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Tollard Royal and General Pitt-Rivers

A walk around Rushmore Park in the heart of Cranborne Chase.

Distance 4.5 miles (7.2km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 616ft (188m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Field and woodland paths, bridle paths and tracks

Landscape Chalk downland, sheltered combes, woodland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 118 Shaftesbury & Cranborne Chase

Start/finish ST 944178

Dog friendliness Can be off lead along Ox Drove and on Win Green Hill

Parking By pond in Tollard Royal

Public toilets None on route

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1 Facing the pond turn left along the metalled track and take the waymarked path right across the footbridge to a stile. Follow the narrow path half-left uphill through scrub and along the field edge, soon to bear right to a gate in the top corner. Keep ahead, pass to the right of a copse and bear left through gates into the adjacent field. Keep to the right-hand edge, downhill to a gate and stile.

2 Bear diagonally left and steeply descend to a gate and junction of paths in the valley bottom. Take the track right, through a gate and continue to a fork of tracks. Steeply ascend the grassy track ahead and follow it beside woodland for ½ mile (800m). Bear right through trees to a metalled lane.

3 Turn right, then left before the gates to Rushmore Park. Keep to the established track, with cameo views across the park, heading gently downhill to a crossing of paths by the golf course.

4 Turn right, pass in front of a cottage and keep to the path through rough grass alongside the fairway. Bear right on to a track and follow it left to reach redundant gate posts. Pass beside the gate posts and follow the track right. Where this peters out, keep ahead beside woodland, bearing right to pass a green on your left.

5 Bear right through a gate into the woodland and follow the yellow waymarker sharp right through the trees. At first ill-defined, the path soon bears left to become a clear route (yellow arrows) through Brookes Coppice, to reach a T-junction with a track.

6 Turn left, cross the drive and stile opposite and bear half-right across parkland to a stile beyond an avenue of trees. Bear slightly left downhill to a gate in the field corner. In a few paces take the second arrowed path sharp right.

7 Follow the track through Tinkley Bottom to a gate and pass below Rushmore Farm. On passing through the second of two gateways, turn immediately left and walk uphill to a pair of gates. Go through the left-hand gate and keep right through two paddocks to reach a gate.

8 Take the path ahead and bear diagonally right downhill to a gate and the B3081. Keep ahead into Tollard Royal back to the pond and your car.

Bordering on Dorset, this tranquil corner of south Wiltshire lies in the heart of Cranborne Chase, an undulating tract of chalk downland with breezy ridges and secluded dry valleys or 'bottoms' - one of which hides the village of Tollard Royal. This spectacular walk leads you around the rolling parkland of the Rushmore Estate, formerly the home of the 19th-century archaeologist and ethnologist General Pitt-Rivers, and offers you the option to ascend Win Green Hill, one of the highest points in Wiltshire at 911ft (277m).

Tangled copses and a belt of woodland are all that remain of the great forest that covered an area of some 90 miles (145km). The oldest part, with hunting rights dating back to the time of King John (1167-1216), is centred around Tollard Royal. John hunted on the Chase and owned a small estate at Tollard, hence the 'Royal' in the village name. His lodge was on the site now occupied by King John's House, an elegant Elizabethan manor house near the church. By the 18th century, the forest had become a refuge for poachers, smugglers and vagabonds, and violent, often murderous, disputes arose continually between them and the keepers of the forest. After hunting rights ended in 1828, Lord Rivers destroyed much of the ancient forest, reducing it to more manageable proportions.

Often referred to as the 'father of English archaeology', General Augustus Pitt-Rivers (1827-1900) inherited the Rushmore Estate in 1880. Winning his rank during the Crimean War, he found fame as a scientist and archaeologist through excavating earthworks, building up collections and turning to ethnological artefacts to demonstrate his theories of cultural evolution. He devoted the last 20 years of his life to excavating archaeological sites on the estate, resulting in five volumes of notes and sketches. He built a private museum in Farnham, 3 miles (4.8km) away, to house his models and local collections. This closed in the 1960s and most of the exhibits went to Oxford University, although you can see scale models, drawings and artefacts in the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum in Salisbury.

Pitt-Rivers died at Rushmore in 1900 and you will find a memorial to the family in the church of St Peter ad Vincula Church in Tollard Royal. As you skirt Rushmore Park on your walk, you will glimpse his former home, Rushmore Lodge, through the trees.

Where to eat and drink

Seek rest and refreshment at the King John pub in Tollard Royal. Teas are available at Larmer Tree Gardens for those visiting them.

While you're there

Visit Larmer Tree Gardens just off the A354 south of Tollard Royal. Created in 1880 by General Pitt-Rivers they contain a collection of Colonial and Oriental buildings, a Roman temple and an open-air theatre.

What to look for

In the nave of St Peter ad Vincula Church (St Peter in Chains) in Tollard Royal you will see a 14th-century cross-legged effigy of Sir William Payne who died in 1388. The armour is of banded mail, a rare example found on only four other effigies in England.

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