11. Watchet to Minehead

September 2013

As with the previous day I again spent the night at St Audries Bay Holiday Park and leave there this morning to head for Watchet. It is a simple journey and I am there in a little over 10 minutes. I park in the same car park as the previous day and get a sandwich from the shop. As the buses are frequent today (every 30 minutes) I decide not to catch the bus this morning but to take it on the way back. I have also noticed this quite a short walk (around 8 miles) and energy levels permitting I might extend it part way.

Watchet

Watchet

I head up the road out of Watchet (along West Street). There is a path on the right here that gives access to the beach (but it is a dead-end).

The beach at Watchet

The beach at Watchet

The pavement here is narrow and the front doors of the houses open directly onto the street, so it is a tight squeeze in places. I continue up the hill passing a “residents car park” on the way. I guess that’s because the streets are narrow with little room for parking. The road soon changes name to Cleeve Hill as it begins to climb more steeply out of the town. The pavement switches to the opposite side of the road as I pass some new housing on the left. Just past this though and the pavement ends altogether but worse, the road narrows to single track which is not great as this is quite a busy B-road. Thankfully it soon widens again back to two lanes and offers a brief glimpse of an excellent view to the right, a crash barrier is in place here presumably in case any motorists get distracted by the view too! Just after this I’m pleased to see a West Somerset Coast path sign pointing me to the right here and off this road. This is an unexpected bonus, as no path is marked on my map here and it is marked as a permissive path.

I follow this good path along the edge of the grassy field. The views are excellent and the cliffs higher than I expected, and I can see the coast rolling away ahead of me, as well as Minehead already visible ahead.

Warren Bay

Warren Bay

The path enters a field used as a campsite and descends almost to beach level, but there is a path to the right that brings me down to the beach which I take so I can enjoy the view. It is a sunken path with steep earth cliffs on either side. It’s good to get down to the beach, a mixture of pebbles and sand here.

Warren Bay

Warren Bay

Climbing back up from the beach I can see a little bit of sea mist beginning to gather on the headland at Minehead. I hope it’s not going to come in further as this is one sort of weather I really hate! It can be glorious just a few hundred metres inland from the coast whilst the coast itself is cold and covered in mist, spoiling the views.

Mist on the hills at Minehead

Mist on the hills at Minehead

Thankfully that doesn’t happen and the mist soon clears again. The coast path ahead now runs right along the coast in some woodland with good views out to sea. Soon I can see the glorious Blue Anchor Bay stretching out before me, a flat expanse of sand with the high hills behind.

View to Blue Anchor

View to Blue Anchor

As I reach Cridlands Copse there is a path marked through the woodland along the coast. Sadly a sign says this path has been lost to coastal erosion and to follow the diversion, which directs me left inland on what is marked as a permissive path on the map. I follow the “closed” route briefly wondering if I can still get through, but I can hear a tractor going round the adjacent field and don’t particularly want an argument with a farmer if I emerge into his field from a “closed” footpath. So I stick to the diversion, which is not well signed – woodland often has far more paths on the ground than marked on the map, and this is no exception. More by luck than judgement I realise I am parallel with the road and continue on this path to emerge into a field still parallel with the road and heading west. The path takes me along the edge of a couple of fields, adjacent to the road and with a caravan site just the other side of the road. The path soon brings me out onto the road. There isn’t a pavement here so I must walk in the road again, which heads steeply down hill but is at least wide here. Soon I pass the Blue Anchor pub on the right hand side after which the bay is named. It is quite a big hotel and I believe also includes a hotel. I consider stopping but it’s still quite early for lunch and the pub looks a little run-down which is a disappointment.

Instead I continue down to the beach where there is also a promenade. It looks like the coastal defense and associated promenade are quite recent and I decide rather than stick to a tarmac path next to the road I’ll head down to the beach and walk along there.

Blue Anchor

Blue Anchor

It is a good choice and I enjoy the wide expanse of sand and feeling of space it gives, and the good views ahead. As the road heads inland and coastal defense ends I head back up onto the road more or less opposite Blue Anchor station, another on the West Somerset Railway. I notice they even have some camping coaches here.

Blue Anchor station

Blue Anchor station

The coast path now follows along the back of the beach on a shingle path on the raised bank behind the beach, passing a few cottages. The route also runs parallel to the track of the West Somerset railway on the left and I see a train pass along it.

The coast path west of Blue Anchor

The coast path west of Blue Anchor

Soon the railway track heads a little away from the coast but the coast path continues right along the back of the beach. Soon I pass an odd concrete channel cut into the land and a bridge goes over this to allow the coast path to continue. I assume it’s some sort of drainage ditch but the fine dry summer means it’s empty of any water! Inland I can see the tower of Conygar Tower and the impressive castle at Dunster a little lower down.

Beyond this dry drainage channel I come to a gravel car park and decide to sit on the beach to have lunc here. Continuing my walk the car park soon gives way to a row of near identical beach huts (more chalets really) which line the coast here. The beach is sandy to my right but the path itself is still along the pebbles at the back of the beach. I have made good time, have plenty of energy and not far to go get to Minehead.

