6 easy walks and good nosh
A walk (nothing too onerous, mind) then some good food in a cosy pub - sound good? Thought so. So get your boots on and get out there...
A walk (nothing too onerous) in the Somerset countryside, followed by lunch in a cosy pub – can’t say better than that.
A riverside walk and a stylish gastropub in Mells
Some friends took me and the Muddies on this walk along the wooded Mells and Tallis river valleys earlier in the year – it’s fascinating (and rather poignant) as the route passes the ivy-clad ruins of the Fussell’s Ironworks, a company who made spades, scythes and other metal stuff back a couple of hundred years ago.
The path continues onto Frome or you can retrace your steps back to Mells where there’s a tea shop and The Talbot Inn. In the 15th century, the pub was a coach house on the London to Wells Road. Today it’s a stylish gastropub with classic pub food, a sharing menu where everyone helps themselves to big dishes of fish pie or venison stew, its own ale and mulled wine and cider warming by the fire.
By the way, Mells is where the nursery rhyme Little Jack Horner originates (tho’ the plum in the pie turned out to be the deeds to the manor of Mells) and Siegfried Sassoon is buried in the churchyard.
Make like a goat at the Cheddar Gorge – and a game of skittles
OK, so there are some tacky gift shops at one end but ignore those (or don’t let the kids see them – mine would be in and spending), Cheddar Gorge is England’s largest gorge and still one of the UK’s most spectacular landscapes. The National Trust’s 4-mile walk takes in its crags, peaks and more than a few little white goats over an hour and 40 minute walk that starts and finishes at the National Trust Info Centre.
Head down to Cheddar village for lunch. The Bath Arms was refurbed a couple of years ago and is a large rambling place with a menu to match, with the usual array of steaks, salads, sandwiches (including cave aged Cheddar Gorge cheese) and Bath Arms Favourites (I’ve got my eye on the bubble and squeak cake with blue cheese and fried eggs). Good selection for veggies. There’s a skittle alley if you’ve got any energy left after your scramble through the gorge.
Woodland walk with sweeping views and a 16th century pub in the Quantocks
This 2-mile circular walk takes in ancient woodland and heathland around Holford, near Bridgwater. The route starts at the Woodland Hill car park and passes though ancient forest (part of the Coleridge Way) and onto heathland where you can get wonderful views over the Somerset Levels, Mendip Hills, Bristol Channel and the Brecon Beacons in South Wales. Then head then back down through Shervage Wood, where you might spot some giant ants’ nests.
The Babbling Brook Inn, a small, family-owned rustic pub in Shurton, Stogursey, is a short drive away and if you go on a Sunday, you can sample their award-winning Sunday lunch carvery. Early evenings Monday to Saturday you could be cooking yourself a steak, some salmon or halloumi cheese on a slab of searing hot volcanic rock.
The Somerset murmurations and lunch at a groovy pub on the Levels
This is a brilliant time of year to take a walk on the Avalon Marshes near Glastonbury and witness the starling murmurations at Ham Wall or Shapwick Heath. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of starlings come to roost on the reed beds at dusk, forming huge swirling and surreal patterns in the sky. The atmosphere is electric. Call the Starling Hotline 07866 554142 to find out where they roosted the night before and then turn up an hour or so before dusk.
Just a few minutes away is the The Sheppey in the tiny hamlet of Godney – perfect for lunch before your walk or a drink or supper afterwards. The pub looks nothing from the outside but inside it’s a warren of rooms – small and snug, light and airy – filled with eclectic furnishings, pictures, objets, fairy lights, stuffed animals – and they have a delicious modern British menu. It’s a favourite of mine – read my review here.
A nature reserve and a cosy village pub in the Blackdown Hills
This short – 2 mile – walk starts and finishes at the super cosy Candlelight Inn in the village of Bishopswood not far from Chard, and takes in the Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Bishopwood Meadows and Jan Hobbs Nature Reserve beside the River Yarty. You might spot an otter or a kingfishers, there’s an old lime kiln (there was a quarry here once) – might be too late to see the exotic-looking waxcap funghi that grow here.
Then it’s out of the cold and into the warmth of The Candlelight Inn, a 17th century village pub – all wood, exposed stone, flag floors and woodburners – with hand-pumped real ales, guest beers, ciders and a menu of home-cooked food (they even smoke their own fish and make their own ice cream).
Breathtaking views out to sea and over Exmoor
The 3-mile circular walk starts off from the picture-postcard hamlet Bossington, in an area once used for WWII tank training (kids may like the dug outs and bunkers). It goes over heathland and onto the coast path up to Bossington Hill where you can see the Somerset coast and even Wales on a clear day. Take a kite (or your paraglider), it gets windy up there.
There’s the Kitnor’s thatched cottage tea room in Bossington itself but if you need booze, The Luttrell Arms is just a short drive away in the mediaeval town of Dunster. Sit by an open fire and sip local ales and cider and eat great grub in the bar or in the posher, award-winning restaurant.
I’m always on the look out for good walks and good pubs to stagger into afterwards (or is that the other way around?), so let me know your favourites.