Evening river walks

Previous walks in 2008:

Account of 2nd walk by John Wreford:

Source of the Asker: Friday 22nd August.

This walk ended up being the last of the season. It had to be delayed by one week and luckily we chanced upon one of the most pleasant evenings of the summer.
The objective was to travel to the source of the River Asker to the east of Askerswell. We followed the route suggested by David Jones in the June edition of the Eggardon & Colmer's View.

Half a dozen of us set off from the Spyway Inn and walked down through the delightful village of Askerswell. At the main cross-roads, we noted the river running under our feet, which was just as well since we didn't get much of a look at it after that.
Then we turned left up towards the A35 but then turned left again opposite the road to the church. At this point, the footpath is marked into the field with horses nearby, but instead we carried along the track, and saw the Asker for the last time at a ford. Further along the track we met the official footpath again, just before we met Rawles the butcher from Bridport, who owns Naller's Farm, in his big 4WD.
By this time, the group had split up somewhat, and Pat and I were able to make acquaintance of the friendly sausage machine otherwise known as Sophie(?) the sow, that the others had missed.
The sausage machine:

It was a glorious evening for a walk so we continued past Naller's Farm, much to the annoyance of the guard dogs who barked furiously but did not come over the wall, and into the meadow beyond.
Some of us were, by that stage, thinking that the 5 mile hike might be a good idea, but time was running against us. But we continued on the Stancombe Farm and then turned left up the hill towards Eggardon. Here, we had stunning views, in the evening sun, of the tractors working hard to gather the harvest before impending rain. Terry worked furiously to eradicate our journey of any trace of ragwort.
View to the east of Stancombe:

At this point it was time to retrace our steps in order to meet John who would be waiting for us in the pub. Back past Stancombe farm, we noted the source of the Asker must have been to our left, in the valley, but little could be seen from the path. The Naller's dogs duly sounded our retreat and we continued back past Sophie, who had by this time turned in for bed.
We then took the proper footpath across the fields near the horses, relishing the glorious evening sun.
Disappearing into the sunset:

Back at the Spyway, we met up with John and enjoyed a well earned pint plus a very pleasant meal. We should try harder to ensure a more complete schedule in 2009 (as long as the weather measures up!)

Account of 1st walk by John Wreford:

Pymore reed beds:

2008 got off to a busy start and, for various reasons, no walks were arranged until Friday 11th July.
A short walk was planned in order to whet appetites before a meeting, on the 18th July, to discuss the Friends of Rivers becoming a charitable institution . The walk was to see the fish ladder and reed beds, at Pymore, followed by a meal in the pub, for those who so wished. Richard Gillingham, a resident of Pymore, had been maintaining the fish ladder and kindly offered to give a short tour of the reed beds. There was all manner of wildlife to be seen by the patient and observant walker. Unfortunately, Richard felt it would not have been appropriate to have too many dogs on the walk, to avoid upsetting other Pymore residents who might have been out and about (and possibly the otter reputed to have been seen from someone's window).

It was a delight to see the fish ladder operating with a fast current of clean water so that any migratory fish would have a fighting chance of continuing upstream. For more details of the clearout, see the Nature Notes section.

Richard gave a short talk at the fish pass before continuing on with a guided tour of the reed beds. He had volunteered to assist with the managment of the beds when the developers finished off the housing project at Pymore.

We had a lovely walk around the back of the reed beds, and to Richard's relief, saw the promised deer in the fileds at the back, plus some prints in the mud that could have been an otter. Then we continued across a delightful meadow back to the river, at which point the party divided: some headed straight for the pub and others continued north along the river, and back to the pub on the road.

All in all, it was a very nice evening, and we are indebted to Richard for his very entertaining and informative talk.

