Walk - Minehead YHA - Brockholes
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 whole area enclosed by this walk is rich in history. At the start of it is Iron Age Furzebury Brake, although flint tools found nearby date even further back, to the Bronze Age. There are traces of mediaeval farming methods, and a farm mentioned in the Domesday Book. And like much of the rest of North Hill, this area was used extensively for tank training in World War II; while during the Cold War in the 1950s and 60s there was a radar station here.
- From the car park walk westwards just a few yards, to pick up the bridleway heading north west, towards the coast.
- Turn left onto the Coast Path, and a short while later take the path to the right, signposted as the Coast Path rugged alternative. This will take you through a gate, from where waymarkers will direct you down into Grexy Combe. As is the way with combes on this part of the Coast Path (and elsewhere too), no sooner have you dropped a hundred metres than you have to climb the same height out again: it's all very good for the fitness levels!
To your left as the Coast Path curves around the top of the hill above Grexy Combe is Furzebury Brake, although it is not visible from here and there is no public access to it. This is a late prehistoric oval enclosure thought to be an Iron Age hillfort. Aerial photographs show a substantial bank, forming the ramparts, with a slight external ditch, although past ploughing has damaged it and the entire site is badly eroded. To the north east are what may be the remnants of strip lynchets, small banks of earth sometimes used in prehistoric farming methods. Flint tools have been found up here dating back to the Bronze Age (around 2000 BC). Nearby there are also traces of a mediaeval field system.
A little further along, again to the left and off the path, is the deserted settlement of East Myne, now a collection of ruined buildings but at one time a farm. This is thought to be mediaeval too, and there was a water meadow, a little way uphill from the farm, which made use of flooding from the spring above to fertilise the land during winter months.
The Domesday Book mentions a Mene or Myne near here, belonging to Geoffrey of Mohun after the Norman Conquest but dating back to before then, and it's possible that it was East Myne; although there is another contender at the deserted and ruined settlement at West Myne. This was mentioned in records as far back as 1279.
- Rounding the corner at Western Brockholes, you descend gradually into Henners Combe and then pull gently up the other side and out towards the coast again. Moments later you repeat the whole process in East Combe, and then the path stays high and doubles back on itself above Bossington Hill.
Eastern and Western Brockholes are thought to be the quarries used for the construction of the field boundary banks along the hillside here, and possibly the buildings at East and West Myne.
- There is a track heading uphill and southwards out of East Combe, if you feel the need for a shortcut after all your exertions; but otherwise carry on around the coast.
Canadian and American troops used North Hill for tank training during the Second World War. Both West and East Myne were requisitioned for their use. There are remains of numerous dugouts and platforms all along the coastal hillside which were used for bunkers, observation posts and gun platforms, and there was also a target railway used for firing practice.
A Cold War radar station was built on the hillside between East and West Myne in the 1950s, following extensive delicate negotiations with landowners, the National Trust, who were keen not to spoil the landscape. It was in use until 1964, and then the site was completely levelled.
- Ignore the path leading down towards Hurlstone, staying on your path as it turns and heads roughly south east. Ignore the two further paths to the right shortly afterwards, and another soon afterwards, and stay with the Coast Path as it makes its way towards Selworthy Beacon.
- At the top of Bossington Hill, above Lynch Combe, two further tracks lead off to your right and should be ignored.
Several of the tracks here are associated with the World War II training arena: tanks would assemble in the large open area on the high ground to the south, and another target railway here was used for their firing practice.
- Just after this, the track from East Combe joins your path as you reach the top of the hill and turn slightly eastwards to the junction of paths to the west of Selworthy Beacon. (Note that the bridleway shown on OS maps as heading southwest here doesn't actually exist on the ground).
- Follow the Coast Path as it heads back towards Minehead, below Selworthy Beacon. You'll be pleased to know, after all your exertions, that it's downhill all the way from here!
The track joining from your left here was built for tank training.
- Carry straight on along the Coast Path. Ignoring the tracks to your right stay on the Coast Path until it returns to 2, and then turn right to go back to the car park.
In Minehead, or the tearoom in Selworthy Green.