Walk: Countryside rambles near North Newton
PUBLISHED: 11:30 15 October 2019
Wander through farmland, orchards and along the canal near North Newton, where Simone Stanbrook-Byrne finds a few surprises
Not far from the rush of the M5 there is a network of paths navigating the countryside and offering an escape from the bustle.
Passing through expansive farmland, orchards and following part of the Taunton and Bridgwater Canal, the route is varied and can offer frequent wildlife sighting.
And there are other surprises in store, for on this walk you can cover 400,000km with just one step.
The latter part of the walk follows a section of the towpath beside the Taunton and Bridgwater Canal, site of the Somerset Space Walk, a 530-million-to-one scale model of our solar system and brainchild of designer and inventor Pip Youngman.
Walking the towpath gives an idea of the vast distances between the planets and the relative size of each, with a snippet of information about them when you reach them.
So, boots on for a walk through Somerset and Space.
1. Walk along Church Road, heading from the pub towards St Peter's Church. About 15m before the church gates go left along what looks like a private drive (not the dirt track right near the church), passing the pebble-dashed house of Court Farm on your right. Keep ahead past the house, followed by a garage on the left, to reach a farm gate with a footpath arrow in front of barns. Go through and bear right as the arrow directs, passing between barns to reach another arrowed gate into a field. Once in the field go immediately left, following the left-hand boundary. At the end of the field pass through an arrowed gateway and continue through the next field, still following the left-hand boundary. Note the pollarded trees along here, bearing clumps of mistletoe. A metal gate at the end leads into another field, keep going as before, now with a ditch to your left. The buildings of Fackrells Farm are to the left, ahead is Impen's Farm. The left-hand boundary bends in and out, keep straight ahead ignoring a yellow arrow that directs left (a new re-route that doesn't impact on our route) and continuing towards Impen's Farm at the far end of the field.
2. As the path approaches the buildings of Impen's, yellow arrows mark the way (a slight variation from the map but an improvement), bearing right towards an avenue of trees to reach a surfaced track. Turn right on this, walking along the avenue of trees with a modern barn to the left, soon leaving the buildings behind.
The track crosses a stream where there is a pond to the left by a red-brick building. Keep going on the now-unsurfaced track between hedges, rising gently. The right-hand hedge ends and the track passes beneath power lines, the view opening up across a spacious field. Soon you pass a historic shed on the left, partly consumed by ivy, and just beyond here we had a superb sighting of four roe deer, leaping away from us across the field. Continue for almost 400m and at the end of the field, to the right of the track, you find a small tree commemorating Ivor Radford. He has a good view. To the left a multi-arrowed post indicates a meeting of paths. Go left at this junction, still following the broad track with expansive views to the right. Skylarks hang in the sky above.
3. In about 300m the track passes a couple of defunct trailers and beyond the hedge the derelict house of Forty Acres Farm is just visible - it would make an interesting project. Beyond this the track passes through a gateway and swings left. Stay with it, hedge to the left, and it soon it swings right again, heading towards a gateway into a large orchard. Don't go through here but look for a metal stile about 10m to the right that gives access into a lovely young orchard. Follow the broad grassy track through this beautiful area, youthful trees to the right, hedge to the left with the more-established orchard beyond it - an appealing stretch of walking. Follow the path for almost 400m until it reaches a surfaced drive at the end of the orchard. Turn right, walking towards Manor House Farm and Petherton Park Farm, once part of historic Petherton Park and an ancient royal forest. The orchard is still to your right and the track, Park Lane, is part of the Macmillan Way West, a network of long-distance paths established to raise fund for the Macmillan Cancer Support charity. We spotted lots of birds along here including yellowhammers and linnets.
4. The track leads into the environs of houses, passing two on the left. Within about 50m, before you reach the main house, turn right (a yellow arrow directs) along an unsurfaced track between fences. Keep ahead on this track, houses over to the left. The track crosses a stream, passes a pond and soon begins to go gently uphill. In about 300m swing left with the track and keep going, passing attractive Warren House in another 200m. Continue for almost ½ mile beyond here until the track brings you to Fordgate Farm, where you find a breeze block building ahead of you.
5. Go left, aiming towards a green metal gate followed by a white bridge crossing the Taunton and Bridgwater Canal. A picturesque canal-side cottage with its King George letter box greets you on the far side of the bridge. Turn right along the towpath, canal to your right; there now follows 1¾ miles of appealing waterside walking. This is also part of the Sustrans National Cycle network, so watch out for bikes. Built during the first half of the 19th century to transport freight between the River Tone and the River Parrett, the canal's industrial life declined with the coming of the railways - you may see trains passing over to your left. It is now an enticing place for walking and wildlife. The towpath soon passes a World War Two pillbox, one of many along the canal. At the time these were installed the permanent bridges were also mined with demolition chambers so that they could be destroyed in the event of invasion. After almost ¾ mile you reach Standards Lock, with its adjacent picnic area, and beyond here, near White's Farm, Saturn and his rings await, a reminder that this is the Somerset Space Walk.
6. King's Lock is the next chunk of canal hardware and 350m beyond this you reach bridge number 15 - there are almost 40 along the length of the canal, all numbered from the Bridgwater end.
Cross this bridge, joining Church Road on the far side. The road bends about and brings you back to St Peter's Church in 250m. Lunch awaits!
Good to know:
Map: OS Explorer 140 Quantock Hills and Bridgwater 1:25 000
Directions to start: North Newton is just off the M5, about 5 miles south of Bridgwater. Nearby postcode: TA7 0BJ. Grid ref: ST300311
Parking: In Church Road, with consideration for residents. Also, the Harvest Moon if you are calling in (see 'Refreshments' below)
Distance: Almost 5 miles/8km
Exertion: Easy, with a couple of gentle slopes
Terrain: Field paths and tracks and a towpath beside the canal. The walk passes beneath power lines a few times, but the pylons aren't massive and there was no crackling when we ducked under them - so not too obtrusive
Dog friendly: Yes, but animals may be grazing. The Harvest Moon welcomes dogs in the bar and garden - you may meet resident Molly
Refreshments: The Harvest Moon, Church Road, North Newton, TA7 0BJ. They are happy for walkers who are taking refreshment with them to use their car park - and you are welcome to pre-order your lunch before setting off
Simone Stanbrook-Byrne & James Clancy are authors of A Dozen Dramatic Walks in Somerset.