First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A glorious day of sun and wind, with cotton-wool clouds chasing each other across the deep blue sky over Corton Denham. Aubretia glowed in purple and pink along the garden walls of the South Somerset village, sprawled along its lanes at the foot of the long green down of Corton Hill.
Out in the fields skylarks sprang up singing from the chocolate-brown plough furrows, where chunks of pale limestone lay scattered. We headed north along the Monarch’s Way with an enormous prospect spread on our left hand, a wooded vale leading to Glastonbury Tor, the summit tower a tiny pimple at the apex of its steadily rising, beast-like back. The long line of the Mendip Hills closed the view, running off westward to the green wedge of Brent Knoll 25 miles away.
On the slopes under Parrock Hill a flock of sheep ran frantically bleating after the farmer as she puttered by on her quad to refill the feeder. One of the ewes came cautiously up to sniff my fingers. Her lamb peeped out shyly from the shelter of its mother’s flank, the sun shining shell-pink through its outsize propeller-shaped ears.
From the mellow stone houses of Sutton Montis the old greenway of Folly Lane brought us across the medieval ridge-and-furrow to South Cadbury, tucked in the lee of Cadbury Castle’s great ramparted hill fort. A look round the excellent archaeological display in the Camelot Inn, a glance at the 700-year-old figure of Thomas à Becket painted on a window arch in the village church, and we were climbing a stony cart track through the Iron Age ramparts to the wide, sloping summit of the hill.
Did King Arthur, the ‘once-and-future King’, ever feast here with his warriors and his treacherous queen? Undoubtedly not as Tennyson and Hollywood depict him, all in shining armour in many-towered Camelot. But a major excavation in 1966-70 brought to light the foundations of a great aisled feasting hall, built in the early Dark Ages at the crown of Cadbury Castle. And spectral riders still sally forth from the fort at midnight, local stories say, their horses shod with silver that flashes in the starlight.
Start: Queen’s Arms, Corton Denham, Somerset DT9 4LR (OS ref ST 635225)
Getting there: Corton Denham is signposted from South Cadbury (A303 between Wincanton and Sparkford)
Walk (7½ miles, lanes and field paths, OS Explorer 129): From Queen’s Arms, left. Opposite church, left along Middle Ridge Lane. Round left bend; in 30m, right (633224, ‘Woodhouse’) up lane. At top, over stile; west across 3 fields, then cross 2 stiles and turn right (625224, ‘Monarch’s Way’/MW). MW north for 1 mile; descend from Parrock Hill to road (629241).
Up road opposite (‘South Cadbury’); in 150m, left up stony lane to road (626246). Left to T-junction; right (‘Little Weston’) out of Sutton Montis. In ½ mile on left bend, right on footpath (620252, ‘Leland Trail’/LT, ‘South Cadbury’). In 100m (626256), left over stile (LT); right along hedge. Stiles, LT for 600m to Folly Lane; left to South Cadbury. At Camelot pub, right (632256); 100m past church, right up lane (632254, ‘Cadbury Camelot’) to Cadbury Castle hill fort.
Make circuit of ramparts; return to road. Right; in 500m pass Crang’s Lane on left. In 100m, left (633249, fingerpost, yellow arrow/YA), down across field, across brook (YA) and on ahead across field and past barn. At entrance to green lane (633246), right over stile; left along hedge, then line of trees, then bank on left. In ½ mile, right (637240, YA) down fenced path, then lane past Whitcombe Farm and on to road junction (631237). Left; pass road on left; in 100m, left up steps and over stile (‘Corton Denham’). Follow path up through hedges, on with hedge/fence on right for ⅔ mile. Through gate (635229); down green lane to road; left to Queen’s Arms.
Lunch: The Camelot, South Cadbury (01963-441685, camelotpub.co.uk) – features Cadbury Castle exhibition
Accommodation: Queen’s Arms, Corton Denham (01963-220317, thequeensarms.com) – stylish, comfortable village inn.
Info: Yeovil TIC (01935-462781)
Walk The Wight: Sponsored charity walk across the Isle of Wight, Sunday 14 May –