Walk - Lorna Doone 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 2021. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
From the car park at CountyGate, cross the road carefully and take the track opposite running to the east and slightly downhill.
When the path forks, take the left-hand track (sign-posted Glenthorne, Nature Trail, Coast Path) which runs steeply down beside Coscombe, bordering the forest.
As this track flattens out, it meets the Coast Path at a junction. Turn right onto this (signposted Culbone, Nature Trail, Beach), heading roughly eastwards, through a combe and onto Yenworthy Combe beyond.
At the next junction, the Coast Path divides into two. At this junction, by a barrier (gate?) the signpost is awaiting repair (has been reported). Take the right fork which climbs very steeply uphill. You will see an acorn sign on a post up the hill. (If you find the hill too steep, there is a zigzag path on the left which makes the ascent to the post easier). Carry on uphill. At the top of the hill (signposted at Guildhall Corner), keep following the South West Coast Path towards Culbone. The Coast Path continues uphill, along a wooded path and then through a field, till you reach a 4-finger signpost.
Leave the South West Coast Path at this point, following the sign for Bridleway Oareford 2 miles, still going uphill towards the road.
Cross the road and head eastwards (left) for a few yards and then pick up the track to your right which leaves the road, passing through a gate, and runs along the top of the hillside there. Follow this track until you reach a signpost, then turn right towards Oare (on the Coleridge Way).
Follow the path down till it reaches a stream. Carry on right alongside the stream to the lane beyond. Turn left onto the lane and left again when it forks, about a hundred yards further on. This will bring you to OareChurch.
Oare Church is the location of one of the most dramatic scenes in RD Blackmore’s novel ‘Lorna Doone’ which was set around here during the late seventeenth century. There is a memorial tablet in the church to Blackmore, whose uncle was a rector here.
- Take the footpath just beyond the church, which leads to your right and uphill through the field to a patch of woodland a few hundred yards above. Carry on uphill on the footpath signed to Cloud Farm, and follow it around the edge of the wood, turning sharply right with it to continue through the fields. In the first field look out for a signpost and take the path to the left. Continue following the path through the fields and out through the gate at the bottom, by the stables.
- At Cloud Farm, turn right onto the drive and follow it northwards to the road at Malmsmead, a mile or so beyond.
The stream running alongside the drive, on the left, is Badgworthy Water. It is in Badgworthy that Lorna Doone was set. If you were to follow the stream in the opposite direction, southwards from Cloud Farm, just a few hundred yards would bring you to a memorial stone, erected in RD Blackmore’s memory in 1969 by the Lorna Doone Centenary Committee. Following the stream onwards a mile or so from the memorial (a very pretty walk), you would pass through Badgworthy Wood and Doone Valley, below the open moorland of Doone Country and Brendon Common beyond it, and into the ruins of the mediaeval settlement where Blackmore wove his yarn.
- For this walk, however, turn right onto the road at Malmsmead, and walk to the bridleway on your left (through Parsonage Farm). Take the bridleway and, after you have crossed the footbridge, do not take the footpath left along beside the river, but instead go straight ahead towards the woods to the junction of bridleways beyond.
- Choose the second left-hand bridlepath (signposted County Gate) and climb with it back up to the main road to return to the car park.
Pausing on this bridlepath, you can look back over the valley below and see Badgworthy Water winding its way through the woodland to the remains of the tiny village. No doubt Blackmore did the same and pictured Lorna doing her washing among the stones in the bubbling river, while Carver and his wild outlaw brothers went about their business at a furious gallop on the expanses of empty moorland above.
The Blue Ball Inn at Countisbury, a few miles to the west along the A39 from the car park, or the Culbone Stables Inn, a few miles to the east; or try a cream tea in Malmsmead, en route.