Walk - Bossington Hill
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.
- From the car park take the track curving around to the north, around the top of the hill.
The area around you here was used for tank training in World War II (see the North Hill walk), and during exercises the tanks would assemble in what is now the car park. On the hillside below were two trackways, built to provide moving targets for firing practice. Dotted around the hillside, and beyond, were numerous dug-outs, bunkers and gun platforms.
- Turn left onto the track which merges with yours and follow it for a short distance.
Up here and eastwards along the ridge to Minehead, much of the land is given over to western maritime heath: bell heather, ling heather and the closely-related cross-leaved heath, western gorse, and bilberry (or whortleberry as it is known locally). Mosses and lichens grow beneath, as well as summer-flowering grasses and herbs, such as heath bedstraw, bristle-bent grass and tormentil.
- When the Coast Path comes in from your right, turn onto it, towards Hurlstone Combe, dropping very gently downhill for about half a mile.
From the top of Bossington Hill on a clear day you can see the Welsh coast across the Bristol Channel, from Worms Head to Lavernock Point; while spread out below you are Porlock Marshes and the vast, flat tract of Porlock Vale. The whole area is a haven for wildlife, with its shoreline and saltmarshes, woodland, fertile farmland and the heathland up on the ridge between here and Minehead.
- At the next fork, leave the Coast Path, and turn left onto the path towards Lynch Combe, ignoring the track a few yards later and then bearing left and downhill when the park forks almost immediately afterwards.
Bossington Hill is a Marilyn (a hill which is at least 150 metres higher than the land around it), and its shape means that there is often a wind around the top as the air around its base is forced to rise. This makes it a favourite place for kite-flyers as well as paragliders; and birds of prey, too, will often be seen wheeling above it: buzzards, peregrine falcons, kestrels.
- Follow the path round the hill. As you turn towards Church Combe, ignore the path heading uphill to your left, and carry on around the corner into the combe. Stay with the path as it descends gently into the woodland until you come to Lynch Combe.
Hurlstone, Church and Lynch Combes are three of the six combes carved by streams into the sides of Bossington Hill (the others being Allerford, Holnicote and Selworthy Combes). The word “combe” comes from the Welsh word “cwm”, meaning valley, and there are many of them along this part of the coastline (see the Culbone Wood walk).
The woodland below you is the Allerford Plantation, planted at the start of the nineteenth century by Sir Thomas Acland, Tenth Baronet and owner of the Holnicote Estate, of which the hill is also a part. He planted the wood in blocks, each one commemorating the birth of one of his children (see the Selworthy Combe walk).
- Here take the bridleway which heads steeply uphill. The views behind and below you give plenty of excuse to turn and catch your breath at regular intervals!
Poet Laureate Robert Southey visited Porlock in 1799, and commented thus on the hills soaring around the vale: “Hedges luxuriantly high for the most part impede the view; through their openings dark hills are seen, and the combes that intersect them...Porlock is called in the neighbourhood the End of the World. All beyond is inaccessible to carriage or even cart.”
He saw, however, that there were compensations for the remoteness: “If only beauty of landscape were to influence me in choice of residence,” he remarked, “I should at once fix on Porlock.”
The next day being wet and cold, he spent it at the fireside in the inn, in the place now known as Southey's Corner, and composed a sonnet to the village:
“Porlock thy verdant vale so fair to sight
Thy lofty hills which fern and furze embrown
Thy waters that roll musically down
Thy woody glens, the traveller with delight
Recalls to memory, and the channel grey
Circling its surges in thy level bay.
Porlock, I shall forget thee not,
Here by the summer rain confined;
But often shall hereafter call to mind
How here, a patient prisoner `twas my lot
To wear the lonely, lingering close of day,
Making my sonnet by the ale house fire,
Whilst Idleness and Solitude inspire
Dull rhymes to pass the duller hours away."
- When the track crosses your path, towards the top of the hill, carry straight on with the bridlepath until it returns you to 3. From here, retrace your steps to the car park.
In Minehead, or the tearoom in Selworthy Green. Or visit Southey's Corner in Porlock Weir's Ship Inn!