Oh what a wonderful winter
PUBLISHED: 11:04 26 January 2016 | UPDATED: 16:27 12 February 2016
On a cold crisp day in winter, when frost filigrees adorn the trees and the clarity of light sharpens our senses, there are few better pastimes than a good walk. Enjoy a route from this précised selection of favourite, view-rich options from around the county
1. Winsford and the Devil’s Punchbowl
An Exmoor walk with an excellent inn. There’s a chance of seeing our largest wild land mammals, red deer, as well as delightful Exmoor ponies. The walk circumnavigates the Devil’s Punchbowl, a curious geological feature created aeons ago when the devil needed to scoop out a well. He removed the soil and threw it over his shoulder giving rise to Dunkery Hill, the highest point on Exmoor. A more scientific explanation suggests that it was formed by glacial action during the last Ice Age.
The walk starts on the lane heading west out of Winsford, before joining the footpath west to Withycombe Farm (1). From here take the bridleway that climbs up to Winsford Hill and around the Punchbowl (2). Follow tracks east then generally south to Halse Lane near a house called Folly (3).
A few metres south on the lane brings you to the start of a footpath heading north-east back towards Winsford, passing Halse Farm en route. This area that can be absolutely magical with hoar frost in winter. The footpath then joins a bridleway that wends its way through secretive Yellowcombe (4) before arriving at the lane back into Winsford.
Terrain: Very varied: open moorland to river valleys. Chance of mud! Clear weather conditions needed, map and compass useful.
Dog friendly: Some quiet road walking. The inn welcomes dogs.
Start point & parking: Winsford village centre. Post code TA24 7JE. Grid ref SS905348.
Distance: 5¼ miles / 8.25km.
Exertion: One long ascent but otherwise moderate.
Refreshment & comfort stops: The Royal Oak, reputedly England’s most photographed inn: 01643 851455. Public toilets near village centre.
Directions to start: Winsford is signed off the A396 Minehead to Tiverton road, about 14 miles south of Mineheah.
2. Cadbury Castle & Corton Denham
A two-village walk with lots of history. The route starts with an excursion up onto an Iron Age hill fort (1) with one of the longest records of occupation of any hill fort in the country. Our ancestors led their lives on Cadbury Castle from a few thousand years BC and it’s one of several sites associated with King Arthur’s Camelot. Once you’ve had your fill of the castle ramparts retrace your steps back down and follow lanes generally south to join the Monarch’s Way, a 610-mile path following the escape route taken by Charles II after the Battle of Worcester. Enjoy a lovely bridleway over Parrock Hill (2) before leaving the Monarch’s Way to head east on a footpath down into Corton Denham and the embrace of the Queen’s Arms (3).The return path takes in Corton Hill and The Beacon. Lanes then brings you to Whitcombe (4). Beyond the farm follow the paths heading generally east then north, past the site of a medieval village, abandoned since the 17th century; gentle undulations remain and maybe a few ghosts. Footpaths heading north beyond here bring you back to the lane near Cadbury Castle. Retrace your steps along the lane to the start point.
Terrain: Good paths and quiet lanes. Possibly muddy.
Dog friendly: A favourite with Pandora, particularly The Queen’s Arms!
Start point: Cadbury Castle car park on the edge of South Cadbury village. Post code BH22 7HA. Grid ref: ST632253.
Distance: 6.75 miles / 10.8 km.
Exertion: Moderate: some ascents but the superb views make the effort worthwhile.
Refreshment & comfort stop: The Queen’s Arms, Corton Denham, 01963 220317; The Camelot, South Cadbury: 01963 440448.
Public transport: Infrequent buses (travelinesw.com).
Directions to start: South Cadbury is south of the A303, eight miles west of Wincanton.
3. The Quantocks, Will’s Neck and the Triscombe Stone
This is a walk of seriously thirst quenching views and snippets of history. The route leaves the car park, heading north-west across Lydeard Hill along the Macmillan Way West, an old drove road. This passes a high and airy trig point on Wills’ Neck (1), one of the English ‘Marilyns’ (a hill with a relative height of at least 150m). The name is a corruption of Wealas Nek, meaning ‘Ridge of the Britons’. Continue north-west beyond the trig, following the footpath to Triscombe and its inn (2), then head north-east to the Triscombe Stone, a diminutive Bronze Age way-marker. Give him a pat for luck. From here take the bridleway south then east, hugging the margins of the woodland (3), before striking out south-east between Aisholt Common and Middle Hill (4). Continue on the bridleway to Durborough Farm then follow the lane a short way (north-east) to reach a restricted byway heading south (5). Ignore any converging paths and this brings you all the way back to Birches Corner. From here a path runs north-west through the woodland, parallel to the road, to bring you back to the car park.
Terrain: Heathland tracks and woodland paths. Can be muddy. A compass is handy and clear conditions.
Dog friendly: Yes, and the inn welcomes dogs in the bar.
Start point & parking: Lydeard Hill Car Park. Grid ref ST180338..
Distance: just under 6 miles / 9.5km.
Exertion: Moderate – expect some uphills!
Refreshment & comfort stops: The Blue Ball Inn, Triscombe, 01984 618242.
Directions to start: Head for Cothelstone (north east of Bishops Lydeard off the A358). Continue beyond village to junction called Park End and turn left to reach crossroads called Birches Corner. Lydeard Hill Car Park is signed.