Ancient and Beautiful Hills - The Quantocks
PUBLISHED: 18:50 26 May 2011 | UPDATED: 11:21 09 October 2012
The Quantocks are a precious and ancient place and were outstandingly beautiful long before 1957 when they were given national recognition as England's first â€˜Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'.
The Quantocks are a precious and ancient place and were outstandingly beautiful long before 1957 when they were given national recognition as Englands first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Join Helen Diamond as she explores the ancient history and quiet stream-cut combes, culminating with magnificent views from the highest point on the Quantocks, Wills Neck
Distance: 5 miles (9.2km) Time: 2hours Exertion: Moderate
POINTS OF INTEREST
Iron Age fort Cockercombe Castle
A Thankful village, Aisholt, from which all men returned from the First World War
Cockercombe, one of the quietest and most attractive of the Quantock combes
Wills Neck, the highest point of the Quantocks
Triscombe Stone, a Bronze Age standing stone
The chance to see wild ponies or glimpse deer
BOOTS ON?â€ˆLET'S GO!
1 From the Forestry Hut continue along the lane, then along the track marked No vehicle access. This is Cockercombe, quieter and less used than most of the Quantock combes. At the top of the combe where the track comes to a T-junction, interestingly named Two Tree Bottom, turn right and follow the track as it twists uphill.
Just before the road turn left along the track towards Triscombe Stone. This 2ft-high stone dates back to the Bronze Age and was a meeting place; tris is Celtic for meeting. Its said that if you sit on the stone and make a wish it will come true!
2 At Triscombe Stone (car park), continue straight on, down the very steep hill, passing the old quarry. At the bottom youll reach Triscombe and the lovely Blue Ball Inn (or if you wish continue on for a further 5 minutes to Stable Cottage tea rooms). Triscombe Quarry was the only significant quarry on the Quantocks, but its now closed and nature is reclaiming it. This huge gash in the escarpment is an eyesore, but it
does expose the Hangman Grit (red sandstone).
3 After lunch (if youve stopped here) retrace your steps to the top of the hill at point 2. (Sorry, I know its not what you want immediately after lunch!) By the motor access sign turn right and pass through the gate. Then bear right to Wills Neck. This is the highest point of the Quantocks, at 384m, and has great views across Taunton Vale to Exmoor and across the Bristol Channel to Wales, with the Brecon Beacons visible. The strange name comes from Ridge of the Wealas, which refers to a local tribe that, according to tradition, fought with the Romans here.
4 From the trig point bear left, heading for the long row of trees, where youll find a find stoney path. Follow this path downhill keeping the earth/stone wall on your left. Hedgebanks like this are confined to the West Country; they consist of a bank of earth, typically
1-2 metres high, with a hedge growing
Pass Aisholt Common on your right, where youre likely to see wild ponies. Aisholt is a Thankful Village, one of only seven in Somerset and 31 in the whole of England. These are villages where all the men came back from the First World War.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge wanted to live here but Sara (his sister) wasnt so keen since she wanted neighbours. However, another poet, Sir Henry Newbolt lived nearby in Holford. Eventually youll reach a gate; pass through it and turn immediately left through the earth bank. Continue downhill, following the track as it
5 Ignore all side paths and continue straight on, to find Cockercombe Castle above you on your left. Its not immediately obvious but climb the bank and explore and youll see the various boundary/protective ramparts. Its not a castle, but a settlement that was occupied between 500 BC and AD 50. It consists of earthworks on top of which a wooden palisade would have been built.
Continue along the path, until it bears left. On this corner, turn right down a grass path that divides plantation trees. Take care: this steep path can be slippery when wet. Continue downhill to emerge at the Forestry Hut.
Start: Car park at Cockercombe Forestry hut (grid ref ST187365) on the road to Triscombe Stone
Maps: OS Landranger 181 or
Terrain: Good paths and tracks over moorland and beside streams; steep descent to Triscombe and at the end of the walk
Child/dog friendly: No stiles. Dogs on leads if near ponies and sheep on common land
Refreshments: Blue Ball inn, Triscombe (open daily); Stable Cottage tea rooms (Easter to end of October, open daily 2pm-5.30pm except Mondays; winter Sundays only)
Public transport: Closest bus stop is Aley, Water Lane, near the turning to Quantock Lodge, approx 1 mile from start point.