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THE MENDIP RING - Leg 6b
Charlton to Farrington Gurney. 5.6 Miles
Starting from Grid Ref. ST 682 522
Opposite the drive to Waterlea, take the rough lane leading to some cottages. At the top; turn left into a field and aim half right to a stile on the far side; do not cross this but turn right and follow the path across the first field, over a double stile, and down the second field to left of the brook. Continue along the right hand edge of a third field and enter Snail's Bottom on the path through the woods keeping close to the stream. This is crossed once on a wooden bridge, and soon you come to a T-junction of paths. Follow the path through the woods, crossing the stream on route until you come to a T junction of paths.
Turn right through a tunnel of laurel bushes; go over the stile on your right next to a gate; go uphill to reach a grassy track turn left and follow this until you reach a gate turn left over a stile onto the lane.
Turn right and through a bridle gate ahead, then turn left aiming for a stile next to Manor Farm; go up the drive; turn left following it out to the A367. Turn right then cross the road to follow the path across the fields to reach the B3139. Cross the road and take the path across the sports ground to a stile on the far side. Continue straight down the field, towards a telephone pole and a further stile to cross the disused railway. Drop down the hill, at the bottom of the field turn right following the path to the houses at Somer Lea; continue onto The Street and turn left then immediately right down The Pitching with the River Somer on your left. On reaching Church Lane, turn left following the road round and pass the church. Once past Manor Farm, take the path on your left up the hill to reach Clapton.
Follow the lane into the village. On reaching The Crown pub, cross the stone stile opposite and follow the path across the fields to reach Langley Lane. Turn right then take the path off to the left at White Bridge. Follow this up two fields through the metal gate and across the plank bridge in the top corner then slightly right uphill to reach a stone track. Continue uphill and where the track turns left continue straight on to a stile into the wood. Immediately, cross Langley Down Lane and go through a kissing gate go down the field on the other side aiming for the bottom left hand corner. Go through two gates over the next field to reach the A362.
Turn left until you come to a Farm Shop and turn right into Main Street. As the road bends, go straight ahead, following the path into a field with the Church away to your right. Follow the path to reach the drive to the Church; turn left and follow the road straight ahead to reach the car park at the Village Hall. ST 631556
Points of Historical Interest
Charlton is a common OE place name, from cerletone, meaning the settlement of the carls or free peasants. In the hamlet many of the cottages are late 17th century Grade II Listed buildings. Ahead is the tower of Downside Abbey at Stratton on the Fosse
Dropping towards the river at Snails Bottom there are the faint remains of a Celtic field system in the slopes to the left. To the north is another Celtic field system which has been extensively ploughed and now only shows as low banks.
The lands of the Duchy of Cornwall in this area start about here. The Duchy Estate was created in 1338 by Edward III for his eldest son, the Black Prince. The primary function of the Duchy was to provide future Princes of Wales with an income. A charter ruled that each Duke of Cornwall should be the eldest surviving son of the Monarch and the heir to the throne. The Duchy comprises around 55,000 hectares of land mostly held in the south west of England. The income funds the public, charitable and private activities of the present Duke of Cornwall, HRH, the Prince of Wales and his family.
The first land in this area to come into the Duchy was from the de Gournay family of Farrington Gurney, later in this walk. It was forfeited to the Crown after Sir Thomas de Gournay was disgraced for his involvement in the death of Edward II in 1327.
Manor Farm has sometimes been called Stratton House. On the west side of the house, by the stile, is a commemorative facade. Originally at the front of the building, it has four Doric columns surmounted by a pediment. This shows the three feathers insignia of the Prince of Wales, the motto 'Ich Dien', the date 1883 and the initials AE. It records a visit by Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales who later became King Edward VII. Across the lawn at the front of the house is a Bell Tower. On the face are the initials WB and the date 1903. William Beauchamp, one time tenant of the house, was a local brewer. The house is itself is Grade II* Listed and is early 18th century.
Killings Knap, the name of the field behind the farm, is believed to derive from Kilning Knap. There was a lime kiln at the quarry on this site, where white lias stone was burned with coal to make lime.
On the right at the end of the drive coming out of Manor Farm is a memorial to a young man, Garry Workman, killed here in a motorcycle accident in 2005.
The A367 is the Fosse Way, the Roman road last crossed at Lydford in Leg 2.
A step aside moment.
Downside Abbey is in the village of Stratton on the Fosse, a little to the south. A Benedictine monastery, it is also one of the leading Roman Catholic schools in the country. The buildings themselves are said to be among the finest Gothic Revival buildings in England. The church of St Gregory is usually open for public viewing and there is a small book shop on site.
In May 1943 a Hurricane aircraft on a training flight killed nine boys when it crashed into a cricket match here. The pilot is buried in the school cemetery beside the boys.
Above Killing's Knap Farm a skeleton wearing hob nail boots was found in a rock cut grave at a quarry in 1890. Roman pottery, sherds and coins were also recorded from the site. The finds are in Somerset County Museum in Taunton.
The Jolliffe column at Ammerdown Park is now visible to the rear. This 150 foot tower was built for Thomas Jolliffe in 1853 in memory of his son, John Twyford Jolliffe. It is said to be in the style of the Eddystone Lighthouse.
The new hall on the Chilcompton Recreation ground was built in 2006 with Heritage Lottery funding.
The walk crosses the old railway line of the Somerset and Dorset Railway. It was cut in 1874 and closed in 1966. The field between the disused rail track and the brook was used in WWII as a rifle range by troops stationed in the village. Local oral history suggests that it is full of spent bullets and cartridge cases.
Chilcompton was Comtuna at Doomsday. The earliest village was around the Manor House and church, which were then on a crossroads. The painter Gainsborough owned a house in The Street. The Pitching is, historically, an area used by the men of the village for playing Pitch and Toss. The 15th century church of St John the Baptist was restored in 1839. There is a guide on sale in the church. The Yew Tree at the far end of the churchyard is listed as Ancient and Venerable in the Tree Register of the British Isles. The car park opposite the church is on the site of the Mill pond and the iron gates alongside mark the entrance to the Mill itself. It was demolished in 1905. Mill Cottage opposite has the date 1596 over the door. On the end of the next barn are the initials of Anthony and Margaret Stocker and the date 1611.
At Clapton, the Zionist Chapel, now a private home, is described as a fine example of the Victorian Byzantine. The earliest farmhouses and cottages here are from the 17th century. Oral tradition says that the stream between here and White Bridge was once known as Black Water because of the contamination from the local coal pits.
On the fields sloping down to Langley's Lane there are extensive earthworks indicating former strip fields and lynchetts running roughly north to south.
Langley's Cottages are two terraces of miners' houses built in the 19th century.
Langley Down Lane is a very old trackway from the Mendip Hills in the west, to the junction with the Fosse Way near Clandown on the east.
Farrington Gurney. The site of the original medieval village, abandoned at the time of the Black Death, is shown by the isolated position of the church of St John the Baptist out in the fields behind the Manor House. The church was rebuilt in 1844. An unusual group of statuary of The Trinity over the west door, and the village cross in the churchyard are from the medieval building. The school is dated 1894.
The Farrington Farm Shop and cafe is just off the A362. It is open every day.