Walk - Wood Combe
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.
- 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. Joining the Coast Path here, travel downhill with it a short way – still northwards, towards the coast – to where it turns abruptly to the right.
- Turn right with it, 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.
Poet and composer Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived in nearby Nether Stowey, and his Rime of the Ancient Mariner refers to the “hermit's abode … in that wood which slopes down to the sea” - the woodland around here, on North Hill.
Coleridge's friend and fellow poet William Wordsworth had a place in Alfoxden, a few miles away, and the two would often take long night walks together up here over the hill and around the coast. This caused local gossips to accuse them of being spies for the French (this being at the end of the eighteenth century, when the French Revolution triggered a series of conflicts in Europe), and a government commission was sent to check them out. However, it didn't take the commission long to conclude that they were “mere poets” and were therefore of no threat whatsoever to national security.
Another of Coleridge's fellow poets and walking companions, however – Robert Southey – was indeed a French sympathiser, and Coleridge shared some of his political visions, so maybe the commission was a little hasty in its dismissal of him!
- 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, a little way beyond, take the left fork, and follow it to the road.
Hill Road runs the length of the five-mile ridge from Minehead to Porlock, having been built during World War II for tank training by American and Canadian troops (see the North Hill walk). Much of it is open heathland, covered in heather and bracken, interspersed with vivid banks of gorse and scattered, stunted trees. Exmoor ponies grazing along here help to preserve the delicate balance between species, and the area is rich in wildlife as a result of this and other conservation measures taken here by the Exmoor National Park. There are three nationally rare species of beetle, and adders and lizards, as well as unusual birds like Dartmoor Warblers and nightjars, while red deer can sometimes be glimpsed in the woods below.
- Cross the road and find a path onto the main track downhill. Turn left onto it and follow it for about a quarter of a mile, until another path crosses yours. Turn right onto this new path and walk to the reservoir a little way beyond.
This was the camp reservoir for the tank troops here in World War II, and its position defines the southern boundary of their military training ground.
- At the reservoir pick up the bridleway to your right, which will lead you around the side of the hill and gently downwards into Wood Combe.
- After about half a mile, the path is joined from the right by another higher up the hill, and both continue down the combe to another junction of path just a few yards beyond. Ignoring the bridleway to your right, which descends with the combe, take the path straight ahead of you and climb steeply with it, back up to the road. At the road turn right to return to the start of the walk.
There are numerous tearooms, cafés, pubs and restaurants in Minehead, including several around the harbour.