Walk - Minehead YHA - Wootton Courtenay
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.
- Leave the main entrance of the Youth hostel, turn left and follow the path westwards up to the Macmillan West Way footpath.
The Macmillan Way West is a long distance footpath in Somerset and Devon. It runs for 102 miles (164 km) from Castle Cary in Somerset to Barnstaple in Devon. It connects with the main Macmillan Way at Castle Cary.
- Turn right onto the path. Follow the Macmillan Way West signposts along through heathlands, then by Peniton Hill over Wootton Common down to the village of Wootton Courtenay.
Approaching Wootton Courtenay there are good views towards Dunkery Beacon. At 1705 feet high, Dunkery Beacon is the highest point on Exmoor, and apart from Dartmoor, the highest point in southern England. Dunkery's red soil is from the Devonian sedimentary rock. There are several Bronze Age burial mounds at or near the summit. Plans have been made to restore and protect them after many years of damage. Dunkery Beacon, as well as the Holnicote Estate, was given to the National Trust in 1935 by Sir Thomas Acland. This is commemorated by the summit memorial cairn.
As the Macmillan Way West footpath climbs towards the 974 feet high Periton Hill, the trig point can be found about 15 metres off the track hidden in a line of trees. Like Dunkery Beacon, Periton Hill is a member of the 178 English Marilyns. These are the hills and mountains in England which have a clear drop of 500 feet all around.
- The path joins Knowle Lane to the east of the village. Walk into the village, past All Saints' Church on your right and then past the village stores.
Wootton Courtenay is a small village within the Exmoor National Park. In the Domesday Book it was simply recorded as Otone, meaning settlement by the wood. Courtenay was added to the village name in the 13th century when the Courtenay family became the owners of the manor.
The parish church at Wootton Courtney, dedicated to All Saints, has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building. The yew tree at the entrance of the churchyard is believed to date from the time of the Black Death in 1350. Opposite is the stone cross which was originally outside the churchyard as a meeting place for the villagers and for wandering preachers to address their congregation.
The oldest part of the church dates from about 1250. The Norman owner of the manor gave the church to a French priory being founded at Stogursey, a village some 13 miles away. When King Henry VI came to the throne in 1422, he dissolved this priory and used the proceeds to found and fund Eton College. The early rectors of the Wootton Courtenay church had to be chosen by Eton College.
In the 1930's a travelling craftsman named Pennington was asked by the Rector to teach him and the locals to wood carve. The fine wooden screen in front of the chancel is the result of their efforts. The unusual gabled bell tower has six bells dating from 1629, the heaviest weighs 10cwt (508 Kg).
- Turn right on the tarmac road signed to Wootton Hill and Minehead. Go up this road to pass the Village Hall on the right and on to a path straight ahead up Roadway Lane.
The walk up Roadway Lane begins as narrow and stony with frequent twists. Fortunately there are gates to either side. This gives a good excuse for a breather and a look at the country views. The lane becomes wider and straighter towards the top.
Nearing the top take the first path that bears off to the right slightly downhill. Soon glorious views open up on your right with Wootton Courtenay below and as the path bears round to the left, Timberscombe is ahead.
- Soon you reach a well-used track coming up from the right and then leading on uphill. This is the route you used to reach Wootton Courtenay.
- Continue left up this track back to the Macmillan Way West. however, this time cross over the path and carry on towards Hopcott and Minehead.
The Dunster Castle Estate including Hopcott and Periton was acquired by the Westminster estates during the early 1950's. In 1996 the land was purchased by The Crown Estate who manage diverse properties valued at more than £8 billion throughout Great Britain. This property is owned by the Crown but is not the private property of the monarch. The profit from the properties goes to the Treasury for the benefit of the nation.
- Going downhill, look for the path on your right leading to Hopcott Coombe. This path follows the edge of the plantation before cutting through with plantations on both sides.
- Coming out of the trees, pass a lane leading down to Higher Hopcott. Follow the path slightly to the right. This goes round the edge of a field. Follow the footpath through the trees before turning left to head back to the Youth Hostel through Long Combe.
The Youth Hostel, the Lodge, was occupied during the Second World War by pupils from the Regent Street Polytechnic Secondary School for Boys. The school, situated between Oxford Circus and the old BBC headquarters in the heart of London, was evacuated in 1939 and used the Minehead County School for its lessons.
In Wootton Courtenay