Some photos from the evening are below: (if anyone has any others, please let me know and I will post them on the website)

Some of the group at Pymore:

Discussing the reed beds:

Otter prints?: Across the meadow:

The bonny banks of the Brit:

The meadow:



Previous walks in 2007:

5th walk was from Nettlecombe on 14th Sept (circular walk)

4th walk was from Mangerton to Powerstock on 31st August

3rd walk was from Beaminster to Waytown on 17th August

2nd walk was from Pymore to Melplash on 3rd August

1st walk was from Jessops to Loders on 20th July

(Previous walks in 2006)

Account of 5th walk by John Wreford:

Nettlecombe to Wytherston - well, almost!

We always seems to have an unexpected outcome to our walks, and this one was no exception. A good crowd (of dogs) assembled at the Marquis of Lorne, and we set off in high spirits. The rain at 4pm had cleared with glorious sunshine at 5pm. Now, at 6pm, the forecast had appeared spot on, for a cloudy, but dry, evening.

Across the fields to Powerstock a slight drizzle set in. Up the hill out of the village, it turned into a downpour! All extremities were thoroughly soaked by the time it eased off, about 10 minutes later. By then, we had found the official path east, and negotiated the correct side of the hedge to take us on to Wytherston.

We stopped to enjoy the magnificent view, and just then, a deer and its fawn broke cover in the distant heather and galloped off. Then we cautiously descended the steep incline to search for the crossing of the tributary to the Mangerton.

Wytherston approach:

The advance party failed to find a crossing; because a new stock fence had recently been erected. Subsequent inspection revealed that the footpath had been barricaded!

No through road:

If you are having trouble spotting the footpath symbol, here it is:

Proof of access:

There seemed to be nothing for it than to meander up the valley and back to the road, passing some excellent blackberries, en route. We decided, at Roger's suggestion, to take the footpath into the northwest end of Powerstock; this route presented a delapidated stile, but some lovely views.

Down through the delightful houses, too late to meet celebrities, we passed the Three Horseshoes once again and made our way along to the ruined Castle Hill. Here, the overhanging hazel trees reminded us of the shortening days and the wisdom of starting out at six.

From the derelict Castle Mill Farm, we were back on tarmac and enjoyed a pleasant climb up through the homely hamlet of Nettlecombe. Right on the button, at 8pm, John Hughes swept into the drive of the Marquis, to welcome us back. Luckily, the drowned rats had mostly dried out by then!

Account of 4th walk by John Wreford:

Mangerton to Powerstock:

Trout spotting near West Milton:

Account of 3rd walk by John Wreford:

Beaminster to Waytown:

At the suggestion of Antony Hitchen, we reversed the direction of this walk and ended up in the Hare and Hounds at Waytown (best chips in Dorset, probably in the UK!)

On another fine and thankfully dry evening, we set off from the square under Antony's direction, and walked down the very picturesque St. Mary Well Street. At the far end, we had our first view of the River Brit, as it emerged from underground and was joined by another tributary. Then we continued straight, along the well marked footpath that is part of the Jubilee Way. This soon took us out into fields and south towards Parnham House. There was an alternative path, on the east of the Brit, but this required a short stretch on the main road which was less suitable for the dogs.

While passing Parnham House, Antony told us about the grave of a previous owner, from New Zealand, up on the hill. He had won a VC medal in WWI before setting up home in Dorset. Sadly, he was later killed in a flying accident, and his gravestones are set out in the shape of an aircraft.

On down through delightful countyside, it was noticeable how quiet it was away from the main road. Soon we were on the outskirts of Netherbury, where the pathways became more confusing. With welcome direction from our leader, we made our way up to the church, passing young pheasant on the way, and looking down into the river Brit below. St Marys church is very pleasantly situated.

Then we cut down the hill to the river and arrived at the weir that we had already visited the previous year. On that occasion we were served champagne shortly afterwards, but no such luck on this occasion!

Weir north of Netherbury: Weir:

From there, we took the path up to the road out of the village and turned south again. Here we were treated to a beautiful view of the church up on the hill.

Netherbury church:

We continued south onto the lands of Slape Manor and noted the weir there and a glorious selection of trees, some with particular histories. Then further south to the old mill which has since been converted into a fine looking house, slightly more in keeping with the landscape than some of the other new builds. Only a final hill was between us and the refreshment at the Hare and Hounds, where John Hughes and family were awaiting us (and their meal...)

