Length: just under 3 miles. Time: two hours at a leisurely pace. Terrain: flat riverside paths, pavements, a climb up Coneygar Hill and a fairly steep descent.
Take the “Green Ring” round the historic market town of Bridport. There are wonderful views down to the sea from on high, a riverside stroll, ancient bridges and lovely old buildings telling of the town’s heritage as the centre of rope and netmaking — as well as a trip to New Zealand!
Park at the car park at the St Mary’s Football Ground on Skilling Hill
(DT6 5LA) — the road opposite the entrance to Morrisons supermarket at the bottom of South Street.
Turn left and follow the River Brit upstream, towards the town, passing the football ground and playing fields.
Carry on along the bank, ignoring a wooden bridge and continue by a playground and some allotments. Follow the path round to the right and cross a bridge. When you reach the junction with St Michael’s Lane turn left.
You are passing Bridport’s antique and vintage quarter and the former industrial buildings on the left house scores of stalls and shops selling all manner of treasures.
Continue straight on, past a large car park and the Hope and Anchor pub on your right and walk along the no-through-road towards West Street. Cross the road and you will see the fine old red-brick building of West Mill, a late 19th-century flour mill on the site of a 15th-century hemp boiling mill.
Turn right and walk up West Street with the Town Hall at the top of the hill ahead of you. You will pass The Court, one of the remaining rope and netmaking works, still in use today.
Take the first left into Victoria Grove and the first right, into Rax Lane. Enter the municipal car park on the left and cut diagonally across to some steps in the far corner.
To your right here you will see a very fine former Georgian residence, the Grove, now a furniture showroom.
At the top of the steps, turn left and walk past Mountfield (now council offices), another of Bridport’s “big four” former homes of the town’s wealthiest residents.
You can see Rax House to the right, and Mountfield’s former pleasure grounds are now the peaceful Millennium Green.
Skirt the left hand side of the green and follow signs on the fingerpost up a shady path up the hill to Coneygar.
Go through a gate on the right and climb the meadow to get to the top of Coneygar Hill (beware of deep concealed mammal holes in the grassland). Take a rest on a bench and look down over wonderful views of the town, to West Bay and Eype, with the magnificent Downe Hall (now private flats) in front of you.
Continue past the Millennium Stone up to a gate in the far side of the meadow and follow the steep path down to where an ornamental metal gate meets a private road. Turn left then immediately right.
Cross St Andrew’s Road and take the alley at the side of the King Charles Tavern. At the main road, Sea Road North, cross and enter the car park to the veterinary centre.
Walk across the car park and go through a gap. Locals call this much-loved open space Happy Island. Head for the river ahead, don’t cross the stone bridge, but keep the river on your left and follow it until you reach a road.
Cross the road and, keeping the bridge on your left, rejoin the river footpath. Keep the River Asker weir on the left and cross the concrete bridge.
With the river now on the right, follow the path through a metal kissing gate.
As you cross a bridge by the houses, look to the right to see the miniature white mill house with its working water wheel, built as a reminder of the old East Mills, which stood on this site.
Emerging opposite Asker Mead, turn right. At the roundabout, cross the busy road and then turn right and left into the gardens alongside the river.
At East Street, cross the road and cross the 18th-century East Bridge with its old sign warning drivers of “locomotive traction engines and other ponderous carriages” against using it!
Turn right along Back Rivers Lane. Look up to your right and see a very old oriel window. Was this perhaps the site of the long-gone Priory of St John the Baptist, where Richard III stayed in 1483, on his way to Exeter to deal with the remnants of the Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion?
A choice here: either take the left hand path which meanders through the Asker Meadows and meets the river again at a charming mill pond, or cross the little bridge continuing along Back Rivers Lane where a collection of tiny old cottages still exist.
Taking this route, follow what becomes a residential road until you see a former pub, the Robin Hood on the right. Turn left here, down Church Street and straight ahead into a green space with a row of cottages on the right and new housing on the left.
This is the site of the former New Zealand works, originally a hide and skin yard, which later became Thomas Tucker’s netmaking factory.
Take the path, with the cottages on the right and the river on the left, take a left turn at the old South Mill and follow the path, through a wooden gate as it twists behind an attractive old house.
Eventually the path crosses a bridge and joins the Asker Meadow path.
With Morrisons ahead, take the path to the right and cross the road at the traffic lights. A short way up South Street to the right is The Chantry, Bridport’s oldest building. (read our article about The Chantry).
From the traffic lights, head up Skilling Hill, pass Palmers Brewery, the only thatched brewery in the country and its waterwheel and weir, before entering the car park and ending the walk.
Bridport has many cafés, restaurants and pubs, with public toilets in South Street and at the coach station near West Street. There is a market on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the town centre and the main Bucky Doo Square, next to the historic landmark Town Hall, often has entertainment.
Bridport Town Council is currently developing the Green Ring trail and creating maps. Anyone interested in volunteering to help maintain and improve aspects of the walk, contact the Town Surveyor via www.bridport-tc.gov.uk