Walk - Moonfleet Walk

5.3 miles (8.6 km)

Victoria Inn Bus Stop - DT3 4EA Victoria Inn Bus Stop

Moderate - There is a little very gentle ascent and descent, and the route is on footpaths through farmland and around the coast and can be very wet, so appropriate footwear is needed; but overall this is an easy walk, with an optional shortcut.

The rhythmic roar of the sea on the shingle of Chesil Beach and the plaintive cry of the gulls above it lend the perfect atmosphere to this stroll through the pages of the classic tale of 'Moonfleet', a ripping yarn of smugglers, ghosts and diamonds, shipwrecks, brigands and a happy-ever-after. Children will love to visit the church where the brandy casks were stored among the coffins in the vault, see the remains of the village which really was decimated in the great storm of 1824, glance into the gardens where John Trenchard's sweetheart watched every day for his return. There is a shortcut for those who want a gentler stroll.

This is a particularly good walk in the springtime, when the Fleet lagoon is luminous under the hazy sky and the overwintering flocks of wildfowl and waterbirds are joined by spring migrants. On its still waters the famous Abbotsbury swans are nesting, and the Chesil beach shoreline is vibrant with the activities of terns building their own nests. 

Please note that there is no parking close to this walk, which starts at a bus stop.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the Victoria Inn, take the footpath heading westwards and follow it until you come to a track at Bagwell Farm running from North to South. Turn left and carry on down the drive, heading away from the main road, and follow it to West Fleet Farm.
  2. Ignoring the drive to your right to West Fleet campsite, follow your drive around the left-hand bend to the crossroads.
  3. Turn left here and walk downhill until you come to the footpath, on your left at the right-hand bend.

A short detour down the road to your right will take you to the Church of the Holy Trinity, built in 1826-29 after a huge storm sent waves crashing over the shingle barrier of Chesil Beach and the lagoon beyond, to destroy the old church at East Fleet, and several of the cottages nearby. Relics salvaged from the old church were brought across and can still be seen in the new church.

If you want to take the shorter walk, carry on down Fleet Road past the church, turning right when you come to the cottages on the left-hand bend, and following the footpath to the old church, where you rejoin the full route at 9.

  1. For the longer walk, retrace your steps to the footpath at 4 on the map, crossing the stile into the field on your left. In the field turn right, to walk diagonally to the far left-hand corner. Cross the stream and go over the stile to your right, turning left immediately, to follow the field boundary uphill. Carry on in the same direction, following the waymarkers over the hill and then away down the path to the left, until you come to the road at Chickerell.
  2. Cross the road to pick up the footpath immediately opposite, and follow it down the right-hand boundaries of several fields, ignoring paths away to your left, until you come to the stile in the right-hand corner of the last field.
  3. Crossing the stile, take the right-hand path along the bottom of the hill, and walk along the hedge until you come to the open field beyond. Here bear left when you come to the gorse bank, but keeping it on your left, and continue towards the cottage, where you will come out on a road.
  4. Crossing the road, go down the track to join the Coast Path at the far end.
  5. Turn right here and walk along the Coast Path until you come to the cluster of cottages and the old church at East Fleet.

Once again take a short detour to the right, this time to the old church. The entrance to the churchyard is at the top of this path, immediately before the first house.

In J. Meade Falkner's 'Moonfleet', set in the eighteenth century, 15-year-old orphan John Trenchard is living here with his maiden aunt. He gets caught up in a search for a precious diamond, and in the process stumbles upon the casks and kegs of contraband which smugglers have hidden in the vaults of the old church. Hiding from them, he discovers the coffin of Blackbeard Mohune, and in it a locket containing a parchment with verses from the Bible written on it.

John finds himself trapped in the vault, and it is two days before kind-hearted smuggler Elzevir Block from the 'Why Not?' Inn finds him and takes him back to live at the pub when his aunt disowns him. When the local magistrate tries to seize the pub and put a stop to the smuggling, John stops Elzevir from killing him in revenge for the death of his only son, only for the soldiers arriving moments later to do so accidentally themselves.

They also injure John, and Elzevir carries him up a steep cliff to a sea cave, where they hide out for three months while Elzevir nurses him back to health. (The cliffs and the caves are over on the Isle of Purbeck, for those who care to go and look).

Their adventures then lead them away to Carisbrooke Castle, where they find the diamond, and then to Holland, where they try to sell it, finding themselves in worse trouble than ever as a result. It is ten years before John returns to Moonfleet, fortuitously being shipwrecked on Chesil Beach while on his way to a prison in Java. Elzevir is drowned while saving John's life, but John is reunited with his childhood sweetheart, Grace (who has looked out for him every day from the garden of Moonfleet Manor), inherits the wicked but repentant Dutch diamond merchant's estate, and ends his days as JP of Moonfleet.

  1. Retracing your steps to the Coast Path, turn right and continue around the Fleet Lagoon.

Please take note of the request along here to stay on the path and keep dogs on a short lead, for your own safety as well as that of others. The sand tracks around the fields here are used for training horses, and half a ton of galloping horse should be treated with the same caution as a moving car.

The white building ahead is Moonfleet Manor, formerly the seat of the Mohune family but now a hotel.

  1. When you come to the footpath signed Fleet Road, leading to the right just before Moonfleet Manor, turn onto it and follow the waymarkers through the fields to the road beyond.
  2. Turn right on the road and follow it up to West Fleet Farm. Turn left at the top (point 3) and then bear right, to pick up the drive back up towards the main road. When Bagwell Farm appears on your left, take the track you started on the right back to the Victoria Inn Bus Stop.

Nearby refreshments

The Victoria Inn, at the start of the walk, or the Lugger Inn, in Chickerell.

Public transport

The X53 bus runs regularly from Weymouth to Exmouth, stopping at the Victoria Inn. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

Parking

There is no parking, but the walk starts at the bus stop.

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