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A Roman Town Walk

LOCALITY: Dorchester, Dorset
DISTANCE: 1.5 miles (2.41 km)
FACILITIES: Circular route, Parking, Suitable for wheelchairs, Toilets, Pub, Cafe

GRADIENT: Quite steep in places
OS MAP: Cerne Abbas & Bere Regis

Walk description:

From Yeovil you drive along the A37 toward Dorchester. When you get there head towards any of the car parks. When you are in the town centre walk up South Street until you get to the top. Here you will see a stone column. This is the Town Pump.

From the Town Pump walk up High West Street. On your left you will walk by Judge Jeffreys Lodgings which dates back to the 16th Century. It is one of the oldest buildings in the High Street. In 1685 the infamous Judge Jeffreys stayed here while conducting his 'Bloody Assize', which saw many local people condemned to death for their part in the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion against King James 11.

Continue walking up High West Street, and when you get to where there is a zebra crossing turn left, and on your left you will see part of a Roman Wall that once surrounded Durnovaria. It was originally 2.5 metres thick and stood 6 metres high. In the 18th Century the wall was replaced by tree-lined walks that continue to define the town's Roman perimeter.

Now turn around and walk back towards the zebra crossing. Go across the zebra crossing and walk straight on past Thomas Hardy's statue. Cross the turning for the Library, and walk along Colliton Walk. Walk all the way to the end. Turn right and go along until you see an entrance on your right. This leads to the Roman Town House. Turn in her and follow the path all the way around until you get to the house. This part of the walk involves some steep slopes.

When you have seen the Town House retrace your way back to the path that you were on. Turn right and continue on your walk. Walk all the way to the end of the path, cross over the road and slightly to the left you will see The Hangman cottage. It is a thatched cottage that was the home of the town's executioner.

Turn right down a path by the cottage, then turn immediately left. Where the path divides you will need to turn right along the river. Just as you turn right on your left you will see John's Pond. Legend has it that a prisoner named John drowned after escaping from the nearby gaol. The pond is part of the intricate drainage system of the water meadows which allowed low-lying areas to be flooded in the winter to stop the ground freezing. Also to allow for fertile silt to settle. In this way grass could be grown earlier in the spring.

Continue along this path which runs along the river which is the mill stream. Continue walking until you get a to turning to your right. This is the place people used to gather to witness hangings.

Turn right here and walk up Friary Hill. When you get to Colliton Street turn right and walk along it. Here you will see The Rev.John White's House. He was a preacher who used his personal authority to rapidly rebuild the town after the fire of 1613.

As you walk up Colliton Street you will come to the Grey School Passage. Turn left here and walk to the end. You are now back at High West Street. Turn right and you will come to the Old Crown Court on your right. This is where the Tolpuddle Martyrs were condemned in 1834.

You now need to turn around and walk back down High West Street. You will come to the Dorset County Museum and then St Peter's Church. Cross over here and you will arrive back to where you started at the Town Pump.

Additional notes:

The walk takes about one hour to complete and is wheelchair and buggy friendly as long as you can cope will a couple of hills.

There are several car parks through out the Town Centre. There are toilets and eating facilities in the Town Centre.

The Walk Map and details are available from the Tourist Information Centre. The leaflet you will require is called Discover Dorchester.

18/08/2008 | Walk posted by cathy nettley

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