Walk 3304 - printer friendly version
Pennard Hill from Pylle Walk
Author - Tony Maries
Length - 10.0 miles / 16.3 km
Ascent - 800 feet / 242 metres
Grade - moderate
Start - OS grid reference ST607383
Lat 51.142608 + Long -2.5631602
Postcode BA4 6TD (approx. location only)
This walk explores some very quiet paths along Pennard Hill with short stretches of walking along very quiet country lanes. The route passes through four small villages, but it doesn't pass a pub anywhere. If this is all too much it is possible to leave the route half way at West Pennard and slake your thirst at the Lion. Some of the paths in the vicinity of East Pennard are very little used and somewhat overgrown in places, so sturdy and reasonably thorn and nettle-proof clothing is recommended. Note that for two weeks before and at least a week after the Glastonbury festival, which is normally on the last weekend in June, many of the footpaths on this walk are closed, because of problems caused in the past by troublemakers unable to get into the festival.
The walk starts from Pylle church (grid ref. ST607383). The village boasts a magnificent manor house and a large pond, fringed by trees, but almost no other buildings. It is likely the village is home to more cows than people, as the road surface is always liberally mire-bespattered from the twice-daily visit to the milking unit by the cattle. Before the Glastonbury Festival, long queues build up along here of festival-goers, waiting to get into the festival. For most, this is the first opportunity to get out of the car and stretch legs a little bit. After hours of trundling down the A303 it is also the first good whiff of country air, and country muck if you are incautious about where you put your feet.
At the T junction to the west of the church walk up the start of Pylle Hill for 20m then fork right up a private drive. Just before the house a footpath dives into dense trees. On the far side of the trees the path opens out into a field on the north face of the hill with the Old Rectory at the south-east corner. Walk south-west across the field to reach a stile at the top of the hill. At the junction of paths follow the next field along its northern boundary, then across the next field. The last field is a large orchard and occasional signs of the passage of feet on the ground suggest the accepted route follows the north and west edges of the field, rather than diagonally across and through the trees as the map suggests. Come out of the orchard at a T-junction at the top of Cockmill Lane.
The signpost at this junction is one of hundreds of cast iron signs still in use in the county, with a distinctive finial shaped in a pyramid cast with the letters SCC. Somerset County Council deserve congratulation for maintaining these distinctive features of the local landscape. Damaged or missing boards are now replaced with new ones to the original pattern, made from cast resin. Hopefully these signs will continue to be maintained long into the future, and any efforts by the faceless bureaucrats at Westminster and Brussels to make the council replace them with the standard Eurobland design will be vigorously resisted.
The first two of these fields, where there are gaps in the trees, provide magnificent vantage points over to the other side of the valley. Worthy Farm, host to Glastonbury Festival is very prominent on an elevated site just to the south of Pilton village, with the tithe barn just off to the west. Even during the nine months of the year that the farm is a (fairly) normal dairy farm many of the permanent fixtures of the festival site, including the Pyramid stage, can easily be seen. The rut in the trees one field to the right of the farm buildings is well-known to regular festival goers as Muddy Lane.
Walk north along Cockmill Lane for 300m and turn left down the metalled track to Pennard Hill Farm. Just before the farm fork to the left and follow the path along the north boundary of the field to the south of the farm. Cross the stile at the end of the field to come out at the southern end of a large field, near a restored barn. Cross to the other side of the field, then walk in a north westerly direction to reach a stile near the north west corner of the field. Cross the stile and walk towards the other Pennard Hill Farm. Walk along the north edge of the field immediately to the south of the buildings (no longer a working farm) and through a gate, which leads into a garden at the side of a pair of semi-detached houses. Follow the metalled track to the junction with Stickleball Lane. The path marked on the map, which starts at the farm and follows the escarpment of the hill does not actually exist.
