This is a very good National Trust walk with stunning views across the Blackmore Vale, the landscape at the heart of Thomas Hardy country.
Walking along the open expanse of downland here, you can also find many species of butterflies and wildflowers; in early spring, for example, the slopes are carpeted in yellow cowslips.
A bonus, for those who like their walks on the easier side, is that there’s no need to walk up the hill to get to the top; you’re already there at the car park.
Getting there: from Blandford take the B3081 to Shaftesbury (also known as the Higher Shaftesbury Road). The walk is on National Trust land; no charge for entry.
Fontmell Down Walk
Distance: 1 mile walk (approx 45 mins)
Start: Spread Eagle Hill car park, grid ref: ST886187
1. From the car park, walk straight out across Fontmell Down.
2. Cross over the cross dyke (a bank and ditch)
3. Once over the dyke, turn left and walk through the gate. Head left, back up the down, in a direction back towards the B3081 Shaftesbury/ Blandford road.
4. Just before you reach the road, you will come to a small wooden gate on your left. Go through the pedestrian gate and follow the path. This will take you back to the car park.
There are also longer walks, of 1.4 or 2.3 miles; see full details on the National Trust site.
Afterwards for a drink and/or something to eat, Compton Abbas airfield and its café are very close by, where you can also watch the planes taking off and landing – you may see some of them flying overhead during the walk.
Alternatively head down to the Fontmell, a recently refurbished pub with good food in Fontmell Magna (at the bottom of the hill), or on the way back towards Blandford, the Cricketers at Shroton or White Horse in Stourpaine.