- Distance – 14 miles
- Duration – 2 hours.
- Exertion – Medium
- Terrain – Road.
- Map – OS Explorer 129 Yeovil and Sherborne
- Start – The Trooper in Stourton Caundle (Postcode: DT10 2JP, Grid reference: ST714149, what Three Words: disarmed.stun.chuck)
- Refreshments – The Trooper
Starting in the village of Stourton Caundle, outside the Trooper Inn, turn left to head out towards Bishops Caundle. Following the country road out of the village, keep right to then climb up the valley. When the road forks, turn left and when it forks for the second time, turn left again to meet the A3030. Cross over the main road onto another country road and follow it around the farms and houses. Eventually you meet a cross roads, Bishops Caundle sitting on the hill to your left, the white houses, a clear landmark, that can be for some distance, surveying over the valley below.
Gather some speed as you go down the hill, be be aware of the junction at the bottom, squeezed between two white cottages. Turn left to cross over the small single track bridge (Cornford Bridge). A steep climb follows, passing the oldest post box in the country on your right. At the next junction turn right.
Head back down to another stream. Here, in the middle of the in the River Stour’s catchment zone, in the heart of the Blackmore Vale, the area is full of a number of small tributaries that serve both the Caundle Brook and The River Lydden. The Caundle Brook joins the Lydden that then reaches the Stour at Kings Mill, near Marnhull. The route, therefore, crosses a number of medieval bridges that are still very much relied upon today.
You then arrive at the first of many manor houses on this route – Buckshaw House. It’s an eighteenth century manor in quite a modest design. A small topiary dog and chicken welcome you on the opposite side of the road, both of whom could do with a little trim, but are often keeping up with cultural affairs (for example, wearing masks!). The house is also the location of the annual Holwell village Fair.
Stay on the same road, curving around the front on Buckshaw House and down the hill. After passing through a farm, the next right hand road takes you to another Manor House. Hollwell Manor is slightly older than Buckshaw House, having been originally built in the sixteenth century and it is slightly more elegant in design too. It’s entrance is on the Holwell road, slightly off the main route, and bordered by an avenue of trees.
Back to the route, continue down the country road, passing Gog and Magog, two ancient oak trees. Unfortunately Gog has died but still stands providing life to many! They are surrounded by a number of other old oak trees so to clearly identify who is Magog, can be a bit of a challenge.
Turn right towards Boys hill, passing Round Chimeys Farm. It is currently a self catering holiday let and working farm but, in 1620 it was the birthplace of one of the most famous families in British History, the first Sir Winston Churchill.
The ride is relatively easy at this stage. It’s down in the valley, crossing the Caundle Brook, again, and a few of its tributaries, an area nortorius for flooding too. Turn right at the next junction and to the right is Ryewater Nursery. This is not open to the public, it is a private estate owned by Clive Farrell. He is an avid breeder of butterflies and, in turn, has a passion for wildlife. He allowed his creative juices to flow at his large 100 acre estate with a second agenda of attracting the wildlife. Unfortunately you can not make out much from the roadside but on google earth, it looks a little like an natural adventure land. A large R is grown into the land, a pond in the shape of an S, an eye, and, what could be, a henge, amongst many other peculiarities!
The road follows northwards and is gentle, passing over Hunter’s Bridge, there are no difficult climbs and the route remains low in the valley. The road is the old medieval main road between Sherborne and Dorchester. It cut through Broke wood which provides a cooling shelter on a hot day.
Broke wood has its own mystery. The church in nearby Holnest was originally planned to be in the vicinity of these woods. However, when the locals began to build, their building materials would vanish the next day, only to be discovered elsewhere. This continued for some time, the stones for construction always being discovered in the same place. Eventually, the locals decided to build the church where the materials were constantly found. Holnest church now sits in this location, isolated and away from much settlement (apart from some earthwork remains). Broke Wood was left alone, with no risk of development. The activity was all blamed on fairies. As extreme as this sounds, the story is not unique , similar events have also occurred at East Chelbourough
Pass over Wizard bridge, crossing the Caundle Trib (or Caundle Marsh) and you reach a small track on your left guiding you to West Hall. West Hall is an old medieval building whose front door is an old oak door which still bears the scars of a axe used to break in during the civil war in the 1600’s! It is also home to a number preist holes, built into its walls, and a maze of secret underground tunnels!
Stay on the same road and follow it around to the right to reach Folke. Folke manor house is just off the route, down a dead end road on your left. It is a beautiful sixteenth century house sat opposite the church, looking down on the valley you have just cycled through.
Back on the route, continue through the village, passing Folke golf course on your left. When you reach the A3030, for the second time, cross straight over, passing though the village of Alweston. Ignore all other smaller roads until you come to a crossroads and continue straight ahead, keeping the house on your left. Make your way along the valley road, again ignoring any diversions, until you go around a sharp right hand corner and faced with a road travelling straight up hill, through a tree tunnel. Ride on up the hill, passing a house and barn on your right. Keep an eye out for deer too, as its a popular spot and not far from Sherborne Estate either. This is the biggest climb of the route, but once at the top, its down hill all the way back to Stourton Caundle. The actual road of this climb is one of Dorset’s Holloways, where thousands of years of feet, hoofs and wheels have carved the road, into the ground, creating a deep path, surrounded by roots and trees. Other excellent examples of these routes include Symondsbury and nearby Nether Compton.
Back on the route, continue through the village, passing Folke golf course on your left. When you reach the A3030, for the second time, cross straight over, passing though the village of Alweston. Ignore all other smaller roads until you come to a crossroads and continue straight ahead, keeping the house on your left. At the next junction, turn right to cruise down the hill back to the village. At the crossroads, take the right hand turn again, to reach the Pub.