We found the lane to hell on a beautiful day in May.
Carved out of the earth by thousands upon thousands of pairs of feet and hooves, and countless twists of wheels, Hell Lane near Symondsbury, Dorset, is one of many ancient holloways hidden in the patchworked countryside of southern England. One of many, and one of the best (although as a local, I am very, very biased).
We started our journey to Hell Lane at Symondsbury Estate, the sun shining bright and the world bursting with flowers and colour and the promise of lots of lazy summer days ahead. We made our way through the estate, through the chocolate-box village, and up along Shutes Lane. Step by step, the lane transformed from pretty country path to a lush subterranean, otherworldly scar.
Plumes of feathery ferns nodded as we passed and late bluebells speckled the verge, hiding in the shade. All around was painted with a thin veil of bright, spring green. The air was still and quiet and cool, filled with ancient memories.
Carvings bloomed in the weathered walls; some plain, some whimsical, others intricate and haunting. Stony faces peered out from the earth, so many it was hard to shake the feeling of being watched along our way.
Webs of tree roots crisscrossed through the ground and clawed along the air. Ivyfalls framed the way ahead, blooming and spilling down towards the path.
The path lead upwards and slowly the world melted back to the cosy, traditional countryside of Dorset.
We took a left towards Colmers Hill. Sheep stared as we wandered passed, their faces as stern as the one’s carved along Hell Lane just metres away, but thankfully not as spooky. They chewed and baaed and scattered as we picked out our way across the grass. Sometimes, we baaed back.
The walk to the top of the hill was steep, but the view was worth the achy legs.
The descent back towards Symondsbury was much kinder on our legs, and the snip-snip of sun-baked grass brushing on our boots replaced the chorus of baas from the climb.
Back at the estate, we were greeted with a very cute and friendly face.
Well, what trip to hell would be complete without a meeting with a horned and hoofed creature along the way?