After my last walk I decided that continuing along the West Somerset Coast as a day trip from home was getting too difficult and time consuming what with the bus only running once every two hours along this part of the coast, and connecting poorly with the trains. So this time I have come down to Somerset for a long weekend to walk the coast between Combwich and Minehead over 3 days, mostly along the West Somerset Coast Path.
Between here and Watchet there is no public transport to the coast and I decide it is too far for me to walk in one go. After a bit of research I discover that the No 14 bus runs once every two hours to Stogursey. This is however around 2 miles from the coast but it will have to do as a point to break my walk.
This time I drive down to Somerset, due to the limited public transport in the area. I travel along the M3, A303 and A372 to Bridgwater. I make fairly good time to Bridgwater (despite a 20mph speed limit on the A372 in Bridgwater – it’s an A road for goodness sake!) but then get a little loss. At a roundabout I’m faced with a choice of the A38 North, A38 South and Town Centre, neither of which I want. I opt for “Town Centre” which true to it’s word takes me to the town centre and I head round the edge of the town coming out on a busy main road. Thankfully I spot a sign for Cannington which I think is the right way (and turns out to be) and at last leave Bridgwater. I really should invest in a SatNav but despite this I’m soon on the right road and head through Cannington. I am conscious of the time as I have a plan to get the bus at 10:20 and time is now getting a little tight.
Thankfully I soon arrive at Combwich and see that I have a little over 5 minutes to spare. I decide I don’t have time to reach the car park at the end of the village and walk back to the bus stop and am concerned about parking around the bus stop in case I block the bus from being able to turn, so park along the road that heads into the village and walk back to the bus stop. I decide to take the bus to Stogursey and walk back to Combwich to avoid a possibly long wait for the bus at the end of my walk, but it does mean walking in reverse direction of my last walk.
Sadly since I was last in Combwich the brick bus shelter has been boarded up so there is nowhere to wait out of the rain for the bus, which is poor. Thankfully it’s not raining today though. I suspect the other passenger waiting for the bus is also a walker and he soon makes a little small talk about if this is the right place for the bus to Bridgwater. I suspect he is walking the River Parrett trail so ask him. It turns out I am right and he is in fact walking the last part of the path, having walked it from the start in Dorset and has enjoyed the trail. Perhaps something for a future project?
Soon a bus arrives and we wonder whose bus has arrived first as the bus to Bridgwater and Watchet are scheduled to arrive at the same time. I am in luck as it’s my bus and so I get on and wish him well in his walk. As we are leaving his bus also arrives. The bus journey is quick and in a little over 5 minutes we are in Stougursey.
I don’t know Stogursey well but there is a small shop in the centre and a pub and a white painted church on the edge of the village. I later find there is also a castle, but I miss it on this visit.
I find the road I want to take, Shurton Lane and head north along it. The houses soon end and after passing a farm I decide to turn right on the signed footpath. This starts out well but as I near the stream and turn left I go over a stile on the marked footpath into a field and faced with an electric fence blocking my route to the gate I can see at the other side. Thankfully it is only one line, so I can press down on one of the supports, so I can climb over. I am annoyed at this as the farmer clearly knows the footpath goes this way and also obviously thinks nothing of blocking it.
This frustration aside, I soon reach the road at Newnham Bridge. I follow the road round ahead and continue as it turns left passing a few houses, then take the footpath sign to the right. I notice a notice stuck to the post here and am dismayed to find it is a notice about a number of footpaths “temporarily” closed, related to the Hinkley Point power station. I notice that the closures are for 6 months and this has now expired, so I hope the path is open. In my experience most of the time when a path is closed it is still possible to get through, so I hope this won’t disrupt me too much. Sadly this proves optimistic. Soon I’m faced with the diversion path sign and any thought of taking the correct route of the path is quickly banished – the path is blocked with a very high thick metal fence, with barbed wire on the top and numerous security cameras.
Although at the time it had not been announced, it seems the paths around Hinkley Point have already been closed in anticipation of a new power station being given the go-ahead (which has now happened). I suspect this is partly to try to prevent disruption by protesters opposed to Nuclear Power (personally, I think it is needed, ugly though it will be). I had hoped to head a little west on the footpath that brings me to the coast to the west of the current Hinkley Point power station. Instead, I’m diverted east onto the road leading to the power station, which thankfully is not too busy. As I near the power station I turn right on the footpath over North Moor passing under the power lines and then alongside the sewage works, which thankfully don’t smell much. I then turn left and at long last am on the coast.
To the west I can see the power station but my attention is caught by the wonderful view ahead. I can see across the Severn and the coast here is more beautiful than I had imagined – the beach has shingle at the high tide line and sand and mud further out, but there are also lines of rock heading out to sea. According to the maps about the footpath closure, the footpath alongside the existing power station is open, but now a dead-end as the path west of there is closed as you reach the end of the power station. I decide that I don’t want to miss this part of the coast out, so turn left and follow the footpath along the concrete wall in front of the power station.
