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A Tisbury and Fonthill walk

Philip Dring
By Philip Dring

Try this walk that Philip Dring says will entice the most reluctant of young ramblers into the countryside.

Tea for seventeen (we’re in the tree!)

A Tisbury and Fonthill walk of 4.3 miles suitable for adults and older children.
The Tisbury section is mainly on paved surfaces but is quite steep. The Fonthill section is primarily farmland and can be muddy.

Start: the Nadder Centre car park, Tisbury, SP3 6HJ.

Leave the car park along the road to the left of the Centre. When the playing field fence ends turn right onto a path leading into a field. Go downhill, through a kissing gate bearing left in the next field, then through another gate to a driveway. Continue down to a road. Bear left on the road and just after two 20mph signs turn right onto a footpath. Continue to the bottom to Tisbury church.

The breakfast tree at Tisbury church

There are several towering dark-green yew trees in the churchyard but the one on the right of the path is really significant. Its twisted outer shell opens out to a cave like interior where, local legend has it, seventeen people enjoyed breakfast back in the 1830’s. Estimated at nearly 4,000 years old it could be one of the oldest living things in Britain. However, there is a serious conservation issue in that trees like this have virtually no legal protection and certainly much less than the church.

Walkers with children should return to the start to continue the walk as the route through Tisbury has a quarter-mile section without pavements.
Leave the car park on the far side and go through the new housing estate to the Tisbury to Fonthill road. Cross the road and after 20 yards on the right take a well-defined, undulating path diagonally across two fields to enter woodland. There are some Tolkienesque trees along this stretch. Follow the path to a stile and bear right onto a wide path to cross the Fonthill stream. Follow this path through a gate to join a track to leading to the lake.

Fonthill lake

You’ll hear the sound of rushing water now and this is part of a mini-hydro power scheme. You cross this near a good information board. Continue along the left bank of the lake. You will soon see four ornate low pillars on the opposite side of the lake. Although it seems a perfect country scene this is really a man-made vista. The lake was created by a dam and trees planted all as a part of the 18th century’s aim to produce nature as a work of art.
Another example of this can be found by turning left up the slope to what appears to be a pile of stones. This, the Cromlech, is one of several grottos built by the Beck-fords, then owners of Fonthill. In the wood behind there is also the remains of a hermitage.

The Cromlech at Fonthill

Return to the lake and continue along the bank until you meet the road. Cross here and follow the verge around a copse and continue up to the crossroads by the Fonthill Arms. Continue in the same direction and just after an ornate gatehouse on your right take a footpath on the left. Follow this for half a mile until you reach a broad farm track. Bear right here and follow this just beyond the reservoir and turn left onto a farm track across two fields to reach the Nadder Centre.

Cranborne Chase AONB, north west of Tisbury
Two people searching for something against a cloudy blue sky