Routeside Points of Interest
This page has some informatiion about places you will pass on the route. You can look at some photos too.
Bincombe: Large military camps were set up here during the reign of George III to keep an eye open for Napoleon’s planned invasion army. Two deserters were caught nearby, brought back to Bincombe and shot at the foot of a nearby hill. They are buried in the churchyard here.
Moreton: Whilst this might seem an understated village, it has a real claim to fame. Here is buried the famous ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ in a rather modest tomb; somewhat different from his monument in Westminster Abbey. He was killed in a motorbike accident nearby, close to his home at Clouds Hill. The church of St Nicholas contains magnificent and world-famous stained-glass windows by Laurence Whistler.
Briantspuddle: In the village hall there is a child’s sarcophagus dating back to around 100 AD, a poignant and sad relic of a tragedy from a bygone age. The nearby heathland resounded to the training manoeuvres of a new-fangled weapon called the tank in 1916.
Tolpuddle: This unassuming village played a key part in the history of workers’ rights. Here in 1834 six trade union members were arrested on the grounds that they had taken a secret oath. For this ‘crime’ the ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’ were sentenced to seven years’ exile in Australia. There was such a public outcry that the sentences were overturned. This was a major step in the development of trade unions in Britain.
Dewlish: A small place with quite a history, with archaeological finds including the remains of two mammoths and a Roman villa. Dewlish lies in the evocatively-named Valley of the Devil’s Brook.
Milton Abbas: Famous for both a magnificent Abbey which was founded by King Athelstan in the 10th Century (it is now attached to a public school but open to the public) and a picture-postcard ‘new’ village with its tidily thatched cottages. The old village lies submerged beneath the waters of a nearby lake that the local landowner ordered to be constructed to improve the landscape. No Public Inquiries in the 18th Century.
Ansty: The Hall and Woodhouse Company founded a brewery here in 1777. Several buildings still standing in the village are recycled relics of the brewing history of the settlement. The brewery was closed in Ansty in the 1940s, though Hall and Woodhouse continues to do business from its base in Blandford.
Minterne: Minterne house has been the home of the Digby and Churchill families since 1660 and the nearby church contains their memorials. The present house was built in 1905 after the old house had dry rot and was pulled down.
Up Sydling: The parish of Sydling St Nicholas which includes Up Sydling was once the property of Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Eliabeth I’s ‘Spymaster General’ whose spies played a critical role in entrapping Mary Queen of Scots in the events that led up to her execution.
Evershot: At 574 feet above sea level, this is the second highest village in the county. In the village three stone monuments (‘megaliths’) from the Bronze Age are said to be three sisters who were turned into solid rock for dancing on Sunday. They are called the ‘Three Dumb Sisters’.
Beaminster: A small town of just over 3,000 inhabitants, Beaminster suffered greatly in the Civil War when a fire destroyed most of it. In the 19th Century the town also declined due to the absence of a railway line through it whereas its near-neighbours such as Bridport did have one and prospered as a result.
Lewesdon Hill: At 279 metres (915 feet in old money) this is officially the high-point of Dorset, two metres higher than its near-neighbour Pilsdon Pen. Like Pilsdon, there is a hill fort at the top (at the latest count, about forty of such Iron Age fortresses have been identified in the county).
Pilsdon Pen: Magnificent Pilsdon Pen was once thought to be the highest point in Dorset. At the top of the hill is an Iron Age fort. More recent residents in the area were Dorothy and William Wordsworth at the end of the 18th Century. It reminded a homesick Dorothy of a miniature version of the mountains in the Lake District.
Powerstock: Another Domesday Book entrant, soon after the Norman Conquest a royal hunting ground was established in ‘Poorstock Forest’. The name was changed from Poorstock allegedly after a 19th Century railway official thought it reflected badly on the quality of the local ‘rolling stock’ of the line that went through the village.
Eggardon Hill: The bowl-like amphitheatre of Eggardon is home to another hillfort. A famous local smuggler, Isaac Gulliver, owned a farmhouse at the foot of the hill and allegedly planted a stand of pine trees on its summit as a navigational aid to his men who were up to no good out at sea.
Loders: Included in Domesday Book of 1086 as ‘Lodres’, soon after a Benedictine priory was set up here. The people of Dorset have reason to be thankful to them as they reputedly introduced cider to the county!
Long Bredy: A very old village which appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086 as ‘Langebridge’. In fact it is even older than that, dating back to the 9th Century. In the vicinity is a prehistoric burial chamber of which the large stones (‘megaliths’) can be seen. Known as the ‘Grey Mare and her Colts’ this monument, over 4,000 years old, suggests that people have been living around here for a very long time.
Kingston Russell Stone Circle: Whilst this is a much smaller monument than the mighty Stonehenge this stone circle, with 18 surviving stones (or ‘megaliths’) is the largest in Dorset. It dates back to the Neolithic or Early Bronze Age.
Portesham: The manor of Portesham was granted by King Cnut to the magnificently named ‘Orc’ in 1024. In the 19th Century, the ‘other Thomas Hardy’ (Nelson’s captain and Vice-Admiral) lived here in a house that still stands in the village. Nearby ‘Hardy’s Monument’ commemorates him and can be seen from miles off.
Friar Waddon Hill: Along the ridge here there is a barrow cemetery. Dorset as a county is rich in barrows, either long barrows (Neolithic or ‘New Stone Age’) or round barrows (slightly later Bronze Age) tombs. Often they are spectacularly sited on hilltops, a genuine ‘room with a view’ for eternity. Waddon House at the bottom of the ridge was Squire Boldwood’s house in the 1967 film of Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
Corton: Home to the tiny 13th Century church of St Bartholomew, nestling in the rather incongruous setting of a farmyard.
Upwey: Upwey features in Thomas Hardy’s Trumpet Major. Those with long memories may remember the American comedienne Lucille Ball whose family originally came from here in the 17th Century. The local wishing well here might help any participants who are struggling. George III was a regular visitor to the springs in the 18th Century and it is said that the cup he drank from became the Ascot Gold Cup.