WALK 4 – HAMBLEDON TO HOD HILL
(maps 1 and 2)
This walk is described as a continuation of Walk 3. Hod Hill is not as close to Child Okeford as Hambledon, but its inclusion makes a fine addition to a walk over Hambledon, and alternatively it can be climbed from a car park on a road out south of the village to the A350 between the two hills (see note at end). It is another grand hill fort, lower than Hambledon at 469 ft, but equally steep sided and even larger in area. It is equally abundant in flowers and butterflies, and archaeologically an additional feature of interest is that there was a Roman camp in the NW corner of the hill fort: the hill was captured in AD 43 or 44, and at one time over 800 of Vespasian’s troops are said to have been stationed there.
A. From the trig point on Hambledon Hill (walk 3F), go straight on between the fences and follow the track through a gate. Then still follow the bridleway, signed to Steepleton Iwerne, which goes along the left-hand edge of the field and goes through a big metal gate. Continue a with wire fence on the left. A rare ancient yew forest is below to the right, but can be better seen from Hod Hill, the remarkably straight eastern ramparts of which can now be seen on the right. The track curves to a barn, go through the metal gate and turn right downhill to the road. The track up Hod Hill is almost opposite.
B. Cross the road, go through a gate, and follow the track (still a bridleway) up the hill, at the left-hand bend bearing right onto a footpath which brings you to a gate. The yew forest is now clearly visible on the right.
C. Go through the gate to reach the second gap in the ramparts ahead. This point is near the summit: the ramparts slope away to the left (after an initial rise) and right, and there is a choice of routes. Particularly pleasant is a walk around the ramparts, either clockwise or anti- clockwise. If going clockwise, there are soon fine views across to the Steepleton and Ranston estates and northwards up the Iwerne valley beyond (A350). (After ¼ of a mile you will notice the earthworks which are the easternmost fortifications of the Roman fort). In the far corner there is a path down to Stourpaine, visible below with Durweston across the river beyond.
D. One alternative to the full circuit is to take a diagonal path from the “Stourpaine corner” south-east to north-west up across the hill, passing on the way the sites of many Iron Age huts.
E. Another option is to go down the steps from the next (southwestern) corner and turn right to follow the path along the River Stour, though this can at times be very muddy. The path passes below the exceptionally steep tree-clad western flank of the hill, which can have needed little additional fortification, and it emerges at the roadside car park.
F. If you complete the circuit of the ramparts, or if you follow route D, return through the gate and descend keeping left close to the wood and at bottom go through the gate and reach the car park.
G. If you need to return on foot to Child Okeford, you can turn left and walk nearly 2 miles along the road. However, to avoid most of the road walking, turn left after ½ mile towards Hanford School (incidentally the hilarious “chandelier” scene in “Only Fools and Horses” is said to have been filmed here). Here you may see ponies in the field, which are used to provide riding for the disabled. Sir Arthur Sullivan used to stay at Hanford House, and it was there that he composed the tune (named ‘St. Gertrude’ after his hostess) to “Onward Christian Soldiers”, which was first sung in Child Okeford church.
H. Shortly at the cross-roads go right, and immediately (where the line of 9 memorial beeches starts) turn left along the footpath between a high fence and hedge. Go over the stile and across, through a gateway, then follow the right-hand edge of the field. Turn right over a stile or through the gate on the right and pick up a path ahead towards telegraph poles. Now there is a conspicuous new house to the right. Follow the line of poles, and drop to the left to cross a stile over the fence, then cross another stile on the far side to meet a bridleway. Turn left down the bridleway, but after 250 yards turn sharp right and follow the lane back into Station Road, where turn right and then left to reach the village centre and the Cross.
Note To climb Hod Hill on its own, rather than as a continuation of walk 3, start from a car park on the right of the road out of the village towards the A350, just past Hanford. Go up to the left and through a gate, then uphill bearing right to join the track coming from the left. Follow this to the top right-hand corner, then join walk at C above.