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The Mendip Way

Walking through Somerset along The Mendip Way

Section 1 – The Western Mendips - Weston-super-Mare (or Uphill) to Crook Peak

9 miles (7 miles from Uphill) - Generally easy grade walking with a couple of moderate ascents

Click here for information on overnight stops at Weston-super-Mare or click here for Uphill before the start of your Mendip Way Adventure

View to Brean DownIf you can, try to walk out of Weston-super-Mare this morning to the official start of the walk at Uphill – it’s a straight, easy and flat 2 miles down a glorious sandy beach and there is nothing like walking yourself out of the town under your own steam and catching a bit of the ocean and salt air as you go.

There are good views from here over to the National Trust Nature Reserve on the promontory of Brean Down – together with the offshore rocky hump at Steep Holm, these are the first two of the Mendip ‘bumps’, looking here like a semi-submerged turtle lying off shore. The seaside town silliness of Weston is quickly left behind as you walk down firm and golden sands frequented by local dog walkers and by the time you end up at Uphill you are walking next to some wild high dunes and brush having enjoyed an invigorating and worthwhile start to the walk.

If you don’t want to walk then it’s a short bus or taxi ride from the centre of Weston to the start of the walk at the ancient port of Uphill which lies at the end of the Weston Sands.

Now a quiet hamlet, this place was named after the ancient Danish Chieftain Hubba and was once an important ancient port. The Romans used it to export lead from the Mendips and for centuries afterwards it was the gateway of trade between the Mendips and Wales with stone and minerals leaving and Welsh Sheep arriving in return.

At Uphill, you join the official start of the Mendip Way and head inland, passing below the imposing Norman Church of St Nicholas. Perched high above on the limestone cliffs it has a commanding a view over the Somerset levels and out to sea, giving a navigational point for early mariners.

The first section of the walk ambles gently past the Uphill Marine Centre with its small harbour of yachts and boats before heading briefly along a shared cycle trail through impressive limestone quarries hiding a well preserved limekiln that dates back to the 1820’s. This is Uphill Hill Nature Reserve an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and the first of many you will encounter on the Mendip Way. The flower rich grasslands here are supported by the Soay and Hebrideen sheep used to graze the terrain. You will pass the ruins of the 19th Century powder house in the trees here which held the quarries explosives and further away the old stock pond and sheep wash built from the quarried limestone.

It's not long before you part company with the cycle trail as The Mendip Way heads off to circle the nature reserve at Warlborough Down which is topped with a Bronze Age burial mound. There are enjoyable views from here straight across the rich salt marshes and water channels that hide little moored up yachts in the Pill below you. Kestrels, buzzards and ravens populate the higher ground whilst redshank, oystercatchers and flocks of curlew frequent the marsh below you. The walk continues to bend through meadows that host green winged and bee orchids attracting a healthy number of butterflies before leading the walker on to one of the ancient Rhynes (drainage watercourses) over the former marshes, now peaceful, tree lined and with hedgerows full of flowers.

The Church of St Peter and Paul BleadonThe first climb takes an ancient rutted stony track to ascend tiny Purn Hill Nature Reserve the site of a long lost Celtic Camp where the rare Sulphur Rock Rose flower is still found. A pleasant descent through rich ancient woodland brings the village of Bleadon - from the Celtic Blai (Wolf) and Don (Hill). Here a very English village scene awaits with cream teas and cider from the farm shop next to the immaculately lawned croquet club!

The Church of St Peter and Paul is just off the route and well worth visiting its sturdy 15th Century tower dominating the surrounding countryside. You also have the excellent Queens Arms here a village inn dating back to the 16th century. Right on the trail in Bleadon it provides a good lunch stop on the first day

Stone style at BleadonSome ascending is required now as you rise up Hellenge Hill on the southern slopes of Bleadon Hill, another Nature Reserve, this time with classic hillside Heath and gorse and an abundance of wildflowers and orchids. This is one of many uncultivated areas where the lack of farming and pesticides is immediately obvious by the flora and fauna. Over 25 species of Butterfly are found flitting between the flowers here as well as the rare and timid adder snake which enjoys basking on the hillside.

As you finally gain some height above the levels, you are rewarded with views that stretch south to the mighty hills of Exmoor. To the north the mountains of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales. Inland already drawing your eye is the perfect little hump and tower of Glastonbury Tor - in between and stretched out before you like a verdant carpet is the legendry Vale of Avalon.

At the top of Bleadon Hill you join the line of one of the Mendips Roman Roads as you pass along a lofty ridge, first along a back lane and then on woodland tracks, swathed in bracken and foxgloves. Here, as you reach Loxton Hill, you are treading in the footsteps of the legionaries who escorted the valuable lead out of the Mendips to the coast 2000 years ago. The lonely hummock of Brent Knoll is clear here, standing oddly alone 500 feet above the reclaimed levels. This was the so-called Isle of Frogs and 500 years ago an island that you could only get to by boat.

Church of St Andrew with Crook Peak in the distanceHaving reached the top of the first Mendip Hill it’s now an easy descent to Loxton village from the Roman Road, firstly through tall plantations that then give way to lush ancient ash and beech woodland home to green woodpeckers, foxes and badgers. Watch out for Loxton Cave and the impressive 17th Century Loxton Hunting Lodge as you reach the village which takes its name from the Lox Yeo River on which it is situated. In the village, pass the old village water pump and old street lamp originally erected in memory of Queen Victoria’s reign. The tiny Church of St Andrew is the highlight however, which dates back to Saxon times - a classic Somerset church with its lych gate, yew tree and stone cross memorial all sitting dutifully in the shadow of your next challenge - Crook Peak.

 

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