Walk - Trentishoe Down

2.4 miles (3.9 km)

Elwill Bay, 'Glass box' car park north west of Trentishoe Down - EX34 0PF Elwill Bay, 'Glass box' car park north west of Trentishoe Down

Challenging - Paths and tracks, a quiet country lane, with lots of ascent and descent

A short but challenging walk through moorland, heathland and woodland, with coastal views over dramatically plunging hillsides and out across the Bristol Channel. Trentishoe was remote enough for smugglers to hide their contraband in the church tower and their stables, and in the 1970s it was a popular venue for Glastonbury-style music festivals, where the concept of 'sustainable living' was already being promoted.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the car park take the path north-eastwards and gently downhill, to meet the Coast Path.
  2. Turn right onto the Coast Path and follow it roughly eastwards for about 300m, until you come to a path leading away from it on the right, in roughly the direction you are already travelling.

There are some dramatically plunging hillsides between here and Heddon Valley, where the land appears to drop into the sea, and there are some great views over the lumps and bumps of these from the higher points of the Coast Path along here. This is the famous “humpback” profile of the Exmoor coastline, formed of a rock type known as the Hangman Grits, and England's highest sea cliff is a little distance to the west, at Great Hangman (see the Hangman Hills Walk).

  1. Turn right and on this path and pull uphill with it until you reach the road.
  2. Turn left onto road for a couple of hundred yards, and then stay with it until you come to the fork.

The left-hand lane here leads to the hamlet of Trentishoe. The name means “spur on a rounded hillside”, from the Old English word “trendel”, meaning circle.

Smuggling was rife in the area in the nineteenth century, and there are tales of contraband being hidden in the church tower at Trentishoe. There is also a story of a certain local resident, Jim Hoyle, who in 1827 hid 262 barrels of brandy under his stable floor. Customs officers seized the alcohol, worth £1180 at the time, but Mr Hoyle is said to have escaped through a window.

The tiny church of St Peter might have challenged Culbone Church for the abiding title of England's smallest church (see the Culbone Church Walk), but for the addition of a new chancel in 1861.

Towards the end of the century, in 1873, a poor scholar from Hove, James Hannington, was ordained deacon in 1873 and appointed to Trentishoe parish. Hearing of the murder of two Christian missionaries on the shores of Lake Victoria some years later, however, Hannington offered his services to the Church Missionary Society and headed a party of six men who were sent to Zanzibar. He was sent home again shortly afterwards, suffering from dysentery and fever, but returned to Africa in 1885 – now a bishop – with the intention of opening a new route into Uganda. This was to cost him his life, when he was imprisoned and subsequently killed on the orders of King Mwanga II of Buganda. In 1938-9, the Diocese of Chichester built a church in his memory.

  1. You want to leave the road at the fork, however, crossing over the right-hand road and taking the path opposite, to follow it south-eastwards around the edge of the hill.
  2. Follow the footpath steeply downhill towards the woods. Take the right fork above the woods, turning onto Ladies Mile and curving with it towards the bottom of the hill, above Mill Ham and approaching Trentishoe Manor.

Ladies' Mile footpath was made for the ladies of the manor to walk to the church. They would have had to allow plenty of time to reach the church, what with the gradient and the pretty scenery, but it would have been a delightful stroll for them downhill towards their Sunday lunch, with the heathland and the woodland around them, the larks trilling overhead and the songbirds singing in the woods.

  1. Take the (smaller) permitted path to the right and uphill before the manor, climbing up over the moorland to the road to the west of Trentishoe Down, carrying straight on uphill when a path and a track lead away to the left.

In the 1970s, Trentishoe was the setting for several annual music festivals. In the spirit of the times, the stated aim of the festivals was “to bring together as many people as possible that are involved in living in alternative lifestyles, in one place, to do their thing. To build an alternative campsite that, as far as possible, is ecologically sound, existing in harmony with the environment.”

Each festival lasted about three weeks and was held on the hillside above the Bristol Channel, the land being hired for the princely sum of £25. The festival organisers' vision was to construct a small-scale, temporary infrastructure using natural sources of energy, recycling waste products, providing cheap alternative structures for shelter and making whole food available in free food kitchens. There is a story of an opportunistic fast-food van, turning up in the hope of a bit of business, being sent smartly on its way, the revellers being fed instead on wholesome alternatives like ratatouille and chapatis.

  1. At the road, turn right and return to the car park.

Nearby refreshments

At Hunter's Inn in Heddon Valley, a little way to the east

Public transport

There is no easy way of reaching the start of this walk by public transport as the nearest bus stop  is at Easterclose Cross on the A39.

Parking

Elwill Bay, 'Glass box' car park north west of Trentishoe Down at the start of the walk. Approx postcode for sat navs - EX34 0PF

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