Distance: 5 miles/8km
Time: 2 hours
Total climb: 280 ft
Max height: 425 ft
Min height: 151 ft
Terrain: Track, path, road and field.
Exertion: Medium to Hard. Some mud after rain.
Start: The Anvil (Grid Ref: ST905093, Postcode DT11 8UQ).
Map: Explorer 118 Shaftesbury and Cranborne Chase
How to get there: From Salisbury travel west on the A354. On entering Pimperne village, the pub is on the right.
Dogs: On leads where livestock is present and in accordance with any notices on the walk and The Countryside Code. One small stile to cross.
On leaving the pub, turn right onto the small road leading into the village. When the road turns sharply left, continue straight on, up the hill. Pimperne gains it name from the old English meaning hill, direct translation being a place among the hills. The Anvil itself used to be the village forge. It slowly deteriorated over time and was then redeveloped into the pub we know today. Its own name linking to its history.
When you meet the next road, turn right to continue up the hill. On your left you pass Stud Farm which gained notoriety in the late 19th century thanks to a horse that was trained here, winning the Derby in the 1890’s. Follow the track all the way up the hill to the next hedge, not forgetting to admire the views to your right back down the valley and towards the military base of Blandford Camp. Once at the hedge, you have a choice. You can turn left here and continue on the walk, or a little diversion, straight ahead, to Pimperne long barrow is worth the extra steps. This is a Neolithic structure, older than Stone Henge. It is one of the best examples of a long barrow in the country and its size is quite surprising. Containing many treasures for those that were buried inside, it would have been capped in chalk, glowing in the landscape at night and day for miles around. Other evidence in the landscape, viewed from the air, suggests this was highly populated area during these times. The fact that it on the south western corner of the well populated ancient landscape of Cranborne Chase, supports this too.
Returning to the main route and back to the hedge, follow the boundary, keeping it on your right. You leave the views to the east of Pimperne and Blandford camp and, at the brow, you expose the views to the west, including the forested area of Ashmore Wood, leading the highest Dorset village of Ashmore.
Follow the track down, passing the path to Newfield Farm on your left, and back up the hill. Watch your step as it can be muddy. At the top of the next hill you meet Pimperne wood. Keep your eyes peeled for deer. At the end of the wood turn left and head down the hill. At the last field head to the far left corner to find a gap in the hedge leading you into woodland. On the track at the bottom of the hill, turn left again, and head along the valley to Keepers Lodge. Disappointingly, as you pass the lodge, it is not some woodland retreat you’d hope it would appear to be be, but a instead a modern bungalow. As you join its drive the terrain becomes firmer and you continue along the valley. Pass the turning for Newfield Farm on the left and continue straight ahead, the track now becoming a road. This section can become quite flooded during the winter months, the small stream to the right, fills the road turning it into a wide, but shallow river. On reaching the next junction, again, keep straight. This is where you the old road from Pimperne to Shaftesbury approaches from the right, now nothing more than a farm track. Stay on the same road until it brings you back into the village.
Pass the school and the village hall on your left and continue straight ahead towards St Peter’s church. This particular area is rife with history. King Henry VIII, gave Catherine Howard The Queens House, which was located in the village. On her death it was passed to Catherine Parr. It is unknown how much time the Queens spent in the village, but it is very likely that they would have worshiped in St Peters Church. Unfortunately, The Queens House no longer exists but many old buildings still surround the church. Another landmark, that was located behind the church, was a famous maze. It was made from banks of earth, about a foot high but stretched over an entire acre. It was ploughed out in 1730 but was immortalised in a drawing that is preserved in the church itself. The purpose of it was mainly for entertainment, however these earthworks were also associated with witchcraft. There are only a few examples remaining in the country, one being the Miz Maze in Leigh, also in Dorset.
The Lynch gate also has an important historical relevance. It was erected by the Woodhouse family, the owners of Hall and Woodhouse Brewery, in memory of three relatives who all died in the Second World War, some abroad and one at home, in Blandford camp during an air raid.
From the church, make your way back to the pub by following the village road, take the left at the next junction, meeting back to the beginning of the walk. Continue straight ahead and the pub appears on your left.