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Sturminster Newton and Fiddleford

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Sturminster Newton and Fiddleford
Author: Claire, Published: 14 May 2015 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 UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
Dorset, North Dorset
Walk Type: Footpaths and byways
Sturminster Newton and Fiddleford
Length: 3 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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A 3 mile circular walk from the small market town of Sturminster Newton in Dorset. The walk passes the town’s museum and church before crossing the glorious riverside meadows to reach the neighbouring Fiddleford. Here you will find the remains of an old mill and manor house, the latter of which you have chance to explore. The return leg follows the track of the old rail line, leading you directly back to the car park at the start.

The route is almost entirely flat with just some gentle slopes. Whilst most of the paths are well made, the riverside meadows can be very muddy at times. You will need to negotiate kissing gates and footbridges plus single plank barrier-type stiles that you will need to step over at the ends of the bridges (which are very easy for dogs to pass under). The riverside meadows are used to graze cattle so take particular care with dogs (when we walked the cattle seemed very relaxed around the dog walkers). There are public toilets available in the car park at the start of the walk. Allow 1 to 1.5 hours.

Sturminster Newton is located in North Dorset, about 11 miles north west of Blandford Forum. The walk starts and finishes from the pay and display car park on Station Road and Barnes Close, which is signposted with a blue P. Approximate post code DT10 1BN.

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Walk Sections

Start to St Mary's Church
Start to St Mary's Church

Start point: 50.9269 lat, -2.3036 long
End point: 50.9248 lat, -2.3034 long

Leave the car park in the top corner (passing the toilet block on your left). Cross over the road and walk along the pedestrian section of Station Road. At the T-junction with the main road, turn left. At the fork keep left, passing a triangular parking area on the right. Keep ahead to a narrow lane which swings to the left then take the first right turn into Church Street.

You will pass the pretty thatched Sturminster Newton Museum across to the right. The museum, which offers free admission, holds exhibits showing the history of the town including the cattle market, the railway, the milk factory and local poets. Sturminster Newton is located at a fording point for the River Stour, the ford having been replaced by a bridge in the 1500s. The town’s economy was built around the dairy industry and the town’s creamery operated until 2000.

Keep straight ahead down the road signed To The Church and marked as a no through road. The road passes between pretty terraced cottages and then swings left to lead you to St Mary’s Church.

St Mary's Church to Riverside Meadow
St Mary's Church to Riverside Meadow

Start point: 50.9248 lat, -2.3034 long
End point: 50.9246 lat, -2.2993 long

The town’s name translates as a new farm or estate (Newton) cited at a church (Minster) on the River Stour (Stur). The present church traces its origins back a mere 500 years, but the site has been a place of worship for more than a thousand years. There are eight stained glass windows, two of which are by Mary Lowndes, Britain's first female stained glass maker. One, The Nativity, is high up in the West Tower and commemorates her mother. The other, The Resurrection, is in the Warrior Chapel and commemorates her father, Canon Richard Lowndes who was vicar here for 36 years.

Take the path which runs along the left-hand side of the church. The path zig-zags alongside the church, passing the church hall on the left and a Giant Redwood tree on the right. At the T-junction with the Old School House on the left, turn left and follow this lane between houses.

Pass the pretty old water pump on the left and at the junction turn right into Gotts Corner. On the right you will pass a garden wall which is set with a whole range of obscure objects including shells, stones and fossils. A little way along you will see a footpath fingerpost for Fiddleford Manor and Mill. Turn left here and follow the stone track as it dwindles to a path between hedges (passing Hamgate Farm on your left). The path will lead you to a kissing gate at the edge of the riverside meadows.

Riverside Meadow to Fiddleford Mill
Riverside Meadow to Fiddleford Mill

Start point: 50.9246 lat, -2.2993 long
End point: 50.9217 lat, -2.2847 long

Pass through the kissing gate to enter the first meadow (NOTE: any of these meadows may be holding cattle). Follow the obvious grass track, at about 1 o’clock, across the meadow with the River Stour running across to the right. At the far side, pass through a second kissing gate to enter the second meadow. Turn left, following the line of the hedge on the left.

After just a short distance, pass through the gateway in the old fence line to enter the third meadow. Keep ahead on the grass path which soon bears right to cross the meadow diagonally. In the far corner you will find a narrow footbridge with low stiles each end. This bridge leads you across a small stream and into a fourth meadow. Walk diagonally right across the corner of the field to reach the footbridge over the River Stour.

Cross this bridge and follow the concrete path which leads you over a sluice gate and a hydropower plant. You will emerge to the old buildings of Fiddleford Mill. The mill at Fiddleford is mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086 and there was a working mill here up until the late 1900s. The old mill buildings were said to have been used in the late 1700s for storing brandy smuggled from the coast.

Fiddleford Mill to Old Railway
Fiddleford Mill to Old Railway

Start point: 50.9217 lat, -2.2847 long
End point: 50.9239 lat, -2.2853 long

From here, it is worth walking just a little further to visit Fiddleford Manor (managed by English Heritage and offering free admission). Follow the path between the old mill buildings and on to a T-junction with a quiet lane. Turn right and, shortly, right again to enter the car park for Fiddleford Manor. Walk through the car park and through the metal gate to join the grass track. You will find the gates for the manor house on the right at the end of the grass track.

Take time to explore the exterior and interior of the old manor. Fiddleford Manor sits on the banks of the River Stour and is thought to date back to 1370. It has undergone many changes since, but the splendid timber roofs over the great hall and solar are said to be the most spectacular in Dorset. The manor house has no recorded history, but it was probably built for William Latimer, Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset. Men like Latimer, as sheriffs and justices, made the king’s government work in the shires – a practical alliance between central authority and local influence.

When you are ready to continue your walk, retrace your steps back through the car park and round to the old mill buildings. Go back over the sluice gate and river bridge to reach the fourth meadow that you crossed earlier. Turn right (signed Sturminster Newton via Railway Path) and walk along the edge of the meadow, following the line of the River Stour on your right.

Cross the footbridge ahead (again with stiles each end) and continue following the line of the river on the right. You will come to a kissing gate ahead, pass through this and turn left up the stone slope to reach the track of the old railway path.

Old Railway to End
Old Railway to End

Start point: 50.9239 lat, -2.2853 long
End point: 50.927 lat, -2.3032 long

Turn left to join the old railway path. NOTE: this is a bridleway so watch out for cyclists and horse riders.

The Somerset and Dorset Railway ran through the town from 1863 until 1966, when it was dismantled as part of the Beeching Axe. The railway goods yard gave milk trains access to the private sidings of the local creamery. From the 1950s the creamery specialised in production of Double Gloucester, Caerphilly and Cheddar cheese. As an important centre for the dairy industry, Sturminster Newton also had one of the largest livestock markets in Britain, which ran until 1998 and has since been replaced with housing. The town continues to host a Cheese Festival in September each year.

Follow the old railway track all the way to its end (just less than a mile) and you will emerge out to the car park where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2015 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.

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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3 gallery images for "Sturminster Newton and Fiddleford"

4478_0Richard1431631528 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: RichardJ
Uploaded: 14 May 2015
St Mary's church near the beginning of the walk.
4478_1Richard1431631528 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: RichardJ
Uploaded: 14 May 2015
This picture was taken from the mill in May 2015. The cows did not seem very interested in us when we walked along the river bank.
4478_2Richard1431631528 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: RichardJ
Uploaded: 14 May 2015
We enjoyed looking around the manor - it doesn't take long.


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