Enjoy a bracing walk this winter along one of the great landmarks of the Somerset coastline. It’s a steep climb to the top, but the views out across the Bristol Channel make it well worth the effort. End the walk with a mince pie by a toasty log fire at the Cove Café.
- Bus stop
Start: Cove Café, grid ref: ST296588
Follow the road from the café towards the headland until you reach some fairly steep steps. These will lead you up onto the Down.
Why not stop in at the Cove Café for some festive cheer? Either on your way up or on the way back, enjoy Christmas music and mince pies by a cosy log fire. The café is open daily, 11am-4pm. May be closed in bad weather. Quiet, friendly dogs welcome.
Once on the Down, take the path to the left, along the southern slopes. In early summer look out for the white flowers of the rare white rock rose which flourishes in the thin limestone soils.
This large whaleback headland is an extension of the limestone rocks of the Mendip Hills. The vegetation on its steep, rocky southern slopes and cliffs contrasts with that on the gentler slopes of the north side where the soil is deeper. To preserve the rich variety of vegetation, grass and scrub need to be cut back otherwise they can overwhelm more delicate plants. Cattle, rabbits and feral goats help to mow the turf. Listen out for the loud, sharp call of the stonechat. You may also catch a glimpse of skylark, meadow pipit, linnet and peregrine falcon.
Continue along the path until you come to the site of a Romano-Celtic temple. It was built in about AD 340, close to a Bronze Age burial mound. Rock from a quarry on the Down provided some of the stone for the building.
Further along the path you will come across the remains of a Celtic field system, a series of small rectangular fields.
Continue up towards the fort, which is located on a small hill. Here you can take a closer look at the remains of the fortifications and enjoy spectacular views across the Bristol Channel.
In 1862, 4 acres (1.6ha) were requisitioned at the tip of Brean Down to build up fortifications to protect access to Bristol and Cardiff in fear of the growing strength of France under Napoleon III. No shots were ever fired in action, but regular drill and gunnery practice was part of the routine. The fort was re-armed at the start of the Second World War.
From the fort make your way back along the other side of the Down to the site of the Iron Age hill-fort. Take a closer look at the banks and ditches before continuing along the path. Follow it round to the right. This will take you back to the steps and down to the café.
This rugged headland is the site of archaeological remains from the Iron Age. A hill-fort was first built here in about 300BC to defend the entrance to the River Axe, which was an important trade route for lead coming out of the Mendips.
End: Cove Café, grid ref: ST296588
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- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 3 miles (5km)
- Time: 1 hour
- OS Map: Explorer 153; Landranger 182
Steep at first, some steps and paths are grassy and rocky in places. Good footwear is advised. Height gain of 320ft (97m) over the walk. If on Brean beach (not National Trust) be aware of deep mud at low tide. Cliffs are dangerous (children should be supervised). Keep an eye out for changes in the weather as there is little shelter on top of the Down. Dogs should be kept under close control at all times.
- How to get here:
By foot: short walk along Berrow beach (not National Trust)
By bus: First (Avon) 102 and 112, Burnham to Brean and Weston-super-Mare
By train: Highbridge, 8.5 miles (13.7km). From here, take 112 bus
By car: signposted from A370 from Weston-super-Mare to Highbridge, follow Burnham and Berrow coast road. 8 miles (12.8km) from M5 junction 22
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