North Wootton

From the smart little bistro of The Elms, wander across the golf course to Folke, passing its manor house and church. Join onto the old medieval road between Sherborne and Dorchester to reach the ancient building of West Hall, complete with scars caused by historical battle. Make your way through the many orchards and back to the medieval road, now nothing more than a track. Return to The Elms via the galley of sculpture made at Dorset Forge and Fabrication.

Distance: 3 miles/5km
Time: 1.5 hours
Total climb: 210ft.
Max height: 265ft.
Min height: 375ft.
Terrain: Track, path, road and field.
Exertion: Easy.
Start: North Wootton. The Elms Car park. (Postcode: DT9 5NT, Grid reference: ST658142, What Three Words: courts.appeal.soccer)
Map: OS Explorer 129 Yeovil and Sherborne
How to get there: From Sherborne, take the A352 south to Dorchester. At the top of the first hill, turn left onto the A3030 to Blandford. Follow for approximately 1 mile and The Elms will be on your right.
Dogs: On leads where livestock is present and in accordance with any notices on the walk and The Countryside Code.
Refreshments: The Elms, North Wootton. Receive a 10% discount as a Tess of the Vale Member!

The Elms Farm House Kitchen is an old pub which has been recently renovated inside and out. It is set in freshly landscaped surroundings with far reaching views southwards across the Blackmore Vale towards Okeford, Ibberton and Bulbarrow Hill and the course of the Dorset Ridgeway.

From The Elms, head to the back of the car park to go over a stile and into a field. Turn slightly left and head to the next stile that takes you onto Folke Golf Course.

Folke Golf Course Is a small family run golf centre, opened in 1991. It includes a golf academy, practice area, restaurant facility and is open 7 days a week. It is a nine hole course with alternate tees to form a 18 hole. The management of the site includes maintaining wild habitats and providing the ecology able to sustain many types of birds, animals and insects which can be seen around the course such as hares, woodpeckers, skylarks, and deer, all common visitors in the spring and summer sunshine. The Club House is home to a Spike Bar and the Seasons restaurant noted for the Theme Nights and popular Sunday Lunches. The course is kept in magnificent condition all throughout the year and benefits from some fantastic surrouindings.

Cut straight across the course, to reach the following hedge and turn left to enter another field. Follow the boundary on your left to reach the next hedge and turn right taking you to the road and Folke village. Pass the small cottage on your right and walk down the dead end road towards the church.

On your right is Folke Manor. The Manor House dates from about 1500, and adjoins the early 17th-century parish church. The East wing is the oldest section, built late in the 15th or early in the 16th century. The South wing, visible from the next field, with its porch and staircase was built early in the 17th century. In a field, North East of the house is a small round moat enclosing an island about 25 yards in diameter. Some ponds and banks suggest that this was the original manor site.

Continue to walk to the end of the road and go through a small gate on your right. Keeping the boundary of the manor house on your right, cut straight across the field to the next stile. Continue over the following field to meet a small country road.

Turn left onto the small country lane. This was once the main route, especially during the medieval period, between the county town of Dorchester and the Abbey town of Sherborne. Turn right at the next opportunity, passing a small ruin on your right hand side, possibly related to West Hall – which we will arrive at shortly. Firstly walk straight on through West Hall Barn. West Hall Barn was converted in 1999 from stables into a fully functioning, elegant event room. The Barn itself is over 500 years old. It has been sympathetically converted to retain many of its unique and original features – such as the manger, stone walling and extensive oak beams.

Follow the same road to pass West Hall on your left. It teases you with glimmers through trees and over ancient stone walls, but as a private residence, this is all you are allowed to see. The house is rich with history. Having once been in the Ellis family for over 500 years little has been changed by time. The ‘E’ for Ellis visible in the iron gate posts. The oldest part of the house has been dated to 1205, not far off 1000 years old! It also contains original 15th century glass work. The house has been restored and there are modern additions to the floorplan, however, the plan and development of the house is similar to that at Folke Manor House.

The house also comes with many historical legends. Punishments, such as hangings were carried out in the cellars. A tunnel exists from the house to the church in Longburton and the owner today has claimed to have found 5 priest holes, these are specific hiding places camouflaged into the walls. It was these priest holes that lead on to its most memorable part in history which took place during the civil war. In the mid 1600s Cromwell’s Roundheads were on the search for the disposed monarch, Charles II, and his supporters. West Hall was a Catholic stronghold allied to King, and suspicion was brought down upon it. Cromwell’s men attempted to gain entry to West Hall as they were convinced that it was a convenient hiding place for the king himself. However, the house was heavily defended, the windows are barred and the doors have giant five-inch square planks which slot into the wall. It’s clear that the house was set up to prevent unwanted entry and, try as they might, the attackers could not gain access. The only reminder of the attack today are the six deep scars left in its original heavy oak front door by their unrelenting axes.

The civil war scars from the attacking axes

Leaving the house behind you, turn right, off the drive and cut across the next field, forking left. Go through the line of Beech trees and head in the same direction to the village of Longburton.

The village is a ribbon development along the A352 road, which was once the turnpike between Dorchester and Sherborne, trumping the old medieval road. Although the dominant industry is dairy farming, other local industries have included stone-quarrying and more recently land has been given over to orchards. As you approach the main road, The Rose and Crown pub is on your left. To continue the walk, turn right and stay on the pavement for about 50m or so. Turn right, off the road at a bollard, past some garages and into a residential estate. Continue straight ahead to where the road turns and you meet a bridleway, taking you deep into the orchards.

Walk straight across the first orchard and then turn right, before the gate, to remain in the same field. Go over the stile to the next field of crop rather than trees, and head to the river and back up the other side to go over another stile and into some woodland. Turn right and remain on the path until it reaches the road, this path also being part of the original medieval route. At the road you arrive back in the parish of Folke. Turn left and left again to head up the hill and away from the village. Continue through two fields to reach a track.

On meeting a gate on your right, walk on through it and onto a chalked farm track. Divert slightly left to aim for the left hand side of the barns ahead. Exit though a farm gate and onto the A3030. Take care here as there is no pavement, but shortly the route arrives back at The Elms. However, as you pass, do not forget to visit the Dorset Forge and Fabrication. This is an outstanding showroom, open for visitors with items that have been crafted from scraps of metal, available to purchase as well as current commissions. The studio has produced some impressive pieces including the ‘The Haunting’. Towering at just under 6 metres, the WW1 Solider was, not only on display at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, but was also sent to Ireland, before settling with its private owner. More recently they have just produced the Incredible Hulk fighting with the Coronavirus!

The Elms carpark, and your vehicle, is just the other side of the pub.

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