Dorset: Day 6 – 28.05.2020…………..Two women, a map, a compass and a lay-by!
Updated: Jun 1, 2020
A trip to Lidl was required this morning to stock up on some provisions; bread rolls and bananas for our walk today, another circular walk, this one starting from the village of Godmanstone. We thought we’d give it a go, particularly as Jane and Steve (J&S) had gone to all the trouble of providing us with a map and a compass, no doubt to stop us getting lost. They’d even mapped out the route with orange stickers and I have to say, when viewed like that it does look very straightforward. Up the hill, along the Wessex Ridgeway for a couple of miles, down the other side and back to Godmanstone. It’s as simple as that!
Maice picked me up at 10.30am but before we headed off we stood in my kitchen scrutinising the map, measuring the chosen route with a ruler to see how far it was and practising with the compass. J&S said to lay it on the map and it would tell us which direction to go. Could it really be that simple?
We found the lay-by where we were instructed to park by J&S and in which Maice proceeded to manoeuvre her car JJ backwards and forwards, squeezing into the spot, trying to avoid hitting the red car parked in the middle of the lay-by. Just as she’d finished her manoeuvres the owners of said red car returned, leaving Maice to manoeuvre JJ into their empty space. Five minutes later we took the obligatory selfie, map and compass in hand and headed off to find the signpost which would direct us west, up a very steep hill to the Wessex Ridgeway. Before we found it we had to return to the car so Maice could change out of her flip-flops, then we took a few photos outside what was the smallest pub in England.
Finally, after much faffing around and tooing and froing we found ourselves at the signpost where we consulted the map and checked the compass, just to make sure we were headed in the right direction. Confident that we were perfecting our map reading skills we started our ascent up the steep hill. According to our ruler calculations, the hill should be a mile long, so bracing ourselves, up we went. It was actually a lovely walk, very picturesque and very hot. Arriving at the top of the hill we came across a field full of sheep, lambs and a signpost. Following the orange sticker we found stuck to the signpost, looking very much like the ones stuck on our map we turned right and followed the path. We presumed we were now on the Wessex Ridgeway even though the signs didn’t indicate this, but we were confident this was it because J&S said so in their instructions! The veiws from up here were tremendous, you could see for miles and miles around, it was lovely. Walking through the field we came across a sundial and a grave with a mound of stones and a headstone. Most unusual place to see a grave, but what a lovely place to be buried. Continuing on we regrouped in a farmyard and consulted the map. Believing we were at Dickley Down Farm we followed the sign up the hill where we came across a shaded area and, in need of sustenance, we sat down and had ourselves a banana stop.
The next signpost told us to ‘go right’ towards the field of cows but when we came to the big metal gate which didn’t have a marker and which we couldn’t open, we returned to the signpost for a regroup. Where we on the right track, we wondered. Just as we were consulting with the map and compass a farmer turned up on his quad bike so we flagged him down and asked for guidance. We had a lovely chat with him and found out he was originally from Upwey and that he didn’t really know the area he was now living in as he didn’t know about the walk we were on! That makes three os us then! As all three of us poured over the map we pointed out to where we thought we were, Dickley Down Farm but he soon put us right saying we were actually at Higher City Farm! He advised us to go through the gate, which he opened for us, continue on through the fields and then turn right at the kissing gate. So that’s exactly what we did, saying hello to the cows in the field, turning right at the kissing gate and down the hill which is how we came to find ourselves at the same spot we stopped to eat our bananas. We’d just done a full circle and gone nowhere! Another regroup was required so we sat on the grass and consulted the map……again. Returning to the farm, we walked through it to the road, crossed over and took the footpath opposite which we believed to be part of the Wessex Ridgeway walk. Hopefully we were now back on track. It was such a lovely walk, the views were amazing, the sun was shining, there were clouds in the sky cooling the air slightly and we saw lots of lovley butterflies fluttering in the breeze. We were soon confronted by a fallen tree completely blocking the path but fortunately we managed to navigate ourselves around it and continued on. Every time we came across a signpost we’d consult the map to check where it would lead and happy we’d sussed out this map reading malarkey we continued on. Measuring our distance on the map and checking with our Health Apps we believed we’d walked 5.5 miles and we hadn’t even started the return journey, and we were hungry. Turning right at the next signpost towards Cerne Abbas, we knew we were going in the right direction when we saw the Cerne Giant on the hill opposite. We found ourselves a nice field to stop for lunch, scaring a pheasant out from the undergrowth and hung up the bunting, tied toe to toe and ‘set the table’. What was on the menu today? The spinach and cheese pie made their usual appearance and for something different, cheese and humours (predictive text, should be hummus) rolls and crisps. Lovely. We spent a relaxing lunch but couldn’t stop too long in case our aching limbs seized up, so with heavy legs, we packed up and made it down to Cerne Abbas.
