Stroll and scoff
Is there anything better than a beautiful Autumnal walk that ends in a stonking good lunch? (spoiler alert: NO). Here's my starter for 10 walks – with pitstops – across Somerset & Dorset
The Beech Avenue and Droves at Kingston Lacy, nr Wimborne
This moderate four-miler will take you around the network of droves, along the Beech Avenue – where the leaves will be turning a rich red – and then around the edge pf National Trust’s Kingston Lacy parkland in around an hour and a half. Head back into Wimborne to the ancient The White Hart, former stables, cells, abattoir (but don’t let that put you off) for lunch.
Kelston Roundhill, Kelston, Bath
A quickie: start at The Old Crown Inn and walk 30 mins up to the top of Kelston Roundhill, admire the views from the top (on a clear day, you can see the Severn bridges, Wales and the Black Mountains, the Wiltshire Downs and the Mendip Hills) and then back down again to the pub’s cosy corners and roaring fires. Read our review. There’s a longer walk from the award-winning Bath Soft Cheese Company (and its nice little cafe) in the same village.
Godlingston Heath, Studland
Say hello to the Devil’s Anvil (aka the huge sandstone Agglestone rock) on an easy three-mile walk over heathland with breathtaking views of Little Sea and Studland Bay. Then over to the super laid back Pig-on the beach for a drink in the bar or lunch in their sea-view conservatory restaurant, where everything is grown, foraged or produced by their own kitchen garden or within 25 miles around.
Porlock Woodland Walk, Porlock
In just over four miles, you can take in Porlock Bay, the wooded hills above Porlock Weir, the pebbly Porlock beach and the marshy pastures behind. Poet Samuel Coleridge who lived at nearby Nether Stowey, often strolled around Porlock with his mate William Wordsworth. Wonder if they ever had a pint in The Ship Inn?
Commoners’ Way, Corfe Castle
This circular and rather hilly walk of just over five miles starts and finishes at the church in Kingston, taking in fab views of the Purbeck landscape along the way. Very handily, the village of Corfe Castle is about half way, so re-fuel at The Greyhound, where the menu looks as impressive as the pub’s setting in the shadow of the castle ruins.
Will’s Neck, in the Quantocks
This one-hour walk takes you to Will’s Neck (but not Will), the highest point in the Quantock Hills. On a good day you can see over to Exmoor and Dunkery Beacon and across Somerset. Wild ponies too. You can start and finish at The Rising Sun in West Bagborough (where the food’s said to be very good).
Thorncombe Woods, Higher Bockhampton, nr Dorchester
Walk in the footsteps of Thomas Hardy – literally (he grew up here) – with these two walks of three and five miles around Thorncombe Woods , Puddletown Forest, Duddle Heat and Black Heath. Good for conkers, den-building and squirrel and wild pony spotting. Look out for swallet holes (like sink holes created by water erosion), Bronze Age barrows and a Roman road. It’s a skip and jump back into Dorchester to The King’s Arms, Dorset’s new laidback foodie pub for lunch.
Tarr Steps, Exmoor
Tarr Steps, the ancient clapper bridge dating back to around 1000 BC, crossing the river Barle is one of Somerset’s most magical places. This is a longer walk through a landscape of steep-sided fields on Exmoor – about 4 and half hours – but as you start and finish with food and booze at the fantastic Tarr Farm Inn, you probably won’t mind.
Osmington Mills to Spring Bottom Hill, Osmington
A shingle beach at Ringstead, a deserted medieval village, atmospheric woodland, views out to sea from the top of Spring Bottom Hill and the former HQ of 17th century French smuggler Pierre Latour – now The Smuggler’s Inn, a trad pub – overlooking the Isle of Portland. All in three easy miles of South West Coast Path (though it’s steep in parts to get those views at the top).
Montacute House parklands and beyond, Montacute, nr Yeovil
This lovely four mile walk includes the parklands of Elizabethan mansion Montacute House (built by Sir Edward Phelips, one of Guy Fawke’s prosecutors), with its impressive Lime Avenue, Mill Copse and water mill ruins and recycled tyre tree swings; Ladies Walk with views of the village through the beech trees; and the super steep St Micheal’s Mount with 17th century folly on the top. If you’re with your pooch, head up to the Prince of Wales, a former quarryman’s cottage on nearby Ham Hill, for drinks and grub.