‘The name’s Bond. Dennis Bond’. Mr Bond provided our rather grand lunch stop today. He constructed Grange Arch – a bizarre, Disneyfied ediface, to ‘close off the distant view’ at his country home, Creech Grange. Shame it wasn’t called Skyfall.
That aside it was a perfect walk on a perfect day. We skirted around crumbling Corfe Castle, leaving it almost immediately behind and below as we climbed to the ridge of the Purbeck Hills. A calf-crunching, lung-busting slope, thankfully soon over. At the top, the reward of quintessential England spread at our feet. A green and pleasant land. Cows in meadows. Hills stretching to the horizon. And beyond that, a promise of the sea.
A breeze billowed our shirts and flapped our trousers. It was welcome. England was in the grip of a mini heat-wave. Seemingly on top of the world, we walked a broad, flat path, grassy underfoot; a church steeple to our left, and once the memorial to Rambler’s campaigner Mary Baxter was passed, views out over heathland, blushing purple with fresh heather to Poole Harbour. We saw hardly a soul, there was room to breathe, room to reflect, space and happiness. One of those ‘it’s great to be alive’ moments.
We rested in a patch of shade made by Mr Bond’s arch, and then made our way back over Stonehill Down on a path, barely a path, nothing more than a sheep run. On the roadside a memorial to the Creech Barrow Seven. One of those obscure bits of history. Ordinary people who did extraordinary things. In May 1940 the invasion of Britain was regarded as a certainty, and Churchill hatched the idea of stay-behind guerrilla units – men who would go into hiding as the Germans advanced and cause as much havoc as possible to enemy communications and supplies from behind the lines. It would’ve been a suicide mission. Part of the inscription reads: ‘May they rest in peace in the land they were prepared to defend when it was in mortal danger’. Stiff upper lip. Quintessential English.
Through woodland, past old clay pits, past a group of deer snacking on long grass. A magpie hopped from one to another, settling on withers and noses, flapping it’s wings, then just chilling. And then we were back where we started. Corfe Castle loomed large. We settled ourselves on the terrace of the National Trust teashop. Impossibly leaning ruins, scones, jam and cream. Mmm. Perfectly quintessential English.
Our walk was no. 9 from Andrew Bibby’s book ‘Walking in Purbeck: 15 Circular Walks’.
Corfe Castle Tea Room, run by the National Trust: an English cottage garden, simply a hair’s breadth from the castle. Not necessary to pay admission to use the tea room.