The Leland Trail
An amble with Amber
Anne Coombs and Jane Cummings
We’re lucky enough to live in lovely Somerset, and wanted a walk that we could do half a day at a time. We started in November, and continued through a rainy winter, on and off, and into a dry spring and early summer. This trail is divided up into seven 3–4 hour strolls in our Trail Guide, (sadly no longer available) so OS Explorer 142 and 129 are the maps to get. It roughly follows the path that John Leland travelled in about 1542.
Click on the underlined names to go to the relevant website.
Alfred’s Tower to Bruton
The walk starts from Alfred’s Tower, at the top of the Stourhead Estate. The tower is sometimes open and can be climbed and the views are fabulous on a clear day. There was no problem parking near the tower in a lay by in November, and there is also a free NT carpark further along the road on the left. We walked back down the road for a short way towards Bruton until we saw the Macmillan Way crossing the road, and turned left onto this footpath. The Leland Trail and Macmillan Way follow the same paths until Castle Cary.
This path wanders through the Stourhead estate woodland, with quite a few paths joining and leaving. Eventually, after about 20 minutes we got to this post showing the Leland Trail logo —a bust of the man himself (a bit of a relief, the first confirmation we were on the correct path) and turned right. Just past here we left the Stourhead Estate through a gate and onto a metalled lane. And a few yards further on, the path turned right.
As you come to the end of the woodlands there is a confusing open space, with two possible exits, we took the left, (the picture on the left), NOT the right, (the picture below), and arrived at a kissing gate in about 150 yards. After this, navigation was much easier.
From now, until we reached the main road between Bruton and Wincanton, the path was arrow straight and obvious. Ironically, there were more signposts.
We turned round frequently to see the fine views of Alfred’s Tower rising through the trees like a fairy tale castle.
There were a number of stiles, not all of them in good repair.
After crossing a couple of tiny metalled roads we eventually started to hear distant traffic sounds and passed round the back of a house to a stile with a wicker pheasant on the post.
A few hundred yards further on we reached a lovely tunnel of trees.
At the end of the tunnel we came upon a place with two stiles. One in the middle of a clearing going nowhere, but reassuringly marked with the Leland Trail sign. The other leading onto the busy B3081.
After crossing this road, and making our way along the grass verge (for safety’s sake), we took the next turning left, marked Shepton Montague, and walked along the road for a few hundred yards. Just after the last house on the right hand side we turned right, back onto the footpath. This runs roughly parallel to the road into Bruton, about one field over.
The day was hazy, but we could just make out Glastonbury Tor in the distance to our right.
After crossing a number of fields we entered a field with hedgerow seemingly going right around, and walked to the bottom right hand corner. Here we found a pair of stiles with a plank bridge going over a little brook.
We emerged into an irregularly shaped field, with the first view of Bruton and the Dovecot in front of us. The footpath is apparently meant to go across the field diagonally, at least on the OS map. We weren’t keen on walking across a ploughed field so we walked round the edge to the gate in the bottom far corner. This brought us back to the B3081 just before it enters Bruton. The Hauser and Wirth Art Gallery and Roth Bar are very nearby at Durslade Farm (there is a lovely garden as well as a Contemporary Art Gallery — worth a visit if you’re not too muddy, and nice food too). Bruton has some good places to eat, and a well-known Packhorse Bridge spanning the River Brue.
The official trail goes left along Park Wall past the Dovecote, and then right along Godminster Lane to Plox, over the River Brue into Bruton High Street. We took the more direct route through the carpark at Hauser and Wirth and across the road onto a permissive path towards town which comes out near the railway station. The walk took us about three hours in total, (4.8 miles) with short stops to look at the views and have a quick coffee break (from our flasks, no cafés until Bruton). Gentle downhill walking all the way.
Bruton to Castle Cary
It was below freezing when we set off, so Amber was sporting her new warm coat.
The walk starts at the west end of Bruton High Street, in Trendle Lane which goes between a children’s clothes shop and a house, sign posted to Wyke Champflower. It climbs quickly out of Bruton.
At the top we went through the gate and straight ahead.
At this point we could look back to see Alfred’s Tower in the distance, the start of the Trail.
Lots of lovely mature trees line the path. All three of us like trees, though perhaps for different reasons.
There is a series of well maintained stiles that cross the fields near the Wyke Farm site. The path is clear, going in a slight zigzag, leading round to the right of the building with the silvery roof.
