Ashmore, Dorset, UK
Discover the quaint village of Dorset on Walking holidays in the UK with High Point Holidays
Ashmore is a small village situated 700 feet (210 m) above sea level on Cranborne Chase, five miles (8 km) south east of Shaftesbury and is a lovely place to visit on the final day of our self guided walking holiday in southern England: Wonders of Wessex Walk. This independent walking tour passes through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty between the historic cathedral city of Salisbury and the Saxon hill-top town of Shaftesbury. You will also get the opportunity to visit this village on our self-guided walking holiday Hart of the Cranborne Chase.
Ashmore is the highest village in Dorset. It consists of a church and 83 old stone cottages and farms, many with thatched roofs. The parish church of St. Nicholas was rebuilt and dedicated in 1874, though its chancel arch dates from the 13th century. The 2nd highest village in Dorset is Evershot, which can be visited on our Heart of Hardy's Dorset walking holiday.
The village of Ashmore is situated on chalk rock which is permeable and therefore dry, and the village is built around a clay-lined dew pond which provided water before pipes were installed. This pond or "mere" is what gave the village its original name of "Ashmere.” The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book as ‘Aisemere’ derived from the Old English ‘aesc and ‘mere’ meaning “pool where the ash trees grow.”
For hilltop settlers, a major problem was that of water supply as the chalk drained the water away. In order to preserve water, the hilltop settlers dug holes in the chalk and lined them with clay. These ‘Dew Ponds’ provided water for livestock grazing on the hills and Ashmore village pond is one of the few that remain today. This fact along with its quaint thached cottages makes it a real joy to walk through on our independent walking holidays.
In 1956, this old custom was revived by Peter Swann, as a folk dance festival called the 'Filly Loo'. With the cooperation of the Ashmore Folk Dance Club and guests from other villages in Dorset and Wiltshire the festival has been traditionally held on the Friday evening nearest Midsummer's Day.
There is a torch lit procession with six antlered deer-men and four other costumed characters: a Maid Marion, a bowman, a hobbyhorse and a fool. The celebration finishes with the torches in the ground around the pond and everyone joins hands around the pond.
By a strange coincidence, the relics of Saint Philibert were moved from Heriou to Tournus in 875 and the beautiful Romanesque church and abbey at Tournus was named after him. High Point Holidays runs an independent walking holiday in France which starts and finishes at Tournus and explores the amazing early medieval architecture and vines of the French southern Burgundy: Romanesque Burgundy - The Monk's Trail.
Water has often been believed to be a passageway for ghosts and spirits to enter the physical world. A common name associated to holy wells and springs is 'Lady Well', as wells once dedicated to pagan goddesses and their priestesses were rededicated and turned into to holy shrine the Virgin Mary under Christianity. Many customs exist for offerings to be thrown into water. Wishing wells and springs with healing properties derive from this belief and are often venerated around Midsummer. Such water sources are often connected with sightings of a White Lady, a ghostly figure, perhaps of the displaced water spirit or goddess. Hence ‘Filly Loo’ may be a corruption of the French ‘La Fille de l'Eau’, which means ‘Maiden of the Water.’ Close to Ashmore village there was once a well with an ash tree growing above it, called Washers Pit. Two stories are connected with it, one telling of a White Lady who haunts the well and the nearby road, and the other recounting how the cook from the big house had a prophetic dream and rode out to this spot, coming in time to save a lady dressed in white who was hanging from the ash tree. This story is recounted by Edward William Watson, in his 1859 publication "Ashmore, Co. Dorset: a history of the parish with index to the registers, 1651 to 1820"
For her courage she was rewarded with the little holding called Mullens', after her name. But the Mullens family had been settled in Ashmore long before the Barbers; and another version tells that the daughter of the house, and not the cook, went on the quest. What became of the rescued lady, who she and her assailants were, is not recorded. And it is only fair to state that Dr. Chisholm, the younger, was in the habit of telling the story as of one of the servants at the manor farm being nearly murdered at this spot, and a fellow-servant being warned in a dream to help her. Perhaps Dr. Chisholm had rationalised the story; he told it as of his own or his father's time.
More local stories can be found in the walking notes of our unique self guided walking holidays through the downs and valleys of the Cranborne Chase on the Dorset / Wiltshire border of England.
Take a look at our full list of independent walking holidays in France and the UK