Colmers Hill: The Best Christmas/New Year Walk in West Dorset
Christmas is the best time for cosy evenings by the fire, banquets of food, and time spent together with family and friends. But all that feasting and drinking takes its toll, which is why there’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned Christmas Walk to stretch the legs and go for a little adventure. In this blog we want to explore what is, in our humble opinion, the most quintessential walk in West Dorset: Colmers Hill. Not like we’re biased or anything…
Not only is it a daily inspiration for everyone who is affiliated with Colmers Hill Fashion, but it is a fantastic and dramatic walk that doesn’t take too long: between 40 and 50 minutes, depending on your pace, says Doug. Plus, it’s family and dog friendly, which means it’s the perfect mini-hike after all those mince pies and second servings!
It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to hear that so many artists and photographers use Colmers Hill as a form of inspiration for their work. One of the most famous of these is none other than Doug Chalk, who has been photographing Colmers Hill, along with many other UK landscapes, for years now. With a collection of photographs that truly dazzle and inspire, we could think of no one more fitting than Doug to accompany us as we explain why the Colmers Hill is simply one of the most beautiful walks in West Dorset.
An inspiring place
There’s something magical, almost therapeutic, about embarking on the gradual climb, one that takes you to the summit in such a direct and accessible manner. The fresh breeze, the glimmering sun, and the swaying of the trees that greet you at the top is all part of the experience. As you immerse yourself more into the climb, you seem to forget where you are, until you see the views expand into a never-ending landscape of tiny trees and cosy, tucked-away villages. Where else do you get such a panoramic view of the sea and the gently rolling hills without having to embark on hour long walks?
For Doug, it all started 20 years ago, when he first moved to the Symondsbury area. He lives in the lowlands surrounding the towering hill, with what he claims is “the best viewpoint of Colmers Hill.” However, the real longevity of his passion comes from the fact that he is still finding new places to photograph the hill from, making it both an inspiring and interesting subject.
“Early mornings are particularly magical, since every sunrise is different from any other. And while sunsets are exciting, the light just before the sun rises is truly special, as it is followed by the warm clean light of a new day’s sun, low in the sky, which gives long shadows to the narrow trees. It still manages to take my breath away, even after 20 years.”
Why we love Colmers Hill
There are many reasons that we love having our boutique shop in this particular patch of West Dorset. One of the primary ones has to be the incredible vistas and breath-taking views that surround Symondsbury Estate. Many people often speak about the experience of Colmers Hill and Symondsbury Estate also offers you the possibility to do some shopping, have a hair or beauty treatment, relax, and enjoy delicious food from Symondsbury Kitchen, either before or after your walk. It is a peaceful and tranquil place where everyone can get away from the hustle and bustle of city life for a few hours.
Doug’s favourite part of the hill – and indeed that of most people – is the summit and the 360 degree view.
“The unique quality of Colmers Hill is the fact that it is so distinctive in its shape. It can be seen from so many places in the locality and it is always instantly recognisable because of its silhouette and the trees on the summit.”
The History of Colmers Hill
The Hill takes its name from the ‘Colmer Tenement,’ where it was named after the Reverend John Colmer, who was the vicar at Symondsbury in 1805-06, when the land belonged to the Ilchester Estate. However, the single most element that makes Colmers Hill one of the most photographed hills in the South West of England is probably its unique summit. Having owned both Colmers Hill and the Symondsbury Estate for over 100 years, the Colfox family is directly responsible for the unique and mysterious silhouette of the treeline on Colmers Hill.
These Scots Pine trees were planted during WWI by Major W P Colfox, with Sir John Colfox planting Monterey Pine in 2006. They have kindly created a permissive path that now gives everyone the opportunity to explore the wonders of Colmers Hill.
Walking up Colmers Hill
The best thing about the walk is that it is only a short one, making it ideal after a few days of Christmas feasting. Better still is that you can stop off at the hidden gem of a boutique, Colmers Hill Fashion, before/after your walk and shop our latest clothes and accessories, all within the peaceful tranquillity of Symondsbury Estate and the rolling hills of West Dorset.
Doug also offers a guided walk up Colmers Hill which is appropriately named “Chalk’s Walk and Talk.” If you’re interested in joining him on one of his walks, where he talks about the history of the area, the hill, and points out unique natural and historical elements, then please get in touch with him directly on 07890 739625. The walks take between 90 – 120 minutes and will start and finish from Symondsbury Estate’s Manor Yard, where you’ll be able to browse through Colmers Hill Fashion’s latest clothes and enjoy some food and drink at the Symondsbury Kitchen.
Parking for Colmers Hill?
There is a big free car park at Symondsbury Estate’s Manor Yard. If you follow signs for Symondsbury Estate, you will find the car park quite easily. Symondsbury Manor Yard is home to Colmers Hill Fashion, the Home & Garden Store, Symondsbury Produce, Symondsbury Kitchen (cafe), Bridport Cycles, The Shed Hair & Beauty Boutique and Charles Chesshire Plants & Gardens (rare and specialist plant nursery).
Christmas Opening Times
Symondsbury Manor Yard including Colmers Hill Fashion and Symondsbury Kitchen is open every day except 25/26 December and 1 January. Times vary slightly but are generally 10-4pm except Christmas Eve when it closes at 3pm. Colmers Hill Fashion opens at 11am during the festive period.
Doug Chalk is a retired postman who made a name for himself back in the eighties by winning SLR Magazine’s Photographer of the Year award. He has continued to pursue his passion with enthusiasm and now with renewed vigour as his admitted obsession with Colmer’s Hill enables him to push the boundaries of his photographic experience.
For the past six years he has produced the Colmer’s Hill Calendar (A3 in size), which continues to grow in popularity each year and now gets shipped out worldwide to people who used to live here or have visited and remember the iconic hill. You can purchase a copy from Colmers Hill Fashion. He recently featured in Julia Bradbury’s “Best Walks with a View” in 2016.
His Facebook page is full of pictures of Colmers Hill, but also includes other beautiful landscapes.