Walking in Exmoor: Day two
Holnicote Estate, SomersetRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Part two of a two-day walk on the Holnicote Estate, tried and tested by environment and travel journalist, Mark Rowe. Starting in Allerford, you'll head south through Horner Wood and onto Dunkery Beacon.
- Bus stop
Start: Allerford, grid ref: SS905468
From Allerford, head for Holnicote House, HF Holidays and the National Trust Estate Yard. Follow field paths and lane to Horner and then follow Horner Water into Horner Wood.
Horner Wood is a National Nature Reserve and, at 818 acres (331ha) is one of the UK's largest ancient oak woodlands. In terms of wildlife, the wood's main draw is 15 of the 17 UK species of bat, but there's plenty of other wildlife that resides here, such as the tuneful chiffchaff (pictured). You'll also be struck by the hundreds of trees covered in green lichens, a real feature of many of Exmoor's combes and woodlands.
Take the first footbridge on the left and follow Tuckers Path, zig-zagging out of the wood to Webbers Post, Jubilee Hut and the car park viewpoint.
Follow the contours round to Dunkery Beacon and then head south-west across moorland to Porlock Post (SS861411).
Dunkery Beacon is the highest point on Exmoor and Somerset, with views north and south. From the summit you can see how nature, as well as mankind, has shaped Exmoor. Ice ages never reached this far south, but its reckoned they froze the hills, and when the land finally warmed up, the melt water cut and sliced through the Devonian sandstone, creating the distinctive deep valleys we see today. The memorial cairn which marks the spot commemorates the donation of the site to the National Trust in 1935.
Follow the road north across Wilmersham Common and take the track on the left (SS861413), past the quarry along Embercome Water and follow Nutscale Water down to the ford. Follow the wide track out of the combe.
Turn right onto main track and take left path into Dady Combe, dropping down Lang Combe into Horner Wood.
Later, follow Granny's Ride and Flora's Ride onto Ley Hill. Drop down Halse Combe to West Luccombe and return to Allerford via Piles Mill.
There's one final delight before journeys end: Halse Combe, the heartland of a recovery project for the embattled heath fritillary butterfly. At the turn of this century, the brown-orange heath fritillary was all but extinct. It doesn't help itself by being a poor flier, able to flutter a mile at most, so it struggles to traverse any boundary separating its fragmented favoured habitats. The butterfly is known as the woodmans' follower, because it settles into land that had been cut and cleared by woodcutters and also adapted to seasonal burning. As both declined, so did the butterfly.
End: Allerford, grid ref: SS905468
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Hard
- Distance: 16 miles (25km)
- Time: 6 hours to 7 hours
- OS Map: Exmoor Outdoor Leisure 9
Several steep climbs and steep descents. Some stiles and gates. High moorland walking on exposed ground, some paths indistinct, though most are clear and well used. Were assuming youre comfortable with map reading and grid references, can use a compass and probably prefer in any case to put together your own walk, ad lib a bit, following a path or feature that looks worth nosing around, rather than stick rigidly to a route. Dogs welcome under close control. PLEASE NOTE: the map provided is intended as a rough guide, please take a map with you and wear sensible walking gear.
- How to get here:
By bus: Service 28, Taunton railway station, platform 2, to Minehead, half-hourly; service 39, Minehead to Selworthy, Allerford and Porlock, daily except Sundays
By train: Taunton, 28 miles, then take bus service 28
By car: off A39 Minehead to Porlock, 3 miles west of Minehead
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