Out to sea I can see an odd device which I later find out is a water intake for the power station. I wonder if at the west of the power station it will be possible to get through anyway. As I am walking the path, a security guard approaches and I half expect him to stop me (although I am on a footpath which is not marked as closed) but instead he just smiles and says hello. I continue on to the west of the power station where indeed a metal barrier then blocks the path off to the left, so unless you want to walk along the rocky beach, it is a dead-end. However I can see interesting looking cliffs ahead and views to a headland ahead (Minehead I think), so my next walk looks to be excellent.
I re-trace my steps back alongside the power station, passing the security guard once more. As I reach the end of the Power Station I am now on a proper coast path for the first time, this being part of the West Somerset Coast Path which I can follow as far as Steart.
I follow the good path for around a mile to the small village of Stolford.
Here I have a choice of routes, but take the raised shingle bank right along the coast, over Catsford Common. This is not the official route of the coast path, which heads a little inland along a wide track.
This path is hard-going which is probably why it is not the official route. and I’m glad when after a while I can join the wide gravel path to the right. I pass over Wall Common and take a slightly more coastal route once more over rough ground, with the car park just visible to my left, and lovely views of the open coast to my left. It is good to finally be back on the coast proper after the long walk into Bridgwater and back I had to take.
The path ahead soon gets difficult to cross and I head over the open common back to the road. This looks like it would be very boggy for most of the year, but the dry summer has dried out the land so it is mostly pretty dry. I’m soon on the road and then stick to the road into the small village of Steart. Here the River Parrett Trail goes off to the right, which I will be following for most of the rest of my walk. The little car park here is also the start (or end) of the West Somerset Coast Path, and the rest of my walk will be on the River Parrett Trail.
I continue along the road to the end of the little peninsula. This takes me past several farms – I suspect this little village (more a hamlet) revolves around farming. The road soon ends, but a gate marks the footpath ahead, which I take. On reaching the end of the footpath I’m pleased to note this is a nature reserve and a permissive path allows me to continue a little further to some bird hides. I follow this and am amazed to find the first of these is a towering wooden bird hide, raised above the ground. I’m even more pleased to find that it is open to the public for no charge, so I climb to the top and find I am the only one there. I open the wooden viewing windows and am treated to a lovely view over the mouth of the River Parett with Burnham-on-Sea clearly visible over the estuary, just a stones throw away, but many miles of walking.
I continue to the furthest hide where I stop for a drink and enjoy the views (and the warning about not attempting to cross to Burnham-on-Sea). On my way back I notice there is also a permissive coast path, which runs right along the coast then cuts inland back into the coast path. I am grateful for this and enjoy this unexpected bonus part of the coast walk, as I had assumed the coast here was private.
Returning to the car park I then turn left along the River Parrett Trail. This is initially a wide gravel track, but at a gate ahead I see an ominous red sign stating road closed, but thankfully it confirms the footpath is still open. Reading the various notices there is a plan to flood this area and make an area of salt marsh. I believe this is some EU ruling that means any area of marsh lost for development must be replaced elswhere. WIth expansion at the Portbury Docks this area is going to be turned into an area of saltmarsh with the sea walls breached. I’m unsure whether I like this or not as it loses a huge area of land which is currently being used to grow food and I wonder what impact it will have on this little village and the farms in it. It also means I could be amongst the last to walk this path, as the land I am on will soon be marsh.
The notices confirm the River Parrett Trail will be diverted, so it will continue as close as possible to the river. Indeed the path has already been diverted in preparation although I think the diversion is temporary. However I’m pleased as the official (and closed) route of the path is a field or so back from the rivers edge, but the diversion takes me right along the coast on the river bank allowing me closer access to the river than is normally possible.
I can see a lot of work has been done but none is going on at present and the path has been properly maintained – something I welcome as in many cases when development is going on the public is excluded from going near on the grounds of “Health and Safety” so I’m pleased access has been maintained.
Soon I’m back on the official route and away from the works and the path becomes wide as I approach Combwich.
Soon I can see the houses of the village and pass along a little a grassy area, a sort of recreation ground. I then join the road and go past the little creek in the village, lined with boats. I then head back along the road passing the village shop and soon get back to my car just up from the bus stop.
This has been a very enjoyable walk, enhanced by un-expected additional coastal access, the bird hides and the more waterside route of the diverted River Parrett Trail. Despite a few frustrations with diverted and blocked fooptaths at the start of the walk it has been a good day. I’m also pleased to have made it around the River Parrett at long last, with the rest of my walk through Somerset sticking to well defined coastal paths, being the West Somerset Coast path as far as Minehead and then the South West Coast Path. This also means I won’t need to devise my own route from here to Poole harbour on the Dorset coast since I have a well defined coastal path all the way.
I collect my car and drive to my overnight accommodation a few miles to the west.
The public transport needed for this walk is detailed below. There are two bus routes to Stogursey and Combwich, First Bus 14 and Webber Bus 24.
First Bus 14 Timetable (Bridgwater – Wembdon – Cannington – Combwich – Stogursey – Nether Stowey – Kilve – West Quantoxhead – Doniford – Watchet)
Webber Bus 24 (Bridgwater – Wembdon – Cannington – Combwich – Stogursey – Nether Stowey)
Here are the photos I took on this walk.