Nigel Vile's East Mendip walk
East and West Mendip, other than sharing a bedrock of carboniferous limestone, are as different as the proverbial chalk and cheese.
West Mendip can boast spectacular cliffs and impressive show caves. East Mendip, on the other hand, is a much more workaday area.
This week's walk starts from Stratton-on-the-Fosse where the skyline is dominated by the imposing tower of Downside Abbey. It is something very special, with its small corners of great beauty and chapels complete with altars glowing with colour.
Green Lane takes the walk out past the imposing buildings of Downside School to the secluded and idyllic Nettlebridge Valley.
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East Mendip does have a way of hiding its gems away off of the beaten track. Here we find what the local historian Robin Atthill described as 'The River Without a Name', a watercourse that has its source at Emborough Pool. On this section of the walk, look out for what appears to be a baffle bank alongside the driveway leading to Blacker's Hill Farm. This is in fact one of the ramparts of an ancient Iron Age hillfort that enclosed a site of some 15 acres.
You will be hard pushed to miss the former New Rock Colliery. Sunk in 1819, the Garden Course Seam lay some 1180 feet underground, as far below Mendip as the region's highpoint Beacon Batch on Blackdown is above sea-level.
Distance: 4 miles
Time: 2 or 3 hours
Start: Access road to Downside Abbey (GR 658508)
Maps: OS Landranger 183 or OS Explorer 142
Terrain: Some steep slopes
Getting there: Follow the A367 south from Bath to Radstock and onto Stratton on the Fosse. In the centre of the village, just before a left turn by the war memorial to Holcombe, Coleford and Frome, turn right along a road leading to Downside Abbey and the Pastoral Centre.
1. Walk back down to the A367, turn right and walk up past the Kings Arms pub and the main entrance to Downside School before taking the next right – Green Lane – signposted to Chilcompton and Wells. In 120 yards, keep on Green Lane as it bears left and continue for ½ mile to a crossroads. Follow the road opposite to Gurney Slade and, in 200 yards, pass through a gap in the hedge on the left to follow a footpath across the corner of a field to a stile in the opposite hedgerow. Walk across the next field to a stile in the middle of the opposite field boundary and a lane. Cross a stile opposite and follow the woodland path steeply downhill – it shortly bears right – and continue downhill to a stile and open field. Bear half right over to a gate before walking the whole length of a long field to a track in its far right corner that leads up to a road.
2. Cross this road and follow a byway opposite up to a road by a property. Turn left and follow a side lane for 300 yards to a drive on the left leading to Blacklers Hill Farm. In 150 yards, cross a cattle grid and continue following the driveway. Where the drive bears right to the farm, keep ahead on a footpath that runs down past the farmhouse on the right to reach a gate. Beyond this gate, follow the path that bears right into the valley bottom. At a junction by a marker post, just above the river, turn right and follow a footpath to the right, the river below on the left. When the path emerges from the woodland, continue ahead to reach a gate and track, 400 yards on from that marker post. Turn right, and follow this track uphill for 300 yards to reach Coalpit Lane. Follow this road to the right and cross a stile on the left into a field.
3. Bear half right across to a gate in the right-hand field boundary. Beyond this gate, bear half left across the next field to reach a gate in the far corner, walking in the direction of Downside Abbey. Beyond this gate, turn right and walk down to a stile and footbridge over a stream just to the left of a barn and farm buildings. Cross one final field to a stile opposite and a road. Cross this road to a stile opposite before walking across the next field to a gate in the opposite corner, walking in the direction of the batch of New Rock Colliery. Follow the left hand edge of the next field for ¼ mile to a stile by a whitewashed property and a road. Cross the stile opposite and head across the next field to a stile opposite, the batch of the old colliery on the right. Cross the next field to a stile in the fence opposite before following the right edge of the next field to another stile. Walk the whole length of the next field to a stile opposite and join a path that borders Downside School. Follow this path to the right down to Green Lane and onto the A367. Turn left and, in 350 yards, turn left back to the road that leads to Downside Abbey.