From Porlock Weir to Culbone Church
PUBLISHED: 09:00 29 April 2014
After a childhood filled with happy memories of South West walks, Julia R Merrifield returns to one of her favourite circular walks
Points of interest
At a mere 35 feet long and with the nave measuring 12 feet 4 inches wide, this grade two listed building is the smallest parish church in England. It can only be accessed on foot, but is nevertheless still in regular use as a place of worship.
A port has existed here for over 1000 years. In its heyday in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries coal from South Wales was the main cargo. Today the quiet, picturesque harbour is home to a small fleet of yachts and pleasure craft. Take time to stroll round the harbour and the quaint cottages.
Yearnor and Culbone Woods
These ancient woodlands of oak and pine are rich in wildlife, and in this relatively isolated environment, where there is little air pollution, the tree branches are covered with luxuriant growths of clean-air-loving lichens, mosses and ferns. A walk along any of the paths brings you to streams, waterfalls and the occasional grotto and folly.
I have many fond childhood memories of holidays spent in the South West of England, playing on the beaches and exploring the hidden valleys of Exmoor and Dartmoor. So as an adult with a passion for walking it was little wonder that I chose the South West Coast Path as my first long distance walk. And now, with many other long distance National Trails and cycle routes under my belt, I continue to return to the South West and the fabulous coastal walks of Somerset and North Devon. Fittingly, this circular walk is close to the start of the 630-mile long South West Coast Path.
1Leave your car at the car park in Porlock Weir, cross the road and follow the well sign posted South West Coast Path as it weaves behind the hotel, through a gate and straight on along a field path to a stile. Keep following the South West Coast Path acorn markers to the end of another field, keeping the hedge on your right until you reach another gate. Through the gate keep to the top side of the triangular field to meet a lane.
2 Continue along the lane to reach the Worthy Combe Toll Lodge. Take the gate in the right hand arch. Soon the path begins to climb, a series of switch backs carry you steeply up through the woods where you join a higher track. Follow this track to Culbone Church, the short diversion to visit the church is well worthwhile.
3 From here follow the Coast Path to the west before taking an upper track (at the first well-defined junction) signposted to Silcombe. Continue along this track as it twists and turns, climbing up the valley at Withy Combe. Where the path meets a bridle way continue west to reach the lane to Silcombe Farm and go through the farmyard.
4 Along this stretch of the walk take time to admire the views: east towards Hurlestone Point and Bossington Hill; below you to the north is Culbone Wood covering the hogs back cliffs as they drop away into the Bristol Channel. Continue to follow the track to reach Broomstreet Farm. Go through the farmyard, keeping to the seaward side, through several gates and keep following the track.
5 When the track peters out go into the field and turn immediately towards the coast, follow the field path to reach the bottom of the field. Leave the field and continue in a steep descent, cross the stream and climb slightly westwards to the top of the banks of Wheatham Combe. Drop down the steep slope towards the sea to enter the trees at Yenworthy Wood.
6 Continue on the path, passing through open meadows and keep close to the stone-bank field boundary. When the boundary turns up hill and inland leave the boundary and angle away from it down the hill. Your route starts as a gentle descent passing through a few stunted conifers but soon begins to descend more steeply and a series of switchbacks bring you out at a junction with the South West Coast Path.
7 Turn right and follow the Coast Path eastwards through Embelle Wood and back to Culbone Church, from where you retrace your route to Porlock Weir. If you are feeling more energetic you could turn left and continue westwards along the coast path all the way to Lynmouth, this would result in a linear walk of approximately 12 miles. From Lynmouth it is possible to catch a bus back to Porlock Weir but please check bus timetables before setting out! The bus journey itself is almost as enjoyable as the walk. This is a fabulous walk to undertake at any time of year. In early spring the woodland floor is a colourful patchwork of bluebells, wood sorrel and campion, with trees unfurling into leaf. In full summer the hedgerows and field boundaries are alive with butterflies and bumblebees feeding on the purple foxgloves. In autumn the oaks and larches present a palate of russets and yellows. In winter on a cold, crisp day frost and ice decorate the naked branches and fallen leaves. At any time of the year the fields and woodlands are home to countless birds from blue tits to greater spotted woodpeckers. But perhaps the wildlife sighting that I remember most is the weasel, oblivious to my presence, which ran straight towards me at the end of the lane near Broomstreet Farm. I’ve been too long away - it’s time I went back