After an early birthday celebration with my sister’s family (tasty cake made by Kate and Anna, two of my 3 gorgeous neices) I headed off to Kingston to try the alternative route suggested in my last post.
I had taken the car this time and was on my own so was not able to walk the entire route, but I gave it a pretty thorough checking over and walked most of it, including all the bits that looked a bit dodgy on the map, such as crossing the A31.
I also bought the missing map (OL118) which meant I could figure out how I got lost last time on the Castleman’s Trailway.
There are 2 paths to Corfe Castle from Kingston – the Purbeck Way, or a footpath which is signposted about 50 metres up the road from the Scott Arms. I walked both: I parked at Corfe and walked up to Kingston on the Purbeck Way, and then back on the other footpath. Either route provides spectacular views, but I think the more direct route from the Scott Arms has the edge because it is so obvious where to go:
The weather that morning was a treat – strong winds and a heavy drizzle, but it did bestow Corfe Castle with a good sense of foreboding.
Photographers beware: this stretch of the walk is likely to take longer than normal because the temptation to stop and take pictures is huge, irresistable, and fortunately very rewarding. At least the damn thing stays still! There were several large flocks of crows which took flight as I approached them and filled the moody sky with their spiky silhouettes -it looked amazing but sadly my photos were dismal – just a few dismembered wings and heads.
I did however find some massive mushrooms, about 10 inches in diameter:
I haven’t identified them yet, but they smelled incredible and I’m pretty sure they would have been good to eat. Better check first though or the walk could be cut short!
Corfe is a very pretty village with the houses built using the local Purbeck stone. I managed to find a lovely pub – the Fox Inn with a small but perfect beer garden; and a bakery that does a decent pasty and some very tasty ginger cake. From the castle the route follows the Purbeck Way, initially west and then north towards Wareham. It is all countryside walking until about a mile or so out of Wareham where you need to walk down a very quiet road, which brings you out at Redclyffe Sailing Club, just over half a mile from Wareham, and then you follow the river Stroud into Wareham.
I think Wareham would be a good stopping point on the route – there are lots of campsites and guesthouses. The Wareham Forest campsite would be perfect but it might be a bit too far on the day, having started at Lulworth. This is where trying it for real helps.
Wareham Forest is a lovely walk with all the heather and gorse in bloom. The route goes past Woolsbarrow hill fort, an ancient earthworks which gives a spectacular view across the forest. It is obvious why Wareham is such a popular spot for active holidays on bike or foot.
The Wareham Forest Way continues out of the forest to Sturminster and then across to the Stour Valley Way which broadly follows the river Stour although there is a bit of road walking (again very quiet roads). The dodgiest bit is on the approach to Wimborne where you cross the A31 at a roundabout. From there you walk down a small road (Willett Road – 3 cars went by in 15 mins) and pass under the A35 to join the river before a short walk through some housing to Wimborne where you pick up the Castleman Trailway. It felt much better than either of the other routes.
Ah, the Castleman Trailway and its daft signing. Evidence in the picture below – the sign says straight on, but the route actually turns sharp right. Once you pass under an old railway bridge you can either stay on the tree-lined, shady, bullet-straight track, or duck off to the left and walk by the river’s edge which is definitely more pleasant if the weather is on your side. It also has the massive advantage of revealing the bridge you need to cross just after the boathouse, which is totally invisible from the track and there are no hints from any signs whatsoever. This, it turns out is where I went wrong last time. Bitter, moi?!
Nice bridge though…
…but a bit wobbly! Highlight of the day was seeing a lady one side of the bridge and her terrier the other side, resolutely refusing to cross over. In the end the dog won, but in case there was any doubt about his courage he gave me a serious barking at when I crossed over. So chastised, but delighted that the route seems to work pretty well, I headed back to the car.