Account of 2nd walk by John Wreford:

Pymore to Melplash:

Another lovely evening for walking. We started by inspecting the fish ladder at Pymore which is very impressive but is in a state of inaction, with two spare tyres nestling at the top.

Old tyres:

Photos from the first walk show the ladder in better condition:

Clean at top: The ladder:

Section detail: The entrance:

Turbulent flow:

Then we walked along the banks of the Brit to the road, and doubled back to the houses at the end of Pymore Road where the footpath starts northwards again. Here the trail opened out into unstocked fields which allowed the Labs and retriever to have a whale of a time!

Approaching Bingham's Farm campsite, the path steered back to the river where we found a small foot-bridge with which to cross onto the west bank. Through new mown hay and a field with distant cattle, the footpath took us along the Brit in which the dogs thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Oak apples:

Weary legs eventually reached the narrow road to Waytown where the Hitchens took their leave to continue on to Slape Manor. For the others, thirst steered them east along the road where, this time, we managed to find the correct footpath to Melplash!

This took us close by a farm with several majestic (but rather large) horses, plus a quite dedicated Labrador guarding the yard. However, we negotiated all hazards without incident and climbed the hill up into the copse at the top. From there, it was thankfully level across to the pub, with a final delight of three deer galloping off away to the distance, downwind of the dogs, as luck would have it...

All in all, the walk was probably 2.5 miles (2.3 measured on the car) so we sat down to a well earned drink in the garden of the Half Moon. (photo omitted on account of the dismal performance of my flash)

Some snaps from last year:

1 Reed beds at Pyemore mill: 2: 3:

4: 5: 6:

Account of 1st walk by John Wreford:

Jessops to Loders:

After all the unsettled weather of late, we were very lucky to have a dry sunny spell for our walk! We had a good turnout of 11 walkers plus umpteen labradors and retrievers.

Starting off at Jessops:

The dogs had superb fun dashing in and out of the River Asker, which meant conditions for spotting trout were less than ideal...

Very soon we were crossing Lee Lane at the south end of Bradpole. Then the path took us up over a steep hill before dropping back down to a farm and the river again. Bradpole church looked splendid in the evening sun and the views from the top were well worth the climb.

Then it was back along the well trodden path alongside the maize towards Loders. Dogs firmly on leads through Boarsbarrow Farm with the hill and cows to the right. Everyone stopped to admire some very handsome Friesan calves in a pen at the farm.

Then the wellies came in handy negotiating the last muddy patch before the meadow at Loders, and with some encouragement, the dogs were persuaded to cross the wire and stone bridge by the waterfall. It was still pleasant enough to sit outside and enjoy a drink at the Loders Arms.

Previous walks in 2006:

8th and final walk was from Slape Manor to Netherbury Mill and back on 18th August 2006

7th walk was from Bridport to Symondsbury along the pretty river Simene on 11th August

6th walk was from Pyemore to Melplash on 28th July

5th walk was from Bradpole to Mangerton & back on 21st July

4th walk was from Mangerton to Powerstock on 30th June

3rd walk was from Nettlecombe to Wytherston Farm on 16th June

2nd walk was from Bridport to Loders on 2nd June

1st walk was from West Bay to Bridport on 26th May

Account of 7th walk by John Wreford:

Bridport to Symondsbury:

Every town has a secret or two, and for Bridport, one of them has to be the River Simene. Thanks to John & Pat Hughes' reconnaissance, we were directed to start the walk in Gundry Lane, cutting through Foundry Lane over the River Brit. Then into the Skilling district where the Simene gradually separates from the Brit.

And what a delightful tributary it is. Although somewhat choked by reeds and plants along with the ubiquitous Himalayan balsam, it wends its pretty way along the parkland through to the Dreadnought industrial estate.

Once over Magdalene Lane, the footpath branches southwest across open farmland which happily, was free from cows, but not their calling cards. We soon found the track running north back to the main road. This we crossed over to take the footpath north, to the east of the old foundry. Soon we were in a field with head-height maize which we had no option but to skirt around.


