Walk - Minehead YHA - Bratton Ball
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 Youth Hostel drive into Alcombe, turning left on Church Street to reach the A39. At the mini roundabout fork right to continue along Alcombe Road. Turn right into Ponsford Road following signs to the Sea Front. Continue on into Minehead.
At the shops in The Avenue, turn left away from the sea front. Take the next right (Blenheim Road) and then turn left, just after the flats, up Martlet Road. Continue on Martlet Road until you reach the War Memorial. The road swings round sharply to the left and becomes St Michael's Road.
Follow the signs to North Hill passing St Michael's Church on your right ignoring forks to left and right. The road winds up on to North Hill becoming Moor Road and then Hill Road.
After emerging from the trees onto the moor, continue for about 300m to turn into the free Burgundy Chapel Combe Car Park on your right.
- The walk starts in the car park above Burgundy Chapel Combe (on the right as you approach it from Minehead, about half a mile after the car park at the top of Moor Wood). Go through the northern (seaward) side of the car park, heading rightwards as far as the track, but cross the track to carry on along the path which goes straight ahead and slightly left. This will quickly bring you on to the South West Coast Path.
- Here turn left onto the Coast Path and follow it westwards along the open heathland. Ignoring both the bridleway to the left and the path to the right, stay with the Coast Path for half a mile or so, until you come to the National Trust gate to the Holnicote Estate.
The Holnicote Estate dates back to the Domesday Book and extends around the coast from here to halfway along Porlock Bay, and for many miles inland, including Dunkery Beacon (the large hill on the south west horizon, and the highest point on Exmoor). Sir Thomas Acland acquired the land in 1745, and it remained in his family until Sir Richard Acland gave it to the National Trust in 1944.
- Take the path to your left here, back to Hill Road, meeting it at the cattle grid.
- Crossing the road, pick up the footpath immediately opposite and follow it downhill, roughly southwards, to another small path leading off to the left. Contour around the hill with this path, ignoring the next one which drops steeply downhill, instead carrying on into Bratton Wood.
Down in the valley below, parts of the manor house at Bratton Court date back to the 13th century. The building has been extensively altered and added to over the years since then and is now divided into two private dwellings. Some of the outbuildings date back to the 16th century, and the gatehouse has some interesting Tudor features. In the nearby hamlet of Bratton, several of the cottages were built in the 16th and 17th centuries, and evidence has been found of a 13th century mill, although nothing remains of it now. There are also traces of mediaeval and pre-medieval field systems in the area, and a water meadow, where winter floodwater would have been allowed to settle in order to fertilise the land.
Near Bratton are a number of World War II pillboxes, built a year or two before North Hill was extensively used by American and Canadian troops for tank training. Above you as you pass the path which drops steeply into the valley below, before you enter the wood, a couple of concrete platforms are all that remains of a military mast for a Cold War radar station's VHF control, in use here during the Cold War in the 1950s and 60s in conjunction with the Rotor radar station at West Myne.
- When you come to the path leading off around the hill to the left, turn onto it and carry on as it turns into a track, until you come to the last of the trees.
- Turn left here and pull steeply up the valley, forking right towards the top to come out again on Hill Road. Turn right on the road and return to the car park.
There are numerous tearooms, cafés, pubs and restaurants in Minehead, or visit the tearoom at picturesque Selworthy Green, a few miles to the west of Bratton along the A39.