Walk - Graston Copse - Shipton Gorge
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From Graston Copse Reception walk down through the park to the bottom field and turn left, walking inside the railings to pick up the footpath beyond. Carry on alongside the copse, ignoring the paths heading into the trees to your left, and keep going ahead until you come to a gate in the far left-hand corner of the field. Go through the gate, turning right immediately to go through the gate beside it and cross the next field diagonally left to walk past the left-hand barn and onto the track beyond, turning left to come out on the road.
- Crossing the road, carry on along the track ahead, continuing along the footpath through the next field to take the stepping stones across the stream. Follow the path alongside the stream, crossing the stream again on the footbridge and skirting around Cathole Copse before following the clear path through the next few fields to come out beside the church at the top of the hill.
Although no trace of it remains today, in the field to your left as you approach the church there was a medieval manor house, known as Court House, with a number of buildings around it, and Burbitt Lane beyond it was the old drove road used by herdsmen to drive their animals to market in Bridport. There are a number of other medieval drove roads in the area from the same time.
The original building of St Martin's Church also dates from medieval times, and the tower was built in the early fifteenth century, while the seven-sided font is more than a century older. The annual returns from 1650 show that Shipton Gorge became a separate parish around this time, as the footpaths from the village to Burton Regis were deemed to be impassable in winter. The church was possibly rebuilt in the seventeenth century, and box pews and galleries were added. There was a major rebuild in 1862 which more than doubled the seating capacity. Designed by John Hicks of Dorchester, this subsequent remodelling overran its budget considerably and cost almost £1100.
There are six bells, the oldest of which is dated 1655, and parishioners pay £5 a week to sponsor the church floodlighting, which is turned on every evening in the winter and at weekends throughout the summer. The main lych gate was refurbished in AD 2000, 'in thanksgiving for 2000 years of Christianity'.
- Go through the churchyard to exit through the main gate on the far side to reach Shipton Gorge.
Listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as 'Sepetone', Shipton Gorge derives its name from the Old English 'sceap' and 'tun', meaning 'sheep farm', and there are still seven working farms in the parish today. Although it is among hills there is no gorge: the second half of its name is from the Norman family de Gorges, who fought at the Battle of Hastings and later took refuge in England after King John lost Normandy to Philip II of France in the thirteenth century.
Some of the houses in the village are built from Forest Marble, quarried between here and Bridport (see the Bridport Walk), and a few are still thatched. Sunnybank, in Chapel Street, was built in the seventeenth century and is a Grade II listed building, and there are two noteworthy buildings in Brook Street dating from the eighteenth century, Brook Cottage and Home Farm.
The Old School House, the thatched building opposite the village hall, was Shipton Gorge's school until 1949, when it was closed after its roll dropped to 8 children. Village pupils now attend the primary school in Burton Bradstock.
The village recreation ground at St George's Field was presented to the King George Memorial Fund in 1937 by George Samways of Innsacre, 'for the use and enjoyment of the children of Shipton Gorge'.
The New Inn, Shipton Gorge's only pub, was so named early in the nineteenth century after it replaced a house destroyed by fire. It was closed by the brewers in 2005, after trade declined, but villagers reluctant to see the hub of the community disappear formed a support group to raise funds for its refurbishment and revival. With support from local MP Oliver Letwin, CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale) and Pub Is The Hub (a charity whose patron is HRH Prince Charles), some £40,000 was raised, including a grant of £12,000 from DEFRA, and the pub interior was redesigned and extensions built. Much of the work was carried out by volunteers, whose contribution was estimated to have saved the project about £60,000, which made the whole thing possible.
The New Inn serves lunches every day except Monday and dinners from Wednesday to Saturday. For further details see its website: www.thenewinnshipton.co.uk
To return to Graston Copse, go back through the churchyard and out of the far side, turning right down the path alongside the wall and retracing your steps halfway down the first field.
- When a clear path heads away to your right, turn onto it and follow it straight ahead through four fields to come out on the road.
- Turn left on the road and walk to St Catherine's Cross, picking up the bridleway between the houses on your left and following it along the right-hand boundary of the field, exiting to the right at the far end of the field to walk along the left-hand hedge to the trees at the far end. Follow the path through the woodland and down onto Annings Lane. Turn right to return to Graston Copse.
The New Inn in Shipton Gorge