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Melbury Beacon and Downs

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Melbury Beacon and Downs
Author: clairesharpuk, Published: 11 Jun 2012 Walk rating : Rating:star1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
Dorset, Compton Abbas
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
Melbury Beacon and Downs
Length: 3 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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A short but fairly strenuous circular walk taking in a chalk downland area of natural beauty which is managed by the National Trust. The walk starts from Spread Eagle Hill and heads out climbing quite steeply to the top of Melbury Hill, giving views for miles around across the surrounding downland, and then returning along Compton Down. The area is well known for its butterflies, orchids and glow-worms.

The walk follows paths around the steep sloping downland and the paths will get slippery and muddy after wet weather. There are two stiles and a couple of gates. The first stile is open underneath for dogs to pass through, but the second stile is more enclosed so dogs may need a lift over and it also has a steep drop on the opposite side so some people may also need a hand! Dogs are welcome on the downs as long as they are under close control as the area is grazed with cattle. The area is very isolated so there are no refreshment or toilet facilities. Approximate time 1 to 1.5 hours.

The walk starts from the small National Trust Fontmell Down car park which is situated at the top of Spread Eagle Hill. Heading south out of Melbury Abbas on Melbury Street (B3081), continue onto Spread Eagle Hill and the car park is at the top of the hill on the right hand side. Approximate post code SP5 5AP.

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Walk Sections

Fontmell Down Car Park to Melbury Beacon
Fontmell Down Car Park to Melbury Beacon

Start point: 50.9679 lat, -2.1635 long
End point: 50.9768 lat, -2.1822 long

From the car park, facing the road, turn left onto the fenced grass footpath running parallel to the road. The path emerges into a stone lay-by, go straight ahead through the gate to enter the Melbury Hill site.

Go straight ahead following the fence line to your left and climbing gradually up hill. Continue as the path slopes down into a dip in the hill with a bridleway crossing, go straight on following the fence on the left as it begins to climb up Melbury Hill.

Follow this now fairly steep path until you reach the top of the hill, with a stile and the beacon on the left.

Melbury Beacon to Bridleway
Melbury Beacon to Bridleway

Start point: 50.9768 lat, -2.1822 long
End point: 50.9757 lat, -2.173 long

Cross over the stile to reach the beacon.

At 263m/863ft above sea level, Melbury Beacon is thought to have been used in the past as a site for a warning beacon. It was used to form part of the chain of beacons for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee (2002) but the Diamond Jubilee (2012) beacon was lit on the community field in the nearby village of Melbury Abbas. Take some time to enjoy the 360 degree views across Blackmore Vale, Vale of Wardour and the town of Shaftesbury.

Continue in the same direction (taken from the line from the stile to the beacon) taking the path veering away from the fence to the left, sloping downhill and heading towards the aerodrome on the far horizon. Follow this path running along the narrow grass ridge with the valley sloping steeply down to the right.

The path swings back to the left to continue running downhill parallel to the fence on the left to reach the dip in the hill with the bridleway crossing in from the left.

Bridleway to Stile
Bridleway to Stile

Start point: 50.9757 lat, -2.173 long
End point: 50.9692 lat, -2.1682 long

Continue straight on here with the fence still on the left and climbing once again. When you reach a wide gate ahead, bear right keeping the fence to the left. Follow this path along the ridge of Compton Down enjoying the views down across the valley to the right.

The name Compton is derived from the Saxon term ‘cumb-ton’ meaning 'village in a narrow valley'. The villages in the area have the word Abbas within their names as the land was owned by the Abbess, the head of the abbey in nearby Shaftesbury.

These downs were bought by the National Trust in memory of the well known author and poet Thomas Hardy. The Trust was keen to protect this landscape which is the setting for his novels of the Blackmore Vale. The chalk downs are well known for their rare flower and butterfly populations.

As the fence turns sharp left, keep left to follow the path with the fence still on the left. Follow this path as it gradually veers right away from the fence and sloping downhill. Follow the path to reach a stile set into a hedgeline ahead.

Stile to End
Stile to End

Start point: 50.9692 lat, -2.1682 long
End point: 50.968 lat, -2.1644 long

Cross over the stile (take care as there is a steep drop on the far side) and go ahead down five steep wooden steps through the arched hedgeline. You will emerge onto a stone track.

Turn left and follow the track heading uphill. You will emerge back at the car park where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2012 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


1 responses to "Melbury Beacon and Downs"

The start of this walk is pretty steep, but once you get to the top it is all worthwhile. Beautiful views of the surrounding area. It's the type of hill you want to spend a few hours on, just sitting!! Thanks for publishing this walk.

By DebbieK on 2012-06-20 22:19:44

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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