Looking right, you can see where Wyke Farm Cheese comes from. It looks very ‘dark satanic mills’, but this was a cold day and we thought this was steam. In fact the farm has a biogas plant (visible later in the walk, at least in winter) and solar panels and is completely, and impressively, self sufficient in energy.
As we walked down the field we could see Wyke Champflower church to your left. But we noticed some big holes underfoot — an enormous badger sett we guessed, with a lot of entrances— a real ankle twister if you fell into one.
At the end of the field the path joins a lane, small, but used by farm vehicles as well as cars, so quite busy. A few hundred metres along and you pass a farm and then the Manor House of Wyke Champflower, which is attached to the church. It is possible to go round the back of the house to the church, but dogs are not allowed, so we didn’t linger.
Next to the Manor House we crossed a railway bridge, and turned immediately left, down a very quiet country lane, where you find yourself almost doubling back towards Bruton.
This leads under a railway bridge (still in use) to Cole.
At Cole Manor there is a lovely tearoom where we had coffee and cake (sticky ginger, lovely, and dog biscuits for Amber) and warmed up. Fortified, we turned left out of the tearoom and on, past a converted barn on the right, then turned onto the footpath at the end of the barn’s garden. (Signposted Ridge Hill 1.5 miles)
Across a field and through the gate into an orchard, where the farmer has kindly put an extra footpath sign.
At this sign, we crossed over a tiny stream and then straight up through the rows of fruit trees to the hedge at the top of the field.
The frozen apples were hanging on the boughs like Christmas baubles, only better.
We kept going along the top of the orchard until we reached a stile — the only stile so far that Amber hasn’t been able to negotiate, we had to lift her across.
This brought us out on to Ridge Hill, still rather chilly, but a fine view, in spite of the mist. ( I fear I may have lapsed into artiness here, couldn’t resist it, but if Hauser and Wirth were interested…).
Some parts of the path on this hill look as though they could be pretty muddy in milder weather.
After a fair distance the hill ends with a couple of stiles in quick succession, with the second leading down some steps into a quiet lane. We turned left and after a few hundred metres, right onto what looks like an old drove road, Solomon’s Lane, marked ‘Public Bridleway, Higher Ansford’.
At Ansford you again reach civilisation in the form of the A371. It’s a shock after a tranquil morning’s walk. Turn right and after 100 metres or so, go left down into the centre of Castle Cary, a pretty town and worth a look round.
The morning’s walk took us 2 hours 50 minutes, including a longish coffee break at Cole. I remembered to set my pedometer today and it read just over 11,ooo steps, (4 miles).
Castle Cary to North Cadbury
It’s been raining quite a bit since our last walk a few weeks ago, so we were delighted when Day 3 turned out to be bright and mild. Of course there was a fair bit of mud around, but nowhere was too slippery.
The start of the day is through Catherine’s Close in Castle Cary (there is a free carpark here too). We walked through the alley to the square by the Post Office.
The old pepperpot ‘lock up’ is in the middle of the square. Built in 1779 for £23, it has a single cell, and is one of only four in the country. (from the Castle Cary information plaque at the entrance to Paddock Drain below).
Walking down past the museum we crossed over the road and went straight ahead between the George Hotel and a hairdressers to the less than romantically named Paddock Drain.
The walk up Paddock Drain leads to Lodge Hill where some of the castle earthworks can still be seen. The views are lovely, and there are a few nice benches handily placed to sit and take them in.
At the top of the hill, along the ridge, there is a raised platform which was set up at the Millenium, with a viewpoint plaque.
There are two stiles at the top, the one on the left is the Leland Trail. It leads on to a well used farm track, the photo below is looking back towards Castle Cary. We found cord stretched across the road on this track, so beware. There was also one stretched in front of the next gate.
Once again, Alfred’s Tower was visible in the distance on the left.
We made a right mess of the next part of the walk, the first of a few times we got lost today. The main track turns right, and the Leland Trail goes straight on, through a gate into a field. It was quite muddy, so we were watching our feet and missed the next gate about 50 yards on the right, set into the wire fence. (How did we manage it!?) After a perplexing 10 minutes we realised our mistake and were soon on the right track again, heading across the next field towards the telegraph pole at the end of the hedgerow. We walked down the side of the hedge to the next stile, not in the best repair.
