Sunday, 25 May 2014

What you need to know about... the West Mendip Way, the Quantock Greenway, the Coleridge Way, the Exe Valley Way (Footpaths Nos. 22, 23, 24 & 25)

With only 36 days left to go before I set off from John O’Groats it’s time to give you all the next stage of my planned route on Big Dave’s Little Stroll. We left the last instalment with my intention to follow the Monarch’s Way few only a few miles of its 615 mile total length, switching on to the Samaritans Way South West until I had reached the magnificent Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, so we’ll pick it up from there... at the Cheddar Gorge.
Well... I say the Cheddar Gorge. Actually I’ll pick up the Mendip Way West at Compton Martin, by initially walking down a stretch of road, then onto a footpath that runs past Charterhouse, westwards past Black Rock and further on to the Cliff Road at Cheddar Gorge.
The West Mendip Way was opened in 1979 and starts at the Bristol Channel at Uphill Cliff. It climbs the Mendip escarpment affording views over the Somerset Levels. It then crosses the central Mendip plateau leading down to Cheddar Gorge and on to Wells. Most of the western section is within the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Once at the Gorge the route takes me along the top of the cliffs and spins south towards Draycott before it reaches Cheddar itself, and then eastwards to Priddy before turning south again to the infamous Wookey Hole.
At Wookey Hole I intend to hop back on to our old friend the Samaritans Way South West (Footpath No. 20) which will take me further still southwards, through Godney, Glastonbury and Street.
Still following the Samaritans Way, I’ll turn sharply westwards past Walton, Pedwell, Moorlinch, Sutton Mallett and Chedzoy, until eventually I’ll reach Bridgewater. I stick with the Samaritans Way southwest as far as Goathurst, before switching to the Quantock Greenway.
The Quantock Greenway is a footpath in the Quantock Hills in Somerset, which opened in 2001. The route of the path follows a figure of 8 centred on Triscombe, the northern loop taking in Crowcombe and Holford is 19 miles (31 km), the southern loop to Broomfield is 18 miles (29 km). It travels through many different types of landscape, including deciduous and coniferous woodland, private parkland, grazed pasture and cropped fields. Big Dave’s Little Stroll with follow part of the southern loop up past Enmore and Spaxton to the Hawkridge Reservoir, then the northern loop as far as Bicknoller, via Holford and West Quantoxhead.
From Bicknoller the route joins the Coleridge Way, which technically coincides with some of the route already taken on the Quantock Way but strikes out on in its own right from this point.
The footpath is waymarked. It starts in the Quantock Hills (England's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), passing through the villages of Holford, West Quantoxhead and Bicknoller (the same as the Quantock Greenway).
It then moves onto the Brendon Hills, within Exmoor National Park, through the villages of Monksilver, Roadwater and Luxborough, across Lype Hill, until it reaches Wheddon Cross... which is where I get off.
From there the route takes some lesser known footpaths westwards across the Exmoor National Park through Luckwell Bridge and towards Exford – where I may stray from my strict route to visit the local pub!
Just south of Exford itself, the route stops its westward trajectory and takes a sharp southerly turn along the Exe Valley Way so far as Withypool.
At Withypool the path coincides for a time with the Two Moors Way, the next of Big Dave's chosen footpaths... but we’ll leave that for the next instalment.
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