Today I am continuing along the West Somerset Coast Path again starting from Stogursey and going west to Watchet. The West Somerset Coast path mostly sticks to the coast, but for a stretch between East Quantoxhead and Watchet it heads inland to the A39 (and in places inland of the A39). This is not a very satisfactory route so I am hoping I will be able to make it along the beach instead, via St Audries Bay.
I am quite keen to get to the coast at St Audries Bay. In the UK we are fortunate that beaches below the mean high water line are considered part of the sea and can’t be declared “private”, although that does not stop people trying in places. Therefore I’m confident that if I can get onto the beach I will be able to walk along St Audries Bay. However to make sure I can get here I spent the night at St Audries Bay Holiday Park which has it’s own access to the beach. So I’ve already had a sneak preview of the coast here and I know that it is rather lovely. The holiday park is also very good, far better than I was expecting with good facilities for the price and is well looked after.
From the holiday park I drive up the narrow and steep single-track access road to the A39, turn right and head down-hill to Williton and then along the B3191 to Watchet. It doesn’t take long and I find a car park just close to the railway station and park here. I get some food for lunch from the Co-Op in the town as I’m not going to be passing through many sizeable places on the way. I have a little while before the bus is due so wander down to the beach and harbour in the town. Despite the amount of coast the beach here is tiny.
The harbour on the other hand is very large (I later find it was extended). I also have a quick look around the railway station as this is part of the preserved West Somerset Railway with regular steam trains from here to Minehead and Bishops Lydeard and it is in fact the longest steam railway in the country. I now head back to the bus stop, which helpfully is next to the railway station so easy to find, and there are a few passengers now assembled. As we near the time the bus is meant to leave (9:25) there is no sign, which is a little odd as it starts from here. Thankfully about a minute before departure the bus arrives and the assembled passengers, myself included, get on. I expect I pronounce Stogursey wrongly but the driver obviously knows where I mean so it does not matter much. The bus takes the coast road past Doniford, so I have a little sneak preview of my walk and then joins the A39 for the climb up to West Quantoxhead, which seems to have two different names, West Quantoxhead and St Audries, which is rather confusing!
The road now gets steep as we climb up to West Quantoxhead although the bus copes surprisingly well, as in my experience most slow down to little more than walking pace when faced with a hill. Indeed another passenger comments that “we must be running late today, we’ve not slowed to a crawl” and this prompts the driver to say he picked this bus specifically as they wanted him to take out another bus but he said it would never cope with the hills and told them he was taking this bus instead because it’s a bit more “gutsy”. I notice when I get off it’s nearly 15 years old so I guess the older buses are a bit more powerful than modern ones! We continue via Kilve and Holford and into Nether Stowey. Here the bus diverts off the A39 into the village and we soon hit a problem. Someone has parked a 4×4 on the road and although the driver tries there is not enough room to get past. I wonder how often this happens in villages although there is no excuse, and there is a wide residential road with plenty of room to park nearby so it is not as if there was nowhere else to park either.
The driver tries the horn to rouse someone, but no one comes back. He reverse back a little and then gets off the bus to ring on the doors of the nearby houses, but no one answers. He heads further down the road and out of sight, leaving the bus blocking the road in the other direction so that now no one can get through! After a few minutes he returns us and tell us he has found someone who thinks she knows who the car belongs to and is trying to get hold of her. Meanwhile a car is trying to come the other way but the driver refuses to back up and tells them to turn around, which seems rather bloody minded, given that by reversing just a short way back it would leave enough room for them to get past. The driver soon gets off again to smoke and eventually a women comes running up a nearby residential road and finally comes to move the car, but without so much as an apology. Quite why she parked it here when the road she has come along is much wider and has plenty of room is anybodies guess. 4×4 finally moved we are on the way again, after around a 15 minute delay!
Thankfully it is only a couple of minutes more to reach Stogursey. I get off the bus in the centre of the main street and thank the driver, he has already had a stressful morning I think! As I am in no rush today (yesterday I needed to arrive at the holiday park by 6pm) I decide to explroe the castle I saw on the map yesterday. A road and then a footpath takes me to it, and I’m quite surprised by what I see! Most of the outer wall remains, but in ruins, with a moat, still with water in, around it. But the surprise is that in what would have been the entrance, a thatched cottage has been built, which is now a private residence! Certainly unusual and not something I think would be allowed now, but I suspect this cottage is several hundred years old!
Back to the main street I take a slightly different route from yesterday to get to Hinkley Point. This time I stick to Shurton Lane to Warren’s Farm and then Shurton, which takes me over a little ford via a stone foot bridge next to the road. Here I turn right and then soon left on the footpath heading north with another ford on route. This runs alongside the wall of the new fence where the new power station will go and dips down to a valley, then up to a gentle ridge, which offers quite nice views and then back down and finally back to the coast. Looking right I can see the outlet of the power station again.
I decide that I don’t want to “cheat” and miss the small stretch of coast between the closed path at Hinkley Point and the point where I joined the coast, a little over half a mile to the west. A large fence blocks the footpath, so I therefore find a route down to the beach and turn right. I make my way along the rocky foreshore on the beach back towards the power station. The geology here is amazing with lines of rock, heading out to sea at angles backed by grey and sand coloured cliffs, striped with layers of rock. They look like photos of the cliffs I’ve seen near Naish Point on the Wales coast and are very spectacular. The scenery is far better than I had expected.
