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THE MENDIP RING - Leg 7b
East Harptree Woods to Burrington Combe. 7.8 Miles
Starting from East Harptree Woods. Grid Ref. ST 557 541
Walk down the track into East Harptree Wood. Stay on the main track as it twists and turns, eventually heading in a north easterly direction. After about ½ mile, you come to a chimney at ST 554 546. Continue through the woods passing a house on the right. Go through a yard with farm machinery and continue down the track. Turn left (before the road) and pass through the gate into the field. Follow the Monarch's Way across and down three fields to the road (Western Lane). Turn left and take the first path on the right. Take the left hand path diagonally up hill and across three fields to reach a track. Turn left and follow the track to the road (Ridge Lane). Turn left towards Ridge and turn first right towards Beaconsfield farm.
Take the Monarch's Way on the right, drop down half left to the left back of the barn and walk towards the house. Go through the gate to the right front of the house and cross the field to a kissing gate in the bottom left hand corner. At the road turn left up the hill and take first right through a Bristol gate into a field. Keep to the left hedge line, go uphill through the gate in front of you in the left hand corner and then through a third Bristol gate. Continue through the field to beside a house.
Turn right down the lane past houses. At the junction with Highfield Lane take the path opposite slightly on your right. Go through the gate and walk to near the far right hand corner of the field. Go through the kissing gate on the right and down left to another kissing gate. Go steeply down through woods to a white house and emerge onto a track down right by a new house at the top of the Combe. Cross over to take the Limestone Link steeply up through woods passing over a stile by a (padlocked) gate. Eventually you come to a very tall gate in a fence. Go through the gate and continue up hill and then to the left by a stone wall and a barn. Pass Hazel Farm and continue down the Limestone Link. Walk down the drive through an avenue of trees. Through the tall gate turn right and continue down Green Lane. Follow Green Lane north-westerly to Ubley Hill Farmhouse.
Cross Ubley Drove and go through the gate ahead into the field straight onto the next gate and follow Leaze Lane to Leaze Farm (join tarmac road) and Blagdon Farm. Turn right down Two Trees Lane and take the path on the left to Ellick Road. Turn left and walk past houses. Turn right by the wall with the red post box (there is a house with a green post box) and take the path on the right just before the first house. Go over one field so the far right hand corner and turn left on Luvers Lane. Continue straight ahead when the lane ends and turn next left over a stile to reach Lower Ellick Farm. Go up the farm drive away from the farm house, emerge onto the main road and turn right to the car park at Burrington Combe ST 489 581
Points of Historical Interest
On Smitham Hill, in the Forestry Commission woodland of East Harptree, there is a Grade II Listed chimney at ST 554 546. A tall, tapering rubble stack, it has been recently restored by the Mendip Society. It is part of a former lead mine closed in 1875 and is the only such chimney left on Mendip.
Garrow Bottom on Western Lane was Gor Well in the 16th century.
The area around the houses at the junction with Highfield Lane is called The Wrangle. The name reflects a long term dispute started in 1574 between West Harptree and Compton Martin over ownership of the land. Matters came to a head on Rogation Sunday 1664, when the two groups of parishoners actually came to blows as they walked their boundaries at this point.
At Highfield Lane at ST 548 567 there is a junction with the Roman road noted in Leg 7a.
A step aside moment.
Compton Martin takes its name from Robert Martin, the Norman French landowner. A spring rises above the church and runs into the village
duck pond, which until 1840 powered a paper mill. This spring eventually becomes part of the
River Yeo feeding the Blagdon Lake. This area was noted for the mass production of teazles for the woollen trade (Leg 1b). The church of St Michael the Archangel is largely Norman with an unusual twisted pillar of the type often associated with apprentice pieces. This is the only parish church in Somerset that has a pigeon loft. There is a very good short history of the church and the village on sale in the church.
N.B. Pigeons were domesticated by attracting them with food, so that the young birds, called squabs, could be culled for the table. The practice is believed to be very ancient and associated with early settlement and the growth of grain farming. Older birds were called culvers, a word which has passed into many present day place names.
The Combe is said to be the birthplace of St Wulfric, an 11th century saint.
The recent re-forestation at the top of the hill is the work of the Will Woodland Trust a Scottish based National Charity concerned with the replanting and management of deciduous woodlands.
The Limestone Link is a 36 mile route from the limestone of the Cotswolds to that of the Mendip Hills. It was devised by the Yatton Ramblers of Bristol.
The site of the Elizabethan Hazel Manor is on the right before the tall gate here. A description of the house in Morris's Directory of Somerset in 1871 says '.an ancient Gothic building, the hall and library contain fine oak ceilings and in the staircase is a fine oriel window of stained glass with family arms in the centre'. It was latterly used as a shooting lodge. In March 1929 the house burned to the ground, partly at least due to the lack of water in the vicinity. There are now farm buildings on the site.
The owners of Hazel Manor, the Hill family, gave the land for the village hall at Compton Martin in memory of a son killed in the First World War.
The open land on top of the Mendips was enclosed some two hundred years ago and the trackways introduced. Some of these, now lanes, are between Hazel Manor and Blagdon. The avenues of Beech trees on Green Lane and Leaze Lane are on the 1883 O.S. map. The Bronze Age bowl barrow at the junction of these two lanes is a Scheduled Monument. There are over four hundred Bronze Age Barrows or Burial Mounds across Mendip, frequently on a false crest or the highest ground in a particular area. Where the barrows are in groups they are often arranged in linear cemeteries. Bristol Airport is directly across the valley behind this 3000 year old burial mound.
Ubley Drove, which is crossed by Leaze Lane, is a very old trackway used from at least early medieval times for the seasonal movement of sheep from the lowland to the upland commons. Wool was the great industry of the medieval period and relied heavily on the sheep pastures of the common land. To the west of Ubley Drove, aerial photography shows a large area of complex but indistinct archaeological features.
At the tarmac road, it may be possible to see the Severn Estuary and the hills of Wales to the west. There is an old saying ‘If you can see the hills it is going to rain. If you can’t see them, it’s raining’.
The original Two Trees commemorated by this road were at the junction with Broad Road to the south.
A step aside moment.
Blagdon. Before the Dissolution, much of the land in this area belonged to the Priory of St Augustine in Bristol. Later some passed to the Seymour family, hence The Seymour Arms in the village. The Wrington Vale Railway Line from Blagdon to Congresbury opened in 1901 and closed for passengers in 1931. The remains of the station survive as part of a private house near the lake. Blagdon Lake, completed in 1904, covers 440 acres and has a seven mile perimeter. It is now considered to be one of the finest trout lakes in the country. There is a Wessex Water Visitors Centre on the lake.
Blagdon has several shops and a Post Office.
Oral history suggests that Louvers was the name of the landowner at Luvers Lane and sadly not a known trysting place; although of course, it still could have been.