Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

A Combe and Castle Walk

This is my walk from last Sunday; seven-days on from the experience of leading the walking group for the very first time (I still intend to write about that but I don’t have many photos with which to spread it out). It was a walk alone, as the group walk, as the group walk on that day didn’t particular interest me (ironically, there are now three to choose from for tomorrow). It’s one that I discovered a few weeks back in one of two eBooks I purchased from Geoff Mullett’s Walk West series (these are recommend by the organisers behind the walking group).

I would’ve preferred a hardback copy (you can occasionally spot older editions on eBay although, the eBooks are MUCH cheaper) but the printed sheets worked fine (provided I kept them in order) and even with a simple sketch of a map, I was able to navigate my way around the route without getting too lost.

It starts in the village of Mells and, because I didn’t have the energy to get up early enough on Saturday (I was, however, very productive in the workshop that day), I left it all until Sunday; knowing that I would have to be home around 2-ish in order to give my sister a lift across Bristol… My plan was to get up at 7am, to leave one hour later and to complete the 11-mile walk, arriving home just in time to set off again… I woke up around 5.30am and decided to shut my eyes. When I woke up at what felt and looked like 6.30am, my watch told me it was actually 8am!! It’s very rare for me to sleep past 6am, let alone oversleep so badly!

So, then, my plan was to leave around 9.00… After much rushing around and some time spent on YouTube when I should’ve been scouring the streets of Google for a parking space. Mells is not a part of east Somerset that I’m familiar with. Nunney, however, is a place I very nearly went to in 2008 when trying to source some brown oak for a drop-leaf table I was making at college. It’s on the way to Frome and I went very close to their when I bought my CT150 planer last Easter. So, I decided to follow the A362 before making a single right turn down in to Mells… On the return journey, I noticed that this junction is just after Charltons’ World of Wood. However, I was a good 25 minutes late in my arrival because, after driving through Farrington Gurney and Midsomer Norton I, for some reason, chose not to follow it through Radstock… Without resorting to a map or satellite navigation though, I managed to find my way; somehow, through Coleford.

I ended up parking down a lane opposite the village stores and post office. I couldn’t find a dedicated car park within this small village. On Street View, I did find a series of parked cars next to the church but, by the time I arrived, it was empty and I felt uncertain. So, I parked along where several others had already decided to stop; behind the bus shelter as mention at the start of the guide. It began with a walk through a combe known as Wadbury Valley, following the Mells Stream. To many people; this stretch in itself would be a lovely afternoon stroll. However, I’m a rambler and, by the time I’d left the combe (heading south through Wadbury and on to Nunney), I wasn’t even one-quarter of the way around the day’s route!

A brief diversion within the valley leads you to the remains of ironworks from around 100 years ago. May buildings left in ruin and I like Geoff’s description of how they’re all “returning to nature“.

Is that firewood on the window cill???

Geoff’s route takes you up and out of the combe via. a path that holds you to the left of the stream. You then have to meander down a road and around a bend before returning to the combe and crossing the stream by a road bridge. In all honesty; I think it might have been better to have crossed over the wooden bridge shortly before this point and to save that little bit of road walking. You’d end up back-tracking on yourself slightly if you wanted to see the pool at the end of the stream but it’s not much of an effort.

Wait… MURDER Combe?!?

Climbing high and away from the combe, you cross some delightfully free and open fields, with views stretching out as far as Frome.

Someone once told me about a hill in Frome that they love to climb… I forget its name but that might well be it!

f

Approaching Nunney, I’d never been seen a public footpath with a DOOR to its entrance!

A second combe led the way from Whatley and down in to Nunney. It seemed almost more delightful than the one I’d trekked through earlier; with a larger stream and sounds of rushing and falling water.

Reading ahead in Geoff’s guide, I saw warning of a sewage works plant further ahead. The thought of seeing that was disturbing enough but somehow, I’d not considered the possible smell. It was worse than what Bridgwater used to smell like!

Dumping water, I hope…

I soon reached the end of this combe after that, where I then discovered a couple of convenient (although, not necessarily comfortable) seats to rest on. I was just about halfway around my walk and so, decided to take this opportunity to stop for lunch. I also removed my long sleeve T-shirt from underneath, as it was far warmer that I’d expected. I was also feeling very tired but then, after two-hours, this was my first actual stop. My plan originally was to stop for lunch at the castle and I was nearly there… Except that, my body was beginning to lag behind.

I’m not holy; my camera’s lens is scratched.

It must have been around 1pm at this point so, I think you can tell that I didn’t make it home in time! It was going to take me at least 2 hours to return to my van and then, another hour’s drive from there. Moving on though, I next crossed through a field with some interested horse jumps, before reaching Nunney.

