33. Dorset: Chideock to Symondsbury via Colmer’s Hill - 6 miles circular - OS Explorer map 116
Maybe muddy in parts and includes steep climb up Colmer's Hill.
This walk has curiosities, martyrs, glorious views, and a great pub half-way around. Perfect.
Start at North Road, Chideock (turning off the main A35 by St. Giles Church). Plenty of street parking further down by Winniford Close. Head north away from the town.
After passing a stone marked Chideock Manor, look for a signpost marked Catholic Church a few yards further. The Church of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs and St. Ignatius is a memorial to local martyrs, including Thomas Pilchard, who was hung drawn and quartered in 1587 for his Catholic faith.
There were many others and, stepping into this small but beautiful church, their portraits are set in a line above you on both sides. Look closely. These are no ordinary portraits. Each has a knife through the heart or a noose around his neck.
A gruesome but fascinating glimpse that in Shakespeare’s day tragedies happened off stage too. A delightful museum through a door on the left is also a must see for local history. Ps… there’s a loo here too. On your right as you exit the church.
Leaving the church, continue along North Road and, as you enter North Chideock and pass Carter’s Lane on your left (signposted Morcombelake) look for a red post box and footpath sign on your right. It leads to a stile into a field and across to another stile. Over this you’re on Hell’s Lane by a junction with another lane. Turn right down that other lane. After a few yards it turns sharp left and, after more yards, opposite delightful old cottages that look as natural as grass, look for a footpath sign in the high hedge on your left pointing right between two cottages. It looks private but is a public footpath through into the field beyond them.
The path leads to a bridge and stile over a brook with a yellow waymarker sign pointing the way. Heading right, following the hedge on your right to the end of the field to rejoin Hell’s Lane, although now it’s turned into a track (or a river when it rains). Expect mud. Turn left up Hell’s Lane.
If it is muddy or flooded, take heart that it dries out as you head up. It’s a long climb but not steep, and even a little creepy in parts with its high sandstone sides and exposed roots. But you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Eventually you arrive at Quarry Cross, a five path/track junction. On your right there are two tracks and a path, take the far left track to continue down Hell’s Lane toward Symondsbury.
This is a prettier section that soon turns eerie as faces, skulls and Celtic motifs, old and new, appear carved into the high sandstone banks and between exposed roots of trees hanging over either side. In my experience it makes this ancient Holloway unique.
Holloways are formed over centuries by wear and tear from rain, feet, hooves and cartwheels. The soft sandstone rock has made this deeper than most.
Not long after the sandstone banks change to shallower green hedges, you’ll see a metal gate on your right. Although the OS map shows no paths up to the exceptionally beautiful Colmer’s Hill, there are, and this is one. Turning right, follow the path around to the summit for fabulous views of glorious Dorset and the ocean.
After enjoying the views and getting your breath back - both essential - look east to the pretty village of Symondsbury nestling at the foot of the hill.
There's an obvious path down to it. Follow it to a gate in the far-right corner of the field. This leads to pretty Shute Lane. Follow it down - ignoring the left turn into Mill Lane - to the Ilchester Arms.
It's a great pub with local ales including the Dorset Gold I enjoyed.
“Do you want a deer?” enquired a passer-by as I took a sup. “Road kill up there and just died by the look of it.” We declined. Although I like venison, a three-mile hike back to the car with the poor thing across my shoulders was a bucolic step too far.
With dusk approaching, there was no time to dally and we retraced our steps up Shute (another name for a holloway)Lane which turns into the track of Hell’s Lane at road closed signs.
This is not only a second chance to enjoy the carving of the Holloway - there's some fabulous ones you're bound to have missed - but also an opportunity for a fine view of Colmer’s Hill. You get this where a path appears on your left. Don’t take the path but enjoy the view of this special hill (lead picture) by a farm gate to its left.
Carrying on a few more yards up to the five-way junction of Quarry Cross, this is where you leave Hell’s Lane.
On your left another farmer’s gate opens the hedge to a view of another hill, this one with a beacon on top. Go through the gate and bear right along the base of the hill.
There were numerous sheep grazing here, so keep any dogs on a lead.
The path, overgrown in parts, leads to a stile over a fence. Go over this and a second stile just in front.
Heading south-west through this long lush field will take you to Park Farm and the A35 at Chideock.
Turn right at the A35 to walk up through the town, and right again at the Church of St. Giles – a fine gothic example very different from the Matyr’s Catholic Church at the beginning of this walk.
You’re now heading back to your car – but there’s one more treat.
On your right, just beyond St. Giles Church, is Memorial Chapel built in 1852 by Charles Weld of Chideock Manor. It looks much older than it is, giving the carved stone crucifix on the outside west wall – visible from the street – a medieval feel. Charles built the Martyrs Church twenty years later. He had an eye for striking designs, and a few bob to pay his flamboyant respects with.
I'll shortly be posting a trail from here to Golden Cap Hill on the coast. They can be combined for those wanting a longer walk.