The next field lead to a small electricity substation next to the A359. We turned left along this busy and fast road and made our way as quickly as possible to the path on the other side of the road about 100 yards or so along, heading east. In our eagerness to get off the road we turned in to a little lane with a wide metal gate about 20 yards along it. (In fact the path is about 10 yards further along marked by an ivy covered fingerpost). Another 10 minutes head scratching and we realised our mistake and found the correct path. The photo is taken from the other side of the road and makes it look easy — it’s not so obvious on the ground.
This path lead down a valley bottom, through various gates and straight on to Hick’s Lane, a fairly firm bridleway.
Eventually Hick’s Lane descends through ferns and trees to a metalled road and a signpost. It’s been a mile since the A359.
Keep straight ahead for another 200 yards or so down the metalled road to a footpath sign pointing right to Sandbrook Lane 1/2 mile and Brookhampton 1 mile.
The idea over the next bit seems to be to stick to walking next to the stream (which is on your left).
There are quite a few stiles, some of them down to the left, hidden from view even in winter, and some more obvious in the hedges along the field boundaries. They are all well maintained in this stretch.
It seemed to be going well until we reached a field where we couldn’t see a stile near the stream. We went round it (the field) and found ourselves on Crawford Lane, which turns out to be part of the Monarch’s Way, about a field north of our path. It was easily rectified by walking down the road, where we found the other end of the correct path at Hewlett’s Mill. We could have walked back along it to see where we’d gone wrong, but we didn’t. A mystery for another day.
We stuck to the quiet lane for a while now, which took us, with a few twists and turns, to a set of steps up to a field of horses. (North Cadbury 1/2 mile (FP).) There is a metal gate in the far diagonal corner of this field which leads through to a couple more gates, fields and a playing field for the local school before becoming another green lane.
Someone has kindly decorated this fence with a full doggy poo bag. Inspired by Christmas, we speculated? Perhaps it was reindeer poo.
Not far ahead there is an unmarked junction of paths. The main path swings to the right, over a little bridge; it was the straight and narrow on the left for us, to another little bridge.
Almost there now, we found what must be an oldish sign propped up near the gate with details of the change of route to the Leland Trail. Hard to remember a time when crossing the A303 on foot seemed a reasonable idea!
We turned a bit to the right and walked through a narrow field to a pedestrian gate onto a lane which comes out next to North Cadbury Village Stores. They told us they are about to get a new hot drinks dispensing machine, and they already have a couple of tables in the front garden where you can sit and enjoy that drink. They also have a water bowl for dogs. They don’t have a loo though. There is a pub in the village, the Catash Inn, which we didn’t visit. Turn right out of the shop, next right into High Street, and it’s at the end of the road.
Getting lost a few times and searching for the way meant that this 4 mile walk took us 3 hours 15 minutes and registered 13,500 steps on the pedometer. Not our favourite day.
North Cadbury to Cadbury Castle
A couple of months has passed, and there’s been a fair amount of rain which we didn’t fancy trudging around in. So a short section on a cold, grey day to get us back into the swing.
Opposite the Catash Inn in North Cadbury the path goes down Ridgeway Lane. About 100 yards past a (large) cottage on the left, we went left at this fingerpost.
Almost immediately across this stile and through the gap, then we kept the hedge on our left for about 450 yards. We then reached a concrete track and went straight ahead to a deciduous tree in the middle of the field with conifers around it, then diagonally left across the field to the road. The path was not evident on the ground here, but luckily for us the crop was still very short. There is a gap in the hedge with a (broken) fingerpost where we got out onto the road and turned right. It’s a short walk without a pavement, then the road crosses the A303. Just before the flyover there is a converted Chapel which is now a tearoom. (It was closed when we passed, so can’t say what it’s like to eat there.)
We walked on through South Cadbury and went up Cadbury Castle and around the ramparts. It has marvellous views all round, even on a grey day, and we saw and heard several greater spotted woodpeckers.
On the way back through South Cadbury we passed the pretty Church of St. Thomas à Becket.
We ended our mornings’ walk with a hot drink at the nearby Camelot pub. Wood burning stoves, delicious coffee, and a warm welcome for all three of us (not to mention the lovely fondant fancies the landlady put on the tray). The pub has many newspaper cuttings on display about the excavation of Cadbury Castle in the ’60s, and a stunning painting by artist Jane Brayne, of the Castle as it would have looked in it’s heyday. Very quiet and pleasant on a weekday morning.
Only 7,000 steps today, but we wanted to savour the walk around the ramparts.
