Walk where Thomas Hardy, Robert Young and William Barnes would all have wandered, crossing a Grade II listed Victorian footbridge and following ancient tracks into the unchanged secret countryside that lies hidden behind Sturminster Newton. Gently wind your way towards Lydlinch and Bagber Common – where William Barnes was born – before turning back towards the town.
The route starts in the heart of Sturminster Newton – there is free parking to be found around the streets, but there is also a large paid-for car park which makes life very simple.
Follow a narrow winding back lane past some of the oldest buildings of the town, finding yourself swiftly on an old footpath to Colber Bridge, a Grade II listed cast iron footbridge over the stour that was designed and built by a Sturminster clockmaker, J Conway, in 1841.
From here it’s a short path across (wet!) watermeadows to join Stalbridge Lane, a beautiful track to walk which originally connected Stur with neighbouring Stalbridge, 4.5 miles away (it’s now 6.5 miles by road). Be aware before you start that if the Stour is in flood, sections of Stalbridge Lane (and other river-level sections of this walk) are likely to be impassable.
As soon as you leave the immediate environs of Sturminster Newton itself you slip back into a quieter time. We have lived locally for 30 years, and have never walked this route due to the fear that the busy A357 would be an irritant throughout the route. But astonishingly you never even notice it – the whole walk was a peaceful joy.
There is a length of road walking at the far end of Stalbridge Lane where the old track morphs into Chapel Road; it was a pleasant stroll between typical Dorset hedges with some beautiful views across the valley, and we didn’t see a single car while we were on the road.
Be aware as you approach Hargrove Lane at the back of Lydlinch that the footpath has moved – the original took you through the farmyard itself, and it has sensibly been shifted to join an access lane instead of winding awkwardly between barns.
The route is easy to follow and well signposted. Stiles and bridges are all well kept (except one small planked ditch bridge as you approach the back of Mullins Farm. Tread carefully on this one – one side is fine, the other very much not so! See image above).
Time it right, and you can finish your day at one of the many excellent coffee and cake spots in the town – we highly recommend both Oxford’s and Stur of the Moment!