First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Above the thatched cottages of Selworthy, the whitewashed tower of All Saints Church looked out across a wide green valley to the high undulating skyline of the Exmoor hills. A perfect view for a perfect winter’s day of blue sky and brisk wind.
A buzz like that of an angry wasp showed where someone was busy cutting wood in Selworthy Combe. The path rose through the trees between banks of tiny trumpet-shaped mosses. A robin perched on a post, puffing out his red breast and trilling a silvery call, quite unafraid as we passed within touching distance.
A brook came rustling down over neat little log spillways, its soft rich chuckle accompanying us all the way up through the oak and holly groves to the moor above. A contrast as abrupt as a knife cut, abandoning the shelter of the woods for the open moor where a biting wind ruffled the seas of heather and gorse running away to the horizon.
The National Trust and Holnicote Estate take great care and trouble over these 12,000 acres of upland, moor and combes. The woods are sensitively managed, the farms well run, and the hundreds of miles of footpath properly signposted.
We followed a broad bridleway through the gorse to the cairn on Selworthy Beacon. From here the view was mighty, over the rolling Exmoor hills, east and west along the curved cliffs of the Somerset coast, and out north across a Bristol Channel as pale as ice to the misty shores of South Wales under a long triple bar of cloud.
Above us only sky, as blue as delicate porcelain. We skirted a harras of Exmoor ponies, long tails billowing in the wind, and struck east along the South West Coast Path with the sea at our left elbow. A long cattle train of belted Galloway heifers went gadding and lurching along the skyline at a clumsy canter, delighted to be out in the open air.
The coast path led between sheep pastures through wind-stunted gorse bushes as stout as trees. A solitary bee buzzed among the gold gorse flowers, first raider of the year.
We turned inland and dropped down to Wydon Farm, hidden in a cleft so steep that, like Lucy in ‘The Tale of Mrs Tiggy Winkle,’ it looked ‘as though we could have dropped a pebble down the chimney.’
The homeward path lay along high-banked farm lanes. Tiny lambs bleated in quavering voices for their mothers, and a little egret stepped fastidiously along a streamlet, searching with gimlet eyes for any morsel to assuage its winter hunger.
How hard is it? 5½ miles; moderate hill walk, very well waymarked
Start: All Saints Church car park (£1 donation), Selworthy, Minehead, Somerset TA24 8TR (OS ref SS 920468)
Getting there: Selworthy is signed off A39 (Minehead to Porlock)
Walk (OS Explorer OL9): Left along road; right by church and follow ‘Selworthy Beacon’ fingerposts for 1 mile to Selworthy Beacon (919480). At cairn/trig pillar, left for 100m; right down to South West Coast Path (917481). Right along SWCP; in 1½ miles, right (938476, ‘Wydon ½’ fingerpost). In ½ mile at Wydon Farm, right (938470) on road. In 400m fork right (939466, ‘Hindon’). At Hindon Farm, left (933466) up track to road (931464). Ahead; in 300m, right (932461, ‘Selworthy Beacon’). At East Lynch Farm fork right (929462, ‘bridleway’). In 100m fork right again; in 50m, left (927463, stile, ‘public footpath’). Along fence to stile (935464); half right to road (923466); left into Selworthy.
Lunch/accommodation: Ship Inn, Porlock TA24 8QD (01643-862507, shipinnporlock.co.uk)