Walk - North Hill
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2018. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- The walk starts in the car park above Burgundy Chapel Combe (on the right as you approach it from Minehead, about half a mile after the car park at the top of Moor Wood). From the car park travel north a few yards on the path towards the coast, to the junction of paths beyond.
Up here the dramatic nature of the underlying “hogsback” cliffs typical of the Exmoor coastline gives rise to an open, exposed landscape. There are extensive views on all sides, looking out to the Welsh coast on the north and across the green pastureland and forest plantations to Exmoor and Dunkery Beacon to the south. Once you are out of the woodland, the few trees on the ridge are stunted and windswept, surrounded by banks of blazing gorse and swathes of bracken and heather. Wild flowers abound in spring and summer, with an accompanying wealth of butterflies and moths and other insects. There are deer in the woods, and Exmoor ponies roam freely up here, their foraging helpful in keeping the heathland under control.
Exmoor National Park performs a tricky balancing act on the ridge, allowing nature to do its thing but at the same time preventing the more invasive species from swamping the rare flora and fauna to be found here. As well as the World War II features, there are a lot of other archaeological sites to be preserved, right through from the Bronze Age, with the consequent need to permit public access to the whole area without letting its management ruin the sense of space and tranquility which makes North Hill such a special place.
- Joining the Coast Path, travel downhill with it a short way – still northwards, towards the coast – to where it turns abruptly to the right.
- Turn right, still with the Coast Path, and follow it gently downhill for about a mile, ignoring the path to the right halfway, until you come to the bench and the gate.
- Leave the Coast Path here, and 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 bridleway to your right through the woods. Before long it will join a track which curves to the left.
- When the track forks, with the left-hand fork leading to Hill Road, take the right-hand turn and follow it up towards the car park.
Between 1942 and 1945, the whole of the ridge from here to Porlock was used by American and Canadian troops for tank training. The road the length of the ridge was constructed for this purpose, as well as several tracks leading off it. The tanks (mostly Shermans and Churchills) would have been unloaded in the marshalling area in the car park at Moor Wood, where there was also a radar station, and then they were taken to various locations on the ridge for training purposes.
On the seaward side of the ridge, around the ruined settlements of East and West Myne, (see the Brockholes walk), there are the buried remains of numerous bunkers, dug-outs and platforms which would have served as observation posts and gun platforms during the war, with northward openings over the Bristol Channel. Here and on the far side of Bossington Hill, overlooking Porlock Bay, there were also three short target rail tracks to provide moving targets for firing practice.
The concrete ramps in the car park are where the tanks were unloaded, and in the woodland and the scrub beyond it to the north, numerous other concrete platforms and slit trenches can be seen in among the brambles and the bushes.
If you take the western exit from the car park and follow the bridleway to your right, downhill above Greenaleigh, it will lead you to a small building just off the path, about 250 yards from the car park. This was the radar station, with an area of concrete “dragon's teeth” some distance away, thought to be used to prevent tanks from rolling downhill as they were being washed down.
To the south, on the hillside below, the camp reservoir is still to be seen.
- Returning to western exit of the Moor Wood car park, take the path opposite, running westwards past the clump of trees, and follow it parallel to the road for about half a mile. This will lead you back to the start of the walk.
There are numerous tearooms, cafés, pubs and restaurants in Minehead, including several around the harbour