Higher Moor Farm

To celebrate not only the Platinum Jubilee but also 10 years of business at Higher Moor Farm Campsite in Nottington, here is a Higher Moor Farm adventure…

Explore the landscape between the sea and the slopes. Skim Radipole, settled by the Romans and used as a busy shipping port, which then developed into small farming settlements often raided by the French. Pass redeveloped manor houses and cherished churches, those in Buckland Ripers destroyed by fire and replaced during the 17th century. Discover the Georgian wellbeing retreat in Nottington, accessed by drove roads and a medieval ford, the water having supplied the old mills that still line the stream. Return by leaving the little River Wey to follow the disused railway that once connected Weymouth to Abbotsbury.

Distance: 4 miles/6.5 km (Can be cut shorter, see map at bottom of page)

Time: 2-3 hours 

Total climb: 270ft. 

Max height: 150ft. 

Min height:  32ft. 

Terrain: Track, path, road and field.  

Exertion: Easy. 

Start: For Higher Moor Farm guests – Higher Moor Farm Campsite (Postcode: DT3 4BW, Grid Ref: SY657830, What Three Words:amplified.midwinter.daydreams),

For Buckland guests – Buckland Campsite (Postcode: DT3 4BZ, Grid Ref: SY649828, What Three Words: cheer.universal.increased). From the campsite head out to the road but just before reaching the junction turn sharply left onto a footpath. Head downhill and turn left again onto the village lane to the church and Manor house, joining the walk from there.

For Visitors there is a large layby just in Nottington (Postcode: DT3 4BN, Grid Ref: SY660829, What Three Words: tribe.obscuring.shopper). Walk north then west on Nottington Lane to arrive at Higher Moor Farm Campsite

Map: OL15 OS Explorer Purbeck and South Dorset 

How to get there: From Dorchester, leave the town to head south along the A354 until the left turning to Upwey. Turn left onto the B3159 through Broadwey to then turn right onto Nottington Lane. At the T-junction turn right towards Buckland Ripers (the layby for visitors will appear on the right), continue round the corner and Higher Moor Farm will appear on your left. Buckland Ripers is just further down the road, again on the left.

Refreshments: Higher Moor Farm have a selection of a small refreshments and just off the route in Nottington is The Pear Tree Café that offers cream teas in the summer months. 

Higher Moor Farm Campsite was opened in 2012 and therefore, this year, is celebrating its first decade in business. Over the years it has proved to be a popular site, located in a spot with easy access to the Jurassic Coast and the rest of rural Dorset. It has won a number of awards including the Dorset Tourism Gold award. In 2019 it achieved the trip advisor Hall of fame for consistently maintaining a high rating and also won Channel 4’s Pitch Perfect Best Campsite in 2021. 

Higher Moor Farm shop

From the campsite, turn left on the road, being aware of traffic on the narrow lane. Continue around the small bend and, after passing Holwell Farm on the right, turn left onto the track to East Farm. Gradually as you gain height, the views begin to open up. Restricted by the slopes to the north they extend both east and west. On the skyline to the west sits Hardy’s Monument, surrounded by ancient earthworks scattering the peaks. To the east sit the rooftops of Upwey, Broadwey and Nottington before merging with the larger conurbation of Weymouth. Behind are the hills of Bincombe, made famous by the nursery rhyme ‘The Grand old Duke of York’, and, on the ridge, are more ancient earthworks.

Looking West to Hardy’s Monument on the horizon
Friendly cows

Walk down the side of East Farm and through a gate into a field. Keep the boundary on your right as you pass the white walled Buckland House, visible through the trees. Now a private home it was once the Rectory for the village, the church sitting deeper in the valley. It is also rumoured that in 1898, J. Meade Falkner sat down in the drawing room and wrote his famous book ‘Moonfleet’, the story based near Chesil Beach just to the south.

The old Rectory

Walk past the barns and straight into the next field over a stile tucked in the corner. Head down to the bottom of the hill and climb the stile on the right. Head over the footbridge and curve up the hill towards Buckland Ripers. As you climb, skim past the manor house surrounded by crumbling walls, cottages and barns.

