One week after a rather abrupt end to my first walk-leading experience over the northern Quantock Hills and I returned to deepest Somerset to pre-walk a route I’d devised that would introduce another group of followers to the southern stretch of these beautiful hills.
It begins at Fyne Court in Broomfield, which offers one of the best and free car parking opportunities around. From there, we head west along the MacMillan Way West, along a series of paths that begin as identical to my adventure down here back in May, when I decided to tackle the southern loop of the Quantock Greenway.
As I reached Ivyton Farm, I decided that this time I would turn right and head north-west along the MacMillan Way, which would then lead me uphill and straight to the summit of Cothelstone Hill… But, as you can see above, the route was impassable with these untamed crops and so I decided to turn back.
It’s one thing to contemplate such hazards on your own. But, when you’re proposing to lead a group, you have to consider the possibility that others may not be comfortable to do the same. This is why we pre-walk our routes.
A path I was wary to avoid from my previous visit in May.
So, I continued across farmland, almost parallel to the obstructed route from my first walk here and in the hope of arriving in the centre of Cothelstone, before making a sharp ascent to the top of the hill.
I assume that hunting season has passed, for this pheasants were practically everywhere along the first hour of my walk.
Taking a slight diversion from the Greenway and to cut road corners by crossing fields, I passed some rather tranquil areas not without an abundance of sheep and shortly before reaching Cothelstone Farm.
It was now only a short right-turn up the road before I could begin my inevitable climb. I could’ve attempted to re-join the MacMillan Way by climbing up Ball Lane but it felt like too many inclines too soon in to the walk. At least the trek in to the village offered some respite ahead of what was to follow.
This climb was to prove tougher than I’d imagined. I passed an older woman on her way back down with two dogs for company and she claims to be able to reach the top in 25 minutes… Wearing wellies, as well.
I reached the summit within a similar time frame, although my approach carried me further north than I’d anticipated – waymarking is a little sparse as you climb up through the trees. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s not the best place walk in short, for all the sharp, stinging and prickly things ready to bite your ankles.
It took a good 2 hours to get this far, thanks to my backtracking and diversion.
But it was worth it for the ‘smiles’ on the faces of these local horses, in spite of the greyness and haze remained persistent through and in to the afternoon.
I stopped briefly for a late-morning snack (and to do the selfie at the top of this page) before making the short journey to the north-east corner of the road, where I would then follow the roads in to West Bagborough.
Heading west just past the road junction, I looked left to spot a Permissive Footpath that clearly wasn’t on my OS map… Decision time! I decided the worst I could do would be to have a look and turn back. If it went well, it might cut a portion from this section of road walking.
Tilbury Park, I believe.
It turned out to be a pleasant area to walk through, after exiting the woods. It looks as though I might have crossed through Tilbury Park; at least until the waymarking came to a halt and I was almost wondering without a direction – until I spotted a group of fellow ramblers congregating around a statue over the hedge.
Statue of Jupiter, Somerset.
I found an unmarked path that would take me there, almost turning back on myself, and Google has since revealed this to be a depiction of Jupiter, with a stone seat beneath.
I soon arrived in West Bagborough to the sight of a familiar church from my last visit here.
It must’ve been past 1 o’clock, as I remember my intended time for a lunch-stop had passed and yet, I still wasn’t at the halfway point for this 16 mile walk. The steepest climb of them all was to come and, just before reaching Triscombe, I made a breathtaking ascent up to Wills Neck.
Part-way up and looking north to Great Hill.
I must concede I made several stoppages on the way up. My legs were praying this would lead me somewhere close to the end of the walk… It became one of the sharpest rises I’ve completed on these hills.
Looking back down as I strive to catch my breath.
As I reached the trig point with autumn beginning to settle in, it was quite a relief to see that the shades and tones of summer have not deserted these hills just yet.
Trig point at Wills Neck – highest point on the Quantock Hills.
In spite of the haze, you could just make out Hinkley Point to the north east.
On my way up, I’d spotted several quad-bikes and off-road vehicles buzzing around. At the time, I felt annoyed by their presence. It was a disruption to the ambience of nature and I assumed they were only active for recreational purposes… But I later learned that they were out to round-up the horses on nearby Lydeard Hill (my next destination). One of the passengers even recognised me on Instagram, later in the evening!
I’m still not quite halfway but less than half-a-mile shy. I’ll leave it hear for now because I’ll have a lot more to tell you in Part 2. That’s where the real inquisition in to the ‘Quandry’ of accessible footpaths shall begin!
Thanks for reading.
Please also see my Flickr photo album.