Walk - Moor Wood
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- Begin the walk by the harbour.
The first lifeboat was stationed in Minehead in 1901 but since 1976 two inshore lifeboats have been operated. The RNLI built a boathouse at a cost of £785 in 1901 and the first lifeboat was placed in service on 11 December. For two years the boat was launched across the beach using skids but from 1903 a carriage was provided. The boat house was modified in 1950 by the addition of a garage for the tractor. This pulled the lifeboat in and out of the sea.
- Choose the path through Culvercliffe 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.
- When you reach the gate to the farm, turn abruptly left with the Coast Path, and take the steps up to the path which climbs steeply once more.
The woodland is a mixture of ancient broadleaved trees, conifers, and non-native species like rhododendron planted by the Luttrell family at the end of the nineteenth century. Careful conservation by Exmoor National Park ensures that invasive exotic species are not allowed to swamp the more delicate indigenous trees, and also encourages the right kind of habitat for the many animals and birds found here.
Squirrels rustle overhead, hares and rabbits shoot across the path, and the occasional deer can be glimpsed bounding away through the undergrowth. In the campsite to the southwest of the wood, tales abound of ravens and squirrels co-operating to raid the tents of unwary campers, and local magpies have apparently learnt to unzip the smaller backpacker tents in search of tasty morsels stored within!
- At the gate at the top, leave the Coast Path and instead take the steep path uphill for a hundred yards or so through the trees.
- Carry on over the path which crosses yours here and follow the track downhill to the gate into Moor Wood. Going through the gate, go right for just a few yards and then take the track to your left.
As well as being an important area for wildlife, Moor Wood was used by American and Canadian troops during World War II for tank training (see the North Hill walk), and the concrete ramps used for loading and unloading the tanks can be seen in the car park above this walk. Even before this, as early as 1890, the hill was used for military volunteer camps, and the camp reservoir still survives (see the Wood Combe walk).
- Ignoring the track uphill to your right, (unless you wish to make a detour to view the tank-loading area in the car park at the top), stay with your track until it reaches another, running downhill through the woods.
- Turn left onto this new track and carry on with it downhill, following it as it veers right and then left across the valley towards the bottom and then carrying on down to the road.
- Turn left onto Moorland Road and stay with it, ignoring the turning to the right shortly afterwards, carrying on along St Michael's Road until you come to the church.
This part of Minehead is known as Higher Town. It grew up around the fourteenth century church at St Michael's, reached from the town via the famous Church Steps. Some of the pretty picture-postcard thatched cottages buildings clustered around the church are almost as old as the church itself, with tall chimneys, lime-washed walls and ancient bread ovens. At the foot of the steps is the town's former workhouse, leased in 1731 to house the poor. The building was subsequently used as a mint, but the grills remain on the windows as a reminder of its less illustrious days.
Although the main walls and porch of St Michael's Church are thought to date from the fourteenth century, the tower is from the fifteenth. The vestry was once a fishermen's chapel, and the turret has four windows which were designed to hold lights that could be seen from vessels at sea. The church is particularly noted for its fine rood screen, as well as a stone effigy of a priest from circa 1410 (thought to be Richard Bruton, the vicar at the time), and the Fitzjames Missal, an illuminated vellum missal dating from 1320, with the accompanying Fitzjames Chest. Richard Fitzjames was the vicar here from 1485 – 1497. There are also three painted panelled boards, depicting the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments, donated by merchant and churchwarden Robert Quirke in 1634 and 1637 (see the Culvercliffe walk).
- When the road turns sharply right, at the war memorial, carry on straight ahead to the end of Weirfield Road and take the footpath beyond here.
- Follow the “Zig-Zags” footpath downhill, taking the steps at the bottom to return to the harbour.
There are numerous tearooms, cafés, pubs and restaurants in Minehead, including several around the harbour.