Walk - Greenaleigh Farm
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
On a clear day you can see the Glamorgan coast across the Bristol Channel, sometimes even beyond, as far as the Brecon Beacons, especially when these are snow-capped. Looking inland, Exmoor's Dunkery Beacon rises from wooded hillsides on the far side of the lush green valley at Selworthy.
- The walk starts beside the lifeboat station, with plenty of parking here and elsewhere along the quay. From here, turn right up the road, away from the town, and make your way along it to the roundabout.
- Choose the path through Culver Cliff Green which stays by the shore, and follow it along beside the water for about half a mile.
- When the Coast Path reaches the end of the green, ignore the path to the left, which takes you back to Quay Street, and instead follow the Coast Path steeply uphill through the woods, until it flattens out slightly and joins a track.
- Turn right with the Coast Path onto the track, and carry on through the woods, climbing rather more gently as you approach Greenaleigh Farm (pronounced “Grenleigh”).
Greenaleigh Farm was once part of the Dunster Castle estate, belonging to the Luttrell family, and it was the main dairy farm supplying milk to Minehead. Dunster Castle, and its environs including Minehead, was given by William the Conqueror to William de Mohun in the eleventh century, after he had wrested it from the Saxons hereabouts. In 1376 Lady Joan de Mohun sold it to Lady Elizabeth Luttrell, and it remained in the hands of the family for exactly six hundred years, until 1976, when Colonel Sir Walter Luttrell gave it to the National Trust. As well as a number of follies and towers in and around Dunster, members of the Luttrell family were responsible for the erection of many public buildings around Minehead, most notably the quay, in 1610, and the open air swimming pool, opened in 1938. The lane through Culver Cliff Woods was one of their drives, and the well to be found beside it was also built by them, possibly as a drinking fountain.
- To the right at Greenaleigh Farm, for those seeking a short diversion, is a footpath over stiles through three fields, down to Greenaleigh Point.
Keen geologists who took the trouble to scramble over the rocks back at Culver Cliff (see the Culver Cliff Woodland walk) will be delighted to know that the beach at Greenaleigh is even more rewarding for rather less trouble. Here the Hangman Sandstone Group of rocks are delightfully displayed, as are sedimentary and structural features of the local Devonian rocks, like cleaved slates and pronounced folds and faults. There is a relict periglacial slope and, like Selworthy Sand and Porlock Weir a few miles away, there is a shingle spit which shields a brackish marsh.
The beach is also a popular place with anglers, being especially good for cod, ray, bass and turbot. (Rock-spotters and fishermen alike will of course need to consult tide tables first, and be aware that a tide over 5.5 metres will reach the cliffs).
- For this walk, however, turn abruptly left with the Coast Path as you reach the gate to the farm, and take the steps up to the path which climbs steeply once more.
- At the gate at the top, turn sharply right with the Coast Path and carry on with it, out of the woods and up through the coastal heathland on the seaward slopes of North Hill.
Here the landscape is suddenly exposed, with banks of gorse and swathes of heather and bracken but only the occasional hawthorn or birch rising out of this vegetation.The smoking chimneys you can sometimes see on the Welsh coast are the power station and cement works at Aberthaw, and the lighthouse is at Nash Point.
- Arriving with the Coast Path at a junction of paths, a mile or so later, where a small footpath joins you from the right and another one appears to snake away in front of you, here you turn away from the Coast Path as it heads on uphill to your right on its journey towards Porlock. Instead, you take the path doubling back in a southeasterly direction, and walk a couple of hundred yards up to the bridleway between you and the road.
- Turn left onto this bridleway and follow it back along the hillside towards the wood.
- When a path crosses yours, heading uphill towards the edge of the wood, stay with your bridleway, travelling gently downhill below the wood.
- Ignoring a second bridleway about a quarter of a mile on, which crosses from the Coast Path into Moor Wood on your right, carry on along your own, also ignoring the network of small paths around you snaking away into the woods.
- When the path forks to the left, take this, and follow the Luttrell's drive down through the woods to where it joins the road.
- At the road go briefly left on it, as far as the sharp right-hand bend a few moments later. Here there is a footpath to the left, signposted to Minehead Seafront, which will take you down a very picturesque path through the woods, known to the locals as “The Zig-Zags”. Descend the set of steps towards the bottom, which will return you to the sculpture at the start of the Coast Path. Go left to return to the lifeboat station.
There are numerous tearooms, cafés, pubs and restaurants in Minehead, including several around the harbour