Had the maize not been so high, we might have had a better view of Ryeberry Hill and Sloes Hill to the southwest. Allington Hill rose steadily to our right and thoughts of sledging came to mind. After following a swathe demolished by a tractor, we found the path again, into a field of sheep.

With the Simene to our left, we forged ahead across open pasture, only to miss the bridge hiding amongst some trees, and soon we were scratching our heads to work out how to reach the water through a fence and pine trees.

Elusive bridge:

Eventually, we managed to back-track and find the bridge. Then it was a simple matter to pass to the north of Crepe Farm and along a new track into the north end of Symondsbury. Here we were awaited by a thirsty John Hughes who had declined the walk this time. The Ilchester Arms obliged with a welcome pint, the fine evening still good enough for the beer garden.

Ilchester Arms:

Account of 5th walk by John Hughes:

Bradpole to Mangerton Mill:

This is a walk with a drop of about 34 ft in a mile, much less drop than other walks where the river is into its calmer reaches and starts to meander, passing through eight fields and a copse. John Blanchard led the way. He having traversed this way many times before, we all followed without a further thought as to the way to go.

The start was through the Normans' farm yard and into the paddock where we were met by three very handsome horses. Too big for me and far too big for our dog Kerry. Naturally, they were most interested in Kelly who, dragging at his lead, in fear of death, propelled his keeper through the paddock at the speed of light! Safely through we admired the fields, newly cut for silage or hay.

Burnet caterpillars:

Intriguingly, all the stiles have carved names and symbols, king fisher, buzzard, owl, demoiselflies and more I can't recall. Along the river banks was the ever present Himalayan balsam, ragwort with feeding burnet caterpillars, white butterbur, foetid iris, great willow-herb, greater burdock, reed mace (bull rush) and teasels; as for trees, there were the ever present alder and ash.

The ducks:

Along the river we were able to follow mother duck and her five ducklings returning up river to nest for the night. She waited for them periodically to catch up; they were never far behind her and in most cases in front. The lovely dipper showed its face and the delicate flighty blue of the male demoiselflies, agrion virgo, was ever present.

Corfe lake:

The footpath led through Corfe Farm, which has the biggest badger set on record, and so to the mill.

Mangerton Mill plus New Mexican:

On return to Bradpole we were indulged at the Blanchards' house into the late hours of the night.

Chez Blanchards':

Account of 4th walk by John Hughes:

Mangerton Mill to The Three Horse Shoes

Come on, how many of you have ever been economical with the truth? Having carried out a reccie of the first part of the walk to establish the how to avoid the steep climb up to Corfe Farm, Pat and I walked from the cross roads at West Milton to Mangerton Mill (the walk in reverse ). About half way along, I noticed an open space and bridge, an ideal vantage point to observe the river. Low and behold, there were the silver rings spreading and so dying, that to any fisherman could only mean one thing: trout! So this for me was going to be the place to spend the odd half hour of the walk, quiet and still, watching intently fish at play or ravenously feeding on live water nymphs, spent flies, struggling caterpillars from the trees.

What could I say that would not hurt my walking companions and most of all Pat who would have to shoulder the responsibility of finding the marked path from Mangerton without being tempted to climb the isoclines, so clearly shown packed together on the ordinance survey map? The answer was to plead infirmity of age. I have a crab toe on my left leg which is very painful when striding out, hence my excuse for cutting the walk by a half to watch my beloved trout, and hence my economy with the truth. I hope when Pat reads this she will forgive my white lie.

So, as I did not do the first part of the walk others will have to describe it to you. I imagine, as you can, they saw open fields, high steep hills, single oaks against the blue skyline, grass mown short by nibbling sheep, shady tree-lined muddy treacherous sloping paths. I wonder what Kerry thought of it all with his limited view, nose to the ground, as ever looking for food.

