Start/end point: Church of St Pancras, West Bagborough
Distance: 10.5km. Time: 3hrs (including lunch and many, many photo stops!)
Footwear: Could be muddy with recent rains, some lose stones, so dress heels not recommended 🙂
This was one of the most visually rewarding day walks we have ever done. The scenery you will pass is just breathtakingly beautiful with wildflowers covering lush, grassy banks that surround the ancient drovers paths this walk will take you along.
Start your exploration of the Quantock Hills in the quaint village of West Bagsborough, its claim to fame being the site of a discovery of a massive hoard of Roman coins, so keep your eyes peeled! The village was ravaged by the plague in the 14th century, and as I write this we are into the first few weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, so a salutary reminder of human fragility centuries later.
The 15th century church of St Pancras (no station here!) and its collection of forlorn gravestones is at the junction of a number of footpaths, but you are looking for the Quantock Greenway sign just through the church gate pointing to the left.
You will follow a bridleway along a path adorned with wildflowers in the spring, Primrose, celandine, hyacinth, daisies, snowbells and of course the classic daffodil. At the end of March it was a riot of colour. Look out to your left across the open countryside and keep an eye out for buzzards. We saw several circling overhead checking out where lunch might be.
The path is pretty well signed, but when you start climbing up over an open field just keep heading straight.
You’ll come to a t- junction with Rock Lane, turn right and head uphill, our path will then curve round to the left.
You have a fairly steep uphill lane to climb with a deserted quarry on your right, the stone being used to build Heathrow’s runway 1, as well as many of the local houses.
Keep following the path up until you reach a car park with an information board which describes “the Bronze Age monolith” of the Triscombe Stone as being “nearby”. The author cleary had a sense humour.
We went hunting around the area for a path to the “monolith” to no avail, then came back to the board and nearly fell over an unassuming little rock under our feet. Yup, thats it. But just imagine the history absorbed in that piece of stone. Thought to be a meeting point on two old drovers roads, the tales that would be told of the journey and the exchange of news of what was happening the country, Viking raids, kings coming and going. We forget today with our instantaneous communication how hungry for news people would have been.
If you’re peckish for those sandwiches burning a hole in your rucksack, or just fancy a break, then there’s a seat just over the hedge from the information board with a stunning view across the sweeping valleys to the hazy outline of Exmoor on the distant horizon.
We had to drag ourselves away from this stunning view, but the highest point in the Quantock Hills was calling, Wills Neck, not an oxygen stealing height at 1,261 feet (384m), but with views that belied its height. On a clear day….or so the song goes…they stretch over to Wales and with a decent telescope you would no doubt be able to count the sheep. Wikipedia reliably informs me that Wills Neck is in fact a “Marilyn”. Yes I was puzzled but on further research learned that a Marilyn is in fact any hill with a prominence of over 490 feet (150m), a term coined in a book written by an Englishman called Alan Dawson who casually thumbed one at the Scots and their proud “Munro” classification for hills over 3,000 feet. Get it? Marilyn Munro..for the avoidance of doubt.
As we walked up to the cairn marking the summit, we saw a statue of a horse placed next to it. Then the statue nodded…ah..a real horse…that had just chosen the best view in the area to survey her domain, gazing wistfully over the hills dreaming of crunchy oats and a dessert of succulent grass. It really was quite unnerving to see this magnificent creature just stood there, big brown eyes fixed on the far horizon. Apparently they are semi-wild, left out to roam, but feed provided for them, according to a local couple we met and talked to from the mandated 2 metres away (remember those days?).
The walk then heads to the tree line of Bagborough Plantation, and as you approach it head to a stile in front of you, an an unmarked trail but it will bring you out onto a broader path where you turn right onto the Quantock Greenway. A short stroll takes you along to the car park at Lydeard Hill, with views over to the Bristol Chanel and Hinckley Power Station.
You’re then a short tarmac walk down to the West Bagborough Road, turn right onto it and watch out on your left for a gate that has open views though it.
Stick your head over and look right into the field. If you’ve got the right gate then there’s a monument thats worth a stroll down to. It’s a memorial to a local who loved these hills – how could you not? Just sit yourself down in the little nook, breathe that fresh air, and count your blessings. A little further down the hill is Tilbury Holiday Cottages, with a range of accomodation, and our temporary home sheltering from the 2020 pandemic. Further down the hill The Rising Sun Inn is on your right. I hope by the time you’re reading this it has once again reopened and you can enjoy a cool drink and a bite with the locals. A short stroll and you’re at your car, with I trust some great memories tucked away of a fine day out in the Quantock Hills.