Walk north up Stickleball Lane for 50m and turn left into Worthy Lane. This is not the only Worthy Lane in the area; there is another at Worthy Farm, Pilton. Nearby, there are also two Hill Farms and two Batch Farms, and within a mile of each other; Withial Farm, Withial Hill Farm, Lower Withial Farm and Higher Withial Farm. Walk along Worthy Lane to Castle Lane, near the right-angled bend at the top of the hill, and cross the lane onto a footpath. Follow the path across four fields to come out at the extremely steep lane leading up from Sticklinch. Cross the lane and follow the path on the other side across four fields to come out at a junction of several paths at the top of Cottles Lane (grid ref. ST556385). Turn to the south and walk along the boundary of three small fields, then bear more to the south-east to come out on Windmill Lane, by a double bend at the top of a steep hill. The south side of Pennard Hill presents very different views of the much flatter land to the south.
Cross Windmill Lane and follow the track on the other side of the road, which leads in a south-easterly direction, then at the end of the track through a gate and diagonally across a field to a stile at the opposite side. The path now hugs the south-western side of Washing Stones Gully and leads downhill across three fields, then into the woods once down to the 50m contour. On the other side of a permanently muddy trickle of a stream a very impressive footbridge crosses the Bradley Brook. Don't cross the bridge. Follow the other path up the hill, which crosses a succession of small fields, near to the woodlands on the west side of the northern tributary of the brook. The wire fence at the south-eastern boundary of the fields bounds dense woodland which conceals Withial Combe, a deep ravine with two waterfalls. Withial Combe is very little known, even locally. Views from the ground above, on the upper slopes of Pennard Hill, or below from the lanes around West Bradley provide absolutely no indication of the scale of this natural feature.
At the top of the woods, cross one more field to arrive at a barn on a quiet lane. Turn right into the lane and walk east for 750m to the T junction with Stickleball Lane. Turn right here and walk down the lane for 150m, here take the path which leads south-east towards Hill Farm. Continue around the north side of the farm buildings, past a reed-fringed pond. Pennard Hill has many such ponds, most of which are probably man-made, water for people and grazing animals otherwise being hard to come by on the higher slopes of the hill. Cross two small fields to meet the outward section of the walk by the restored barn. Pass the barn, go through the gate and walk downhill across the field on the other side to where it meets Middleway Road.
Walk in a westerly direction down the road for 100m and then go over a stile into a small field on the south side of the road. Walk down hill across the middle of the field and over another stile into an orchard. By the collection of buildings and farm shop at the bottom of the orchard, turn left behind a dilapidated barn to pass a cottage, then turn right into a field. Cross the top of the field and over two more fields to arrive at an overgrown track between trees. Follow the track to the lane at the end, then cross the lane onto a footpath and across another orchard and a field to come out by East Pennard church.
Pass the church and walk right at the junction by a bend in the lane through the village. Follow the lane down a dip and on the other side, at the end of the houses, turn left through an overgrown hedge, then walk up hill in a south-easterly direction to meet the corner of the field. Join a rutted track then walk along a series of field boundaries, past a pond and finally round the west edge of a field to come out near the top of Wraxall Hill. After the peace and quiet of the walk so far, to find a busy trunk road at the top of a hill is somewhat of a surprise. Follow the path in the north east direction to the north edge of the field, then cross a large field at the top of the hill to come out near a bend in a lane by some cottages at Little Pennard.
Walk down the lane for 50m then right into the gateway to Little Pennard Farm. Pass the house and farm buildings then cross a small field to the east of the farm. At the eastern boundary of the field walk north to the northern boundary of the field, cross two more fields. At the northern edge of the second field the path turns north east to go down the scarp slope towards Writh Farm.
At Writh Farm turn north-west across a large field with a stream and trees at the western boundary, then across the next field on the other side of the trees. The map shows the path leading diagonally across the northern end of a small field, however this way is impassable and it will almost certainly be necessary to go round the northern edge of the field. Cross one more small field and turn right down a farm track past houses for 30m to come out on Pylle Lane. It is only a short walk from here westwards along the lane to the starting point.