Walks at Montacute House
There is lots to explore beyond the boundaries of Montacute House and garden.
It’s hard not to be drawn out into the parkland by the sweeping ornamental avenue of lime trees, which marks the original approach to the house.
There are acres of parkland to explore, including Mill Copse where Welhams Brook flows; see if you can find the remains of a water mill and plunge pool in the wooded area bordering the stream. The water is now managed, with the help of ‘leaky dams’, riffles and backwaters, to flow slowly and so help prevent flooding – it also helps create a habitat for aquatic flora and fauna.
In the parkland look out for veteran trees, including oaks and sweet chestnuts that were already old when Montacute House was built; you may spot a Little owl, thrush or woodpecker. For the young and the young at heart, seek out the tree swings in the parkland – there’s nothing like a swing to get the blood flowing.
Some of the best views of the village of Montacute are from Ladies’ Walk, a delightful path that runs up though the beech woods that circle the village. The colours are magnificent and there are some of the best views of the village from this path. Pause on one of the benches that looks down on the church and see if you can spot the buildings that were once part of the mediaeval Abbey.
There’s a footpath that leads you back down through the village past the dovecote and fishpond – look back to spot the Gothic arch marking the spring and wellhead.
St Michael's Hill
Montacute village got its name from this hill, originally called ‘Mons Acutus’ (which means ‘sharp hill’ in Latin). The Normans built a motte-and-bailey castle on top, with a chapel dedicated to St Michael; all that now remains are the footings, on which the Phelips family built a tower in the 18th century, but the name lingers on.
Circling round the south-eastern side along Hedge Cock Lane, you’ll be walking along a probable Iron Age ditch, that may also be a Roman boundary. Pause to admire the work of the National Trust’s volunteer dry stone wallers – it’s a job for those with patience, but their work will be there for many years to come!
It’s a steep pull to the summit but the reward is magnificent views in all directions across Somerset. Climb Prospect Tower’s spiral staircase to see even further.