Stage 3: Watchet to Kilve Beach (alternative inland route)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Ancient Mariner, Watchet

(1) The Ancient Mariner, Watchet

Climbing to Grove Copse

(2) Climbing to Grove Copse

View back over Watchet

(3) View back over Watchet

Descending to Williton

(4) Descending to Williton

Just over a year after I had last walked on the Somerset Coast Path, I returned to the historic port town of Watchet to walk the inland route to Kilve Beach. As a couple of stretches of the coastal route can be impassable at high tide, the old inland route of the West Somerset Coast Path has been retained as an alternative, providing a pleasant walk through the northern end of the Quantock Hills.

I started at the statue of the Ancient Mariner (picture 1), which stands by Watchet's little harbour. A few steps to the west, the town's main shopping street, Swain Street, leads away from the harbour and up to the West Somerset Railway's Watchet Station. Crossing the tracks via a footbridge, I continued inland through the residential part of the town, first along South Road and then it's continuation, Woodland Road.

At the end of the road, a footpath to the right of the house directly ahead leads out into a field and climbs up towards a small wood on the ridge behind the town (picture 2). There are good views back over the town and across the Bristol Channel to the coast of South Wales (picture 3) before the path passes along the edge of the wood and descends a quiet lane (picture 4) to reach a junction with the B3191 North Road on the edge of the town of Williton.

Approaching Doniford Road

(5) Approaching Doniford Road

Williton Station

(6) Williton Station

Climbing away from Williton

(7) Climbing away from Williton

Path beside Stoodleigh Wood

(8) Path beside Stoodleigh Wood

Fifty metres to the left the route mercifully leaves the busy road, following a grassy track between farmers' fields and the Danesfield School to reach Doniford Road near some new houses (picture 5). Across the road a tiny footbridge crosses a ditch to join an enclosed path between houses. Soon a gap on the left opens into a small park, where the route ignores an obvious cinder path and instead crosses the left edge of the park to a gate, where the route continues on another enclosed path that skirts around a residential part of Williton to reach the A39 Long Street. One hundred metres to the left along the main road the route bears slightly left into Station Road, which runs along the edge of the Roughmoor Industrial Estate to make a second encounter with the West Somerset Railway, this time crossing the tracks at ground level by the signal box at the end of the platforms (picture 6).

Station Road soon rejoins the main road, which the route crosses to pass through a metal gate and climb past a couple of houses along the edge of a field to a wooden gate. Through the latter gate, the route follows a path between a hedge and a wire fence, climbing to another wooden gate where the path swaps to the other side of the hedge and suddenly finds itself among the Quantock Hills (picture 7). The path continues alongside a rough hedge and then past the small Stoodleigh Wood (picture 8), eventually turning right through a gate at the end of the path to descend along the edge of a field to the narrow Luckes Lane, turning left along the tarmac.

West Quantoxhead

(9) West Quantoxhead

St Audries Church

(10) St Audries Church

Deer Park

(11) Deer Park

Viewpoint in Deer Park

(12) Viewpoint in Deer Park

After around 700 metres Luckes Lane merges into the more substantial Weacombe Road, which curves left to head through the long village of West Quantoxhead (picture 9). Two other long distance paths soon join from the right and the Coast Path shares it's route with them for the next few kilometres. The Quantock Greenway is a 60 kilometre figure-of-eight path that offers a more thorough exploration of the Quantocks, while the Coleridge Way is an 80 kilometre inland path linking the town of Lynmouth on the Exmoor coast with the village of Nether Stowey on the far side of the Quantocks.

At a crossroads in the middle of the village Weacombe Road becomes The Avenue, which continues to a junction with the A39. The route turns right across the front lawn of the large Windmill Inn then follows a short stretch of enclosed path parallel with the road, emerging opposite the entrance of the St Audries Estate and the estate's fine church (picture 10).

Here the route turns right on a driveway, heading away from the church, climbing past the Old Rectory before turning left at the top of the drive to follow a trail into the woods of Deer Park. The trail soon broadens into a grassy track (picture 11), paralleling a long curve in the A39, which lies out of sight a short distance below, and passing a bench with fine views westwards over Minehead Bay and the hills of Exmoor (picture 12).

Perry Combe Plantation

(13) Perry Combe Plantation

Descending towards the coast

(14) Descending towards the coast

Field with Tumulus

(15) Field with Tumulus

View across Minehead Bay

(16) View across Minehead Bay

Beyond the viewpoint, the track descends gently to a wooden gate by the A39, but rather than going through it, the route instead climbs a forestry track back into the woods. A fingerpost on the left soon points the way off the track on a narrow trail through Perry Combe Plantation on the lower slopes of West Hill (picture 13).

After about a kilometre, the path reaches a fingerpost where the West Somerset Coast Path heads downhill to the left, parting company with the Coleridge Way and the Quantock Greenway, which both bear right. The route soon joins a farm drive leading back to the A39, where a short enclosed path behind a hedge takes the path to a pair of wooden kissing gates in the hedges on either side of the main road. Having crossed the road via these gates, the route skirts around the right-hand side of a large field (picture 14), heading for the coast at last. Through a gate at the bottom of the field, the path passes a tumulus in the next field (picture 15), continuing ahead along the edges of two more fields to reach the cliffs above Minehead Bay (picture 16).

Quantock's Head

(17) Quantock's Head

Kilve Beach

(18) Kilve Beach

Kilve Beach

(19) Kilve Beach

Kilve Cricket Ground

(20) Kilve Cricket Ground

The path now heads eastwards along the clifftops, climbing over the peak of Quantock's Head (picture 17) before descending to the rocky Kilve Beach where the edges of many tilted layers of limestone and shale are exposed (picture 18). At an open area with several benches (picture 19) a tarmac path angles inland away from the beach to a small carpark next to the Kilve Cricket Club (picture 20), where the inland route meets the coastal route of the Somerset Coast Path. Here I left the path for the day, having completed a leisurely 13.5 kilometres.

Kilve Beach

(21) Kilve Beach

Path to East Quantoxhead

(22) Path to East Quantoxhead

East Quantoxhead

(23) East Quantoxhead

The Hood Arms, Kilve

(24) The Hood Arms, Kilve

I still had a couple of hours until the next bus, so after spending some time exploring the beach's rocky landscape (picture 21), I backtracked about 500 metres along the clifftops to find an inland path towards the village of East Quantoxhead (picture 22), where several thatched cottages surround a duck pond (picture 23).

Returning to Kilve Beach, I followed Sea Lane inland to the village of Kilve, planning to visit the Hood Arms pub for a quiet pint. Unfortunately it turned out that the pub had closed and was for sale (picture 24), so I made do with an ice-cream from the village store and a wander around the village until the bus arrived to take me to my accomodation in Bridgwater.