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Chalk Walk practicalities
(April 2015, with a shorter version May 2023, see section 5 below)

This is a lovely walk in chalk country, and could be extended all the way to Salisbury by adding on the Cranborne Chase walk. It is 28 miles, and we needed three days including travel from London.

Like the Cranborne Chase walk, it is not an official path, and although the paths often had fine names - 'Cerne Valley Way', 'Wessex Ridgeway', 'Jubilee Trail', 'Stour Valley Way', the signage was not dependable, so following the map was essential.

The going underfoot is generally good, and the climbs short, but as you see from the picture there were a few quite serious patches of mud. It hadn't rained for a while so I guess they are usually there, but you might be lucky. Because the countryside is never remote, it's a good walk to do early, or late, in the year - as long as there is enough light.

1. Walking days
We took three days - 7 miles on the first afternoon, 12 miles on the middle day and 9 miles on the third day. This last day turned out to be quite easy paths (after the initial climb out of Ibberton), so we had no trouble getting to Blandford Forum in time for the last bus - indeed, we caught an earlier one and spent time in Salisbury which we like a lot (see the Cathedral photo in the gallery).

2. Getting there & away
Train from London (Waterloo) to Dorchester South, about 2½ hours.
Return from Blandford Forum to Salisbury, bus number 184, goes from by the Crown Hotel as you approach Blandford over the bridge. The last bus is normally 16:39, check timetable. Then train from Salisbury to London Waterloo (trains about once an hour).

3. Leaflet, Maps
1:25000 map (essential) is OS Explorer 117, Cerne Abbas & Bere Regis.

4. The Route
There are plenty of possible variations, but this is where we went:
Day 1: Dorchester to Cerne Abbas (7 miles)
From Dorchester South station we walked north through the town, and on to the charming River Frome; the Sun Inn at Burton is well signed (we had lunch there). We then followed the paths up the Cerne Valley, until they petered out in a rapeseed field, when we went down nearer to the road, finally going on to it at Forston. There is a path from here, and the road was busy, but there was always a verge, and it meant we had tea at the Green Valley farm cafe, near Godmanstone. After that the footpaths via Nether Cerne to Cerne Abbas are clear. We stayed at the New Inn.
Day 2: Cerne Abbas to Ibberton (12 miles).
We walked first to the giant viewpoint on the A352, then to the giant's foot and left on the upper of the two paths, to intersect with the Wessex Ridgeway - which we then followed for the rest of the day, until we took the diagonal path down to Ibberton. 'Wessex Ridgeway' markers (with a green dragon logo) are in evidence, but often old; and 'Wessex Ridgeway Farm Walk' signs (with a large boot logo) should be ignored. We stayed at Belflyns Stables; walk up the yellow road leaving the village at the north, and take the lane on the left by The Old Parsonage. It's down that lane. Unfortunately, the pub has now closed, so they drove us to Itchen Abbas for a meal and drink.
Day 3: Ibberton to Blandford Forum (9 miles).
We climbed back up (on a different path) to the Wessex Ridgeway trail, then along it until beyond the picnic place and road, taking the right fork down the side of the wood and continuing until we met the Jubilee Trail. This we followed to Durweston, and on to the White Horse Inn at Stourpaine. After lunch we retraced our steps and took the Stour Valley Way. This goes round the back of Bryanston School, and you only meet the Stour as you come to Blandford Bridge. We were later told that locals walk through the School grounds, so which route you take is up to you. The bus stop is just beyond the bridge, outside the Crown Hotel.

5. A two-day version: Dorchester to Cerne Abbas and back
Day 1: Dorchester to Cerne Abbas (7 miles)
This is as for Day 1 above. The route north out of Dorchester (between County Hall and H M Prison) is delightful; we ate at the Three Compasses in Charminster (mixed crisps, peanuts and chocolate), and stuck more closely to the trail than last time, with only a short bit of road at Forston. (If you have a map with a download App it is easier.) The cows at Pound Farm are still there!
Day 2: Cerne Abbas to Dorchester (9 miles).
We took the high route back, and it was lovely, with easy walking and navigating. We went west out of Cerne Abbas and up the yellow road to turn left just past Dickley Down Farm. We came down to The Saxon Arms at Stratton (both village and pub are recommended). We then went over the river to Bradford Peverell, the New Barn Field Centre and into town via Poundbury, but it was quite tedious; better, perhaps, to get back to Charminster and re-enter Dorchester from the north.