Wessex Revisited

On the Wiltshire and Dorset Border

Posted by Mark Armstrong 10th May 2013

Last year I was pleased to have helped in the creation of High Point Holidays' Wonders of Wessex independent walking holiday. It gave me the opportunity to explore some of the landscape of my childhood. In fact, my brother, William (founder of High Point Holidays) and I lived on a farm that can be seen from Win Green, the spectacular high point that's traversed when walking from Ludwell to Tollard Royal. Our father, Tony, managed the farm and in retirement is a Partner at High Point Holidays based at the office in the Dorset town of Shaftesbury.

Having worked with my brother for over a year, I was delighted to be made a Partner in the family business. This means that we now have bases in Somerset (myself) and Dorset (Tony) in the UK and the Beaujolais (William) in France.

Last month I revisited some of the Wessex destinations that I had either not spent much time at during completing the walking notes for the self guided walking holiday or had not been to for many years. Plus it was my birthday and my wife wanted to take me out for the day.

Firstly we went to Old Wardour Castle near Tisbury in Wiltshire. This can be visited on Day 5 of our Wonders of Wessex holiday. However, time did not allow me to visit this when making my walking notes and I had not actually been there since my childhood. The castle is now managed by English Heritage and much has been done to aid your enjoyment and knowledge of this place. Concrete floors have been put in on one side so you can reach the top of the castle and get the benefit of the views as well as a better understanding of the scale of the building. These days you can also benefit from an audio tour included in the ticket price.

For lunch, we headed up to Compton Abbas Airfield. On Day 7 of our Wonders of Wessex holiday the footpath actually takes you across the airfield itself. The airfield is 800ft above sea level and has spectacular views across an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It makes a good place to stop for a break as, after crossing the airfield, you will be tackling Melbury Beacon, a steep climb awaits but it's worth it for the stunning 360 degree views. Talking of 360, the airfield restaurant and fully licensed bar is open for 360 days of the year, providing home style breakfasts, morning snacks, lunches and afternoon tea. So which of those you take advantage of would probably depend on what time you started the day and whether you had a packed lunch. The large outside terrace area sits adjacent to the runway with a brilliant viewpoint for all the flying. We enjoyed our pasta dishes for lunch and went outside to watch the planes circle around and come into land.

After lunch, a walk was in order, so we took the short drive along the top of the downs to Win Green, the highest spot in the Cranborne Chase. On Day 6 of our Wonders of Wessex holiday you will walk along the length of the down before descending to Tollard Royal. On the top of the hill is a clump of trees growing on a Bronze Age barrow (a mound of earth and stones covering a grave) which forms a prominent landmark with the distinctive shape of trees that can be seen for miles. On a clear day there are fantastic views to be had from Win Green in all directions including the Isle of Wight to the South. We walked to the northern edge of the downs from where we could see the farm where our family once lived from the late '60's; a priviliged place to have grown up.

As a Partner of High Point Holidays it is fantastic to be able to offer a walk through the landscape of my childhood and through the length of the wonderful Cranborne Chase.

On the drive home, my mind moves onto the prospects for new walking holidays in my home county of Somerset.......Mendip Hills, Glastonbury Tor, Wells, Somerset Levels.........watch this space.

Wonders of Wessex self guided walking holiday is available from April through to the end of October.




Wardour Castle


Wardour courtyard


Wardour Staircase


Win Green Clump


Higher Berrycourt