Towns and villages near to the Wessex Ridgeway.
This pretty village is just over the border into Wiltshire. The small pond is a charming feature of the village along with the Church of St Peter with its unusual fish motif church gates.
This isolated hilltop village is the highest in Dorset. Sitting 700 feet (213 metres) above sea level. The village is surrounded by woodland and has a large pond at its centre believed to be Roman in origin. The pond is encircled with attractive flint and brick houses.
Just off the trail is the village of Ibberton, sitting on the edge of the Chalk ridge overlooking the Blackmore Vale. The village church rests on a ledge just above the village. It is lucky the church was not demolished, as in 1892 it was in such poor condition that services were moved to a temporary corrugated iron building until the church was restored in 1903. The temporary church still survives today and is now the village hall.
The village of Cerne Abbas is situated just off the trail and is well worth a visit. Its quaint streets, Medieval houses, early Christian wishing well, remains of a Benedictine Abbey and the Cerne Giant make this one of the most popular villages in Dorset.
Sydling St Nicholas
Sydling St Nicholas is a charming village full of thatched cottages constructed with bands of flint and stone. The Sydling Water runs through the village on its way southwards to meet the River Frome at Grimstone. In the churchyard are Yew trees said to be over 1000 years old.
The Medieval Church of St Mary with its original Norman door is believed to be the oldest door in England. There is also a Medieval cross in the centre of the village. The village lies between the Rivers Hooke and Frome.
This small hamlet, nestled by the River Hooke, is home to the Kingcombe Centre. This famous nature reserve was created in 1987 to preserve the unimproved grassland that is rich in wildlife and the unaltered old-fashioned field systems. There are a variety of picturesque and fascinating walks around this 400-acre reserve.
This pretty village is situated beside the River Hooke and has a large pond lined with trees near its centre. Nearby is Hooke Park Forest, a 350-acre site that is home to a working woodland centre and college run by the Architectural Association. A public bridleway runs through the centre of the forest, which is at its best during late spring when the bright green of the fresh Beech leaves contrasts with the bluebells covering the floor beneath.
This rural town offers a host of places to eat or to collect supplies and has many small traditional shops. Try exploring the side streets to see some of the handsome, creamy-orange stone houses and cottages or visit the Church of St Mary, the town's oldest surviving building.
Beaminster and its surrounding countryside has long been the subject of poetry and stories. William Barnes the county's great 19th century rural poet wrote:
'Sweet Be'mi'ster, that was bist a-bound
By green and woody hills all round,
Wi' hedges, reachen up between
A thousand vields o' zummer green.'
The town also features as 'Emminster' in Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
In the centre of the village is an oak tree planted in 1901. There is also a stone trough fed by a spring for horses and another spring fed trough, a lion's head for humans, although this is not recommended.
During the Civil War and following the execution of his father King Charles, Charles II tried to flee the country. After being unable to leave he decided to head back to Trent. As darkness fell on the 23 September 1651 Charles II found himself in an attic room at the Castle Inn in Broadwindsor. As night drew on the peace was shattered by a troop of Roundhead soldiers who wanted to stay at the Inn. They occupied all the rooms on the ground floor trapping Charles II above. He only escaped detection when one of the women travelling with the soldiers gave birth. This created a distraction for the soldiers until the morning when they left. Eventually Charles II made his way to the Sussex coast where he escaped to France. Part of the building including the King's room was destroyed by fire in 1856 however a tablet on the wall of the adjacent cottage bears the inscription 'Charles II slept here'.
This charming seaside town is a maze of narrow winding streets containing local shops, cafés and galleries. All over the town there are superb views of Golden Cap and along Chesil Beach towards Portland. On a clear day you can see for miles along the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Well worth a visit is the Town Mill page with its long Medieval leat and mill which has recently been restored to full working order. A walk along the Cobb is also a must. The Cobb, the town's artificial harbour was first built in the 13th century and was completely detached from land. In 1756 the Cobb was joined to the land and in the 1820s was rebuilt using Portland stone.
In 1811 Lyme Regis was put on the map when 12-year-old Mary Anning unearthed the first complete skeleton of an ichthyosaurus at Black Ven. It took around ten years to uncover it completely and it is now displayed in the Natural History Museum in London. Lyme Regis has also been made famous by Jane Austen and more recently by John Fowles in his book 'The French Lieutenant's Woman'.