Ramble through Dorset history at Wynford Eagle and Toller Fratrum.

The Domesday Book of 1086 shows that William the Conqueror first held Wynford Eagle (‘Wynfrot’ in the book). Later, he gave it to one of his many supporters, Gilbert del Egle from L’Aigle in France; this explains the manorial suffix ‘Eagle’. ‘Wynford’ (meaning bright or white stream) is derived from a Celtic name for the tributary which rises east of Eggardon Hill catchment area, runs down the valley and through the hamlet before joining the River Hooke west of Maiden Newton, and finally entering the River Frome.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: The road above St Lawrence's. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)The road above St Lawrence's. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

St Lawrence’s Church started as a chapelry of Toller Fratrum’s Church of St Basil. Completely rebuilt in 1840, it incorporates the 15th-century building’s chancel arch and a 12th-century semi-circular tympanum (the surface between a lintel and the arch above it), carved with two winged monsters and re-set into the west outside wall. Only 200 yards from the church is Manor Farmhouse, now Little Toller Farm. Owned by the Sydenham family in the 16th and 17th centuries, the house was rebuilt around 1630. A magnificent stone eagle, perched atop the three-storey porch, watches protectively over its domain. The estate was later acquired by the Best family from Somerset for whom the Baronetcy of Wynford was established in 1829.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Toller Fratrum Manor House. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Toller Fratrum Manor House. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

Toller Fratrum (‘Fratrum’ meaning ‘of the brothers’) was held by the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem from medieval times; the Knights dedicated the chapel to St Basil, patron saint of hospitals. The present church was entirely rebuilt during the Victorian era on the original chapel’s foundations. It retains an early 11th-century carved stone, depicting Mary Magdalene wiping Christ’s feet with her hair, re-set on the east wall, and the original 12th-century cylindrical font, crudely decorated with disorientated heads and strange mythical creatures. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Toller Fratrum came into the possession of the Samways family of Winterborne St Martin in 1540. They built the nearby stone and slate-roofed manor house with a carved lion holding their Tudor arms above the 18th-century porch. The thatched stable block may have been the brothers’ refectory.

The Walk

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: St Lawrence’s Church, Wynford Eagle. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)St Lawrence’s Church, Wynford Eagle. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

1. From the church, walk up the lane, passing a right bridleway-gate signed ‘Toller Fratrum’ and four pairs of left cottages. Shortly after, pass a right footpath half-gate signed ‘Toller Porcorum 1½’. Start the steeper ascent with a valley and slopes with earth banks and sunken bowls right. Up around a left bend, continue to the next left bend with a left two-way bridleway signpost before the set-back barn and a right footpath-stile next to a gated track. Immediately adjacent, but un-signed, is a footpath-gate into the field corner, the footpath leading diagonally to Wynford Wood’s far end. However, follow the lane with fenced fields either side and with ever-increasing long views until you reach the chevron bend.

2. Take the right gated track with left hedge and right fence signed ‘Private Track. Bridleway Only’. This track is part of Shatcombe Lane. Keep straight on and go through a hedge gateway. Around a sweeping left bend with super views, continue down and through another gateway (no gate). Into a gates area with double right gates and two left gates (second is a bridleway-gate), continue down the hedged track past a left fence’s bridleway-gate and two-way bridleway-post. Continue with trees on the left and a field above the right bank. Don’t walk straight on into Ferndown Farm cottage’s drive but fork left down the grass verge to the 1½ gates with two-way bridleway arrows and signed ‘Toller Porcorum’.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Bridleway track to Ferndown Farm. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Bridleway track to Ferndown Farm. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

3. Through into the high field, follow the right hedge closely with Toller valley and Toller Porcorum below left, then on grass track with right hedge/fence to the facing bridleway-gate. Through onto the track, continue with left coppice and banked right field to another bridleway-gate. Through, pass a right gate and grass track. Through the next facing gateway, continue down the track between coppice and hedged bank, then hedged both sides. Pass a left four-way signpost for Wynford Eagle right, Toller Porcorum left, Shatcombe back and Toller Fratrum ahead. Continue down the hedged track and bending left at a back-right gate which opens into a field below Wynford Wood. Keep on down with wooded slopes right, past a left track and wood, swinging right around the right field, down the deep grass-banked gully and past a left bridleway-track.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: The iron trough ‘bridge’ before Toller Fratrum. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)The iron trough ‘bridge’ before Toller Fratrum. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

4. Over a stream, continue up the hedged track past a right stone cottage and under an iron trough ‘bridge’. Past a right bridleway-gate (to which you must return after visiting Toller Fratrum) and left track, continue down to the corner stone and thatch cottage and post-box. Go left. Walk up to St Basil’s Church right with Toller Fratrum Manor House ahead. The left stone and thatch barn, currently in some disorder, was the refectory for the brothers. After exploring St Basil’s, return to that bridleway-gate. Through it, walk straight up the stony sunken track, past a left gateway and up to the facing corner bridleway-gate. Through, follow the track bending left up through brambles to another bridleway-gate. Through, keep on the sunken grass path up into the hill field.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: St Basil's Church, Toller Fratrum. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)St Basil's Church, Toller Fratrum. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

5. Pass a bridleway-arrow post and keep straight up and over the field, planted or not, to the facing hedge-gap. Go through to the three-way signpost for Shatcombe Lane right, Toller Fratrum back and Wynford Eagle ahead. Follow the grass path against the left hedge. Past the wide hedge-gap into fields, keep straight down the open field’s track and through a bridleway-gate with excellent views over the Manor House below left. Continue down with a right fence, through another bridleway-gate and swinging right/left down to the bridleway-gate you passed at the start of your walk. Through, go left down the lane back to where you started.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Manor Farm house seen from the church. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Manor Farm house seen from the church. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

Compass Points

Distance: 4¼ miles/6¾ km

Time: 3 hours

Start: St Lawrence’s Church, Wynford Eagle (Grid Ref: ST582959). Parking limited. Park with consideration above the church

Exertion: Strenuous on country lanes, farm tracks and field paths

Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194

Public Transport: None

Dogs: On leads and around livestock abide by The Countryside Code

Refreshments: Chalk and Cheese Inn or Café 64 in Maiden Newton