Snippets from the: Offical-Wessex-Ridgeway-Trail-Guide (dorsetcouncil.gov.uk)
“On a clear day, you can enjoy spectacular views reaching out across the Blackmore Vale as far as King Alfred’s Tower. “
Thank you to members of the British Horse Society, Ramblers’ Association and all the landowners whose help and support made this multi-use trail possible.
The trail has been developed and is managed by Dorset Countryside, Dorset County Council’s Countryside Ranger Service, Dorset AONB, Liveability and the Environment Agency. Produced and published by Dorset Countryside, Dorset Council, County Hall, Colliton Park, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1XJ.
Dungeon Hill is an Iron Age hillfort, about 1.25 miles north of the village of Buckland Newton. Although there is no access, a bridleway runs parallel to the east of the earthwork. However, this lack of access has meant positive preservation of the area. A previous landowner inserted brick arches into the ramparts, while doing this he unearthed human bones, sword blades and roman coins. The summit is currently circled by trees.
Rawlsbury Camp, a five-acre Iron Age hill fort, is situated on a promontory of Bulbarrow hill. The remains of the camp include the twin embankments and intermediate ditch which surrounded it. The hill gets its name from the several barrows that adorn the hill. Additionally, a medieval trackway crosses the ridge, now a bridleway. The whole site is open access. The views stretch out to the west towards Nettlecombe Tout and the north over the Blackmore Vale.
Rawlsbury Camp looking over the Blackmore Vale
A promontory hillfort in one of the more remote spots in Dorset. Close by is the Dorsetshire gap, a meeting place of five ancient trackways. The hillfort is formed by a double bank and ditch cutting across the hill called Lyscombe hill, leaving a twenty-acre hillfort at the end. To the north is the village of Mapowder and to the south are the remains of the mediaeval village of Melcombe Horsey. Many cross dikes are also in the area, defending the site on the southern spurs.
Lyscombe hill and it’s southern spurs. Nettlecombe tout can be seen at the top of the picture.
Cross dikes and Nettlecombe.
On a clear day along the whole of this section, you can enjoy spectacular views reaching out across the Blackmore Vale as far as King Alfred’s Tower and southwards along the English Channel to the Isle of Wight.
RAWLSBURY CAMP This Iron Age hillfort dominates the edge of the hillside as you leave the road near Bulbarrow, the second-highest hill in Dorset. This hill has been used for thousands of years, first as a hillfort then as a site for one of the Armada Beacons in 1588. These were used to warn of an impending attack by Spain. Later on, this site was used as part of a chain of hilltop telegraph stations running across Dorset during the Napoleonic Wars. Today this site is home to a rough cross that sits within the fort. On your way to the Dorsetshire Gap there is an opportunity to rest and picnic at the large oak bench designed and made by Reg Budd, another Creative Footsteps’ commissioned artist.
DORSETSHIRE GAP This mysterious junction of five tracks with its steep man-made cuttings lies at the edge of the Higher Melcombe estate. The Dorsetshire Gap has been an important road crossing since the Middle Ages right Ibberton to Folly and Plush 6.0 miles (9.5 km) 117 ST 755 050 Ibberton to Folly and Plush 32 View from above Ibberton O S 33 Ibberton to Folly and Plush through to the 19th century. All around this site there is evidence from before this time from hilltop cross dykes, burial mounds and traces of an unfinished Iron Age hillfort at Nettlecombe Tout 17 to the remnants of a Medieval settlement in the valley below. For many years visitors to the Dorsetshire Gap have been putting their thoughts on paper in a visitor’s book kept at the Gap. The book can be found hidden in the base of the information panel where the five trackways join.
MELCOMBE PARK – DEER PARK? Just north of the trail lies Melcombe Park. This woodland is believed to be a deer park whose boundary follows the trail from Breach Wood to the Dorsetshire Gap. The deer park dates from around 1580 and was built by Sir John Horsey. However, deer parks date broadly from the Medieval period and were areas of woodland and open grassland that were enclosed by a ditch and bank to keep deer in. This was very much a status symbol for the aristocracy. Although many are unused today, evidence of these deer parks is still visible all along the trail.
FOLLY In the past this private house was once the Folly Inn, used as a resting place for Medieval drovers when moving animals along the network of old drove roads, including the Wessex Ridgeway. Bench, Breach Wood 34 Ibberton to Folly and Plush
PLUSH High above Plush beside the trail are surviving traces of small rectangular fields, which are part of a prehistoric (pre-43 AD) field system. These once covered large parts of southern England but are now only visible in places that survived ploughing during the Medieval period. There is also a square Celtic encampment visible near the edge of Watcombe Wood. Strip lynchets dating from Medieval times straddle the hillsides around Plush and Lyscombe Farm. These were artificial terraces created so the steep-sided slopes could be ploughed. You can visit the village of Plush and the Brace of Pheasants pub by taking the bridleway that runs down through the valley from the trail just above Alton Pancras.