Woodland Hill circular walk, Somerset
Woodlands Hill car park, Somerset, TA5 1SERoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Take a step back in time and look for signs of our ancestors in this mysterious woodland. Disappear into the mixed woodland and climb high onto protected heathland with fantastic views and the chance to encounter some native wildlife.
- Bus stop
Start: Woodlands Hill car park, grid ref: ST158406
At the car park, facing the road (A39), head left along the path. Bear left at path junction with road (leads to lay-by).
This walk brings you through woods of varying species and ages, with hidden clues to previous usage. During your walk look out for old field boundaries and stock pools (linked to medieval stock grazing), coppice stools (linked to charcoal production for iron working and the tanning process) and excavated trial pits (in search of copper). The varied age structure of the woodland is a result of its previous management. On the lower sections you'll find mature sessile oak, while on higher ground you'll find examples of younger coppiced scrub oak.
At the end of the path turn left through a wooden gate and enter Woodlands Hill. Walk straight up into the forest (also part of Coleridge Way).
As you walk through the woodland keep an eye out for ants' nests. These large ants (5-11mm) build nests on the woodland floor from dead leaves and twigs. Look for mounds, up to 3ft (1m) in height, in sunny spots along the edges of paths or clearings in the forest. Nests may hold over 100,000 ants in underground networks of chambers and tunnels.
At the path junction, continue straight ahead, keeping the stone wall on your right. During the wetter months a pool of water gathers on the left-hand side of the track used as a wallow by deer. The gradient gradually increases to a moderate level as you approach the woodland edge.
Throughout the woodland you may see evidence of various boundaries (point 2). Boundaries were constructed in different ways to denote the enclosed region. Parish boundaries (pictured) tended to be stone banks set with beech trees, while earth banks denoted field boundaries.
Emerge into the open heathland. On the right, look across the wooded valley of Holford Combe, with Longstone Hill in the distance. Keep left at a fork in the path. From this point you're treated to wonderful views of the Somerset Levels, Mendip Hills, Bristol Channel and the Brecon Beacons in South Wales, on a clear day. Keep your eye out for a hidden stone seat ideally positioned to enjoy the views.
Numerous bird species can be heard singing in the woodland and open heath throughout the year, while wood ants make their home on the woodland floor. Red deer (pictured) are often seen grazing on the woodland edge early in the morning. In summer butterflies may be seen in the open areas in the woodland.
At the path junction, with a stone cairn (mound of rock) on your right, turn left and head downhill. Before turning take in the view straight ahead towards Dowsborough; an Iron Age hill fort.
Continue straight along the path into Shervage wood (take care of exposed tree roots). Bear right through a break in an old field boundary (earth bank) into the woodland. On the woodland floor next to the path look out for wood ants nests.
After roughly 1,000ft (300m) look out for an arrow pointing left carved into a dead tree (difficult to spot). Turn left and follow this path down a steep slope until you reach a fence line. Walk quietly as you may startle some grazing red deer along the woodland edge.
When you reach the fence, turn left and follow it along the edge of the mature section of oak woodland. Keep the fence on your right and follow it around two corners until you reach a latched gate.
End: Woodlands Hill car park, grid ref: ST158406
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 1.8 miles (3km)
- Time: 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes
- OS Map: Explorer 140; Landranger 181
The circular walk begins on a rocky trail through woodland, which can be muddy in wet weather. The walk progresses to grassy paths through open healthland on the hilltop and back into uneven woodland paths. Much of the terrain is gently sloping with some steep sections leading to and from the hilltop. Dogs welcome under close control or on a lead. From 1 March to 31 July dogs must be on a lead.
- How to get here:
By foot: From the Plough Inn, follow Back Lane to centre of village, then turn left at the green triangle along Stowey Lane towards A39. Turn right and follow the footpath parallel to the road to the car park
By bike: Extensive bridleway networks lead to car park from across the surrounding hills. Adjacent A39 is busy and unsuitable for bicycles
By bus: Service 14/614/615 from Bridgwater, alight at Holford village (by phone box), then 1640ft (500m) by road to car park
By car: Take junction 23/24 on M5. From Bridgwater follow A39 towards Holford village (10 miles). National Trust car park (free), on left before village
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