Cadbury Castle & Corton Denham
PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 January 2014
A fabulous view-rich walk in South East Somerset
Terrain: Good paths and quiet lanes
Dog friendly: Particularly the Queen’s Arms!
Start point: Cadbury Castle car park on the edge of South Cadbury village. Post code BH22 7HA. Grid ref: ST632253
Map: OS Explorer 129 Yeovil & Sherborne 1:25 000
Distance: 6.75 miles / 10.8 km
Exertion: Moderate: some ascents but the superb views make the effort worthwhile
Refreshment & comfort stop: The Queen’s Arms, Corton Denham, 01963 220317; The Camelot, South Cadbury: 01963 440448
Public transport: Infrequent buses (travelinesw.com)
Directions to start: South Cadbury is south of the A303, 8 miles west of Wincanton
Points of Interest:
• Ancient Cadbury Castle Hill Fort
• The historic Monarch’s Way
• Corton Hill
• Abandoned mediæval village of Whitcombe
• Thirst-quenching views
With one of the longest records of occupation of any hill fort in the country, Cadbury Castle has had a human presence since a few thousand years BC. Neolithic pottery has been found here and evidence from successive excavations since 1890 indicates that a Bronze Age settlement was superseded by a more robust Iron Age fort, which later drew the aggressive attentions of the Romans. In later centuries, when Vikings were threatening, it was used as a well-defended administrative centre and a Saxon mint was established for a brief time. It is also one of several potential sites considered to be King Arthur’s Camelot. The fort has borne witness to vast changes: in language, government, farming practices, climate, the way people dress, eat and their life expectancy….let your imagination wander as you explore. Today, its commanding position affords glorious views and wonderful walking along the ramparts with little to indicate its turbulent history. It is a dramatic start point for this walk.
From the car park turn right along the lane for about 100m to Castle Lane. Go left here and continue as the lane becomes a footpath leading you up to the hill fort, negotiating a kissing gate for the very slim en route. Up on the fort pause for a moment: ponder its history, relish the views and explore the ramparts. It is an awesome spot.
From the castle return the way you came up, turn right along the lane and continue along it, passing your car park on the left. Follow this lane (Church Road) past Crangs Lane until you reach a turning on the left, ½ mile from the car park, for Corton Denham and Sherborne. This is also part of Sustrans Route 26. Go left here, glancing back occasionally to the loftiness of the hill fort.
In 650m you reach a T-junction, go left and immediately right on the bridleway; a wooden post here marks the Monarch’s Way, a 610 mile path following the escape route taken by Charles II in 1651 after the Battle of Worcester. This path is also part of the Macmillan Way. After a short stretch of track go through the gate and bear right, you are climbing Parrock Hill. Keep climbing, admiring the views around and behind you – the hill fort is over your right shoulder, the woodland of Hicknoll Hanging over your left and the villages of Sutton Montis and Weston Bampfylde are below to your right.
The path begins to level out, with rising land still to your left and sweeping views to your right. Pass through a gate and continue straight ahead in a southerly direction. To your left you see the heights of the Beacon on Corton Hill, which you will have the option to climb later, once you’ve refuelled in Corton Denham.
Continue in the same direction; a superb stretch of walking along Corton Ridge, passing through large fields and another two gates, until, at the end of a field, you reach a gate on the left with a collection of arrows on the far side. This is one mile from leaving the lane. Pass through this left-hand gate to find a meeting of tracks. Turn right and go through another gate to continue in the same direction as before through the next field, hedge on your left. This is still the Monarch’s / Macmillan Way.
After about 400m through this field look out for a gap in the hedge on your left with some steps leading up to a kissing gate. Go through here and straight across the next three fields towards Corton Denham, nestling below the hillside. The final stile leads you onto a track. Head straight down here as far as a residential lane called Middle Ridge Lane. Turn left, following it as it bends right. When you reach the main lane with the church in front of you, turn right to seek the embrace of The Queen’s Arms, one of our favourite dog-and-boot-friendly watering holes.
Leave here and turn left along the lane, passing Middle Ridge Lane from which you emerged earlier and continuing up hill until the road bends left after 200m and drops. At this bend you’ll see a track heading right with a post showing that you are heading for Corton Hill and Whitcombe (spellings of the latter vary from post to post!). Follow this track enjoying the views to your left as you climb. At a fork keep ahead, ignoring the right turn and keeping the fence on your left. Soon you reach a gate. Beyond here continue ahead with the fence still to your left. Corton Hill with its Beacon is looming above you at 196m above sea level. The footpath follows the fence but as this is access land you can go up to explore the Beacon if you wish – it’s strenuous but unmissably worth it and from there you will be looking down on your earlier ascent of the more diminutive Cadbury Castle.
The footpath below the hill meets two gates close together, one low down and one higher up to the right, and it’s this higher one you want, continuing to walk in the same direction below the Beacon (unless you’re up on it, in which case you need to descend to this path when you’ve had enough of the airy heights.) Follow the path beside the fence as it goes left and eventually passes through the tree boundary. Beyond this keep on with the tree boundary to your right and the path will lead to the corner of the field with a stile onto the lane.
Turn right along the lane and within 100m you meet two right turns in quick succession. Take the second, signposted for Whitcombe Farm. At the end of the lane pass the barn conversions on the left and keep straight ahead, entering a farmyard. Look for the track beyond the farm buildings on the far side of the yard and take this – you may spot a footpath sign here telling you that this is a restricted byway. To your left from here you can see Cadbury Castle. Within 100m a track veers right with a ramshackle sign pointing you along it. Follow this and within another 100m keep left (straight on) at the fork.
The path soon emerges to lead you up through a field. After about 200m you meet a fence and gate ahead. Turn left, staying in the same field, to walk beside the fence on your right. You’re heading across the top of the field now towards the mound of Cadbury Castle with rising ground to your right. The field you are crossing is the site of the mediæval village of Whitcombe – only undulations remain since it was abandoned to its ghosts in the 17th century.
At the end of this field continue straight ahead – an arrow directs – with the boundary to your right. At the end of the next field cross the stile on the right and then turn left to walk across the field in the same direction as before (a grassy path was provided at the time of writing) towards a house. Look around you – you are within a ‘bowl’ of hills. At the end of the field cross the plank bridge under a tree, followed by a stile. Walk up the next small field to another stile onto the lane. Turn right – you are now retracing your steps along the lane, passing Crangs Lane on your right, to return to the car park.
Taken from A Dozen Dramatic Walks in Somerset (stanbrook-Byme/Clancy)