Washford - Watchet - Blue Anchor - Old Cleeve - Washford

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The walk starts from opposite Cleeve Abbey in the village of Washford. Dating from the late 12th Century, the abbey was closed by Henry VIII in 1536 and became a country house. It is one of the best-preserved Cistercian medieval monasteries in the country and is now owned by English Heritage – you may want to visit it before the walk (admission charge for non-members). Of special interest is the 'angel' roof in the refectory and the wall paintings in the painted chamber. Washford Station (return to the A39 and turn left) is home to the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust and houses a railway museum.

The first section of the walk is along part of the bed of the old West Somerset Mineral Railway (WSMR). This eleven-mile-long railway was constructed in the mid-18th Century to take iron ore from the Brendon Hills to the harbour at Watchet. Our route here runs alongside the West Somerset Railway (WSR) which runs both steam and diesel trains along the line; these are infrequent enough to be added points of interest rather than intrusions.

Named after wacet, a blueish alabaster found in the cliffs here from which a blue dyestuff was once made, Watchet became an early trading centre owing to its harbour. It has the second highest rise and fall of the tide in the world – six metres (twenty feet). Watchet Harbour was supposedly the inspiration behind Coleridge's poem 'The Ancient Mariner' and there is a statue on the quayside to commemorate this. The harbour has been converted to a marina and the major industries are now paper-milling, fishing and tourism.

Watchet has two museums, a boat museum and The Market House Museum, which has artefacts and information on Watchet's history including fossils and neolithic spearheads.

After possibly pausing for refreshment, our route leaves Watchet on the coast road as far as Daws Castle, a prominent hill-fort on a cliff. Here it leaves the road and follows the coast path. Daws Castle's origins are possibly Iron Age, but it was rebuilt and fortified by King Alfred for defence against Viking raids. It was also the site of the town's mint. In the 10th Century, coins were minted here for King Ethelred and five other Saxon kings.

Our route continues along the coast, skirting a caravan park and fields of crops to Blue Anchor. Here it leaves the coast and starts the return leg cross-country to Washford, visiting the 12th Century Church of St Andrew's at Old Cleeve on the way. The route from the church to Washford follows that which the monks once used on their way to Cleeve Abbey and re-enters Washford by descending the Monks Steps. These can be avoided by remaining on the road at Waymark 14 and can be viewed in advance by looking under the railway bridge between Waymarks 2 and 3 on the outward journey.

The walk is suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs as far as Watchet.

England - South West England - Somerset - Countryside

Features

Ancient Monument, Birds, Butterflies, Cafe, Church, Flowers, Food Shop, Gift Shop, Good for Kids, Industrial Archaeology, Mostly Flat, Museum, Play Area, Pub, Public Transport, River, Sea, Tea Shop, Toilets, Woodland

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Accommodation
Distance away
24.3 Miles