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  • Writer's pictureRoyston Nicholls

An April Walk Through Dorset and Somerset

One of the delights of walking footpaths in England. They go through some unexpected places!

I have been rather busy with the new house and garden the last few weeks, and so my blogs have rather taken a back seat. Yesterday, though, I took the opportunity to do a 6.5 mile walk from the village of Halstock, back to East Coker. Following parts of two long-distance paths, the Monarch’s Way, and the MacMillan Way, but also local footpaths and bridleways. I passed through the villages of Pendomer, Hardington Mandeville and Hardington Moor, and some beautiful countryside, ascending three of the several limestone ridges in the area, which gave wonderful views of the countryside, with its mix of pasture, wooded areas, and arable fields.

The beginning of the walk. A country signpost

A lovely home-made sign. I didn't see any kittens though

Beginning in Halstock, the footpath took me past Halstock Mill, climbing between two hills, Pen Hill, and Abbots Hill. To begin with, the footpath passed through dense woodland, thick with spring flowers; primroses and wild violets, celandines, wood anenomes and wild garlic, before passing out in to open pasture.

Through the woods beyond Halstock Mill

Field gates

Looking back towards Pen Hill

After passing under the railway line at Parsonage Farm, I climbed the first ridge to Pendomer, a small village with its church, manor house and a scattering of cottages and farms. The church is dedicated to the French saint, St. Roch, an unusual dedication for England, but who was especially invoked against the plague, very appropriate now. The church is 14th century, perhaps as early as the late 13th century, and has an interesting memorial dating from 1328 and an effigy of a knight believed to be John de Domer.


The manor house in Pendomer

St. Roch church, Pendomer

The medieval effigy of John de Domer

From Pendomer, the trackway descended in to a wide, dry valley, before climbing steeply, to the village of Hardington Mandeville, a village granted to the Norman Mandeville family in the 12th century, hence the second part of its name. A thatcher was renewing the roof of one of the old, thatched houses in the village, using wheat long-straw, rather than 'reed', which apparently is more traditional in this part of the country. There was a funeral taking place at the village church and the recently departed was delivered to the church in the back of a Landrover, something I had never heard of until the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh last week, but which appears to be more common than I thought.

The view towards Hardington Mandeville

Beautiful countryside

Looking towards the north Dorset ridge

Thatched house in Hardington Mandeville

A thatcher at work

The Old Post Office

From Hardington Mandeville I crossed several small fields to the sister village of Hardington Moor, which has its own National Nature Reserve, and which is home to many rare plants and butterflies. One of the rare plants has the delightful name of corky-fruited water-dropwort! In Hardington Moor I followed a narrow pathway across a stream and then found myself walking through someone’s garden, much to my surprise. The householder, obviously used to this, who was weeding in the garden, nodded pleasantly to me as I strode across her lawn. Sadly, the local pub, the Royal Oak, was closed, as I was rather tired and thirsty by this stage, and a pint of local beer or cider would have been very welcome.

Primrose Hill

The old carriageway in Coker Park

Finally, after climbing the last, steep ridge (and stopping several times to ‘admire’ the view) I crossed Primrose Hill (still thick with primroses) before crossing through Coker Park and back into East Coker. A wonderful walk of 6.5 miles in a little less than 3 hours.

All photographs by Roy Nicholls

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