WHAT could be a better time of year to walk an atmospheric sunken trail with an apt name for Halloween?

Walking along this route, surrounded by ghoulish-looking faces carved into soft sandstone rock, is quite likely to give you a fright.

Hell Lane, running between Symondsbury and North Chideock, has to be one of the more unusual walking routes in this country.

It was nearly forgotten until it was explored and photographed by Robert Macfarlane for his book Holloway, along with other sunken lanes of Dorset.

The experience of walking through Hell Lane and Shute's Lane is quite unique and you will find yourself in a lost world ten metres below the surrounding landscape.

These ancient trackways are known as holloways and are two of the best examples in the country.

Many holloways are now abandoned as roads, too narrow to be travelled on wheels. But they are still used as walking paths by locals in the know.

The name holloways come from the old English word 'hola weg', meaning sunken road.

These sunken lanes are common in the west country due to the underlying rock being soft sandstone.

But beware of walking down these bewitching routes after a large amount of rain.

Worn down over hundreds of years by the passage of feet, livestock and wagons; the weather also plays an important part in the formation of these lanes, the deep sides funnel the falling rain from the surrounding land which then pours down the narrow space.

At times the lanes can become a rushing stream wearing the soft sandstone down further.

It is recommended that walkers wear suitable footwear as Hell Lane can be very wet and muddy.

Shute's Lane and Hell Lane, which are about ten metres below the surrounding countryside, are believed to be about 300 years old although others date back centuries starting as drovers or pilgrims paths.

Hell Lane, deeply rutted, was believed to have been formed by the passage of wagons transporting stone from the nearby Quarry Hill at North Chideock.

Heavy carts transporting the local forest marble and oolite, a form of limestone, struggled along these holloways carrying the stone to the nearby villages.

Of interest is visitors' various carvings in Shute's Lane. Over the last few decades passing visitors have carved their initials and some stunning artwork into the soft stone, including a very realistic looking human face!

*You can access Hell Lane from the Symondsbury Estate, where there is free car parking. Follow the signs to Colmers Hill, but turn right onto the track rather than crossing it as directed. If you access it from North Chideock, it begins close to Hell Barn Cottages.

Thanks to the website faeriesandallthatstuff.blogspot.com/ for information used in this article