Walk - Robber's Bridge
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.
- Park in the car park just to the east of Robber's Bridge, and pick up the start of the walk by walking along the lane, back towards the bridge, and going through the gate on your right just before you reach the bridge. Take the path to your right, heading roughly east around the hill, and follow it gently upwards above Met Combe.
Although it is widely assumed that the bridge is named after R. D. Blackmore's fictitious wild Doone brothers, a robbing, murdering bunch of brigands (see the Lorna Doone Walk), in fact this area was once notorious bandit country in its own right. Blackmore's tale is said to be based on Exmoor history which he learned from his uncle, a rector at nearby Oare Church.
The real-life Doone brothers are thought to have been a band of Jacobite outlaws who fled from Scotland to this part of Exmoor, ambushing travellers passing through the remote moorland around Badgworthy Water.
- When a footpath joins from above and behind you, carry on around to the right and through the trees to the inn at the top. Stay with your path around the back of the inn, emerging on the main road to its right. Cross the road carefully, and take the metalled lane opposite over the brow of the hill.
At the top of the hill here, in the private woodland to the left with no public access at present, is the Culbone Stone, a standing stone inscribed with a wheel cross, thought to date from the 9th or 10th century AD.
There is also an impressive Bronze Age monument in the wood, consisting of some twenty or more stones arranged in a row. One of the stones is inscribed with a cross, leading to speculation that maybe the Culbone Stone was removed from this row to its current location at a later date.
In addition, there are two Bronze Age burial cairns in this area (see the Barna Barrow History Walk).
- Ignoring the two tracks to the left, where there is no public access, follow the lane to the right about a hundred yards, to a bridleway on your right.
- Follow the bridleway down through the forest.
- When the track forks, take the right-hand path and carry on downhill, still along a forest track, until you reach a path to the left, just before Pitt Farm.
- Turn off the bridleway onto this path, and go past the farm buildings and onto the metalled lane beyond, staying with it until it forks about a quarter of a mile later.
- Take the left-hand fork and follow it northwards around the hill, ignoring the lane to your left after about half a mile.
Part of Parsonage Farm, half a mile or so beyond, dates from the 17th century and it is a listed building, with mullioned windows and distinctive chimney stacks. Ash Farm before it, too, has a place in posterity, as poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was said to be staying here when he wrote Kubla Khan, the poem famously interrupted by the 'Person from Porlock' (see the Culbone Church Walk).
- At Silcombe Farm, beyond Parsonage Farm, you run out of road. Just before you reach this point, however, the Coast Path joins your path. Turn left onto it, and follow it along the track beyond Silcombe Farm as it navigates a series of combes, the path curving in and out around the almost-vertical valleys that these plunging streams have carved on their way to the sea.
- A couple of hundred yards after Twitchen Combe you come to the lane which links Broomstreet Farm with the A39 County Road. Turn left onto this lane (before the farm) and follow it, a little less than a mile, to the County Road.
- Crossing the road carefully, take the footpath opposite which follows the drive to Lilycombe House. A couple of tracks lead off to the left, but your footpath turns to the right before your reach the farm and follows the field boundary a moment later, to emerge onto the access land beyond. Stay close to the hedge for a few hundred yards, until it turns abruptly right, with a bridleway crossing your path.
- Turn left onto the bridleway and follow it gently downhill a mile or so until it returns you to the lane about a quarter of a mile to the west of Robber's Bridge.
- Turn left onto the lane and return to the bridge.
The Culbone Stables Inn is barely a mile from the start, at point 3 on the walk.