South Cadbury to Yeovilton Weir
The official path now goes down the lane by the Camelot pub and across the fields behind the Cadbury Camp (or Castle). We tried this route out another day, and it’s fine, but today we preferred to use the ‘2. enteringes up by very stepe way: one by north est, and another by south west’ (Leland) of Cadbury Castle. We went up the ‘north est’, and to our delight the south west exit was easy to find and a waymarked path emerges on a small lane not far from the Church at Sutton Montis, joining back with the official Leland Trail.
It is worth looking round inside Sutton Montis Church. It has a fine Norman arch and a very attractive font. King Alfred (or was it Arthur?) and his knights are said to come down from Camelot to water their horses here every 12th night.
Eventually we reached the railway line crossing. This is a single track line, and we crossed quickly with Amber on a short lead.
Approaching Queen Camel we headed for the church tower.
There is a very welcoming church at Queen Camel, with a beautifully planted churchyard. We particularly liked the bench (thank you Horticultural Society) where we sat in the sun (which had made an appearance at last!) and had lunch. We were intrigued because we kept seeing smoke billowing from the large Yew tree, but when we went close up to it we realised that it was pollen from the yew flowers. Something neither of us had witnessed before.
We walked down through this charming church path (through the gates near the bench), turned left at the main road and second right into England’s Lane.
After a while we turned right into Green Lane and through a gate towards Wales, a tiny and quiet hamlet. We were now on the church path to West Camel Church.
This is a delightful little church, with a lovely village pond just outside the walls. We particularly liked the rhyme engraved on the bench in the churchyard:-
‘Good friend who to this seat repair
Rest and be thankful but forbear
With sordid scraps the ground to strew
Others rest here as well as you’.
Needless to say we took our ‘sordid scraps’ away with us.
We decided to push on to Yeovilton Weir, where one of our husbands had kindly said he would pick us up. We turned right on the main road running through the village and then first left into Back Lane. When Back Lane turned sharp left and became ‘Southmead’ we went straight ahead through a couple of gates into fields again. Two fields later we turned left into Chantry Lane and started the least pleasant section of the day.
It involves walking down the quiet Chantry Lane, turning right on to the main road, then taking the second left (signed Chilton Cantelo and Mudford) and walking about half a mile down this road until it turns sharply left. At this corner we turned right through a gate and thankfully back to quiet fields. These are not particularly busy roads, but they are fast with no footpaths.
The next section took us a few hundred yards up to, but not across, a footbridge. We turned left here and followed the stream across flat open countryside and after a while met the boundary fence of Yeovilton Airbase (HMS Heron). The way is well marked and eventually we reached Yeovilton Weir, where there is a bench overlooking the water, and more importantly for us, a husband waiting with the car!
This was a very pleasant day’s walking, well signposted (no getting lost), plenty of variety in the countryside, pleasing villages and delightful churches (all open). The pedometer showed about 1600 steps, around 6.5 miles.
Yeovilton Weir to Tintinhull.
No Amber today. She’s getting on a bit, and has a slight limp (under investigation by the vet). So am I, but the vet hasn’t been called to me yet.
Yeovilton Village Church was dedicated in 1993 to all those who died in the service of the Fleet Air Arm. It is well worth a slight detour to the top of the village from the weir, and although an appointment needs to be made to see the inside (ring the Chaplaincy, 01935 455257) the Naval cemetery behind the church is beautifully kept.
After crossing the bridge back at the Weir, we found the path on the right, signposted Limington 1m, Yeovilton 1/2m. The post points straight across the field, but ignore this and head diagonally left, which brings you to a gate which is hidden by hedgerow until you’re almost on top of it.
The next short section is charming, with the path going along by this little stream and crossing first a narrow bridge with a sluice, then another little bridge on the left where we crossed the stream.
When we came to a pair of metal gates we took the left hand one and followed the path along the hedge. Some kind soul had put a little sticker on the gate which helped us here.
On to Ilchester . It is a rather grey and utilitarian looking place, which belies its interesting history. It was the Roman town of Lindinis on the Fosse Way, and flourished into the middle ages, and had its own mint. John Leland says of the town ‘At this tyme (1535–43) it is in wonderful decay, as a thing in a maner rasid with men of warre.’ It is more up together today, and there are at least two pubs, though we didn’t try either. There is a small museum, only open on Thursdays (sadly it was Friday).
