• Start: North Petherton Church
  • End: North Petherton Church
  • Country: England
  • County: Somerset
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub: The Walnut Tree Hotel and Lamb Inn in North Petherton
  • Ordnance Survey: OS Pathfinder 1237 Bridgwater
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Chris Sidaway takes us on a circular tour from North Petherton to North Newton, along the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal and back through Petherton Park

Jewel in the park

This walk, starting at the Minster Church of North Petherton, is within the ancient Royal Hunting Forest of North Petherton where Geoffrey Chaucer and his son Thomas were sub-foresters. It was in the park near to North Newton Church that the famous Alfred Jewel was found in 1693 and given to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford in 1718. It is arguably the most iconic piece of Anglo-Saxon art and is believed to be the head of a book pointer awarded by King Alfred to a loyal subject.

Highlights: North Petherton Church with its magnificent tower and North Newton Church with some excellent C17 wood carving. Bridgwater to Taunton Canal, great wildlife and canal furniture and World War II defences. Distance: Approximately six miles
Map: OS Pathfinder 1237 Bridgwater
Start Grid: North Petherton Church, FREE Car Park
Time required: three hours (allow more for breaks) or to visit the churches Terrain: All flat and easy to walk and mostly on made up trackways. May be wet underfoot, particularly in the first stage through farmland.
Toilets: At car park near to community centre/church
Refreshments: Pynes of Somerset National Award winning Purveyors of Fine Food (01278 663050) for lunches and teas. The Walnut Tree Hotel and Lamb Inn in North Petherton and the Harvest Moon Inn at North Newton (01278 662980).
Public transport: on regular A38 bus routes, Bridgwater Taunton. First or Webber services
Directions to the start: From the Taunton follow the A38 to the centre of North Petherton and from Bridgwater follow the A38 in the opposite direction to the centre of North Petherton. From Junction 24 of the M5 turn left at the junction for Bridgwater and follow directions for North Petherton.
Park in the car park near to the church or disembark from the bus near to the Post Office and in either case start at the church which is very well worth a visit.

Boots on, lets go...

1 From the church take the footpath to the left of the church and follow the paths/road to Baymead Farm on the outskirts of the town.
2 Follow the short footpath to the farm gate and enter the field then follow the hedgerow to right to reach Staffland Farm where you will need to follow a drove around the farm buildings to the right of you. Then cross the next field diagonally to reach.
3 Brook Farm now known as Aethelstans College where you exit onto the road and turn left to follow the road to North Newton going over the M5 motorway.
4 On entering North Newton, pass the 30mph signs and within 30 metres turn left into a farm complex. It may feel like you are entering a private drive but persevere and within 20 metres go through a gate in the wall to the left and carry straight on a grassed path between the buildings.
5 You will come to a marked pathway where you turn right and follow the hedgerow until you come to the corner of the field where you make your way between buildings to the right...
6 And emerge beside the church of North Newton. The church was originally a Chantry Chapel and is more interesting inside than out!
7 Follow the road to the left around a bend and reach the Bridgwater - Taunton Canal which you cross to reach the tow path. The canal was built in 1812 to gain access from Bridgwaters port to Taunton and hence by-passing the unreliable tidal waters of the Rivers Parrett and Tone. It is now maintained by British waterways as a recreational amenity for walkers, cyclists, boaters and fishermen. Look out for wildlife, public art and wartime defences.
8 At Fordgate Farm cross the canal bridge and ignore the Private, No Entry and CCTV signs and within 10metres observe a public footpath sign and follow the pathway straight ahead on a good trackway. within 100 metres look back over your shoulder to see Burrow Mump between the trees. Continue on this trackway to...
9 Petherton Park Farm and Manor House Farm. The Manor House is divided into two now but originally was a C17th transitional house incorporating both gothic/Jacobean features and new classical principals. It was built on the site of the original foresters house for the powerful legal families of the Pophams and warres.
10 Continue on this trackway until you reach an orchard on your left, enter and follow a footpath diagonally across it to...
11 where you will find a stile into a field which you cross to the boundary of the M5 where you turn left and follow the footpath along the hedgerow until you reach robust gate leading to an underpass (make sure you cross the under the M5 not over it and look out for the subterranean public art).
12 Follow the trackway to the right and you will emerge into an open field where you turn left towards a stile that will lead you to Parkers Field sports and amenity area and North Petherton Village where any roads or lanes going straight on will take you back to the church and facilities for refreshment.

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