Buckland Ripers Manor House
Crumbling walls and barns

Buckland Ripers is a small hamlet tucked away off the road, in the middle of nowhere. The surrounding area experienced activity dating back to the Romano-British period with a number of burials having been discovered.  The village was recorded in the Domesday Book as being in the possession of the wife of Hugh FitzGrip, with a mill providing an income for the residents.  In the 13th century the manor came into the possession of the De Ripariis or Rivers family and the second part of the village’s name is a manorial addition from the family. The Buckland name derives from the Old English bocland ‘charter land’, a term frequently used in Dorset.

At the top of the hill turn right and head through two metal gates, where the ground can sometimes get a bit muddy! In the mid-17th century the village experienced a devastating fire that destroyed many of the cottages as well as the church and the manor house. The remains that could be salvaged were, but the majority had to be rebuilt. Ahead, behind the trees is Middle Farm. Sitting only a little upstream, it was also damaged by the fire but managed to escape the worst of the flames and scratched into the south doorway is the pre fire date of 1619.

The year 1655 engraved above the church porch

On the right is the church dedicated to St Nicholas. It was built in 1655 after the fire had destroyed the earlier medieval church, although it still incorporates part of the 14th century remains. The church porch bears the date of 1655 and the initials J.F.  John Frampton is buried in the churchyard, with more details recorded on his gravestone “James Frampton Esq. who began building of this church, but died before it was finished, was buried July 13, 1655”, but it is much eroded. Sitting opposite the church is a second graveyard, accessed through some old iron gates.

St Nicholas Church construction dates and floor plan (British History online)

Behind the church is the Manor House, which was originally a thatched property. It was built in the second half of the 17th century, after the fire, incorporating some of the remains, by the Frampton family. However, they decided to move to Rempstone near Corfe Castle and, with no successive heirs, they sold the house in 1704 to Joseph Damer, who later became the Earl of Dorchester. The house was remodelled and extended, mainly during the 19th century, and in the 1970s it was divided into three separate dwellings.

From St Nicholas Church make your way back up to the muddy farm track and through the first gate and then the left hand gate. When the track splits take the right hand option following it up the hill. As you rise the views expand with East Farm on the left hand slopes and the towering chalk hills behind that divide the rest of the county from the sea. When the fence turns, bear right, to the stone stile. This stile doubles up as a memorial for Flight Lieutenant Sergeant Frederick Ward, killed in active service on March 6th 1945, 6 months before the end of the war, while his parents ran this farm.

Frederick Ward
Frederick Ward’s memorial stone

Head straight across the next field while the Isle of Portland peeks over the hills ahead. Walk down to the left hand side of the barns and then straight across the next two fields to the road. Cross over a stream at Harbour Bridge, its many layers of construction visible on its eastern side, its name reflecting Radipole’s history and turn left onto a grassed track.

Harbour Bridge

Head through the next gate to follow a fenced path up the hill. At the top you get the first glimpse of the sea along with the church spire of St John’s sitting on the seafront in Weymouth. Continue down the hill to arrive at the large Meadow Mill House, placed on the banks of the River Wey. Turn left before the track, staying on the fenced path.

Looking over Weymouth to the sea

The River Wey is only a small stream, covering a mere 12 miles, rising at the base of the South Dorset Downs at Upwey and flowing into Weymouth Harbour via Radipole Lake. Upwey is known for a well, which has attracted many visitors, and still does, to make a wish. During the Roman times, Radipole Lake was tidal and much larger. Roman evidence has been found to support the idea that the lake was not only being used as a reservoir but also as a shipping port, with the ability to sail ships right to its northern edge.  Remains of a small landing stage have been found alongside evidence of settlement. The old Roman road to Dorchester is still in use as the A354 and, in combination with the many burial sites and even the presence of nearby Maiden Castle, indicates it was a highly active ancient area. 