The map said we needed to go into the village in order to get back onto the path which is exactly what we did except when we came into the village we couldn’t find a footpath sign so found ourselves walkin round in circles trying to find the path. We must have regrouped on the bench with the phone box at least three times and in the end resorted to asking the locals. Not everyone knew the way but thankfully one gentleman did and told us we needed to make our way back to the bench and the telephone box, turn left and we’d see a signpost to a very well hidden path. Returning, yet again to the bench and the telephone box we followed the instructions, found the signpost but then we came to a driveway which not only had the pathway symbol but a ‘private keep out’ sign on the gate! What to do now? As we were mid regroup a van came out of the driveway so we asked if he knew where the path was. He pointed to a well hidden overgrown path just to the side of the private driveway. So that’s the well hidden path the gentleman had told us about.
We followed the path and omg, to the right of the path we saw the most beautiful building surrounded by an amazing manicured lawn. Consulting the map, turns out this is the 14 century Tithe Barn, an absolutely splendid building, looking quite resplendent against the blue sky. Amazing. Continuing on, we walked through a field, over three stiles and onto a road that led to the Cerne Abbas Brewey. We crossed over and followed the path, through a rather decrepit gate, past the four beehives and into the woods. There was no path here, it was all very odd and something just didn’t seem right. Retracing our steps, the sign said Cerne Abbas Brewey straight down and then a turning to the left which said ‘private – dead end’. Regrouping again to consult the map we wandered down towards the brewery but couldn’t see a signpost or a path even though the map indicates this is where it should be. We retraced our steps and resigned ourselves to the fact that we’d have to walk the rest of the way on the main road and it was at this point that I realised that I’d lost my sunglasses which had been hooked through the belt tab of my trousers. Typical! Just as well I’ve got another four pairs at home! We managed to stop a car which was coming up the driveway but the two men didn’t know where the footpath was either. So the road it was then! Apparently, it’s two miles from Cerne Abbas to Godmanstone so we headed off, our feet and limbs now starting to ache, walking in companiable silence, both wondering where we’d gone wrong!
You cannot imagine the joy we felt when we saw JJ waiting there in the lay-by and we bundled our weary bodies into the car and drove home. Today I’ve walked 25,301 steps and covered 10.9 miles, mind you that does include a short walk across the road to Lidl and Maice has walked 27,115 steps and covered 10.6 miles and didn’t go to Lidl! The difference in steps could be that my legs are longer than Maices and therefore I don’t take as many steps……..well that’s our theory anyway!
So another great day walking in the lovely Dorset countryside has come to an end. We’ve made a pledge to return to Cerne Abbas one day and find the ‘missing footpath’ to Godmanstone. We know its there somewhere as the map says so, so we may have been defeated on this occasion but it won’t put us off attempting it again. You know us, we love a challenge. We’ve already decided what we’re doing tomorrow and it doesn’t involve a lot of walking, so on that note……
See you tomorrow