“See you later, alligator…”

I’d been keen to visit this area for a while, after discovering something via. the English Heritage Anroid app while. This is what was going to make my walk all the more worth while and, perhaps best of all; it’s free to enter and explore:

Nunney Castle – Nunney, Somerset, UK

I recorded a couple of Keeks while I was here (including one where I missed my step at the end of the footbridge and nearly fell in to the moat – they say mobile phones are bad for your health). For now, I’ll just post a few of my photos here.

“DANGER KEEP OUT”

It’s in some state of ruin and yet, only one corner of the interior is closed off. It is great to be able to walk around and to explore a structure just like this. It’s also something that so much of the building is still standing and in tact. If only we could say the same for Bristol’s own castle…

…Mind my step at the other end!!

My map reading skills leave a lot to be desired and, even while attempting to follow the instructions as set out clearly by someone else, I tend to ‘over-read’ them and to take certain points too literally… Where someone states that a footpath simply leads uphill, they’re not instructing you to follow it. Now, I remember Simon Says! I’ll walk right past some junctions without stopping to consider them. Although, on one occasion last Sunday, I discovered this lovely circular path arched with trees, very close to the main car park for castle visitors.

Other than that, it all seems to be going well, until I reached a church a few miles north in Whatley, where the instruction and the layout that I could see beneath me just seemed to baffle me. I ended up entering through the side entrance and could only see clear footpath leading to my right. It looks as though I was supposed to exit to my left (infront of the church) but, that only appeared to lead in to a farmyard with a four rampant collies who’d made their presence known even before I opened that first gate.

Church in Whatley

If you look in the photo above, you can just about see two of the dogs on the sloped wall to the left of the church. While the others simply barked, one leapt over the wall in pursuit of me and he barked as he followed me closely around the church… (I remember being scared by a similar dog as a child, who was allowed to roam freely from a nearby farm).

“Throw it for me! Go oooon, throw it!!”

He went away for a bit and returned with a stick in his mouth – all he wanted was to play!! My own dog has often been hopeless at this but this guy was immaculate in anticipating where each of my throws would land. We played for five minutes as I searched but failed to find another footpath so, I returned back the way I had come in and consulted my OS map, which didn’t reveal much. So, I went back in to the church yard to look again and, this time, I found him a proper stick! …What was that about walking?! One throw of this almost landed on his head (sometimes, he was too good); another very nearly led him head-first in to a grave stone! I do regret not taking any Keeks of this. I ended up back-tracking and devising a different route down the main road, before reaching another combe following the East Mendip Way but to the west.

Large water tank and a bit of an eyesore.

Just before this, I had the option to take a different route home and to save a good 2.5 miles from the end of the walk, which might have meant I would’ve arrived home at 17.00 and not closer to 18.00… But, I thought to myself; I’m not keen on the idea of walking around the perimeter of a quarry but then, I don’t know when I might come out this far again or what may or may not lie ahead. As you pass the halfway point along this route, you have to pass through Finger Farm. It’s clear to see where the bridleway leads in to the yard but, from there, you have a completed lack of signage and locked gates ahead of you. I climbed fences to try and find a directed route before being brave enough to tiptoe past the house… Still, no waymarking signs! I ended up walking out of the yard and following the road again. On the otherside of the hedge, I could hear a women and two kids talking so, there must have been a way… I didn’t feel like backtracking once I found a way through the hedge and on to this path further ahead.

Before reaching that farm, I passed an interested tree with a horizontal branch (not broken or having fallen down). Looking more closely, I could see that this carried two smaller branches; each running at right-angles and pointing up towards the sky… I’d never seen anything quite like it before!

I soon returned to my personal end point, where I had parked my van (slightly on the skew, I might add). There was still another mile or so left on the route, which would’ve meant I had to carry on up, looping around another church and then back down to my van. I couldn’t see the point and, to be honest, my heels were hurting. It could be my walking technique. I mean, I have comfortable insoles fitted to these boots and they’ve been there since March. I’m on my feet each day at work, lifting things and all sorts so, that could have an effect. I also ended up with a pain in an area that shouldn’t hurt while I’m walking but I’ll save that for a doctor’s appointment!!

Whatley Quarry

It was a largely enjoyable walk. I do wish as though the castle had been closer to the end of the circuit but then, we cannot literally move Heaven or Earth… I will certainly return at some point to renegotiate some of the areas that confused me on this occasion. Perhaps then, I can also think about leading the group here some time.

I saved more than 60 photos from my five-hour walk and you can find them all in my Flickr set.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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2 responses to “A Combe and Castle Walk

  1. billlattpa 06/07/2013 at 19:38

    There is something about that doorway to the path that stirred my imagination, almost like a gateway to another world!

    • Olly Parry-Jones 09/07/2013 at 23:31

      Yes, it certainly stands out, even as a single sheet of plywood. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find as I walked through but it’s a complete contrast to a busy road! 😉

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