1896 Radipole Map

However, this easy access was at times a downfall. Originally there was only one church, located at Radipole, to serve the surrounding community. Every Sunday the local villagers would set out across the landscape to carry out their weekly worship. However, the French saw this as an Achilles Heel and proceeded to frequently raid the hamlets whilst the residents were at church, the river providing an easy way in and easy way out. The locals would return to a sorry state of affairs and would kick themselves for allowing it to happen again!

The river is also an important area for wildlife, despite its urban eastern edge. It is a National Nature Reserve managed by the RSPB and is also a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) and has been since 1979.

The River Wey

As you walk along the bank you can hear the town sounds of sirens, trains and other activity but here you are surrounded by gushing water and birdsong. Eventually you meet the water, crossing over an old stone bridge. Ahead on the hillside sits Corfe Hill House. Corfe Hill House (not to be confused in anyway with Corfe Hills in East Dorset) was built in 1821 for Edward Balston. It is elegantly presented with a cream brickwork finish, contrasting with its green surroundings, more visible when the trees are not in leaf. In its life it had been split up into individual apartments but is back today in single ownership.

Once over the bridge, turn sharply left to stay in the valley of the Wey. The river’s meandering course joins the path every now and then, often decorated with paddling wildlife. Follow the fenced footpath and then through four successive kissing gates to meet a track. Turn left to head towards Nottington Farm. Nottington Farm dates from the late 16th or early 17th century and has with it a former granary and barn; however it was all redeveloped in 1979.

1927 OS Nottington Map

Nottington is another small hamlet but with an advantage over Buckland Ripers with the river running through its centre. Walk straight through the old farmyard and turn left on the road. Cross over the bridge and the old Mill is hidden on the right, just before the junction, towering over its neighbours and known as Mother Mill. It was built in the 1830s but it’s strongly believed that it replaced an earlier building that probably stood for centuries before.

Looking down the river to the old mill.

Turning left at the T junction, on the right is the Old Malthouse facing the river and built, only a few years after the Mill, out of local Portland stone in 1834. It has since been converted into modern day dwellings but has managed to retain many of the original features. This little peaceful little country lane, that runs alongside the River Wey, was clearly an area of bustling activity and industry. Further down the road is Pear Tree Cottage that can serve as a welcome break with cream teas served in the summer months.

Nottington Mill
The river opposite the Malthouse

Retrace your steps to the junction and here you have a choice. You can either return to Higher Moor Farm, by walking straight ahead and following the road around back to the site, or, continuing on the walk to Broadwey.

At the junction turn right to stay on the walk. Pass Nottington Farm on your right and follow the river, cut by an old sluice gate, to the next corner. Here stands the tall hexagonal building that used to be part of Nottington Spa.

Nottington Spa – The Pump House

With thanks to crazy King George III, Weymouth was known as an area that would be good for the soul, encouraged by the King’s visits to the sea and praise of the water. By the 19th century other methods to improve wellbeing were being explored and this led to a growth in the popularity of health spas. The octagonal building, that is hard to miss, dates back to 1830 and was formally the pump room and baths of Nottington Spa. It was designed by Robert Vining for Thomas Shore and built upon a flowing hydrogen spring with hopes to benefit the community and visitor’s health and wellbeing. Shore had seven sons and so included a room for each in the build. As the building was shaped like an octagonal, he also had an octagonal table made, especially for the dining room. It proved to be a popular venture with the clientele including the aristocrats of Weymouth. In 1853 it was put up for sale and by 1905 it was no more, having been described by the Victorian historian Sir Frederick Treves as ‘deserted’. Nevertheless this pump room has survived, been cared for and was adapted into a private family home, unlike the neighbouring spa in Radipole, which no longer exists.

Pump House floor plan

On the gateposts opposite sit two stone pelicans, which were parts of the Gordon Steward’s family’s coat of arms. The Gordon Steward’s owned Nottington House and were prominent landowners for a number of generations. The house has since been replaced by the modern Nottington Court but the pelicans were saved and moved here onto Greystones gate.

