A hidden trail to the silent valley

Emma Haughton finds a rare sense of tranquillity beyond the Dorset village of Powerstock

It's hard when describing a village like Powerstock in west Dorset not to fall back on the old picture-postcard cliches: its charming creamy stone cottages with thatched roofs nestling under the hills, its maze of deep lanes, its fine church and atmospheric inn with freshly cooked food.

However, don't let all that put you off - particularly at this time of year when the surrounding leafless landscape makes a bold contrast with such domestic sweetness. And besides, the village makes an excellent focal point for a walk through some of the most unspoilt and dramatic countryside in the county. And there's also, of course, the added bonus of a pub that offers hot meals at the end of - or even before - your bracing hike.

The walk is about four to five miles long, and passes through some fairly muddy, waterlogged patches - so it's advisable to wear wellies rather than stout walking boots. You start at the Three Horseshoes Inn and head off past the church, over the crossroads and walk straight across up the hill.

A little way along the lane you'll pass a farm on your right. Take the footpath through the farmyard (watch out for any wandering cows) and, once you've climbed over the stile, start walking up hill diagonally left. In a fierce wind this part of the walk can feel rather bleak and bitter, but, as if to compensate, the view soon becomes spectacular. As you pass into the next field, you'll want to stop to admire Eggardon Hill on your right - 827 feet topped by the grass-covered ramparts of an Iron Age fort.

Stick with the left diagonal through the next field until you meet the lane, which you follow until you get to a sharp right bend. On your right is a gate leading to a footpath which hugs the side of the field, then exits in the next field to your right into a grassy track.

Turn left towards the thatched house and farm, pass the paddock and then turn sharp right by the house. Bearing left, you'll come to a sudden, steep and sheep-ridden promontory. From here you head straight down, over the brook and through a pair of iron gates on to the road.

Here you go right up the hill, then left at the cottages at South Poorton. Follow the lane for a few hundred yards until you see the yellow footpath sign on your left pointing towards the bottom of the hill. You may feel rather uncertain here, as the footpath seems more of a river bed than track. And you might have to fight your way through - it's overhung with birch, ferns and ivy. However, take heart, for this is the beginning of one of the most spectacular few miles in England.

Follow the path as it curves round the hills and over the stile at the bottom of the field, and wallow in the rare peace here. As you penetrate further into this hidden and ancient valley, the silence deepens, all distant noise deadened by the steep surrounding hills until you can hear nothing but the accompanying trickle of the river below, and the occasional, echoey, flutter of wings.

The view, too, down the curve of the valley is captivating - even in winter this landscape is fabulous, the silvery skeletal outlines of the trees framed by the steep green-ridged slopes. Descriptions such as majestic and immutable come to mind, but hardly do it justice; settle, instead for formally identifying the terracing on the far side of the hill, the remains of cultivation known as strip lynchets.

As you approach the village of West Milton drop down towards the road, and take the left footpath back towards Powerstock. From now on you can stop navigating and just enjoy the ramble as the path follows the valley back towards the village. On your right you will see the river meandering below, and you will spot Eggardon once again as you climb upwards.

Suddenly you'll find yourself looking down on the rooftops of Powerstock; in late afternoon during the winter, the village looks quite magical with its soft lights and smoking chimneys. Soak in the atmosphere, then bear left up the hill, dropping down again behind the houses to the lane by Myrtle Cottage.

The church, which has a much-admired Norman chancel, and the pub are just round to the right. The Three Horseshoes Inn has a small en-suite restaurant offering some of the best food in the area, particularly seafood. Prices are around pounds 8.50-pounds 14.95 for a main course, with puddings from pounds 3.25.

Map: Ordnance Survey Landranger 194

For lunch or supper at the Three Horseshoes Inn (01308 485328) it is wise to book, especially at weekends

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried