Walk - Graston Copse - Bridport
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2021. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From Graston Copse Reception turn right on the road and walk for a short distance to the bridleway running into the trees on your left. Take the path and follow it through the woods and the fields beyond, coming out beside the houses at St Catherine's Cross.
- Turn left on the road and then take the road to the right at the crossroads, following Bennetts Hill Lane past Milvers Lane, on the right, to continue ahead on the track.
- Carry on in the same direction when the track turns to a footpath and starts to drop gently downhill.
You are now heading into Bothenhampton Nature Reserve: the only one in West Dorset and a Site of Nature Conservation Interest. As well as giving stunning views out over Lyme Bay, this high ridge and the area around it provides a variety of habitats such as woodland, scrub and grassland for a wide range of plants, invertebrates, mammals and birds. Designated for its species-rich calcareous (chalky) flora, the high banks, hedges and dry walls of the Nature Reserve are havens for wildlife.
Wildflowers such as cowslips, pyramid orchids, vetches and trefoils attract many insects, including spotted wood, meadow brown and comma butterflies as well as garden tiger, Jersey tiger and hummingbird hawk moths - even glow worms. In turn, these bring in large numbers of birds, and huge flocks of starlings, rooks and geese can be seen passing overhead, with buzzards, sparrowhawks and kestrels hunting singly below them. Swallows, swifts and house martins swoop above the hedges, while herons and moorhens paddle in the stream down in the valley. There is the occasional blue and orange flash of a kingfisher looking for fish. Thrushes sing from exposed perches, while the woodlands ring with the call of cuckoos and the drilling of woodpeckers. Mammals including stoats, bats and roe deer can sometimes be spotted. Frogs, newts and toads hop around the ponds and ditches.
- Take the footpath on the right, descending steeply to the farm at the bottom of the hill, and carry on along Marrowbone Lane, past the farm and up to the road, continuing ahead when Long Lane joins from the right and two cul-de-sacs depart from the left. (see Inset Map)
- Turn left on Old Church Road, beyond, and walk along the raised pavement above Hollow Way to come out on the A35.
As the road's name suggests, this is an old "hollow way", or sunken lane. There are many of these in Dorset. They are ancient pathways worn hollow by the passage of feet, hooves and wheels, usually going back to medieval times (as with this one), but sometimes earlier, to the Roman or Iron Age.
- Cross the road and walk a short distance to the right, to pick up Flood Lane on your left. Turn right on South Street and follow it into the town centre. Pick up the bus for the return to Burton Bradstock outside the Arts Centre at the far end of South Street. The bus to Burton Bradstock is either the First in Dorset & South Somerset Bus X53 or Damory Coaches Bus 253. Both stop at The Anchor Inn in Burton Bradstock. There is then a 20-25 minute walk back to Graston Copse along Annings Lane.
Its position on the Great West Road, running from Exeter to London, meant that throughout history Bridport flourished as a staging post, and the arrival of the railway in 1857, with its extension to West Bay in 1884, brought large numbers of tourists to this outstandingly beautiful coastline.
The fields around Bridport were used for growing flax and hemp as far back as the thirteenth century, and in addition to its lively wool trade, much of the town's wealth came from making ropes and nets. The industry was organised by merchants who purchased the flax and hemp from the farmers and put most of the work out to homeworkers all over the area. Lines, twines, ropes and threads, however, were made in the town in “spinning walks” situated in the long back gardens.
By the middle of the eighteenth century sails and nets were also being made, as well as sacking and tarpaulins. To start with, the sailcloth and canvas was made on handlooms by the homeworkers, but braiding machines were introduced in the town in the 1850s, and soon afterwards most of the work was being done in workshops and covered ropewalks in Bridport.
As the use of sailing ships declined at the turn of the twentieth century, Bridport turned instead to net-making, with its most important overseas market being the fishing trade in Newfoundland, and right up to the end of the twentieth century, the town was a major producer of nets of all descriptions.
- To walk back to Graston Copse, retrace your steps to Old Church Road at 5, but instead of turning right down Marrowbone Lane, continue to the old church and take the footpath through the churchyard, coming out on Long Lane.
The Old Parish Church of the Holy Trinity is thought to have been built in the fourteenth century, and was a chantry chapel until the sixteenth century, when it became a chapel of ease to the church at Loders. After 1889, when the new church was built, it became a mortuary chapel. The nave was demolished and the west end of the chancel blocked, leaving only the Chancel and South Tower still standing, with an eighteenth century boundary wall and attached gate piers.
The New Holy Trinity Parish Church was built in the Arts and Crafts style in 1887-9. It was designed by ES Prior, a prominent member of the movement, whose proponents abhorred the mass production brought about by the Industrial Revolution, seeking instead to design buildings individually and in harmony with their surroundings, using local materials whenever possible. The stained glass east window is by WH Lethaby, another member of the movement, as is the altar front, which was shown in the Arts and Crafts Exhibition of 1889.
- Turn left and follow Long Lane to the end of the road, continuing along the footpath ahead, past the landfill site and through the fields beyond, to Burbitt Lane.
Long Lane is also known as Pottery Lane. Prior to the Second World War there was a pottery here, producing bricks and tiles. The local bricks were bright orange in colour, with an unfortunate tendency to crumble.
- After a period of prolonged rainfall, Burbitt Lane may be more of a stream than a footpath, in which case turn right onto Milvers Lane and follow it down to Bennetts Hill Lane, turning left to retrace your steps back to Graston Copse.
If Burbitt Lane is passable, however, continue along it to Shipton Gorge, carrying on ahead to the church and going through the churchyard to the foopath to the right beyond its far wall.
- Turn right onto this footpath, following it into the field beyond. When another path strikes out to the right across the field, turn onto it and follow it to the road just north of St Catherine's Cross. Turn left on the road and retrace your steps to Graston Copse.
There are several restaurants, tearooms, cafés and pubs in Bridport, as well as the ones in Burton Bradstock.