One of the pelicans

Turn left off the road, weaving between the buildings and cross over the river. Head though a small wooden gate and onto a footpath, following a stream/dry river bed. When you reach the River Wey, turn left, crossing a bridge with the river then on your right hand side. The flowing water is littered with a number of remnants all related to the rivers historical industry. Pass a stone arched bridge and curve around a scrubland area to then turn right over a bridge that is bordered by two metal kissing gates. Bear left over the field to arrive at Littlemead in Broadwey. Once on the tarmac, turn left to the ford.

Broadwey is mainly centred along the busy main road, including the 17th century village pub, The Swan (now closed), The Manor (now a residential home for the elderly) and the 12th century St Nicholas church (still a church). Nevertheless, like Nottington, much of its activity was focused around the river. Its name even based on the landscape as it refers to the way of the river broadening out.

1886 OS map of Broadwey, showing the ford, railway and station.

Broadwey was the home to a famous doctor called Adam Puckett. At 65, he had built up a reputation to be one of the best, always going above and beyond his call of duty in order to help. However, in July 1862 he was brutally murdered by one of his own patients. He left a widow, Elizabeth and their daughter, Alice, who then had the task of looking after her broken hearted mother, who died only three years later. He is buried in Broadwey churchyard at the top of Mill Street and, when the grave was dug, they accidently unearthed a Roman urn!

Watery Lane – looking north

If you are walking in wellies, the ford is shallow enough to walk straight through if not, turn left then right, circling the houses and out onto Watery Lane. Turning right to the ford and then left is Mill Street. On Mill Street is the old mill, giving the road its name. The mill (known as North Mill) was built in 1846, using the foundations of an older Georgian structure. The Mill-Hands Cottages and the Mill House were built shortly after in 1853. South Mill, connected to North Mill by the still existing wooden bridge, was added shortly after.

North and South Mill connected by a wooden bridge

Watery Lane runs through the ford and follows the river upstream, out of the village, towards Upwey. The ford was heavily used by horses and carts, taking the lower road to Dorchester and saving the horses the struggle of climbing up Broadwey Hill. The horse-buses, which used to bring visitors to Upwey’s wishing well, also came this way, just for the excitement for the passengers of travelling through the water. It has changed dramatically over the last century, from just a small number of cottages to now a much larger collection of bungalows and houses, but still lined with old stone walls.

Watery Lane – looking south

Follow Watery Lane away from the ford and out of Broadwey. Curve around the bend for the old railway bridge to come into view. The railway was a branch from the main lane to reach Abbotsbury in the west and was opened in 1885. Broadwey had its own little station, but the name changed to Upwey in 1913. The line closed in 1952, but can still be followed in the landscape, the next station being at Portesham. Portesham station and halt have been developed into both a house and garden terrace, whereas Broadwey station is now a builders’ yard, some old station buildings still standing and used for storage.

The old railway bridge

Take the footpath on the left at the bend of the road before the bridge. Cross over the river, for the last time, and onto a path lined with mighty beech trees and cottage ruins, the building still standing on the 1886 OS map (see above). On meeting another path, turn left then right, uphill, keeping the fence on the right and hedge on the left. Head through two metal gates and over a stile at the top. Behind the views are wide again. To the north, the busy A354 zig zags its way down the hill and above sits Came Wood, marked with a mast. Next to the woodland is the Music Barrow, an ancient earthwork that is said to play music, sung by fairies at noon every day!

Mighty beech trees
The view North east over the A354 to Bincombe and up to Came Wood and the Music Barrow

Continue straight on, along the chalk track with colourful Higher Moor Farm visible below. At the next boundary, turn left, walking down the hill and on reaching a gate, turn left into a field. Bear right to the stile and right again on the path, weaving through the trees and out onto Nottington Lane.

Looking back down to Higher Moor Campsite

On joining the road, visitors can turn left to their vehicle, guests can turn right to Higher Moor Farm or continue on the road a little further to return to Buckland Ripers.

Walk Excerpts

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