Walk 1275 - printer friendly version
North Wootton & Worminster from Wells Walk
Author - Tony Maries
Length - 9.5 miles / 15.4 km
Ascent - 950 feet / 288 metres
Grade - moderate
Start - OS grid reference ST546456
Lat 51.207793 + Long -2.6512766
Postcode BA5 2AW (approx. location only)
This is a circular walk on the western edge of the Mendip Hills where they meet the Somerset Levels between Wells and North Wootton. It starts from Wells Cathedral. The outward section of this walk follows part of the Monarch's Way. The Monarch's Way is a 615 mile long Long Distance Footpath, which follows the flight of King Charles II after his final military defeat by Oliver Cromwell in 1651. It is marked on recent OS maps and described in three books by Trevor Antill. On this section at least, the only local indication of the Way is a small sticker on Mendip District Council's standard footpath signs. On street parking is extremely scarce in Wells, but there are several pay-and-display car parks. There is one pub en route, the Crossways at North Wootton. This walk can be combined with Walk 2201> which describes a city stroll around the City of Wells.
Start from Wells Cathedral Green. Walk through Penniless Porch to the south of the green then across the Market Place. Penniless Porch has medieval origins and still lives up to its name. In fine weather or on market day somebody is sure to be hanging around, keen to part you from some of your loose change. Penniless Porch opens out into the Market Place. Go round to the left of the Town Hall and though a new mews development to come out at the south corner of the moat surrounding the Bishops Palace.
Take the right-most of the two footpaths across the Park and walk along the south-west edge of the field. Cross the western side of the next field and into Park Wood. There are many paths through the wood, although only one is marked on the map. The official path, always the largest, meanders slightly up hill then near the south edge of the wood turns west to reach a footbridge over the disused railway, then over another which crosses the A371. Walk along the southern edge of the next field, then at a junction of paths turn south to walk gently downhill along the left hand side of a large field. One more small field takes you to a bridge over the River Sheppey. On the other side walk up the rough track to the unclassified road, which connects the A371 near Dulcote to Coxley.
Cross the road and walk up a very quiet lane past Wellesley Farm. At the junction in the lane just past the farm turn left and after 75m go over the stile by the gate and across an L-shaped field under the hill. Leave the field by a stile at the south-east corner. The path now winds steeply up hill through Beech Covert. Walk south-east across the first field to find a stile across into a large field at the top of Worminster Down. This hill is well-defended by woods and does not get very many visitors. It also appears much higher and more remote than its' trifling 119m height suggests. Looking for a stile hidden in an overgrown hedge, I once disturbed a resting roe deer stag. Well hidden in the long grass by the hedge, I was almost on top of it before it decided to move. Suddenly it exploded into flight. Within seconds it had vanished into the dense woodland at the far side of the field.
Leave the field on the top of the down by a stile halfway along the southern boundary of the field. Walk along the north side of the next field until you enter another wood. Pass the junction with another path, then after 75m walk steeply down through the wood to come out by a stile at the bottom. Cross the stile to enter a short dry valley, wooded on the sides. Continue along the left hand side of the field boundary and left down a rough track to come out at a gate into Dark Lane (grid ref. ST566422).
North Wootton straggles around the junctions of several minor country lanes. It is recorded in the Domesday book as the property of Glastonbury Abbey, and down its' recorded history has been noted for wine production. There is still a working vineyard in the village. Walk down Dark Lane past the junction with Launcherley Road into High Street and continue to a T junction. Turn right into Stocks Lane (signposted to Pilton). There have been some changes to the rights of way in North Wootton and signs have been erected so you can follow the revised route. Please remember to respect the privacy of landowners by following their signage.
Continue along Stocks Lane for just over 200 metres and turn left into Tanyard Lane. Take the path through a wooden gate at the right-angled bend in the lane and follow it along the stream to the lane at Nut Tree Farm. Turn left along Dark Lane, bear left at the first junction and where the lane turns sharp left, take the signed footpath through the metal gate (to the right of the cottage) at grid ref. ST568422. Follow the signed path, which gives fine views across to the other side of the Redlake, and then passes Park Wood on your left. Cross one more field boundary to come to a junction in paths near a bend in a stream (the northern tributary of the Redlake). Bear right and right again after 50m where you meet a farm track. After another 50m follow the path left up a low hill which comes out by the war memorial in the lane, opposite Worminster Farm.
Sadly the new owners of land containing Worminster Sleight have withdrawn permissive access to this land so you must now follow the route described below. Quicker and only slightly less scenic than the previously preferred route, you now must follow the path which leaves the lane just to the north of Worminster Farm. Follow the path north-east across four fields to reach the railway.
The railway is the former Great Western branch from Witham Friary to Wells. To climb from the low lying ground at Wells to Shepton Mallet the builders had to engineer a series of formidably steep gradients and sharp curves to get round the back of Dulcote Hill, then across some very hilly ground to the west of Shepton. The selected route conveniently manages to avoid every significant settlement between Wells and Shepton. Most of the trackbed remains and is easy to follow, particularly in winter when it is not overgrown.
Cross the railway and walk diagonally across a small field to come out in a lane at the top of Church Hill. Walk east along the lane for 100m then through a hedge across a small field. Cross the Shepton Old Road and into another small field, bearing north-north-east to Cliff Wood. Walk downhill through the wood, then across a small field to come out on the A371. Cross the road (pavement on the north side) and walk 150m to the junction with the minor road to Dinder. Walk down the road through Dinder and right at the junction by the manor house. Turn left at the next junction after 50m and walk past the church towards Sharcombe Farm. At the end of the road take the right most of the two paths, walk round the cricket pitch and across six fields on the north side of the River Sheppey to come out at the bottom of Constitution Hill. In a prominent position on the side of the hill there is the rather surprising sight of a Second World War pill box. This is only part of a series of defences along the north side of the Sheppey, constructed in anticipation of a German invasion in 1940. There are a number of other surviving pill boxes in the area, and a tank trap near Sharcombe Park.
Cross the road and follow the metalled footpath over three fields to arrive at the road by the moat surrounding the Bishop's Palace, to rejoin the outward route.