Printable WalkStonebarrow Hill
Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2013. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
To get to the start of this walk drive to Seatown and park your car in the beach car park (chargeable).
- From the car walk northwards up Sea Hill Lane, towards Chideock, carrying on along the road past the South West Coast Path, until you come to the stony lane on your left. Turn up here, passing to the south of Seahill House, and climb gently upwards towards the woods of Langdon Hill.
- Fork left onto Pettycrate Lane as it heads past the southern end of the woodland, bearing left again a moment later, and follow it to the gate into the field at the far end.
- Ignoring the path into the woods on your right, carry straight on through the gate, bearing right to go through into the next field about halfway down the hedge. Going through into this field, follow the path as it skirts the perimeter of Filcombe Wood and travels along the lane past Filcombe Farm.
- Carry on along the lane, ignoring paths leading away on either side, along the hedge to Muddyford Lane.
- Turn left on the road and follow it downhill and then up again, past Norchard Farm, to Pickaxe Cross, where there are National Trust signs to St Gabriel's and then Upcot Farm.
- Turn right here onto the stony track heading uphill, and follow it for about three quarters of a mile, going through the gates along the way, until you come to the road at Ship Knapp.
At the first gate along this track there is a footpath which steeply ascends Chardown Hill, bringing you out on the very top, with spectacular views back over Chideock and the surrounding countryside, as well as numerous ridges, barrows and banks left behind by the Bronze Age settlers here. If you wish to take this strenuous shortcut, bear left at the top of the hill to rejoin the main route at 8.
Ignoring the footpath up the hill and instead carrying on through the gate and along the lane to Ship Knapp takes you first through Cold Harbour. This is an Old English name for a sheltered settlement on the outskirts of a parish.
On the left-hand side as you walk along the lane through Cold Harbour is St Wite's Well. St Wite or St Whyte, (sometimes also called St Candida), is thought to have been a Saxon hermit killed by the Danes who came raping and pillaging through the area around the tenth century. There is a thirteenth century shrine in nearby Whitchurch Canonicorum said to contain the bones of St Wite. Investigations carried out in 1900, when a fissure appeared in the north wall of the church's transept and damaged the shrine, found the bones of a woman in her forties.
In 1630 a passing traveller speaks of “St White a Virgin Martyr, whose Well the Inhabitants will shewe you not farre off in the Side of an Hill, where she lived in Prayer and Contemplation.” The well's medicinal properties are supposed to help with eye complaints, especially when the sun's first rays were reflected in the waters, and the periwinkle flowers which carpet Stonebarrow Hill in the spring are known locally as "St. Candida's Eyes".
The well was restored by the National Trust and blessed by the Bishop of Salisbury in 1985.
- If you have taken the longer route through Cold Harbour, turn left at the lane at Ship Knapp (although turning right will take you up to Morcombelake and a handy bus stop, if you've had enough). Having turned left, continue straight ahead past all the buildings until you come to the hard-standing area by the last farm. Take the footpath along the track heading uphill to your left from here, and follow it for about three quarters of a mile, to the car parking area at the end of the rough road along the ridge of Stonebarrow Hill.
Stonebarrow Hill, like much of the area, belongs to the National Trust, and is part of the Trust's Golden Cap estate. On Golden Cap itself is a plaque to the Earl of Antrim, who spearheaded the Trust's “Enterprise Neptune”, a campaign started in 1965 with the aim of saving our coastal heritage from property developers. In this area the patchwork pattern of fields has been preserved from medieval times, and the traditional methods of farming have encouraged a plethora of wildlife.
A detour along the track on your right here will bring you to the NT's base in a WWII radar station, with an information point and a seasonal shop, and there is a network of paths all over the heathland here for those with the inclination to explore them.
- Reaching the parking area, fork left, signposted to the Coast Path and Westhay Farm, to carry on in the original direction along the side of Stonebarrow Hill, ignoring the small paths along the way, until you come to where it forks and the lane itself leads to the left, to Westhay Farm.
- Turn left here and walk past the farm, carrying on ahead when your track turns to a path itself, until you are joined by the South West Coast Path, coming in from your right.
- Carry on along the Coast Path, dropping to the stream and then bearing left and uphill. Ignoring the path to your left as you reach the top of the ridge, drop down with the Coast Path to the next stream. Once again the path bears leftwards as it climbs.
- At the top of the field a path heads away to Ridge Barn, on your left, but you carry on along the Coast Path as it curves around the scrub and once more descends to a stream.
- The path on the right here leads down to St Gabriel's Mouth, but you stay with the Coast Path as it starts its long zigzagging climb up Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast of England.
St Gabriel's Mouth is a popular place for fossil-collecting, but access to it is via a very steep flight of steps, and it is possible to be cut off by the tide there, so approach it with caution if you decide on a detour.
The path on your left at 12 gives you the option of an easier route, around the back of the hill. You will lose the spectacular coastal views that the summit of Golden Cap affords; but instead you will gain the historical curiosity of Stanton St Gabriel.
This was a medieval settlement which once had as many as 23 families, before coastal erosion forced the diversion inland of the main coach road through, sidelining the village and causing the population to drift into Bridport instead, to join the rope-making industry there (see the Langdon Hill & St Gabriel's Chapel Walk).
If you choose the inland diversion through Stanton St Gabriel, keep bearing right around the hill after you have passed the ruined chapel, staying to the south of the woodland on Langdon Hill, and you will rejoin the main route at 13.
- If you have opted for the challenging but rewarding Ascent of Golden Cap, carry on over the summit and follow the path down through the heathland to the field at the bottom.
- Turn roughly eastwards with the Coast Path here, and stay with it as it travels downhill beneath the Langdon Hill woodland and heads towards Seatown.
Ignore the path joining from the left and carry straight on along the Coast Path to Seatown to return to the car park.