Get more from the moor
PUBLISHED: 17:28 03 March 2014 | UPDATED: 17:28 03 March 2014
A short, gem of a walk with big views and lots of variety at County Gate, Exmoor
Taken from A Dozen Dramatic Walks In Somerset (Stanbrook/Byrne/Clancy
he 18th century Grade II listed cottage at the start of this walk was acquired by the National Park Authority in 1977 and opened as a Visitor Centre and Tea Rooms in 1980; prior to that information was handed out from a caravan in the car park, which was overturned by a storm, strewing its leaflets across the moor! Situated roughly half way between Porlock and Lynmouth, and just on the Somerset side of the county boundary, this cottage served as a staging post for horse-drawn coaches until the 1920s. The actual ‘gate’, which spanned the road, is long gone, but its stone posts remain. At over 330m above sea level the location is breathtaking. To the south it overlooks the valley of the East Lyn River, whilst to the north the moor descends sharply to the Bristol Channel with, on a clear day, the coast of Wales beyond. It’s a superb spot from which to start our walk.
1From the car park cross the road and pick up the blue-arrowed bridleway signed for Broomstreet. This is a clear track with fabulous views across the moorland. Soon you reach a fingerpost at which you continue ahead on the bridleway. A little further (within 150m of the road) the path forks. Left is to the viewpoint at Sugarloaf, but our way lies straight on; you will return on the path from Sugarloaf later. Just over half a mile from leaving the road you reach Yenworthy Lodge. Beyond the house cross its drive and continue on the bridleway opposite, still signposted for Broomstreet Farm and now also Oareford.
2From the driveway the path ascends to a gate. After this keep on the clear track, there are boundaries to your left and right. When you reach the end of the right hand fence keep on the trodden path, slightly uphill. Soon the path levels out through the field, stay in this field and follow the wall and fence on the left, an occasional blue bridleway marker reassures you. This is a lovely stretch of walking. You reach a crossing fence, pass through the field gate and continue in the same direction alongside the wall until the track starts to descend, still close to the wall; admire its mossy roundness and beech topping.
At the end of the wall follow it round to the left and then bear right again, continuing to follow the boundary. The wall leads you to another fingerpost directing you through a gate on the left, still towards Broomstreet. Follow this downhill, boundary to your right, with good views ahead and to Sugarloaf Hill. In just over 100m you reach another fingerpost.
3Here the bridleway goes right to Broomstreet but you leave it and carry on ahead, now on the coast path to Lynmouth. You are heading into Wheatham Combe. Within 200m another fingerpost directs you right through a gap in the boundary, entering the verdant combe with the stream down to your left; a good place for a picnic. The trodden path leads you clearly down to another fingerpost and beyond this steps descend to the stream. Cross this then climb up out of the combe with the stream now on your right. Follow the path to a gate then continue beyond it, there are trees down to your right with glimpses of the sea through them. Eventually you leave the trees behind and big coastal views open up. As you round the headland, with the sea to your right, spare a glance back along this glorious coastline.
4Soon you reach a three-way fingerpost at Guildhall Corner. Go left here on the permissive path, signed for Sugarloaf and County Gate. This is quite a climb up beside the left-hand boundary but fear not, there will be a bench waiting at the top! Follow the path as it veers right away from the boundary and then climbs less steeply. There are excellent views to the right to take your mind off the puff. At the top of the hill you find yourself looking over a wall to Yenworthy on the hillside beyond. Turn right to follow the wall to a gap with a yellow footpath marker on the stones, sampling the bench if you wish.
5Beyond the gap drink in the views along the North Devon coastline and then turn left, now heading back to County Gate and tottering steeply downhill beside the wall to a fingerpost by a stream. A diversion of about 50m is worthwhile here – follow the path to the right, with the stream to your left until you find a delightful waterfall, you’ll hear it before you see it.
Return to the fingerpost, cross the stream and follow the trodden path beyond, you will see occasional yellow footpath markers along the way. The path goes up the hillside, fence up to the left, stream down to the right and lovely views ahead as you climb. You reach a gate, go through and continue beyond it, now with the fence on your right. Soon you have spectacular views down to the house of Glenthorne in its romantic setting at the bottom of a combe above the sea – setting for Christopher Ondaatje’s story The Glenthorne Cat. Keep following the fence on your right, it eventually bends right and leads up to a stile. Continue beyond here through the field following the fence, until it goes steeply up to another stile on the right in front of a gate.
6. Cross the stile and now follow the boundary on your left, a fingerpost shows you are still en route for County Gate. There are good combe and sea views down to your right. The path winds inland along the top of the combe. At a fingerpost go right along the track to another fingerpost. Turn right here and now you’re retracing your steps the short distance back to County Gate and a well-earned flask of tea.
Points of interest:
-The original ‘gate posts’ of County Gate
-The ‘view indicator board’ in corner of car park
-Romantically-situated Glenthorne House
-Huge, thirst-quenching views