The village of West Parley is about eight miles from the mouth of the river Stour at Mudeford and lies about two miles to the west of Hurn Airport. Unfortunately to the casual passerby the village appears to be little more than urban sprawl and is dominated by Parley crossroads which is one of the worst bottlenecks in Dorset. But beyond the traffic chaos West Parley is a pretty village with many advantages. Just to name but a few: there is a fine Common, playing fields, some natural oak woods and a beautiful old church sitting near the river Stour itself.
To pour salt onto the wound Dorset council have allowed (or rather enforced against the wishes of the Parish council and the residents) a development plan to build nearly 400 houses, a hypermarket and industrial buildings on what was Green belt land.
This development will be built right on the worst point on this perennial traffic chaos. The land concerned in this development was former Green Belt land (supposedly sacrosanct). It was shamefully de-listed for the sole reason to allow this scheme to proceed.
However, even with this outrage, West Parley has some of the most beautiful aspects onto the river Stour. The Stour Valley Way from West Parley down to Longham is particularly pretty.
After you have navigated the nightmare that is Parley cross-roads head west up the slight hill on Christchurch Road (B3073). There is a turning to your left off to a pub called "the Pear" after about 400 yards. This is a good place to start you walk of about one and a half miles to Longham. There are alternative entrances to the path. One is down a lane about one hundred yards before you reach the turning for the Pear but adds little to the experience.
The other is about 50 yards further west after the Horns Inn public house which is itself about 200 yards west of the turning for the Pear. This is a pretty lane that takes you towards the main Dorset Guide camp
From "the Pear" the path is a narrow fenced trek of about ½ a mile to the Guide Camp. Here the path skirts round the edge and looks over the ancient Dudsbury Hill Fort. Further on the path turns to a narrow lane and the Stour Valley Way veers off to the left (or the right if you are coming towards the Guide camp up the lane from Christchurch road just past the Horns Inn).
The path descends a quite steep slope and you end up in a small natural field. Continue along the path and you then find yourself first walking parallel to the river and then walking along side it. Not long ago this path was totally blocked by undergrowth but was cleared by a team of volunteers led by a local Ferndown Town Councillor Mandy Willis. (See this Link)
If you get a chance, take a quick detour across a concrete strip that runs at right angles to the path. Walk round to the other bank. You will find a really pretty pool and another weir. Get back on the path and continue. You will be either close to or alongside the river for most of the way. There are few visitors and mostly you will be alone.
The path continues for about three quarters of a mile and ends up in another narrow fenced path that leads you back onto the main road just before the Bridge House Hotel and Longham bridge.
This is in my opinion one of the least used of the “pretty” sections of the Stour Valley Way. There are hopes that in the future it may be improved further. But I am sure that for a pleasant short walk way from the traffic you will find it hard to beat.