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A walk along the Exmoor coast, Bossington

PUBLISHED: 14:28 13 April 2018 | UPDATED: 14:36 13 April 2018

Not all Bossington’s cottages are thatched, but they are all very picturesque

Not all Bossington’s cottages are thatched, but they are all very picturesque

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Take a walk with picturesque and an enticing shingle beach on the Exmoor coast

Bossington is alluring. Set in the valley behind Porlock Bay on the Exmoor coast, there is something quintessentially ‘English’ about this village and its neighbours. Idyllic cottages, their gardens exuberant with flowers in spring and summer, sit cosily along the lanes. Tea gardens are abundant, a challenge to even the most self-disciplined waistline.

The heights of Exmoor rise dramatically to either side of the valley, a steep and awesome contrast to the gentleness of the village. Much of the area is part of the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate.

This short route is full of good things to tempt all ages: Kitnor’s, a delightful, dog-friendly tea room that has been dishing out superlative sustenance for more than 50 years, a fabulous pebbly beach, nuggets of history, good birdwatching on Sparkhayes Marsh and picturesque views throughout. Add in the chance to visit the Exmoor Owl and Hawk Centre and you have the makings of a great day out. Check the tide times and have fun.

Bossington’s cottages are festooned with flowers in spring and summer Bossington’s cottages are festooned with flowers in spring and summer

1. Leave Bossington’s car park by the red phone box and turn right, walking across to join the lane that runs alongside a house called Wayside; there is a sign on the lane wall that shows this is the way to Bossington Beach, Porlock and Porlock Weir. In a few metres the road goes left to Porlock, but ignore this and keep ahead on the no-through road, passing Banksia House on the right, Bossington Farm on the left and various other cottages.

As the lane becomes unsurfaced at a three-way fingerpost, keep ahead in the same direction, still heading for the beach. Pass another fingerpost and keep going along the occasionally-bendy track. Just before emerging onto the beach, almost ½ mile from the village, the track widens out and there is a ‘Caution Bathing Dangerous’ sign on the right. Look for the narrower path going left near here as this is your way – after you’ve had a stroll on the beach.

2. Follow this initially narrow path. The sea is to your right although you can’t see it at this point, but you will spot one of the old World War Two pillboxes that were constructed along the beach to guard the coastline from possible invasion. Way ahead, across Porlock Bay, the houses of Porlock Weir are visible and successive headlands lead the eye along the coast towards Devon. Inland to the left lies the village of Porlock.

Stay on the path, the shingle ridge at the back of the beach to your right, and soon you reach an old lime kiln with its arched entrance, the building consolidated against further decay. Pass round the left-hand side of the lime kiln and go through a yellow-marked kissing gate into a field. Keep in the same direction through the field towards another pillbox and another kissing-gate in the corner. Beyond here keep going as before through a more sizeable field, shingle ridge up to the right, big valley views to the left. At the end of this field pass through another kissing gate and keep ahead until you reach a solitary yellow-blobbed post. Beyond the post continue in the same direction; waterways criss-cross Sparkhayes Marsh to the left. The earthy path runs out, keep going across the stones at the back of the beach. The shingle ridge is still to the right although as its height reduces you may wish to walk along its top to enjoy rewarding coastal views – how accessible this and the beach are will depend on the state of the tides.

Bossington’s cottages are festooned with flowers in spring and summer Bossington’s cottages are festooned with flowers in spring and summer

3. Keep a keen eye out for a single-fingered post on the path behind the shingle ridge which points back to Bossington.

Here turn left away from the beach, heading inland on the clear path that soon leads to a stretch of boardwalk through Sparkhayes Marsh. The vast valley floor is embraced on both sides: Bossington Hill to the left and way over to the right the wooded hills above Porlock. Sculptural dead trees dot the marsh, good perching points for herons.

Just beyond the boardwalk the path leads to a chunky wooden waymarker.

Sections of Sparkhayes Marsh have boardwalk installed to make for less mucky walking Sections of Sparkhayes Marsh have boardwalk installed to make for less mucky walking

4. If you wish to visit Porlock Weir you can follow the coast path to the right from here, although this will extend the walk substantially. Our route now joins the acorn-waymarked coast path going left, back towards Bossington.

From the chunky post go left for 10m then right, to swiftly reach a tall National Trust sign with another waymarker just beyond it. From here turn left on an earth path and follow this as it opens up and runs along the back of the marsh. Keep following the acorn-waymarked coast path as it bends to the right in just over 100m. A fingerpost tells you Bossington is now ¾ mile away but the next one, by a wooden kissing gate, says it’s still 1¼ miles. Keep ahead through the gate then walk through the field with the boundary to your left. The brambly hedges along this stretch can be thick with house sparrows and butterflies, depending on the time of year. At the end of the field swing right, hedge still to the left, to reach another fingerpost in about 100m by a gap in the hedge.

The grey shingle is full of beautifully-coloured, wave-smoothed pebbles The grey shingle is full of beautifully-coloured, wave-smoothed pebbles

5. Go left through the gap and walk through the field with the hedge to your right. Another fingerpost within 50m directs you right through the hedge, then immediately left along a broad, hedged track. Bossington Hill still looms ahead.

Stay on this track, going through an occasional gate across it but resisting any temptation to veer off left or right through gateways into fields. In 400m you arrive at a T-junction with the track you followed to the beach at the start of the walk. Here go right, retracing your steps into Bossington.

When you reach the village turn right for Kitnor’s Tea Rooms and Gardens. You may find their call too enticing but before you succumb I suggest the following there-and-back stretch, which adds ½ mile to the walk.

Looking towards Porlock Weir, successive headlands lead the eye along the coast towards Devon Looking towards Porlock Weir, successive headlands lead the eye along the coast towards Devon

6. Follow the lane through Bossington, passing the green in 200m and continuing for another 200m towards Allerford until you reach the medieval gem of Lynch Chapel. This is adjacent to West Lynch Farm, which also boasts a tea gardens, and the Owl and Hawk Centre. Pause awhile before retracing your steps past – or into – the various delectable tea gardens and back to the car park in Bossington.

Good to know:

Map: OS Outdoor Leisure 9 Exmoor 1:25 000.

Directions to start: Bossington is signed off the A39 between Minehead and Porlock.

Start point & parking: National Trust car park in Bossington. Postcode: TA24 8HQ. Grid ref: SS897479.

Public transport: Buses serve the neighbouring village of Allerford, a mile along the lane from Bossington, see travelinesw.com

Terrain: Coast and field paths, beach, quiet lane to start and finish.

Note: The beach and marshland of this walk can be affected by high tides so check online to time your visit.

Distance: Basic route three miles (4.8km), plus beach exploration.

Exertion: Easy but beach walking rough underfoot.

Dog friendly: Yes, but animals grazing. Both tea gardens welcome dogs on leads.

Refreshments: Kitnor’s Tea Rooms and Gardens, Bossington, TA24 8HQ, 01643 862643; West Lynch Farm, Bossington, TA24 8HJ, 01643 862816. NB. Opening times vary with the seasons so check before visiting.

Toilets: In car park.

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