I had planned this walk to start in Minehead. There was of course the reason of a leisurely start from Minehead. I mean, who wants to rush breakfast and run for a bus when on holiday? The main reason, however, was to finish our walk by visiting the nice tea garden in Horner, and to have an evening meal in Porlock. Porlock is an interesting place in its own right - refreshingly different from villages in the south east. In addition, the village has pubs which are less touristy than those in Minehead. So for gastronomical and educational (life long learning and experience) reasons it made sense to finish in Porlock.
Here we are enjoying the view of Dunkery Beacon as we descend into Wootton Courtenay.
Our evening sojourn in Porlock was made even sweeter when we realized that the taxi fare would be about the same as the bus fare; we could have got the last bus with some time to spare, but it really left too early for our purposes. In Porlock, we had the chance to taste a variety of West Country ciders and after our meal we witnessed a nice Porlock sunset. I was guided by what the "girls" wanted to see and do. Girls, Many Thanks! An excellent day all round - a day which bode well for the remainder of our holiday.
So here is what this page has in store for you. Even if you were not able to join us, here's your chance to find out how we enjoyed our nice CLOG August Bank Holiday Saturday walk. Then we had our nice evening meal at "The Ship", Porlock's famous cider pub.
Enjoy your browse!
We headed out of Minehead in a southerly direction, and after crossing the busy east-west A39, we gradually climbed up to reach the "Macmillan Way West", as the OS map describes it. Before we descended into Wootton Courtenay, we diverted to a nice view point high above the village.
On our ascent we noticed that some of the trees seemed to have planted by human hand, perhaps a worker on the former Luttrell Estate (cf. Dunster) to which much of this area belonged.
Once on the Macmillan Way we enjoy distant views to the east and to the outliers of the Quantocks.
Before descending to Wootton, we make a short deviation to a point on the "Roadway Lane", from where we can enjoy a view of the valley below and Dunkery Beacon from the north east.
The landscape looks very pretty with the purple heather.
I think that for this we have come at the right time of year.
After visiting the viewpoint above the village, we made our descent, enjoying the distant view of Dunkery Beacon. The grade I listed Church of All Saints dates from the 13th century but looked as if it had been restored in Victorian times. The village has something of a 50s and 60s time-warp as we were also to discover in Porlock Thanks, Melissa for drawing our attention to this in Porlock.
As we descend into Wootton Courtney in its summer green ...
... we see the rounded top of Dunkery Beacon ahead of us.
The 13th century church has an unusual, Scandinavian-looking, tower.
As we enter ...
... we notice the fine rood screen ...
... and the monumental floor slabs which are already quite worn,
even though they date from more recent Victorian times.
We leave and have a quick bite on the bench outside the churchyard wall. It's getting quite warm, but luckily, the village stores are open and we can get some more water.
The 50s and 60s were times when pottering around with cars was a weekend pursuit for the menfolk, while the wives made the Sunday Lunch. Marital duties were still quite strictly defined!
Morris? Well, do you remember those classic bulbous cars, with incarnations not just as your normal saloon car but as shooting brakes and even small pick-up trucks?
Incidentally, these metal plates graced the outside of what looked like a quondam garage.
All very "time-warpy".
From Wootton, our path twists and turns across the village sports ground and through some woods, before we reach the open slopes of Dunkery Hill and Dunkery Beacon. The Beacon, as we have said, is, at 519 metres or 1703 feet, the highest point in Somerset, on Exmoor and in the West Country. We make the gradual ascent, which indeed, is much gentler than the ascent from the Porlock side. One more reason for starting in Minehead! Today, unlike on my last visit in 2009, there's no wind on top; hence we can appreciate the all-round view without being buffeted by the elements.
On the way up we look back to the verdant ridge from which we have just descended.
Indeed, we can see the Bristol Channel and the outliers of the Quantocks.
As you might expect, there's something to tell us that we have reached the top.
In this case, it's a rather solid-looking cairn.
It's time for a high-altitude lunch ...
... whilst we chat and enjoy the view.
Here's the cairn and a south-facing view.
Here's the cairn and a north-facing view.
And now it's time to get in some practice at crossing streams.
Well one, actually, but it's quite fast flowing.
