Walk - Selworthy 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 2018. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
Selworthy Combe is part of the Holnicote Estate, now owned by the National Trust after Sir Richard Acland donated it in 1944. Holnicote dates back to the Domesday Book, which lists it as “Hunecot” (as it is still pronounced, although the spelling has changed), and it covers some 5042 hectares of woodland, moors and farmland.
- From the car park walk just a few yards to the track running roughly parallel to the road and turn left onto it. Follow this track until you reach a crossing with a metalled road.
This road, and various tracks on the ridge, were built in World War II for tank training (see the North Hill walk), leading to an extensive network of former observation posts and gun platforms overlooking the Bristol Channel.
- Turn right onto the metalled road and follow it to the end, where it meets the Coast Path.
Turn left along the Coast Path for about half a mile, ignoring the track to your left towards the end of this stretch.
- There is a junction of paths at the open area beyond. Leave the Coast Path here, turning sharp left and heading east, towards Selworthy Beacon.
Like nearby Dunkery Beacon, Selworthy has been a beacon since the 16th-century wars with France and Spain, and a long time before that it was an important burial and ceremonial site for Bronze Age settlers (see the Selworthy Beacon Walk).
The pastureland in the valley below Selworthy Combe is rich and green, and there are wildflower meadows and an abundance of moths and butterflies, thanks to the National Trust's conservation practices. In the woods, storm-felled trees are left where they fell to encourage fungi and insects and the higher species which feed on both.
Holnicote is one of the best places to see the heath fritillary, one of Britain's rarest butterflies. This too is due to the efforts of the National Trust, with help from Butterfly Conservation and the particular dedication of local NT warden Paul Camp.
Heath fritillaries were thought to be extinct in the 1970s, but Noel Allen, President of the Exmoor Natural History Society, discovered a local population in 1981. Although they were once again teetering on the brink of extinction at the turn of the millennium, the extensive habitat management has ensured that they are flourishing here once again. An excellent place to see them is in Halse Combe.
- At the beacon, turn sharp right onto the track travelling southwest towards the road, and follow it to the road.
- Follow the track across the road.
Before you make your way down the bridleway to Selworthy Combe, take a look at the “Wind and Weather” memorial hut among the trees just off the path. This was erected by the Acland family in memory of Sir Thomas, who liked to walk around here every Sunday after church.
This is one of many inspirational walks throughout the estate. Local author Frederick Hancock, writing at the end of the nineteenth century, attributes the number of these to Sir Thomas and his son: “Forty miles of [walks], it is said, open from the little wicket gate on Selworthy Green, and have been made almost entirely by the late Sir Thomas Acland and his son, the present baronet. The late Sir Thomas, with the artistic taste which he possessed in so eminent a degree, planted the many acres of moor and common between Selworthy and the sea, and then began the vast network of walks which now intersect these woods.”
- Follow the bridleway down through the combe, to where it crosses a stone bridge, to meet the path coming up from Selworthy village. Turn left onto this path, marked Selworthy Combe, and follow it around the bottom of the hill and then steeply upwards towards the road. Turn left onto a track with blue bridleway markers.
The woodland planted by Sir Thomas at the start of the 19th century stretches from Selworthy to Bossington and covers much of the hillside. He planted it in blocks, each one commemorating the birth of one of his children, and it consists mainly of oak, sycamore, ash, silver birch, sweet chestnut, holly, and various conifers.
- A couple of hundred yards after this track, you come to a junction of paths, with a prominent fingerpost. Go straight across to join a pretty green lane, past a couple of mysterious concrete objects which must no doubt be related to the tank training, and up to the road.
- At the road turn left to return to the car park.
In Minehead, or the tearoom in Selworthy Green, on the A39 below.