First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Sherborne, one of Dorset’s most beautiful towns, is full of buildings made of that very distinctive, iron-rich golden limestone called ‘hamstone’. Medieval masons worked it to sublime effect in the delicately constructed chapels and lacy fan vaulting of the abbey church that stands at the heart of the town.
From the slopes of Sherborne Park I looked across the meadows to Sherborne’s twin castles – an old Norman stronghold in picturesque ruin beyond the trees, its Tudor counterpart beside the long lake. The original lodge, built in brick by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594 after Queen Elizabeth I had gifted him the land, was enfolded by grand wings added later. Lit by today’s strong sunshine and framed in fat white cumulus clouds, it looked altogether splendid in its setting of broad parkland studded with magnificent specimen oaks. I imagined Raleigh’s ghost sitting smoking, as it is apparently in the habit of doing, in the stone seat that Sir Walter installed by the lake, puffing out an extra cloud of Virginia-scented satisfaction on this lovely morning.
Two young women walked ahead on the broad path through the park, their babies on their backs. I followed them over the heathy common where homeless Poles were housed after the Second World War as Displaced Persons in the cramped, cold and very basic Nissen huts of a former field hospital. ‘People were all in the same circumstances,’ writes Teresa Stolarczyk-Marshall, who lived there as a child (website – see below), ‘in a strange country where they could not speak the language. So they rallied round helping one another. People were very patriotic, observing their traditions and bringing their children up in a Polish spirit. Haydon Park become Little Poland.’
I turned north through the parkland trees, looking over the cottage at Pinfold Farm towards the green cap of Crackmore Wood. A quiet moment in a golden stone chancel by the roaring A30, all that’s left of the 16th-century Church of St Cuthbert (one of the very last churches built before the Reformation); and then a saunter through Oborne village between hedges netted with pungent-smelling hop bines. The old green road of Underdown Lane dropped me back into the outskirts of Sherborne, and a path through the sunlit meadows by the River Yeo led easily back to the station once more.
Start & finish: Sherborne railway station DT9 3NB (OS ref ST 641162)
Getting there: Train to Sherborne; Bus 57, 58 from Yeovil. Road: A30 from Yeovil or Shaftesbury; park at railway station.
Walk (6 miles, easy grade, OS Explorer 129): Cross railway; at T-junction, cross B3145; through kissing gate opposite; left on path/track through Sherborne Park. From thatched lodge in 1¼ miles (660161), follow yellow arrows/YAs to pass The Camp depot (665161). In another 400m, at YA (669160), left across field to stile (668162, YA). Through Deer Park wood and on (YAs) to track at Pinford Farm (664172). Left (YA); in 150m, right (YA) to go between ornate gateposts (662173). In 15m, left (YA) into wood. In 30m, right (YA), north inside wood edge. In 300m, left to leave wood through kissing gate (661176); across 3 fields (YAs), under railway (654178) to St Cuthbert’s Church chancel (653178). Cross A30 (take care!); up road to Oborne. In 600m, left (655185) past Oborne church; on along green lane, then Underdown Lane for nearly a mile to cross A30 (647174). Keep ahead (‘Bridleway’) to farmyard and road (646170). Ahead to crossroads; right along B3145; in 300m, left (644168, ‘Dorchester, Blandford’) along New Road. Cross railway and river; right (645166, fingerpost) on field path to station.
Lunch: Oliver’s Coffee House, Cheap Street, Sherborne (01935-815005); or the excellent Station Café (01935-814111) – fry-up heaven!
Haydon Park Polish camp: www.polishresettlementcampsintheuk.co.uk/haydonpark1.htm
More info: Sherborne TIC (01935-815341)