I make my way, at times with difficulty, along the rocky shoreline, although these shelves of rock that head out to sea are smoother. Soon I reach the beach and the end of the closed path I reached yesterday, so I have managed to walk all the coast here, despite the path closures, by sticking to the beach, although it is quite hard work. I then re-trace my steps back west along this wonderful coast, seeing no one else. The sun is beginning to break through the cloud too, which helps make it even more beautiful.
I soon reach the point where I got down to the beach and climb up the little (un-official) path back to the low cliff top and the footpath.
The low cliffs ahead are very pretty with the beach below a mixture of sand and rock. I continue west soon the power station being far less visible. Soon I near the village of Lilstock where the cliffs become steeper with trees along the coast.
Here I must head briefly a short distance inland with the coast path along the edge of some fields, where I come across a Bovine blockage, but the cows are scared and move out the way as I approach. Soon I am back to the coast again as the path begins to climb back along the low cliffs once more. Soon I come to a military tower, which is oddly out of place and says “Royal Naval Aircraft Range Lilstock”. This is apparantly the lookout tower of an aircraft range where planes used to practice bombing out to sea. I don’t know if it is still in use, but there is no Danger Area on the map and little evidence of anything else here, so I suspect not.
The path continues along the edge of fields with the rolling hills getting more in evidence as I approach the Quantock hills. The coast ahead is certainly getting hilly again.
The cliffs get a little higher as I approach Kilve Pill. Here there is a small car park so there are a few people about here, but heading up onto the coast path it is deserted once more and I have wonderful views back.
At Quantocks Head the footpath diverts inland to East Quuantoxhead although there is a permissive path for around another ⅓ of a mile along the coast which then heads inland to the A39 and this latter route is the official route of the West Somerset Coast Path.
I decide instead to take an alternative route, to head down to the beach here and try to head along the beach to St Audries Bay. I get down to the beach, and the beack is rocky, so the going is hard, especially as there is slippery sea-weed over much of the rocks.
Although it had not been published at the time, I’m pleased to see that the proposed route of the planned England coast path in this area is a new cliff top path to Esson’s Gully (as marked on the map), where it joins the beach at St Audries Bay. Instead for now I must make my way along the rocky beach instead. The sea weed and lose rocks make this awkard, but also spectacular, as I can enjoy a good views of these impressive cliffs.
There is a little spring causing a waterfall down the coast just west of Davids Way. I also find a few broken fossils on the beach, so I can see why the logo for this part of the coast path is an ammonite. Rounding the headland at Blue Ben and then come round the headland into St Audries Bay, where there is a noticeable change in geology, as the rocky foreshore is largely gone, replaced with red cliffs that remind me of the South Devon coast. At the shoreline there is also a good sandy beach, a welcome relief from the rocks, so I make quick progress along the beach.
At the steps to the holiday park I go up to re-fill a bottle with water and dump the rubbish and empty bottles I have been carrying – the luxury of staying right on the coast!
At the west of the beach is another high cliff and the proposed route of the England coast path is new steps up here back to the cliff top. But this is all just a plan at the moment, so I continue on the beach, as it becomes rocky once more. There is another larger waterfall at the west of the beach and another smaller holiday park on the cliff top. Soon the beach returns to rock and lose pebbles and the going gets hard once more.
However soon the cliffs begin to reduce in height and I see more people about as I reach the area marked as “The Swill” on the map. Here a pipe-line goes out to sea which I cross and a stream alongside which is a little more difficult to cross, but near the shore the water spreads out so it is only shallow and I can step over via a few rocks.
By Court Farm there is a little footpath marked on the map and I soon find this, going through a little car gravel car park and along a track to reach the road. I decided to go along the road for the rest of the way to Watchet since between Doniford and Watchet the railway line runs right along the coast to the harbour I don’t think I will be able to (or want) to walk into the harbour and not sure if there is any way back up to the coast and over the railway line in between. Sadly the road here is busy and lacks a pavement, which is a shame.
I soon pass Doniford Beach Halt (as it is marked on the map) or Doniford Halt (as the signs describe it). This is about the smallest station on the West Somerset Railway yet despite this it has some interesting features and is beautifully cared for.
As I am just leaving the platform, I hear a train horn, and a diesel train comes through without stopping, as this is a request stop. Returning to the road, I continue west along the road trying my best to avoid the traffic. Soon however a pavement begins as I reach the first houses of Watchet. I continue the rest of the way to Watchet along the road until I reach the railway station. I cross the track via the footbridge, drop my bag off in my car in the car park opposite and then walk down to the harbour to get some photographs of the harbour in sunshine.
The town is smaller than I expected but very pretty and the light is lovely, now unbroken sunshine and a very calm sea and I get lovely views back along the coast I have walked.
It has been a very enjoyable day and I’m pleased to have been able to keep right to the coast the whole way even if it was a bit hard-going at time. I decide to have a meal in a pub in Watchet but the Bell Inn does not serve food on a Tuesday and another pub is also not serving food today. Instead I head back to the Holiday Park and eat there instead. In the evening I head down to St Audries Bay and watch the sun set over the coast and the lights of Minehead come on in the distance, a lovely end to a great days walking.
The public transport needed for this walk is detailed below.
First Bus 14 Timetable (Bridgwater – Wembdon – Cannington – Combwich – Stogursey – Nether Stowey – Kilve – West Quantoxhead – Doniford – Watchet)
Here are the photos I took on this walk.