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Details

  • Start: Gallox Bridge, Dunster (grid ref: SS989432)
  • End: Gallox Bridge, Dunster (grid ref: SS989432)
  • Country: England
  • County: Somerset
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub:
  • Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer OL9 or Landranger 181
  • Difficulty: Medium
Google Map

Description

Enjoy some of the jewels of the Dunster Estate, including the tallest tree in England, Dunster Forest and views of Exmoor on one of the estate's new waymarked trails. Countryside Manager Andrew Player leads the way

The Tall Trees Trek


Enjoy some of the jewels of the Dunster Estate, including the tallest tree in Englan, Dunster Forest and views of Exmoor on one of the estate's new waymarked trails. Andrew Player leads the way.


This easy walk will take you from the historic heart of Dunster village, initially following the route that would have been taken by the traders and pack animals of the wool trade that put Dunster on the medieval map. You will follow this trail through the beautiful Dunster Forest, occasionally getting glimpses of the spectacular Exmoor countryside, until you reach the Tall Trees Trail.
This brand-new all-abilities trail is a celebration of the excellent timber-growing conditions here. The fertile soils and ideal climate here have produced a 60m (197ft) Douglas fir that is the tallest tree in England and the only English tree in the UKs top ten tall trees. This peaceful grove was planted as an arboretum by the Luttrell family in the 1870s, and today shelters a number of exotic and other giant trees that make a beautiful backdrop to this new visitor attraction.
Following the walk through the forest will eventually lead you up to the spectacular views of coast and moors from Bats Castle, an Iron Age hillfort that would have once been home to a warrior chief and his clan. From the patchwork of heather and gorse of Bats Castle, you will then walk back down into the historic deer park, with its gnarled old oak trees, before arriving back in Dunster.


Boots on? Lets go!
1 Cross Gallox Bridge, a medieval packhorse bridge, and walk up to the crossroads, where the parish gallows would have once been located. Follow the track up the slope to the right this is the old coach road used by the wool traders. Follow the coach road up a gentle incline until the track forks. Take the right fork and continue on the coach road, ignoring a track off to the right after 200m, and pass an amazing old conifer on the left-hand side with exposed roots that radiate out along the track. Reaching a sharp bend, take a track off to the right for a few metres and you will come to the Vinegar Hill viewpoint, with spectacular views out over the Aville Valley.
2 Turn around and retrace your steps to the track, and then follow this, past a chainsaw-carved bear, to a crossroads. Take the track down the slope to the right and follow the zigzag down to Broadwood Road. Turn left and follow the road up to a turning on the left, which is also the start of the Tall Trees Trail. Follow the Trail beyond where it loops and rejoin Broadwood Road. Turn left along it for a short distance until you reach a track up to the left.
3 Follow this track up a steady incline into Whits Wood, and keep looking out to the left, as you get a whole new perspective of the tall trees. Reaching a junction, turn left and follow the track down a gentle slope until you reach another track at the bottom of the slope. Turn right and continue until you see a gateway and stile on the left. Climb over this and follow the path across a small field to another gate and stile. Over this stile cross a wooden bridge.
4 Turn right onto a forestry track and follow it, keeping to the left and ignoring paths off to the right as you climb up a steady incline. Continue round a bend to the left, until you reach a path junction on the left. Turn left and follow it up through a gap in a dry-stone wall. Continue straight on as the path gently climbs through the coniferous forest on either side, and up a steeper incline at the end onto open heathland.
5 At the top of this incline, with the worst of the climbing over, turn left and follow the path up to Bats Castle hillfort. Take in the stunning views of Exmoor, the Quantocks and the West Somerset coast, and then continue down the other side to a path junction. Turn right, and follow the path to a fork. Take the right fork down through the forest to another junction. Turn left here and follow the path down a gentle decline, taking the right fork at the next path junction. Keep heading downhill, through stands of gnarled old oaks in the deer park, to a five-bar gate. Go through the hunting gate alongside and follow the path down to another five-bar gate and hunting gate. Going through these will bring you back to the outward route. Turn right and follow the path back to Gallox Bridge, and a well-earned cup of tea in Dunster.


Fact file
Start: Gallox Bridge, Dunster (grid ref: SS989432)
Distance: 6.7km (4 1/4 miles)
Time: 2 hours
Maps: OS Explorer OL9 or Landranger 181
Terrain: Paths, forest tracks, short section on private road, some long gentle inclines and declines, one short steep incline. Some parts may be slippery/muddy after rain. Tall Trees Trail is suitable for all abilities
Refreshments: None along the route, but there are cafs, restaurants and WCs in Dunster


Ranger profile
After studying Physical Geography at the University of Wales, Andrew Player joined the Forestry Commission North Wales Conservancy as an Admin Officer for the Woodland Grant Scheme; while there he began a part-time HNC in Woodland Management and Arboriculture. He then transferred to the South East of England Forest District and completed his HNC. In 2005, he took on the role of Trees and Woodlands Conservation Advisor for the Exmoor National Park Authority and began studies for professional membership to the Institute of Chartered Foresters. Andrew joined The Crown Estate in 2008 as a Countryside Manager, helping to develop the recreation and conservation value of the Dunster Estate, while building strong links with local businesses and community groups.

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