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Details

  • Start: Porlock Fire Station Car Park
  • End: Porlock Fire Station Car Park
  • Country: England
  • County: Somerset
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub: The Whortleberry Tearooms, High Street, Porlock
  • Ordnance Survey:
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Description

If your idea of showing someone you love them this Valentine's Day is much more about the simple pleasures in life, what could be more romantic than a walk hand-in-hand through the Exmoor countryside

Rediscover your love for Somerset with this walk through romantic Exmoor countryside


If your idea of showing someone you love them this Valentines Day is much more about the simple pleasures in life, what could be more romantic than a walk hand-in-hand through the Exmoor countrysideon a crisp winters day?


There are some beautiful walking routes to choose from along the Somerset stretch of the South West Coast Path, but one that is especially charming is the four-mile Porlock Woodland walk - a delightful stroll around the western side of Porlock Bay, through the wooded hills above Porlock Weir, along the dog-friendly Porlock Beach and back around the edge of marshy pastures.


The landscape of this walk has inspired many poets over the years, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who lived in nearby Nether Stowey, and often walked around Porlock with his good friend William Wordsworth, who was also a local resident. In the middle of writing one of his best-known poems, Kubla Khan - apparently in Ash Farm, on Culbone Hill - Coleridge was interrupted by the now infamous person from Porlock and as a result never finished it.


Their friend and fellow poet Robert Southey also spent time at Porlock, and wrote a sonnet about this special place, nonetheless bemoaning the inaccessibility caused by the high hills ringing Porlock.


Porlock Hill climbs 400 metres in less than two miles, and its steep gradient and hairpin bends have made it notorious from the early days of motoring. Its rapid descent must nonetheless have been very useful in 1899, when the Lynmouth lifeboat was summoned to the aid of 13 seamen caught in violent storms in the Bristol Channel. Unable to launch the boat in the churning waters of Lynmouth Bay, the sailors dragged it overland, up the equally severe Countisbury Hill, to Porlock, where the sheltered bay made it possible to get afloat and save those in peril out in the channel.


Another ship in trouble at sea was the ketch, Lizzy, caught in storms off Lynmouth Bay in 1854, before the town had a lifeboat. A fishing boat was sent out to her aid, and managed to rescue the crew. The weather improving the next day, a fresh crew set out with the skipper to salvage the ketch, and had almost succeeded, when it sank in shallow waters off Gore Point, just a stones throw from Porlock Weir and safety.


The hall here, now used as a village hall, was originally a military building, dating from the First World War.


Porlock Weir, just down the road, is a picturesque hamlet of old cottages, including the 17th-century Gibraltar Cottages. The first mention of it as a port was as long ago as 86 AD, when it was visited by Danes; and in 1052 Harold Godwinson (the on his horse, with his hawk in his hand Harold who was defeated by William the Conqueror at Hastings, probably amid great cheers from the population here) landed en route from Ireland, with nine ships, plundering Porlock and setting fire to it before proceeding to London.


Porlock Weir and much of the land around and behind it are part of the Porlock Manor Estate, which has been linked to the Blathwayt family since 1686, when William Blathwayt, Secretary of State to King William III, married Mary Wynter, who had inherited it as one of several Somerset manors left to her. Since 1870 this western side of Porlock Bay has yielded a number of archaeological finds including a submarine forest of some 6,000 years ago, and the fossilised bones of the Porlock Aurochs, who lived here a mere 3,500 years ago. A find from more recent times, however, has been puzzling locals since 2003. Dating from sometime between 780 and 1020 AD, it is a carved piece of wood with some as yet unidentified purpose. Have a look at the Porlock Manor Estate website and see if you can come up with the answer!


Information:


Distance: 4.1 miles (6.6 km)
Time: 1 - 2 hoursExertion: Moderate
Start: Porlock Fire Station Car Park
Public transport: Porlock is easily reached by bus from Minehead, Lynmouth, Combe Martin and other towns and villages on the main A39 road as it wends its way along the Exmoor coast. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map on the website at www.southwestcoastpath.com and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.
Terrain: Tracks, footpaths, pavements, some ascent and descent.
Dogs: Porlock Beach and Weir are dog-friendly.
Refreshments: There are numerous places to eat and drink in both Porlock and Porlock Weir, including The Whortleberry Tearooms, High Street, Porlock, which serves freshly baked scones made with strawberry, raspberry or whortleberry jam.


The Walk:


1 Leaving the fire station car park, make your way back up to the road and turn left. Carry on past the library, and turn right at the end of this road, uphill, and then right once more onto the toll road.
2 Take the footpath off to the right about 200 yards on, and follow it through the woods and down to West Porlock.
3 Dont turn right into the village, but carry on along the footpath through the woods, until you come to the footbridge which leads you onto the road at Porlock Weir. Take the footpath beyond, which will drop you onto the main road.
4 Turn left and travel a few hundred yards down the main road, to the footpath to your right, leading onto the beach.
5 Follow this footpath across the shingle as it turns inland.
6 Do not take the footpath to the right, but carry on with the Coast Path as it runs on the seaward side of the fields, past the memorial, to Butchers Plantation.
7 Leave the Coast Path here, turning right, back towards Porlock, and follow the footpath to Sparkhayes Lane, using the path alongside the lane as requested.
8 Follow the path into the village, turning right along the High Street, back to the start of the walk.


For further details of this and other Valentines walks visit www.southwestcoastpath.com/romance


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