Quantock Hills (April 2019)

Easter Sunday 21st April 2019

Following a day of rest spent mostly indoors, I was eager to get out again, with two further rest days to follow. Setting off from my front door and staying local wasn’t going to do it for me this time… I wanted to get out and away; deciding upon a drive south down the M5, west along the A39 and to the northern fringe of the much-loved Quantock Hills.

As many of my walks in this area have done, this day began at the bowling green car park in Holford; joining the Quantock Greenway route to climb well-known Woodlands Hill.

Nearing the top of this hill, I spotted a rather large tent beyond the boundary to my right… Private land, surely? Far to large for an ambiguous wild camp. I quartet of walkers passed in the opposite direction, with no one of them carrying a backpack or water. Perhaps this had been their home for the weekend.

From the summit cairn of Woodlands Hill, I find it hard to resist an urge of climbing Dowsborough, where the Greenway route veers east and straight towards the road.

From the almost-Gothic trees of this hillfort, I’d cross the road and follow a bridleway beside Great Bear. I passed another walker, who was possibly exploring the area for the first time. I was pleased to see him referring to a paper map, where many people (and I can sometimes include myself, here) rely on nothing less than an electronic device.

Passing the car park east of Dead Woman’s Ditch, I made brief conversation with a near-invisible man… He didn’t have much to say in response so, I marched on through Seven Wells Wood and followed the road past Adscombe Farm – there’s a lovely looking café nearby and beside the river, that I’m sure must get busy in the summer months.

Another bridleway led me on to the grounds of Quantock Lodge and its swimming pool. I’d never approached it from this direction, having always previous followed the Greenway route from the south-west. I felt like I was able to see more of the buildings.

When I walked through here, probably three years ago… You could barely moved for Highland Cattle. Even their calves were grazing all over. A beautiful sight.

I left the Greenway once more and followed the path above Pepper Hill Farm, where grazing cattle are restrained behind a barely-reassuring length of rope.

Before heading in to my next stretch of woodland walking, I stopped with this view overlooking the farm. Watching the horse riders come and go, far beneath me. Undisturbed.

Weaving my way down to the bottom of Cockercombe near the forest office, I knew that a long and steady incline lay ahead. I don’t think I’d walked along here for at least two years, if not more.

It can be quite pleasant, if relentless. These ponies seemed content and it’s a popular location for mountain bikers, a short distance from Triscombe Stone.

From the road, I passed through a stile I’d never used before. It looked almost as it no walker had ever set foot on this grass. But I found my way across with relative ease and on to the old drovers route.

I crossed this often-busy but beautiful stretch to break out on to the open land, now destined for Great Hill and with thoughts of lunch on my mind.

A small family departed as I arrived. People are mostly courteous in this respect… Or perhaps fearful of the fast-moving madman carrying everything he doesn’t need on his back and heading straight towards them.

Just north-west of here is a hill that I do not believe I had every bagged, claimed or summitted before… In over five-years of roaming the Quantocks…

This is the cairn on top of Fire Beacon – which is not to be confused with Hurley Beacon, sitting further north again and once use to raise the alarm of the invading Spanish Armada.

I decided that I would have lunch here and this was before I’d noticed the swarm of flies worshipping the cairn, while every square foot surrounding held at least one ounce of petrified sheep poo… I persevered and mostly had the hill to myself in this time.

Continuing north to the top of Black Hill after lunch, I was outwitted in my attempts to bag this trig pillar for the umpteenth time…

I believe this particular horse was suffering from a form of stage-fright…

‘What do I do?!’

‘I didn’t bring a camera!’

‘If my nose touches the trig and no-one’s around to see it, does it even count?’

With Dowsborough and Woodlands Hill now away to my right, I continued further north to Higher Hare Knap.

Another cairn and, while not the highest, it is one of my favourite high points in the Quantock Hills.

After a short stop here, I would begin a sharp descent in to Somerton Combe. I was tempted to idle on this quiet hill for longer. But I don’t always like to return home too late in the evening and have to to do ‘everyday things’… Yes, I should probably consider taking my stove and an extra meal on more of my longer day walks.

From Somerton to Hodder’s Combe and, suddenly, it was busy again. A lovely waterside path (with the occasional stream crossing), frequented by strange people who like walking but fear hills.

It wasn’t long after this that I was back at my car and heading home. A beautiful day and a good walk in one of my favourite areas that’s still less than an hour’s drive from home.

Distance of this walk = 12 miles

Thanks for reading.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

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