Walk - A Castle and a Cross

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.

Route Description

Allerford Woods are part of the Holnicote Estate, which was owned by the Acland family from 1745 until 1944, when Sir Richard Acland gave it to the National Trust.

The walk can also be started from Selworthy. From the car park in front of the church go back to the road by the memorial and turn right uphill a little way to pick up the footpath through the gate on your left. Turning right at the junction of paths about 250 yards beyond will take you to 6, from where you can follow the directions as below.

  1. From Selworthy Beacon viewpoint car park (at the very end of the road) take the track downhill in front of you, signed to Selworthy Cross, and when it forks, take the right-hand fork and follow it to the gate into Allerford Woods.

Spread out around the hillside to the right of you are several tracks dating from WWII, when the whole ridge was a training ground for American and Canadian tank troops. The tanks were unloaded at Moor Wood (see the Moor Wood Walk) and the road along the ridge to here was built to enable the troops to bring them here for firing practice. The tracks below were target rails, and the hillside around here and on the northern slopes above the Bristol Channel were dotted with bunkers, observation posts and gun platforms.

  1. Carry on into the woodland, and take the left-hand path a short while later, signposted to the cross. Follow the path downhill, to where it divides. Turn around at the stone seat, and there is the cross behind you, looming above!

The cross was erected in the memory of Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 11th Baronet, who was MP for Devon North and Somerset West and a Privy Counsellor. The original inscription on the cross is now weathered and more or less illegible, but it has been transcribed on a wooden plaque beneath the cross.

  1. Take the path to your left (heading south east) as you stand with your back to the cross and follow it as it winds downhill to Allerford Combe.
  2. At the combe, take the top path to Holnicote Combe.
  3. At Holnicote Combe, cross the bridleway running downhill and take the path leading straight onwards, to Katherine's Well. At the next fingerpost, choose Bossington Hill and Selworthy Beacon, and then a little further on, the path signed towards Selworthy.

Katherine's Well, like Agnes Fountain elsewhere in the wood, is a spring which may at one time have been used as a  holy well by passing pilgrims, dedicated first to pagan spirits and later to female saints. Both were turned into formal installations by the Acland family, however, and it is possible that they were named after daughters of the family.

    1. Carry on eastwards past the well, following the path along the edge of the wood, with views out across the green pastures to the brooding heights of Dunkery Beacon. At the next junction follow the top path to the left, signed Holnicote Combe & Hurlstone. Coming to another waymarker, choose Selworthy Combe, and shortly afterwards take the small path signposted Bury Castle, up the stone steps and winding steeply and tortuously uphill through the woods. Stay on the path, with the stone bank on your left, all the way up to the open ground above the woodland, and follow it out onto the grassy area.
    2. Bury Castle is above you and to the right, a series of banks and ditches enclosing and defending what was probably a farming community in the Iron Age, around 400 BC. It was built here to take advantage of the steep hillsides and the outlook afforded over the surrounding countryside, and it consisted of a central enclosure with huts and small enclosures for growing crops, with two main outposts.
    3. Take the path leading out of the castle to the north west, and follow it up through the gorse bushes towards the trees above you to the left.
    4. Join the bridleway coming uphill from your left and carry on up the hill. Ignoring the track to your left a little way beyond (which would lead you back down towards Allerford Combe), keep going uphill towards the roads. A number of paths wander together through the woods up here, but if you keep travelling uphill, you will come to the road.

The memorial hut up here is the “Wind and Weather” hut built by the Acland family in memory of Sir Thomas, the 10th Baronet, father of the Sir Thomas commemorated by the cross. Sir Thomas senior was a great lover of walking and would come up here every Sunday, regardless of the weather.

  1. On the road turn left and return to the car park.

Nearby refreshments

In Minehead, or the tearoom in Selworthy Green.

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