Distance: 7 miles/10km
Duration: 3 hours
Terrain: Path, track, road and field.
Total Climb: 580ft
Max Height: 570ft
Min Height: 200ft
Map: OS Explorer 129 Yeovil and Sherborne
Start Point: Sherborne Terraces. (Postcode: DT9 6PS, Grid reference: ST641156, What three words: bonfires.reaction.late)
How to Get There: From Sherborne, head out on the A352 to Dorchester. Halfway up the hill, turn left and you arrive at the terraces.
Dogs: In accordance with the Countryside Code and any notices on route.
Refreshments: The Rose and Crown at Longburton.
Parking on the terraces, where Sherborne rugby and football pitches/clubs are located, means plenty of space. From the car park, join onto the small road you arrived on but turn right to head to Sherborne Estate. Almost immediately you meet its border, private land (originally owned by Sir Walter Raleigh-the guy with the potatoes!). The original park pale, lump in the ground, is quite clear. Turn right again to start climbing the hill and the park pale follows your route, this being the steepest part of the walk. Occasionally mysterious walls and old stone buildings appear through the vegetation, marking this old boundary and the security that was required to once enforce it.
Sherborne Hill is very important geographically. It divides the south west of England into two. On the southern side, all rivers meet the sea in the English Channel. To the north of the hill, all rivers meet the sea in the Bristol Channel. Therefore, the river that runs through Sherborne, the river Yeo, is one if the rivers that has caused catastrophic flooding of the Somerset Levels further down steam. When the forest thins on one side and you meet a junction of tracks, continue straight ahead to reach the old gate house of the estate, still marked with the old gate posts. Meet the A3030 and cross over, aiming slightly to your left, to join a track.
As you make your way down, meeting the forest on the left, on your right orchards of apple trees begin to dominate the scene. The footpath on the OS map is slightly inaccurate here, probably adjusted slightly to accommodate the tree management. However, continue down the track and you will be guided off and through the orchards on a well-managed and easy to follow path.
Follow the footpaths through the orchards, keeping left when necessary. Eventually the orchards disappear and are replaced with houses. Cut straight through the residential estate to meet the A352. Turn left and then take the next footpath, over a stile, on your left. This is a little diversion to West Hall and a line of ancient horse chestnut and beech trees, probably planted by the owners of the Hall to hide the view of the growing village. West Hall is a beautiful, ancient building and was a catholic stronghold during the 1600’s. West Hall’s front door is an old oak door that still bears the scars of an axe used to break in during the civil war and the house is apparently host to many priest holes and secret tunnels!
When you meet the driveway to the hall, turn slightly left to get a glimpse of the hall over the garden wall. Turn back towards Longburton heading for the church tower.
After you pass, the Rose and Crown is just on your right, if you fancy a break. Cross over the road taking a small track slightly to your left. Enter into orchards once again and the paths are, as before, easy to follow. Cross straight over a small country road to enter into a brief stint of woodland before entering another orchard. Head straight on through to meet the driveway to Leweston Girls School (although currently going through a transition period to be co-ed). Turn left and follow the drive around to the right and then enter the field ahead.
It is best to keep to the boundary of the field if crops are present, follow it clockwise around to the edge of the next woodland and take the track on your left, if not, just cross diagonally, as the map suggests. Pass a few more school buildings as you climb the hill and then descend the other side into the village of Lillington. Pass St Martin’s church on your left, where Sir Walter Raleigh’s son was christened.
Join onto the village road and turn right, following it up to the top of the hill. When it joins another road, turn right again, heading to Honeycombe wood.
Enter into the woodland and continue straight through, passing a small reservoir hidden amongst the trees on your right. Try to refrain from turning right or left as you make your way through, just aim downhill. The footpaths are hard to follow, but getting lost in woodland shouldn’t be a problem. Trees can be used as natural navigators. Here, in the south west of the UK, our environment is often dominated by strong south westerly winds, the trees grow to combat this problem. To secure themselves safely to the ground they grow the majority of their roots in a south-westerly direction. Therefore, as you need to walk in a northerly direction, keep an eye on the ground, any major roots will be pointing behind you. Also as you reach the edge of the wood, more species like ivy should be present. So don’t worry, you won’t get lost!
When the edge of the wood comes into view, look out for the small gate in the hedge leading you out into the field. Head on through and the view of Sherborne opens out in front of you. The Abbey, with its golden stone, hopefully lit up by sunshine, is a good thing to try and spot.
Continue down the hill, through the field to reach another stile. Climbing over, you join a small country road. You can turn right here to head back to the car park. Alternatively, cross straight over, climb another stile and into another field. Again the views of Sherborne are crisp and clear. At the next boundary, turn right and follow the slight ridge to the next hedge. Divert slightly left to drop down onto the next footpath and turn right to head to the road. When you meet the road, you pass the old Victorian dump on your left, now no longer used and buried. Nothing but a sign and a pretty air vent exists today.
Turn left on the road and walk on up to meet another road from the right, Take this route back up to the A352 and cross over to return to the Sherborne terraces and your vehicle.