8 autumn days out in Somerset
PUBLISHED: 13:28 07 November 2016 | UPDATED: 13:28 07 November 2016
Dave Hamilton chooses his favourite Somerset places to explore at this time of the year
From its borders with Devon and Dorset in the south to Gloucester and Wiltshire in the north and west, Somerset is a diverse and beautiful county. It is blessed with windswept moors, magical mature woodlands, rolling hills and deep gorges forged by ancient elemental forces. Take a wander down its miles of country lanes and you’ll find picture perfect postcard villages around nearly every corner. Away from the large seaside towns, the coastline is a wild and breathtaking place waiting to be explored.
With such a multitude of great locations in the country finding just a handful to recommend is a tall order. However, here are some of my favourite days out in the county which can be enjoyed by all from the youngest to the oldest members of the family.
Ham Hill Country Park
On a dusk visit to Ham Hill, you may be lucky enough to glimpse sight of one of the many badgers living in this wildlife rich country park. A favourite for families, the ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort are worth the climb as they offer stunning views of the farmland below. If it is peace and quiet you are after then consider taking one of the many walks through the woods to the Victorian Quarry or out towards the site of a former Roman Villa.
Weston Woods - Weston-Super-Mare
Situated on the outskirts of Weston-super-Mare, far above the hustle and bustle of the town below, stands the simple serenity of Weston Woods. It takes the best part of a morning for a round trip from the Worlebury Hill end to the site of the Hill Fort. The Hill Fort is overgrown but a facinating place with more than 200 ditches dug 2000 years ago to store grain. Dog walkers will find themselves in good company and will welcome the water tap by the water tower.
Stretching from an area just north east of Taunton to the Bristol Channel, the Quantock Hills run like a vast natural backbone through South Somerset. On a clear day a walk up Wills Neck, on the Taunton side of the range, will reward you with far reaching views out as far as Dartmoor, the Brecon Beacons and into Dorset. For a slightly easier climb, at the other end of the range head to the car park south west of West Quantoxhead and head up Beacon Hill.
Situated just outside the town of Frome, Nunney Village is an archetypal quaint English village. It is unashamedly pretty and home to the smallest true castle in Europe.On an autumn day, a pleasant circle can be ambled through the village from starting point at the castle car park. Head through the trees to the castle, then onto a drink in the pub by the river, cross the road to meander through the churchyard before retracing your tracks. If you have the time, a visit to nearby Cranmore Tower with far reaching views across the region is highly recommended.
Burrington Combe is often referred to as Somerset’s other gorge. It doesn’t attract the crowds of the other place, which adds to the unique charm of this prehistoric landscape. At the base of the gorge, not far from the Burrington Inn, is Aveline’s hole, a large cave shelter used to bury the dead more than 10,000 years ago. There are walks in every direction, with spectacular views from the top looking out over the Bristol Channel to Wales in the distance.
As the evenings turn colder, the nights draw in, the orange, reds and yellows of sunset mirror the falling leaves of the trees. As these lights reflect off the many pools, lakes and drainage ditches over the Somerset Levels the light playfully dances over the water. Between autumn and late winter this natural spectacle is enhanced by a sky full of thousands of starlings moving in gentle unison. Avalon Marshes and Ham Wall are excellent to visit at any time of the year but during the murmuration these RSPB reserves come into their own.
The Fleet Air Museum
The Fleet Air Museum can be a welcome relief on a cold, wet autumnal day. Little prepares you for the shear size of the place. It is enormous! This vast space is needed to house over-sized exhibits such as a full scale Concorde, a harrier jump jet and a large full scale mock up of an aircraft carrier. Those of a certain age will find exhibits dating to within their own lifetime, which can be somewhat unnerving. The Fleet Air Arm Museum is one of the few places which can honestly say there is something for every generation from Grandchildren to Great-Grandmothers.
Prior Park Landscape Garden
In the 18th Century Ralph Allen reformed the British postal system, increasing its efficiency, cutting down on postal fraud and making himself an awful lot of money. As, back then, ostentatious shows of wealth were very much the ‘in’ thing, he had Prior Park House and gardens built as his main abode. The gardens are now in the care of the Natural Trust who brought them along with the once derilict Palladian bridge back to life in the early 1990s. The Times Newspaper counted Prior Park as one of the top 20 places in Britain to go for an autumn walk.
About the author
Dave Hamilton lives in Frome, Somerset and has authored three books including Wild Ruins, The Explorer’s Guide to Britain Lost Castles, Follies, Relics and Remains.
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