Chalets near Dunster

Chalets near Dunster

I soon reach a footpath by a pipe line that I can follow inland to Dunster. I decide to head inland and explore this town. Although I have been here before it is more than 15 years ago and I don’t remember a lot about it. I follow this path as it turns south past Lower Marsh Farm and becomes a road to Dunster station, a large and grand station. I have to wait for the level crossing here as a train comes through, although it doesn’t have any barriers, the train simply going straight over the road. I have a quick look round the station and overhear the man in the ticket office telling some others the best route into the village. There is in fact walking route alongside a stream which I soon pick up and follow. This goes around the back of some houses. I cross the busy A39 and then follow the path into the village.

Dunster

Dunster

Dunster

Dunster

It is just as pretty as I remembered, with a wide main street and the old market square building. I follow the main road through the village passing the entrance to the castle on the left.

Dunster

Dunster

The only downside is the amount of traffic that squeezes along the now narrow street. I decide to go on a walk up to Dunster Park, Gallox Hill and Bat’s Castle settlement. It is a lovely diversion through a street with thatched cottages, over a little stream and then climbing up through woodland, which gives me a lovely view back to Dunster.

Dunster

Dunster

View down to Dunster

I climb through trees and am soon out into the open land of Exmoor, with gorse and heather around. Nearing the top I have lovely views over the rolling hills of Exmoor and back to Dunster Castle and the coast beyond.

The hills of Exmoor

The hills of Exmoor

VIew back to the coast

VIew back to the coast

It’s a lovely diversion and nice to add a little walking in Exmoor to my coastal walk. I return via a slightly different route and make my way back along the streets of Dunster, this time taking the higher road up past the entrance to the castle and shop.

Dunster castle entrance

Dunster castle entrance

I then return the way I came back to the main road, past the railway station and back to the coast. The path now runs alongside a golf course and becomes firmer as I head further west and then soon becomes very sandy.

Back on the coast near Minehead

The path brings me out to the car park beside the club house and I follow this down to the main road in Minehead and a large car park. Suddenly the path is busy as I reach the town and to the left is the large Butlins camp. I can’t say this looks terribly nice – the buildings are all behind a large wire fence which makes it look more akin to a prison than somewhere I’d choose to go!

The beach at Minehead

The beach at Minehead

I continue along the promenade behind the beach, which is now a good sandy beach and proving popular on this sunny day. Ahead I can see the steep hills where Exmoor reaches the coast. I pass modern flats, then a couple of arcades and can hear the steam railway behind me again. Here they have a board with the times of trains and I see that the last train of the day is a steam service and due in around 45 minutes. Unlike some steam railways they also sell single tickets as well as an all day rover over the whole line, so I decide to return to Watchet by steam train rather than the bus. Although it is likely to be more expensive than the bus, it will be far more comfortable and as I’ve watched the steam trains puffing along the coast all day it seems only fitting to let them carry me back to Watchet. I buy a ticket and then return to the coast to walk up to the harbour at the north end of the bay. Here I see the start of the South West Coast Path marked by a giant pair of hands holding a map, which is a nice touch, along with a rather less grand monument to the West Somerset Coast path I have been following until now.

South West Coast Path marker

South West Coast Path marker

This means for the next for 630 miles or so I have a proper coast path to follow, so I don’t need to devise my own route, which is great. I’ve walked the whole route, but over a period of nearly 15 years, so will be writing up some of those walks from a rather faded memory! I enjoy a look around the harbour and the little bay beyond.

Minehead harbour

Minehead harbour

I then walk slowly back to the station. By now my train is in and although there is a school party in one of the carriages there is plenty of space further down the train.

I am impressed with this steam railway – all the stations are beautifully kept, meant to look like their original condition with old adverts, luggage, milk urns etc all around. It is also the longest steam railway in the UK and all this is done by a team of volunteers which I imagine must be hard work especially with the worst the sea can throw at the track in places. It is a shame though that services don’t run through to Taunton (the railway is connected), so you could travel directly through by train to Minehead. Perhaps something they will do in the future.

I get on the train and soon we are off, and I can sit back and enjoy the fine view over this lovely coastline. The line curves briefly inland to Washford and then returns to the coast at Watchet where I leave the train. I watch the train leave. It has been a lovely days walk.

View over Blue Anchor bay from the train

View over Blue Anchor bay from the train

I return to my car and head for home. I get a little held up in the rush-hour traffic in Bridgwater but thankfully don’t make any wrong turns this time and once out of Bridgwater the rest of the journey is easy and fairly quick.

The public transport needed for this walk is detailed below.

West Somerset Railway Timetable (Minehead – Dunster – Blue Anchor – Washford – Watchet – Doniford – Williton – Stogumber – Crowcombe Heathfield – Bishops Lydeard)

First Bus 28 Timetable (Taunton – Bishops Lydeard – Williton – Watchet – Washford – Dunster – Minehead)

Here are the photos I took on this walk.

Complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Details | Slideshow

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2 Responses to 11. Watchet to Minehead

  1. I remember doing a walk across part of Exmoor and through Dunster last April. We weren’t concerned with cars passing down the narrow streets though – instead, the roads were closed off with an audience lining either side in preparation for a parade led by dozens of local children. We also walked up to Conygar Tower and caught glimpses of deer up on Exmoor. Fortunately, by the sounds of it, the eyesore of Butlins was in the opposite direction of our return route to Carhampton. A lovely part of the country I aim to explore more of.

    • jcombe says:

      Thanks for the kind comment. It sounds a lovely walk. I’d like to have had time to go up Conygar Tower too. Something for another visit I guess!

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