The bonnie banks of the Mangerton:

Not far into the walk they would have met the Mallinson's dog, friendly, desperate to show them way. Not just through his home patch but right to the Three Horseshoes. We were continually trying to persuade him to go home but to no avail. In the end we rang to say he'd followed us and we would bring him home. I think he sensed the indignity of having to be bundled into a car when he knew perfectly well his way home .

So what did he do? He forestalled the plan, slinking off without us being able to thank him for his jolly companionship. I digress. In what seemed no time at all, for time slinks along when the mind is locked in wonder at God's grace, the rest of the party, Geof and Diane May, John and Mary Wreford, and in the van Kerry, arrived for a well earned rest at Spickhatch bridge. Just the place for a photo call.

Spickhatch bridge:

Despite the movement and chatter the trout appeared oblivious. Normally they would dart away into the dissolving shadows, not to be seen again. So photos taken, watches checked to ensure we reached our destination by nine, we set off. To ensure that my crab toe appeared authentic I had walk with a slight limp and trail behind much to Pat's annoyance; she likes to keep me in her motherly sight in case I slip or trip on the rough narrow cow-made pasture paths.

Up past the old church remains, along the hill with the encouraging sight of our destiny. If I could have flown to the pub I would have done so because I had developed such a thrust for Palmers IPA.

Our destination beckons:

Then to the saddest part, the walk past the lovely Victorian school gradually slipping into decay. Does anyone know why such handsome building is not being used for its original purpose? Oh well "c'est la guere" as they used to say in France. And so to cool beer sitting in splendour looking to the west over the valley at scenes that most would give their right arm for.

We are lucky. For some it was super, for others refreshing drinks and for Kerry boredom but say who should serve us but Ewa, a strikingly beautiful young Polish girl. So this meant the men could feast their eyes, safe in the knowledge that secret trysts were out of the question, wives being far too alert to such dangers. Pat could refresh her Polish and I could find out where she came from and her background. She is, would you believe a graduate in Sports with a longing to teach tennis. For future developments watch this page!

Account of the 3rd walk by John Hughes:

Walking the Upper River Reaches

For those who are native born and lived before tarmac and cars became the transport way, walking the roads and paths was as easy as winking. The ways were known, they had a purpose and met that purpose efficiently. Now these paths have to be shown on "Path Finder Maps". So for us, the gang of six, the Wrefords, Henwoods, Hughes and Kerry, with map in hand, the walk to investigate the head waters of the Asker seemed a doddle.

The intrepid band:

Park at the Marquis, down the valley, pick up the path to Powerstock church and we were away. Then take the clearly marked path off the road to Wytherston. Over the stream at Wytherston and head back to Nettlecombe. Shall I tell you what really happened?

We became weary of the road and decided to take a short cut. Clearly we could meet the footpath later. The going was rough and we made the cardinal sin of losing height. So down we went only to climb up the head of the valley. The horse we had spied earlier turned out to be a cow with calf! On we went, unsure where the path had gone but confident in the map and the setting sun for direction.

Mother & child reunion:

Before you could say "jack rabbit" Kerry was off to see what another Labrador was doing with its owners. It was Lynne McLaughlin and David training Quest. Kerry in his enthusiasm had destroyed the scent trail so carefully laid. Trust Kerry to upset the apple cart.

It turned out to be our saving grace, for Lynne knew the way. Turn back at the second hedgerow, take a sharp left turn, over the stile and down the steep valley side to the stream, now only a trickle. A short walk up the stream and we were at Wytherston. Having lost our way once we were anxious not to do it again. So we asked at the first cottage the way back on the eastern side of the stream. We were assured that a u-bend would pick up the track to Nettlecombe. No marks were to be found and so we had to resort to stellar navigation. Next time we will take a compass! Perhaps George and Katie ( see page 10 July EV) should come with us on the next walk.

Beautiful meadows:

This was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the walk; we were soon into a flowered grass-land with ox-daisies, scabious, vetches and many more flowers that in their multitude merged into a riot of colour; a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) belonging to the Lester Cards. Just before we dropped down on to the old railway line, we came across Pyramid Orchids, not rare but exciting to see.

