Walk - Mill Wood
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.
- From the Barna Barrow car park, take the path running northwards around the side of the hill at Barna Barrow.
The small building at the top of the hill to your left is a former maritime lookout post, designed to keep a watch over shipping in the Bristol Channel.
- Take the second track on the left, about 200 yards from the car park.
- Ignoring the footpath crossing yours shortly afterwards, turn right onto the track a little way beyond and then left again almost immediately. Follow the track as it heads around the edge of the wooded area, forking left at the T-junction to travel downhill towards the coast.
- Turn right onto the Coast Path and follow it for about a mile, through three combes (see the Culbone Wood walk), to a footpath which climbs steeply uphill to the right.
- Follow this path uphill for about 200 yards, till another footpath joins it from above.
- Turn right onto this footpath and carry on uphill, picking up the track at Desolate and following it uphill to the gate at the top.
There are traces of field boundaries here and elsewhere on Countisbury Hill, showing its use as an agricultural area from prehistory onwards, with remains of earlier settlements from when the population of Countisbury was rather larger than it is now (see the Barna Barrow walk).
- Turn left and follow the footpath for about half a mile, with the field boundaries on your left, until you reach the A39.
- Turn left, and follow the road eastwards a little way, to the road to Brendon and Leeford.
- Turn right onto this road, and travel downhill on it towards Leeford.
- The second of the footpaths to your left at the sharp bend halfway down will lead you through fields and back onto the lane at Hall Farm, if you want a detour off the tarmac. At the bottom of the hill, don't take the left turn to Leeford, but carry on to Brendon.
About a hundred yards to the east of you as you pass Leeford there is an extensive water meadow, known as a catchwork or a catch-meadow system, this being a series of interconnected ditches to provide irrigation.
Some 30 yards to the west of the bridge crossing the East Lyn at Leeford is a seventeenth or eighteenth century packhorse bridge, which formerly linked Brendon Mill with the north bank of the river.
- Turn left, onto the footpath that runs alongside the river, past Countisbury Mill, and follow it through the woods for about a mile, to the footbridge at Rockford.
An Ordnance Survey map of 1889 shows Countisbury Mill in use as a corn mill. A disused leat is still visible, leading from a sluice and a weir on the East Lyn river, but the machinery and the waterwheel are long gone.
The footbridge at Rockford leads to the seventeenth century Rockford Inn, for those in need of sustenance or simply wishing to spend time admiring its stunning location in the woods beside the river.
It is all very tranquil along the East Lyn, but appearances can be deceptive. Unusually heavy and prolonged rainstorms up on Exmoor in August 1952 gave rise to sudden and dramatic flooding down through these valleys, with tragic consequences for Lynmouth, where 34 people lost their lives (see the Two Cleaves walk).
- Beside the footbridge leading to Rockford there is a footpath climbing steeply through the woods, signposted to Countisbury. Take this path and carry on up to the top of the woods, about 200 yards, until you come to a footpath off to the right, to Wilsham Farm.
- Turn right onto this footpath, and follow it uphill and then left, to reach Wilsham a little while later.
The oldest parts of Wilsham Farm date back to the early seventeenth century, although it was added to in the eighteenth century, remodelled in the nineteenth, and finally divided in the late twentieth century. The dairy is thought to have been added to the west end of the front range during the nineteenth century remodelling, so producing the assymetrical front.
- Take the bridleway signed between the buildings in Wilsham.
- Ignoring the footpath to the left, and the other small paths later on that lead away on both sides, and follow the bridleway uphill and back to the A39. Turn right onto the road, to the car park just a few yards beyond.
The Rockford Inn, en route, or the 13th century Blue Ball Inn at Countisbury