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Walk: Wandering around West Hatch

PUBLISHED: 15:56 03 June 2019

Tony wades through the East Deane Way  some of it can be very lush in summer!

Tony wades through the East Deane Way  some of it can be very lush in summer!

Archant

Muddy fields, inquisitive cattle and a few challenging field hurdles are no match for Simone Stanbrook-Byrne on her wanderings around West Hatch

One of the things West Hatch is best known for is its RSPCA centre which, as well as dealing with domestic animals, is one of only four in the country that has a dedicated wildlife unit. They do a superb job, so if you're looking for a new member of the family, be it cats, rats or anything else, pop in and take a look.

And on the subject of animals, I confess I can be a bit of a chicken where cattle are concerned. This walk was a seesaw of bovine-related emotions, from rather bouncy young cattle ('inquisitive', my walking-partner tells me) to some adorable highland cattle whom I just wanted to hug (I didn't).

So pack up your sense of adventure, enjoy the walk - and if it's too stressful there's always the embrace of The Farmers Arms at the end.

1. From the village hall take the signed footpath across a small field, following the right-hand boundary to a stile on the far side. Turn right along the road then immediately left on Griffin Lane, where a sign says 'unsuitable for heavy vehicles'. Cross a small bridge then go over the stile on the left immediately after it, entering a field and walking up through it along the right-hand hedge. At the end of the field, just after a lone oak tree, bend left with the boundary, still keeping it to your right, and in the corner emerge onto the lane.

An attractive fellow watches passing walkersAn attractive fellow watches passing walkers

2. Cross the lane and enter the field opposite (via gate if stile inaccessible). This is now the East Deane way and the buildings of Park Farm are to your left. Walk across the middle of the field, aiming to the right of two large open barns. Pass these on your left and leave the field through a gateway in the corner beyond them.

Keep straight ahead on a wide farm track, ignoring any field gateways to left or right and continuing ahead on a broad and rather overgrown hedged track.The track emerges at an open area beneath oaks then continues as before, approaching Bickenhall Wood.

3. As you reach the woodland don't enter it but bear right with the trodden path, skirting the wood with the trees to your left. Follow the left-hand edge of the field until its end where the woodland bends right, bending right with it to find a yellow-arrowed stile within 50m of the corner leading into the edge of the woodland.

Cross the stile and continue beneath trees - an open field is visible to the right. Follow the path through the margin of the wood; the buildings of Swallow Barn Farm can also be seen to the right.

At the end of the wood emerge from the trees over the gate or stile, depending on which is more negotiable, then follow the right-hand hedge through a narrow section of field.

The East Dean Way passes through the margin of Bickenhall WoodThe East Dean Way passes through the margin of Bickenhall Wood

4. When the hedge ends in about 100m keep ahead bearing slightly right with the farm to your right. This leads to a stile at the bend of the farm track. If this stile is still impassable you may have to do as we did and walk back along the fence, then return along the farm track until you are on the other side of the stile.

Cross the track to another stile opposite then enter the next field. In this field the walk departs from the East Deane Way for a while and a hedge shown on the map is no longer there. Bear diagonally left across the field, aiming for the first obvious telegraph pole in the far hedge. This line reaches a stile back onto the farm track just to the left of the pole, at the point where the track joins the lane.

Turn right along the lane and follow it for about 450m. (If you reach the RSPCA centre you've gone too far.) As the lane bends right then left, look for a stile on the right opposite a cream-painted house.

St Andrew’s Church West HatchSt Andrew’s Church West Hatch

5. Cross the stile into the field and turn immediately left, following the left hedge, once more on the East Deane Way. At the end of the field cross the stile (or walk through the gap) and continue to another stiled gap about 50m away. Continue through the next field beside the left-hand boundary.

At the end of this stretch another stile leads into a small orchard. Bear slightly right across it to find a two-way fingerpost 120m away in the far corner, where another stile leads onto the lane, leaving the East Deane Way.

Cross the lane to yet another stile and enter a field. Follow the left-hand boundary to a stile beside a gateway.

6. Pass through and walk diagonally right across the middle of the field to find a double stile in the corner leading into the next field. Cross the middle of this field towards the far boundary - the buildings of Stroud's Farm are in the distance. At the far side stay in the field and turn right, now with the hedge to your left. Follow the hedge to the corner (the long-overgrown Prey Lane is to your left), where another stile leads to a mushy area, shown as 'ford' on the map.

St Andrew’s Church tower peeps over the hedgerow near the end of the walkSt Andrew’s Church tower peeps over the hedgerow near the end of the walk

7. Cross the ford and go through the yellow-arrowed gate on the far side (arrows misleading here), then keep ahead following the left-hand boundary up the field. At the top an arrowed plank bridge carries the path across a muddy section after which a stile leads into the next field.

8. Follow the left-hand boundary until you find a gate on the left, at which point stay in the field and turn right to follow the clear track to a gateway and stile on the far side. Beyond this turn left, following the left boundary and at the end of the field negotiate the stile or gate, then continue along the left hedge in the next field. A glimpse of West Hatch church tower appears ahead to the right.

At the end of the field go right for about 50m to find a stile and fingerpost leading to the lane. Turn right along the road (Church Lane) and follow it for 400m. Here a small wooden gate gives access to the church path. Follow this, explore St Andrew's, then leave via the gate near the village hall, where your car awaits.

Simone Stanbrook-Byrne is the author, with James Clancy, of 'A Dozen Dramatic Walks in Somerset' and other walking guides for the West Country.

Compass points

- Map: OS Explorer 128 Taunton & Blackdown Hills 1:25 000

- Directions to start: West Hatch is 6 miles south west of Taunton, signed off the A358. The village hall is along a track adjacent to a house called Foxhunters. There is a sign indicating 'Hall'. Nearby postcode: TA3 5RJ.Grid ref: ST285210

- Parking: If there is no event taking place in the hall the committee is happy for occasional cars to use the car park. Otherwise there is a lay-by near the church gate on Church Lane, Grid ref: ST 285209, from which you can walk through the churchyard to the hall

- Terrain: Field paths with a little lane walking. Potential for mud after wet weather so be well-booted. At the time of writing many of the stiles were in a decayed condition; the council has been informed so by the time you arrive this will, hopefully, have been resolved

- Exertion: Easy

- Dog friendliness: Animals grazing and lots of awkward stiles. The nearby Farmers Arms is dog-friendly

- Refreshments: The Farmers Arms, West Hatch, TA3 5RS (01823 480980).

- Toilets: Near village hall

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