Walk - Burgundy Chapel
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
The Burgundy Chapel was a medieval chapel formerly belonging to the Luttrell family of Dunster Castle (see the Greenaleigh Farm walk). Little is known of the chapel's origins, but it has been suggested that it was built in thanksgiving for a Luttrell's safe return from the Burgundian Wars later in the 15th century.
- The walk starts beside the lifeboat station, with plenty of parking here and elsewhere along the quay. From here, turn right up the road, away from the town, and make your way along it to the roundabout.
- Choose the path through Culvercliffe Green which stays by the shore, and follow it along beside the water for about half a mile.
- When the Coast Path reaches the end of the green, ignore the path to the left, which takes you back to Quay Street, and instead follow the Coast Path steeply uphill through the woods, until it flattens out slightly and joins a track.
- Turn right with the Coast Path onto the track, and carry on through the woods, climbing rather more gently as you approach Greenaleigh Farm.
- At the farm, when the Coast Path doubles back uphill via a set of steps, leave it and instead carry on through the farm gate and follow the lane past the house and onto the small footpath beyond. Follow this path through the trees and bushes for about three quarters of a mile, until the path turns abruptly uphill to the left, and a set of steps leads down to the right.
The steps lead down to the chapel, now just an archway through a crumbling wall, and the remains of the platform on which the chapel would have perched on the hillside.
The Luttrell family's household accounts of 1405 refer to it as “Bircombe Chapel”, and mention it again in 1420, when the chaplain cost the estate £6 13s 4d. Although little of it remains now, and it was known to have been in ruins in 1717, a survey in 1906 documented the building as being 35ft x 16ft. The walls were roughly 2ft thick and possibly as high as 10ft, and at the western end there was evidence of a two-roomed structure with a fireplace and a pitched roof, assumed to be an anchorite's and servant's dwelling. The rough mound against the northern end is thought to be rubble, either from its construction, or from its clearance in the 1940s.
- Return to the path at the top of the steps, and continue with it on its perilous ascent. Watch out for loose stones rolling beneath your feet, and take particular care in wet weather.
At the top of this path there is a very welcome bench. Pause a while, and look back down the combe you've just climbed, which is very pretty in its garb of heather, gorse and bracken beneath the scattered trees.
- Once you have recovered your breath, carry on upwards a little further, turning left at the top and then going uphill a short way again, until you come to the Coast Path above. Turn left along the Coast Path and follow it eastwards and gently downhill, back towards Minehead, until you come to a bench beside a gate.
- The Coast Path veers sharply left here, back towards Greenaleigh. Leave it, and instead take the steep path uphill to your right for a hundred yards or so through the trees.
- Turn sharp left onto the bridlepath at the top and follow it downwards, ignoring the network of small paths around you snaking away into the woods.
- When the path forks to the left, take this, and follow the Luttrell's drive down through the woods to where it joins the road.
The family planted a lot of native and exotic trees along this drive at the end of the 19th century, but the presence of certain plant species here, such as opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, sanicle and wood speedwell, suggests that there was an ancient broadleaved wood here long before then. On the cliffs below are whitebeam trees (sorbus subcutaneata), found only on Exmoor, and wood vetch, which encourages the rare blackneck moth.
- When the drive reaches the road at the bottom, go briefly left, as far as the sharp right-hand bend a few moments later. Here there is a footpath to the left, signposted to Minehead Seafront, which will take you down a very picturesque path through the woods, known to the locals as “The Zig-Zags”. Descend the set of steps towards the bottom, which will return you to the sculpture at the start of the Coast Path. Go left to return to the lifeboat station.
There are numerous tearooms, cafés, pubs and restaurants in Minehead, including several around the harbour.