When you get to the main road in Ilchester our guide instructed us to ‘turn left on to the High Street’. As left was Church Street and straight ahead was High Street we were confused. We followed High Street, which turned out to be the wrong choice. Turning left on Church Street brings you along to the roundabout over the A37 (least pleasant part today), and we crossed the road to find a rather overgrown footpath signed ‘Sock Dennis Farm 1/2m’.
We kept the stream, such as it was, (no rain for the past month — things were getting parched) on our right, and went over a total of 4 footbridges (including the one by the A37) before reaching Sock Dennis Farm.
The path there passes between two barns.
Our guide explained that Sock Dennis was named after the Dacus (Dane) family, but ‘Soke’ no longer existed by the end of the 18th century. Apparently it is possible to make out the site of the old village, but we didn’t see it. We passed the old farmhouse and over a stile and continued in a fairly straight line.
This path is thought to be of some antiquity and may have been a Roman road. It carries on through fields and then into a small enclosed lane, slightly overgrown even in early May.
This is Sock Lane and we kept our eyes peeled for the path that crosses the lane, (quite a way with a few uphill stretches) with the right hand path going towards Tintinhull (not sign posted).
This is a fairly short detour, and the views, north across Somerset, are lovely. The arrow is fairly accurate, so if you use this detour try to follow the direction, to get to the gate in the hedge, (it’s not obvious, well at least it wasn’t to us). Tintinhull garden was beautiful, and we were met there by a husband as this was the end of today’s walk for us.
Only about 4 miles. About 11,000 steps. Pleasant and easy, but in damper conditions it would have been muddy underfoot as the land is quite low lying.
Tintinhull to Ham Hill Monument.
The final part of the journey. We have to admit that this whole walk is probably easily done in three days, or, for the eager, two days. We have loitered rather (for Amber’s sake, you understand). Talking of Amber, she is still not well enough to walk with us today, but will be there on Ham Hill when we reach the end. Todays walk is only about 3.5 miles.
We retraced our footsteps from Tintinhull to Sock Lane and headed south again. The path is easy, and follows a practically straight course to cross 2 small (but fast) roads.
There were plenty of bumblebees to see in the banks.
The trail continues for a mile or so down Windmill Lane, before becoming virtually a small stream for a few hundred meters just before the A3088.
The A3088 has a lot of heavy and fast traffic, but once we had crossed it, we entered into the Montacute Estate and were soon back in green surroundings.
Once through this gate, the official path turns left, but we turned right towards Montacute House and went into the garden, searching for the Café. (Jane is a National Trust Life Member, so we were comfortable doing this.) The café is very nice and we sat in the delightful courtyard with our coffees.
The main exit from the carpark leads into Montacute village, which was decked with bunting for the forthcoming Church Fête. We turned right out of the gate and walked towards the pub and church.
The King’s Arms lies at the foot of St Michael’s Hill, and we weren’t completely certain of the route, so turned left by the pub and walked a hundred meters or so to this sign:-
It was going in the right direction so we followed it up past Abbey Farm.
We wanted to walk up what is now called St. Michael’s Hill. It used to be known as ‘Mons Acutus’ (hence the name of the village,) and even before that as Saxon ‘Lodegaresbergh’. We found a very steep path up and we tried to imagine being foot soldiers attacking the Norman castle, slogging up with sword and shield. We didn’t envy them. At the top there is a folly in the shape of a tower. It is open and possible to climb to the viewing platform, but the stairs are steep and there didn’t appear to be a handrail, so we were sensible and enjoyed the fine prospect from the base of the tower.
Not fancying the steep way down the hill, we took the broad and gently sloping route which circles the Mount and comes out at a gate, the entrance to a meadow. We could see another gate away to our right, and walking down to it found we were miraculously back on the Leland Trail. It is an easy walk from there to Ham Hill and the lovely, and dog friendly ‘Prince of Wales’ pub. There we met up with our husbands (or The Support Team, as they like to be known) and had a celebratory drink and lunch.
The last thing left to do was to stroll along to the Ham Hill Memorial and take in the view of South Somerset. Of course, at that point, it started to rain….
We would both recommend this walk, and it would make a nice long weekend ramble. Their are pleasant villages along the way, varied countryside, lots of places to eat, and some National Trust properties to visit if that’s your thing. Neither of us take kindly to getting lost, so we would like to see more signposts through the Stourhead estate, and have pointed out where we did manage to go wrong.
Anne and Jane