Walk - Selworthy Combe

3.3 miles (5.3 km)

Hill Road Car Park Above Combeshead - TA24 5LB Hill Road Car Park Above Combeshead

Moderate - Tracks and footpaths, some ascent and descent.

A delightful stroll through some gorgeous woodland on a country estate, with bubbling streams and Victorian water features, little bridges and winding paths. The air is full of birdsong and the old trees soar gracefully above as you drop gently down through the combe. It is particularly pretty in the springtime, when the unfurling ferns and the brand new leaves are fresh and sharp, there are primroses along the streams, bluebells under the trees and other wildflowers in the grass, and the trees are bright with blossom. In autumn, too, the majestic trees of the Victorian parkland are vivid in their changing colours and they are alive with small birds and mammals collecting up the bounty.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

Selworthy Combe is part of the Holnicote Estate, now owned by the National Trust after Sir Richard Acland donated it in 1944. Holnicote dates back to the Domesday Book, which lists it as “Hunecot” (as it is still pronounced, although the spelling has changed), and it covers some 5042 hectares of woodland, moors and farmland.

  1. From the car park walk just a few yards to the track running roughly parallel to the road and turn left onto it, turning right shortly afterwards to pick up the Coast Path just a couple of hundred yards away to the north.
  2. Turn left onto the Coast Path and follow it for approximately half a mile, to where a metalled road crosses it, running from the coast to the central road running along the ridge.

This road, and various tracks on the ridge, were built in World War II for tank training (see the North Hill walk), leading to an extensive network of former observation posts and gun platforms overlooking the Bristol Channel.

  1. Ignoring this track, continue along the Coast Path for another three quarters of a mile, also ignoring the track to your left towards the end of this stretch.
  2. There is a junction of paths at the open area beyond. Leave the Coast Path here, turning sharp left and heading east, towards Selworthy Beacon.

Like nearby Dunkery Beacon, Selworthy has been a beacon since the 16th century wars with France and Spain, and a long time before that it was an important burial and ceremonial site for Bronze Age settlers (see the Selworthy Beacon Walk).

The pastureland in the valley below Selworthy Combe is rich and green, and there are wildflower meadows and an abundance of moths and butterflies, thanks to the National Trust's conservation practices. In the woods, storm-felled trees are left where they fell to encourage fungi and insects and the higher species which feed on both.

Holnicote is one of the best places to see the heath fritillary, one of Britain's rarest butterflies. This too is due to the efforts of the National Trust, with help from Butterfly Conservation and the particular dedication of local NT warden Paul Camp.

Heath fritillaries were thought to be extinct in the 1970s, but Noel Allen, President of the Exmoor Natural History Society, discovered a local population in 1981. Although they were once again teetering on the brink of extinction at the turn of the millennium, the extensive habitat management has ensured that they are flourishing here once again. An excellent place to see them is in Halse Combe.

  1. At the beacon, turn right onto the track travelling southwest, and follow it to the road.
  2. Follow the track across the road.

Before you make your way down the bridleway to Selworthy Combe, take a look at the “Wind and Weather” memorial hut among the trees just off the path. This was erected by the Acland family in memory of Sir Thomas, who liked to walk around here every Sunday after church.

This is one of many inspirational walks throughout the estate. Local author Frederick Hancock, writing at the end of the nineteenth century, attributes the number of these to Sir Thomas and his son: “Forty miles of [walks], it is said, open from the little wicket gate on Selworthy Green, and have been made almost entirely by the late Sir Thomas Acland and his son, the present baronet. The late Sir Thomas, with the artistic taste which he possessed in so eminent a degree, planted the many acres of moor and common between Selworthy and the sea, and then began the vast network of walks which now intersect these woods.”

  1. Follow the bridleway down through the combe, to where it meets the path coming up from Selworthy village. Turn left onto this path, marked Selworthy Combe, and follow it around the bottom of the hill and then steeply upwards towards the road, ignoring the track to your right halfway up.

The woodland planted by Sir Thomas at the start of the 19th century stretches from Selworthy to Bossington and covers much of the hillside. He planted it in blocks, each one commemorating the birth of one of his children, and it consists mainly of oak, sycamore, ash, silver birch, sweet chestnut, holly, and various conifers.

    1. A couple of hundred yards after this track, you come to a junction of paths. Take the cyclepath to the right (not the bridleway to Dunster), and follow this pretty green lane, past a couple of mysterious concrete objects which must no doubt be related to the tank training, and up to the road.
    2. At the road turn left to return to the car park. 

Nearby refreshments

In Minehead, or the tearoom in Selworthy Green, on the A39 below.

Public transport

Buses run several times a day between Minehead and Porlock, although this walk is about a mile away from the nearest bus stop, at Selworthy Turn. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

Parking

Hill Road Car Park Above Combeshead - TA24 5SH

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