Walk 1346 - printer friendly version
Priddy, Ebbor Gorge & Wookey Hole from Wells Walk
Author - Tony Maries
Length - 13.5 miles / 21.9 km
Ascent - 1250 feet / 379 metres
Grade - moderate
Start - OS grid reference ST551459
Lat 51.21053 + Long -2.6441573
Postcode BA5 2UN (approx. location only)
Start early if you need to find anywhere to park. Wells has become a small city of supermarkets. The10,000 population has the choice of Tescos, Morrisons, Lidl, the Co-op and the recently opened Waitrose, built on a former public car park. Watch for shoppers struggling with their heavily loaded bags of BOGOFs. My picture of the famous west front is strangely free of tourists, for it was a nice day. Normally dozens of people are sitting on the grass, and I promise I did not Photoshop my picture to get rid of them.
From the Cathedral Green, walk round to the north side of the cathedral past the medieval clock then go through the arch into Vicar's Close. Walk up the street and go up the steps at the end into The Liberty. From here head right at the mini roundabout and then left up the path past the school. Turn right and walk over the footbridge over the Wells bypass and cross playing fields, then walk between the buildings of the Wells Blue School. Turn right into Ash Lane and continue to where it meets the A39 Bristol Road. The lane on the bend in the road just before you meet the A39 is the Old Bristol Road. It shows a fine contempt for the steep contours of the Mendips, choosing almost the steepest way up, and back down some miles away on the north side of the Mendips. If this was a cycling site I would recommend going this way for the climb up Rookham Coombe.
However today I would ask you to pass it by and continue a few yards to the busy A39. Turn left and follow the pavement on the left hand side of the road. After 100m turn left down a lane signposted to Walcombe. Continue for 600m. At the acute left hand bend follow the path leading ENE then east across a field. At the far side of the field meet the A39 once again. Bear immediately north up a bridle path which leads gently up the slopes of Prior's Hill. You can put your map away now as there is no more route finding for a whole 2km until you meet the A39 once again.
When you do, turn left and follow the short track to the top of Pen Hill, for it would be shame not to top out by the Pen Hill TV mast, at 305m the highest point of the walk. Sometimes on the open hillside parts of the walk you will hear the call of the skylark, which has a distinctive and very prolonged call when in flight. Retrace your steps back to the road.
Before you continue your walk, cross the road and walk a short distance to the north to Beechbarrow House. By the gateway there is a statue of Romulus and Remus, the mythological founders of Rome. It was made in 1945 by Gaetano Celestra, an Italian POW who spent the latter part of the Second World War at Penleigh Camp in Wells. The POWS were allowed to work on local farms rather than stay in the camp and large numbers decided to settle in Somerset after the war ended. The inscription records the kindness shown to the Italians by the locals.
To continue the walk, cross the road and follow the path which leads north west from the bend in the road by the Pen Hill mast. Continue around the northern perimeter of the field. In the corner of the field by a pond and the corner of a wood bear west and continue to the west boundary of the field. Continue in the same direction across the next field. The path now diverts around the south side of an oblong shaped field. Continue around this and walk to the west across two more fields on level ground to meet the Old Bristol Road, a quiet country lane. Many of the field boundaries feature stone stiles. One of my pictures shows a particularly elegant example, complete with stone steps. To the north is the Priddy Mineries, a lumpy area of ground to the left of Stockhill Woods. Gruffy ground is the local term for land which has been excavated by lead mining, which has left the soil polluted and unsuitable for grazing livestock. Bear left here and walk 300m to a bend in the road at the start of a wood. Leave the road and follow the path which leads NW across two fields, then diverts west and then north across a large field before resuming in a north-westerly direction across two more fields to meet the Wells Road. There are a number of depressions in these fields which probably indicate the presence of cave systems where they come up to the surface of the ground.
Bear left on the Wells Road and almost immediately right down a path which leads across two fields to Eastwater Lane. The entrance to Eastwater Cavern is in the field on the right. Priddy is a well known centre for the caving community and you will often see cavers about their subterranean perambulations. Walk north along the lane for a short distance then down the path by Eastwater Farm. The path leads in a general north-westerly direction to a lane at the north end of Priddy. The path passes another magnet for the caving community, Swildon's Hole.
Turn left when you reach the road and walk towards the village green. Priddy has two pubs, the New Inn, closed at the time of writing and the Queen Vic. Both are on your right hand side as you walk in a southbound direction through the village. The New Inn was recently auctioned and hopefully its' buyers will soon reopen it as a pub. Opposite the New Inn is a strange wooden structure on the village green. This is a hurdle shelter. The hurdles are used as sheep pens at the Priddy Sheep Fair, held every year in August. Continue along the road to the junction of the Wells Road, then continue south here down Pelting Drove. The Queen Vic is on the right. While I sat outside munching a pasty and slaked my thirst with a pint of Butcombe, a hedge sparrow shyly foraged for crumbs under the benches outside the pub. The hedge sparrow is not really a sparrow at all, but a passerine (perching bird) and should really be known by it's alternative name of dunnock. The easiest way to identify it from the sparrow family is the beak. A dunnock has a narrow sharp pointed beak evolved for seed eating, while the sparrow family tend to have a shorter and blunter appendage.
While you are busy with bird identification, bear left after 650m onto a footpath which zigzags across five fields (part of the West Mendip Way) to reach a bridle track on the edge of the Mendip escarpment. Bear right here and follow the track down the hill. After 200m follow the footpath which leads south along the fringe of Ebbor Wood. At the stile by the edge of the wood head SSE steeply downhill into Ebbor Gorge. Follow the path through the steepest part of the gorge which might just encourage the tiniest little bit of easy scrambling. At the bottom of the gorge the path becomes progressively wider. Follow the waymarked path down to Ebbor Lane. Bear left here and walk down the lane, passing the rampant commercialism of Wookey Hole caves. By the old paper mill and a bend in the road follow the footpath which leads east quite steeply over a small rise by some cottages, then cross two fields to Tynings Lane. Bear left here. Continue up the hill and past Lower Milton Farm, on a right hand bend in the road. By a campsite turn onto the footpath which leads diagonally south-east across a field to a wood. Follow the left fork in the paths at the far end of the field and continue across three smallish fields, the last quite steeply sloping, to Manor Farm. Walk through the farmyard and out into the Old Bristol Road, once again. Turn right here and continue 200m to a bend in the road. Follow the left of two footpaths and walk downhill past Milton Lodge to meet the Old Bristol Road yet again near the bottom of the hill. Walk down the road for 100m to meet the outward part of the walk and wherever you managed to park your car.