Pyramid orchids:

We picked up the old railway line with consummate relief. How did the surveyors and men with pick and shovel find the way to build such railways, with minimum earth movement and small inclines? We raced along to our reward, a cooling delicious beer at the Marquis. Although we saw little of the streams, we know where they are...

Account of the second walk by John & Pat:

The weather has been superb and so at the invitation of John Wreford we assembled at the Loders Arms on the 2nd of June at 7pm. The Loders Arms was to be our final destination after walking along the Asker from Jessops Avenue.
We were nine, Ann Marie and Roger Henwood, Diane and Geoff May, Mary and John Wreford and Carole their guest and John and Pat Hughes. There were three dogs , Maisie Lobb, Rosie Henwood and Kerry Hughes, quite a party!

The object of the walk was to view the problems facing migratory fish at the Flood Relief system at Jessops and the weirs at Loders. The flooding has occurred in the past because the Asker's natural course after passing under Jessops Avenue is a long bend and the river is shallow.
Hatches above the weir allow the river to take its natural course for normal flow, but these close when the river is in flood. Flood waters are prevented from backing up the river by two flaps (or hatches) which are held open by the normal water flow and close when this flow is zero. It is these flaps which prevent migrating fish moving up the river to breed.

Hatches at Jessops: Hatches at Jessops:

So much for technicalities; the walk in the evening cool to was to be enjoyed and so it proved, for the walk north along the river to Bradpole, past Happy Island, was new in parts.
As you can imagine the dogs, particularly Rosie and Maisie, could not believe their luck! In and out of the water looking for floating sticks. No chance of sighting any fish which had darted for cover at the first disturbance.
Where the water rills the water weed (ranunculus) in profusion was showing its delicate white flowers. It is this weed that the trout love for it hides the insect larvae that is the preferred food.

Along the river bank: Lovely evening sun:

We reached the old brick bridge, the dividing of the ways. A pause there for photos and an opportunity for dogs to frolic in clear water. We had a choice to continue on to Bradpole or to climb the hill to Lee lane. We chose to take the path to Bradpole; an excellent choice.

Walkers on the brick bridge:

We arrived at the road bridge at Lee Lane and took the foot path on the eastern side of the river. Climbing the hill to Steve Wilmore's farm, we had glorious views of Dorset to the North and West with a slowly setting sun. Then, dropping down to the small bridge over the river, we were in a field sown with maize with just enough grass edge to allow us to walk without damage to the crop. This field,in the past, was where Loders football was played. I wonder if anyone remembers playing that?

To reach the leat we had to negotiate electric fences. We all have our ways of dealing with these. Some brave souls test for the shock; they are not always energised. Others crawl under, long-legged step over and we use the dog lead to lift or lower the wire. So along through the May's wood, grass neatly cut that day, to the Loders weir and then home to the Loders Arms at nearly 9 pm, our scheduled arrival time. John Wreford generously provided the refreshments. We all agreed it was a most enjoyable walk with new vistas discovered.

Loders steps - at last!:

Pictures from the first walk:

The merry band: Palmers weir:

Palmers weir: Debris on the sluice gates:

First walk 26th May

The first walk will be on Friday 26th May. Meet in the East Street carpark at 7pm prompt (free parking after 7 - use Long Stay section at back) then we will share cars to drive to West Bay and park in the big carpark on the left before entering West Bay. (40p per car).

Then we will take a look at the sluice gates before walking through the caravan park onto the footpath to Bridport. I don't know how the path goes, it's not very close to the river at times. When we get to Palmers Brewery, we can take a good look at the obstacles for trout and salmon posed by the weir and water wheel. Then, depending on the time and weather, we could either walk on to Jessops Avenue and see the flood barrier sluices there, or just head to the Bridge House hotel bar for a swift half before driving home. (may need clean shoes for that).

Please monitor the website for updates.
Dont' forget to bring a digital camera if you have one. I would like to add some scenic views or pictures of wildlife to the website on a regular basis.