse of the town right on their doorstep. We started at Maumbury Rings, the site of one of the 3 prehistoric henges in Dorchester dating from 2500 BC.
Next we came via South Walks to a Martinstown link to the Dorset Martyrs statues by Dame Elizabeth Frink. Much more of her work is to be found in the Museum. One of the martyrs was Martinstown priest John Adams and a full write up of the history of his story can be found in Valley and Valance of 16th April 2017 by Terry Hearing. Find out more at https://tinyurl.com/ycumtkhb. John Adams was beatified in 1987 by Pope John Paul 2nd.
We carried on through Salisbury Fields and down to the River Frome turning to the water meadows at Longbridge in Lubbeck Way and on through the grounds of the agricultural college at Kingston Mauward. Stopping at Stinsford Church for a coffee break, the grave of Thomas Hardy was found that reputedly contains his heart. The question of the day left walkers musing whether it really was his heart as local folklore suggests his cat took it from the kitchen table as it was being prepared for the casket.
We then returned to Dorchester via Greys Bridge and the river walk from the White Hart round to Hangman’s Cottage. Instead of our usual country pub for lunch, we watered ourselves in the snug of Vivo Lounge. An eye opener for many who nevertheless seemed to enjoy the change.
Martinstown Mileaters Cattistock Walk
On the hottest day of August, so far, 26 Mileaters ventured out to walk in the environs of Cattistock. The number equalled the record but the accompanying 8 dogs was a new record. I am sure the number of participants was swelled by the recommendaton for the Fox and Hounds pub by Nick Priddle.
I had only been to Cattistock once before and that was to visit the famous “Dorset Knob Throwing Festival” sadly, this has moved to a more easily accessible site since then. Until that visit I didn’t know there were so many things one could do with a Dorset Knob. Having tried to eat one I think the best thing to do with them is throw them!
A gentle contour upwards from Cattistock led to the Wessex Ridgeway, a panoramic view was enjoyed by all. I had kept the next bit as a surprise. Who knew that grown men would come here to fly their model aeroplanes? Whilst we sort the appropriate permisions to cross the runway ( a bit like Gibraltar) we were entertained to an aerial display by one of the owners. Fearing an attack by our dogs on one of the planes we quickly moved on into the wheat field next door. ( I suppose it would have been a dogfight?)
Further on along the Ridgeway a convenient place was found for a Coffee stop. Imagine the disappointment felt by some when a 4x4 appeared on the horizon looking every bit like an ice cream van only to turn out to be the local gamekeeper checking the area. (Curses foiled again!)
One of the challenges to leaders these days is to find a few feet of footpath that has not been walked by our esteemed leader Nick. I think this walk managed to achieve the objective for about 20 metres but I don’t think he had seen the aeroplanes before, so job done.
The return leg was via Maiden Newton. Here we were informed that the railway was only there because it was too expensive to drive a tunnel through to Cerne Abbas. We found the first of three churches which marked the turning point for home and lunch. Our path was now along the Macmillan Trail which follows the valley of the River Frome back past Chilfrome to Cattistock. The dogs had a mad five minutes splashing inthe water and then soaking everyone who happened to be in the wrong place come ‘shaking’ time. I was disappointed that none of the group was tempted to use the rope swings despite earlier intrigue, assurances and vague promises.
This part of the journey sees three churches within a mile of each other. Each one having distinctive features to its neighbour whether this be ‘No pews’, extreme gargoyles, William Morris windows, fresh water spring in the church yard, an exceedingly tall tower or the largest font pedestal I have seen being several metres tall and needing a few strong people to lift it by pulley.
We were very glad to reach the pub for lunch and ignored the locals who asked if we were a coach party. “No we are Mileater from Martinstown”. I was amazed how quickly the food was served the quality and quantity being superb. I think every one of the 26 would recommend a visit.
Tip: Take a designated driver as the Beer is very good also.
Martin and Lesley Usherwood
The Mileaters' Portesham Walk...
The Tenth Circle of Hell - 24th June
22 bold souls took up the challenge to pass through Hell, to face wild beasts, to enter areas of geographic uncertainty, to cross a raging torrent and then face the hills. They followed a combination of permissive paths on the Symondsbury Estate, vaguely marked and seldom used rights of way (at least some of them were rights of way) to transit Hell Lane, a cleft in the sandstone scored with carvings ancient and modern, before heading past the ponds above North Chideock. Here the Beasts of the Field showed great interest and the anxiety cuased may even made up for the advertised torrent being a dribble. But the hills did not disappoint with either the effort required to climb them or the views provided – 846 feet of ascent for those who climbed both Quarry and Colmers Hills (Note to self - look for a thousand next time). As the Ilchester Arms did not want our filthy lucre or Eastern diseases we opted for a picnic back at the car park, where cool boxes allowed chilled foods to be opened, strawberries with cream to be shared, and even the odd beer to be enjoyed in glorious sunshine.
However, the tenth circle was still to be endured. Careful analysis of the route by the Chairman confirmed that it was too short to count as Mileaters Walk, so I must ask everyone to expunge it from their memories.
The village walking group began some 25 years ago with the aim of walking the Dorset Coast Path, in sections, from the Devon border to Sandbanks. Subsequently the reverse route from Sandbanks to Devon has been undertaken.
We are a friendly group of local residents, ex-residents, and colleagues from the area, who meet on a fortnightly basis to enjoy the diversity of the wonderful Dorset countryside. We take it in turns to lead a walk with most members being allotted a fortnight's slot twice a year. The choice of distance, location, and day within that fortnight is at the discretion of the fortnightly leader, but walks (anywhere in Dorset) are usually between 4 and 8 miles.
Walk details are distributed by email. A picnic lunch is often carried in the Summer, but a pub lunch in the Winter is the norm - rehydration is de rigueur! Generally we meet on the Village Green at 10.00 a.m.