We all pass - or should I say "cross" - with flying colours!
It's another way of saying that we didn't get wet!
Having successfully crossed the stream at the foot of the Beacon, we join a very small road and head for another view point, this time near Webber's Post - whoever Webber may have been. Then it's through the woods at the end of which, the Horner Tea Garden - West Country style - suddenly appears, much to Melissa's delight. I really don't know Melissa, what you would have done to me, had we arrived after closing time! Anyway, the world was in order. The Tea Garden was open (!!), and we all enjoyed our afternoon tea break. Julie even managed to get a picture of the local robin, which bird no doubt enjoyed itself with the crumbs the departing guests had left on their plates.
After a climb from our stream, we reach the view point near Webber's Post.
We take the path from here, leading past an uncomfortably looking stone bench. This commemorates the donation by the Acland Family (cf. Acland Shelter on our Selworthy walk tomorrow) to the National Trust of 400 acres of the land hereabouts.
Commemoration was probably more important than comfort.
We continue to strike north along the path ...
...which leads past some pine trees ...
... nicely framing the scenery.
Eventually, we reach Horner and - importantly - its Tea Garden, where of course, we partake of the appropriate afternoon beverage and sustenance. Nearby is one of two "Packhorse Bridges" in the immediate area. Maybe the packhorses of old carried the wool produced by the local sheep. The mediaeval wool trade was big business in these parts.
Before we reach Porlock we come across a typical Somerset road sign, topped by the "S C C" tetrahedron. Interesting for "non-Somersetians" like us.
And so to Porlock with its church and its thatched houses - a typical West Country village to be savoured. Melissa made us aware that Porlock still has a 50s and 60s feel (rather like Wootton), as, for example, the little garage in the main street suggested. In fact, in 2010, with 40% of its residents being "of pensionable age" Porlock had the most elderly population in Britain (so Wikipedia tells us)! We enjoyed our visit to "The Ship" and as well as the ensuing "Porlockian" sunset. A positive experience and a good omen for next two days.
So this is what you can get if you sell enough fresh eggs.
This red MG is no doubt a "Porlockian's" pride and joy.
We saw it proudly displayed as we entered the village.
We negotiate Porlock's quaint streets, ...
... ere we reach down-town Porlock. Here we are greeted by the grade I listed 13th century Church of Saint Dubricius with its typical - for hereabouts - "sawn off" spire.
This looks like the side aisle and altar ...
... and this the main aisle and altar, at least judging by the choir stalls.
Between both aisles is the 15th-century tomb of Lord John Harrington (1384-1418), who fought alongside Henry V (of Agincourt fame) in France in 1417, and of his wife Lady Elizabeth, who died in 1471, quite a time after her husband!
Here they are again.
Here you can see their nice canopy.
In the side aisle, there is also a
less impressive and partially damaged effigy of another gentleman.
This clock has no face or hands but merely struck the hours "on the tenor bell".
It may date from between 1400 and 1450, but was in use up to around 1897, the year of
Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.
Near the entrance, a winding stair takes us up to ...
... a small chapel ...
... which doesn't look so mysterious with the camera flash.
An obligatory churchyard yew awaits us as we head for main street Porlock.
Here we sort out taxi prices and possible collection times before we set off for "The Ship".
At "The Ship" we enjoyed our repast and cider tasting so much that photographic endeavours temporarily took a back seat. Not that we over indulged. After tasting some ciders, the girls opted for different medium dry offerings. I went for the bone-dry "Bounder" cider; despite its name and dryness, it was only 4.5% (according to the label on the "cider-pull"), so two half pints did not exceed the limits of responsible drinking. The food was of course, very nice as well. The picture of the neatly white-washed and thatched hostelry, basking in the rays of the setting sun, exudes an air of peace and quiet. In fact, this establishment, with its attached "dining" garden and extensive inside rooms, was extremely popular with the locals and their families. We were all glad we came here - a nice way to round off our first day.
There was still the little matter of the Porlock sun-set, as Julie reminded us. So here's the sun-set in all its glory. The sheep were more interested in trying to escape through the gate onto the A39, but a local helped us bring the said animals to order!
Red sky at night, shepherd's delight.
Indeed, the sun-set bode well for the morrow and for the rest of our West Country away break.