Just outside of Dorchester, Puddletown Forest and Thorncombe Woods are wonderful spots for dog walking, cycling, running or peaceful, easy walks. With their mixture of plants and flora especially during the spring months, these beautiful woodland areas are a place of particular interest for nature lovers. Look out for wild deer and a whole host of critters and drink in the spectacular views across to Purbeck that can be viewed from the higher spots.
Puddletown Forest is a large area of woodland with a mixture of conifers and other plants. Paths are well marked (also good when everywhere else is wet and muddy) with flowers often growing around them. Some patches of heathland remain and there are good views across to Purbeck from higher areas.
Over 300 hectares in size, the walking isn't difficult, so all abilities are welcome here. If you like something more challenging, you can climb up to Green Hill and Beacon Hill. Not only for walkers, but there are also some great mountain bike trails and you can enjoy mile upon mile of bridleways, short natural single tracks as well as some brilliant downhill sections and jumps.
There aren't any facilities available in the woods, but a seasonal cafe and toilets may be available at the National Trust's Hardy's Cottage.
Adjacent to Puddletown Forest is Thorncombe Woods, 26 hectares of designated ancient woodland and a site of nature conservation interest. Rich in ground flora during the spring months, Thorncombe is a mixture of habitat with a large area of broad-leaved trees and a little conifer plantation on an underlying foundation of heath. This magical mixture of woodland and heath leads to Black Heath, an area in restoration with its own herd of Dartmoor ponies.
Visit the pretty Rushy Pond which is a haven for insects and reptiles as well as being famous for being mentioned in Thomas Hardy's works. It is a place where the ponies and other wildlife come to drink and is a tranquil and peaceful spot. Also, head to Duddle Heath where you will be greeted with lovely open countryside views surrounding the forest.
There is a well-preserved Roman road running through the area which is listed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. This road would have originally stretched from Dorchester all the way to Badbury Rings - more information is available on the Historic England website.
Keep your eye out for…
- grass snakes
- palmate newts
- pond skaters
- song thrushes
- lesser spotted woodpeckers
How do I get there?
While there are plenty of access points with adjacent parking spaces, the most convenient place to park is at the start of Thorncombe Wood near Hardy’s Cottage. Turn south off the A35 2 miles east of the Kingston Maurward roundabout signed to Higher and Lower Bockhampton. About ½ mile later, turn left by the sign to Hardy’s Cottage and follow the paved road round to the right to reach the car park.
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