Walk - Bossington Landscape Walk
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.
- From the car park cross the stream via the footbridge and turn left onto the path alongside it.
After about three quarters of a mile you come to Hurlstone Combe. Do not go up the combe, but instead carry on along the path to the left.
The path veering off to the left shortly afterwards will take you down to Bossington beach. The shingle bar stretches the full mile across Porlock Bay, and instead of flowing into the sea, as is the usual way of rivers, Horner Water pools up in the lagoon behind the bar after its journey through Bossington, and then it seeps through the shingle and into the Bristol Channel.
As with many other areas of open coast lowland around England and Wales, the gravel barrier across the bay has for some 10,000 years protected the vale from the sea. Rocks falling from the Culbone cliffs were washed across the beach and over time these were piled up into the shingle ridge, which locals raised and steepened to further its defensive properties.
Severe storms in 1996, however, breached the barrier, and the plain was flooded with saltwater. The decision was made not to reverse the effects of this, instead working with nature and leaving the intertidal lagoon and saltmarshes at the mouth of the valley, with the result that this part of the vale is now home to a wide range of rare coastal flora and fauna. This has led to it being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (see the Porlock Marshes wildlife walk). It is anticipated that in the course of time, the sea will venture further inland as a result of this management policy and provide a still richer environment for wildlife.
- Having dropped down to the beach (or not), return to the path and carry on with it to the old coastguard lookout station, looming dramatically beneath the rocky outcrops on the horizon ahead.
The lookout station here was in use until 1983 (see the Hurlstone Point Adventurous walk).
Retrace your steps as far as the junction of paths at the base of this small incline, and this time take the left-hand fork, which rises gently upwards along the side of Bossington Hill.
Like Minehead (see the Culvercliffe walk), Porlock was once much further inland than it is now, before melting ice at the end of the last Ice Age caused sea levels to rise; and, again like Minehead, low tides today reveal a submarine forest over on the far side of Porlock Bay, the fossilised remnants of the much earlier, wooded, landscape. Archaeological exploration here in 1870 discovered peat deposits as well, and worked flints, evidence of human activity as far back as the Bronze Age.
Over a century later, further excavation work retrieved bones from the Porlock Aurochs, estimated to be 3500 years old and preserved in the blue-grey silt layers that stormy seas had uncovered when the shingle bank did one of its occasional migrations inland.
The steep slopes of Bossington Hill itself and the dark hills across the vale are still densely covered in woodland, much of it ancient sessile oak, and water streaming from the high ground has seamed them with long combes (see the Culbone Wood walk).
Inland the saltmarshes give way to astonishingly green meadowland divided into regular, geometric fields. To the east these enclosures date back to the seventeenth century in places, but towards the bay the land has been more recently enclosed, and many of the hedgebanks are faced with pebbles from the beach. Some of the fields are given over to cereal crops and oil seed rape, but the majority are used as pastureland for sheep, as well as for cattle and horses.
- Going into Allerford Woods, the path zigzags around Church Combe, fetching up on the bridleway that runs steeply down through Lynch Combe.
The picturesque villages of Bossington, Allerford and Selworthy clustered below the hill feature thatched cottages, many of them dating back several centuries, with stone or limewashed walls and tall, rounded chimneys designed to enable fires to draw despite the shelter down here from the winds which bluster over the top of the hill.
- Turn right onto the bridleway and carry on down the combe until you leave the woods at the foot of the hill, above West Lynch.
In these combes, and elsewhere on Bossington Hill, are banks and ditches known as “strip lynchets”, which are thought to be the remnants of mediaeval farming on the hill.
- Turn right onto the footpath heading back towards Bossington, and follow it through the fields to where it enters more woodland. Bear left through the woods, and the path will return you to the stream at the start of the walk. Cross the footbridge to return to the car park.
Kitnors Tea Room, next to Bossington car park