Distance: 3 miles/ 5km
Duration: 1.5 hours
Ability: Easy, short, good for kids.
Terrain: Path, track, road and field. Very chalky, not that muddy!
Total Climb: 266ft
Max Height: 810ft
Min Height: 560ft
Map: OS Explorer 117 Cerne Abbas and Bere Regis
Start Point: (Postcode: DT11 0HQ, Grid reference: ST791070.)
How to Get There: From Blandford, take Fair Mile Road towards Winterborne Stickland. At the village turn right then take the next left. Follow the road all the way to the top of the hill and take a sharp right along the ridge. Pass the Bulbarrow layby and the Ibberton parking will shortly be on your right. There are posts restricting vehicular access and can get muddy!
Dogs: In accordance with the Countryside Code and any notices on route.
Refreshments: None on route
Ibberton Hill is usually passed in favour of the more famous Bulbarrow Hill, right next door. The small country road follows the ridge of Ibberton leading to the higher, easier accessible, open viewed Bulbarrow. Ibberton has the same views, just a little more hidden down the hill.
The hill overlooks the Blackmore Vale to the north and even further into Somerset and Wiltshire. It is possible to work out how far you can see on a clear day. Find your height in metres, multiply it by 1.5 and identify the square root, to find the answer in miles. At Ibberton car park you are standing at a height of approximately 250 metres. Multiply by 1.5 = 375; find the square root giving a final distance of approximately 20 miles!
As well as the nearby attraction of Bulbarrow, there is also Rawlsbury Camp an Iron Age hill fort to the west. There is limited parking there, but an easy walk from the road to the site. The hill fort commands jaw-dropping views across the north and west. You can even make out the neighbouring hillfort of Dungeon Hill. There are also two large communication towers on the hill, a location that has been used since 1942. They are currently used by the emergency services and are a clear landmark for identifying Bulbarrow from a distance.
The village of Ibberton sits at the bottom of the valley on the northern flank of the hill. Thanks to the more popular Bulbarrow Hill, Ibberton has remained a secluded little spot, despite being no different. It consists of chalk grassland, sustainably supporting a large amount of wildlife. Although the area is now in agricultural use, the larger, post war, field pattern occurs quite predominately on the on the southern side of the hill. It is also in the middle of Dorset’s area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Running parallel to this walk is the Wessex Ridgeway, an ancient route now turned into a walking path and bike route. The plaque at the Ibberton car park commemorates Priscilla Houstoun. She is credited with devising the route of the Wessex Ridgeway, and is the author of ‘Walk the Wessex Ridgeway in Dorset’.
Starting at the car park, which also doubles as an excellent picnic spot, follow the track that takes you slightly uphill and away from the road. Remain on the track until you enter a field and it disappears. The views widen to the south and the sky grows above. The larger fields contrasting with the scene left behind.
Fork slightly right across the field towards the small patch of woodland, then follow it keeping the trees on your right. When you meet the next woodland ahead, you have the option to continue down the hill and then turn left. This is a slightly longer route that sticks closer to the valley of Coombe Bottom. For the shorter route, turn left up the hill to meet a gate; this route doesn’t quite reach the bottom of the valley.
Just over the hill is Turnworth. Thomas Hardy, who as a young architect, was involved in the renovation of Turnworth’s parish church. He got to know the village well and used Turnworth House, and the landscape around, as the inspiration for Hintock House in his novel, The Woodlanders.
Head diagonally down the steep hill. In this field evidence of a Romano British settlement has been found. Although it is now all ploughed out, the ground under your feet contains many treasures to add to those that have already been discovered. These include fragments of British and French pottery, although proper investigation has yet to be carried out. A field system, again now ploughed out, is thought to also have been related to this settlement.
Head to the bottom corner of the woodland ahead. Ignore the OS map as the footpath does not cut through the trees. Instead curve the corner, keeping the wood on your left. The footpath is easy to follow and signposted, as it slowly guides you through the sheep pens. Occasionally the chalk land landscape does what it does best as each spur creates large, soft hollows that scoop to the side of you and off into the distance behind.
When you see the valley curve around to the right, continue straight ahead, staying at the same height, circling a mound on your left. A gate marks the entrance to the start of a climb up the hill. Through the gate, turn right and climb up to go under the wires, meeting a stile at the next hedge.
Climb the stile and turn left into the woodland. Head up and then around to the right and then to the left to find a succession of three stiles. After the final one, enter a field and turn right. Follow the boundary straight ahead to a gate and into a hazel tree tunnel.
Exit into a small steep field with old workings on your right. Head straight up the hill to reach a small gate in the top corner, probably the muddiest section of the walk. Join a track that then brings you out onto the road. Turn left, joining the Wessex Ridgeway, and head on up the road, passing Bakers Folly on your right. As the vegetation thins the views slowly appear to the north. Take the next bridleway guiding you off the road on your left.
This area also has a lot of historical activity. As you walk the track you pass a barrow on your left, it is also part of an ancient field system which is topped by a later medieval design. Further behind, split by the Wessex Ridgeway, are some earthworks of a defensive dike. Not far beyond that lie the remains of the ancient settlement of Ringmoor. On the northern side of this bridleway are more earthworks of ancient agricultural field systems. All this indicates that this area was once much more active than what we see today.
Continue to follow the bridleway, bringing you straight back to your vehicle.