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THE MENDIP RING - Leg 3a
Sutton to Batcombe. 7 Miles
Starting from Grid Ref. ST 633 341
Cross the A371 and follow the track signed to East Hill Dairy Unit. When you reach the end of the concrete track keep straight onto a dirt track taking you out to a road. Turn right then, just after Wyke Farm on the left, look for and cross a stile, aim half right up the hill to the telegraph post then aim for the hedge at the top of the field where you will find a well hidden stile. Once over this, aim half left for the dogleg in the hedge on the far side of the field where you will cross a stile onto a lane. Turn left down the lane, when you reach a sharp bend to your left turn right by the cottage and follow the bridleway up to the top of Lamyatt Beacon.
On leaving the Beacon do not follow the path into the woods but drop down to a bridle gate to follow the edge of the wood, now on your left, to pass through another gate. Ignore the waymark which points left up the hill. Turn right, down the field to exit onto a road B3081 via a bridle gate. Cross over the road through the gate and follow the bridleway round the top of the hill. When you can see a large gap in the hedge at the bottom of the hill, start to make your way down towards it. A little to the right, you will see a stone track through the hedge. Go through this, across the stream, and up the slope to pass through a gate onto a metalled drive. Turn right and on reaching a gate on your left go through this then straight ahead through the remains of a hedge to turn left up the hill. At the top turn right and follow the hedge to pass through a gate with a sign telling you to watch out for the Rabbits! Now follow the path across this field to reach Snakelake Hill. Turn right and at the bottom of the hill and left into Whaddon Wood. Follow the path through the wood to reach a bridge and stile at the end, then follow the stream up on your left to cross a bridge after which you turn right and walk up through Henley Grove Farm. At the end of the barns turn left, pass the cottages and follow the drive up to the road (Copplesbury Lane).
Turn right, then left over the stile and follow the hedge across the field to another road; turn right and take the left hand fork (Crows Hill). Proceed down the hill you will see a path on your right take this and work your way half left downhill to pass through a farm gate next to a large tree. Now aim for the church and on reaching the bottom you will find a track, enter this go over a stile and follow the track over a stream pass the cottage on your left then follow the track off to the right uphill, on reaching the road at the top turn right back to the church and the end on the walk.
Points of Historical Interest
East Hill Lane is an old drove road and a continuation of the track through from Wake's Covert in Leg 2b. The large cream coloured building at 1.00 o'clock at the end of the valley is Sunny Hill Independent School for Girls on the edge of Bruton.
East Hill is approximately the western edge of the ancient Forest of Selwood. The Celts called it Coit Maur - the Great Wood - and so it was. In the east it spread from beyond Frome down to Gillingham. To the north it reached Malmesbury 40 miles away and in the west its edges were on the rim of the marshes. This great forest remained a formidable barrier to travellers until quite recent times, not least because of the outlaws who hid out there. In 894 the Saxon Bishop Asser calls it Selwudu. Further along, this walk passes into the area that became the Royal Forest.
In this immediate area on East Hill there was woodland called Fairwood, which was part of Wyke Manor. It had probably been converted to arable by the end of the 16th century.
In the area around the track and stream junction at ST 651 347, there was an Anglo Saxon settlement. In 1308 it is recorded as Wykmanstyle.
On the approach to Wyke Road, the Dismantled Railway is marked by metal field
gates on either side of the track, It was part of the Somerset and Dorset Line, known locally and possibly unfairly as the Slow and Dirty. This section was between Evercreech Junction to the north and Bruton to the south. The line was closed in 1966.
Wyke Champflower takes its name from Luke le Champflower, the 12th century Norman French landowner.
A step aside moment
Wyke Farms have a long established family cheese making business based here. The Wyke Farms Shop, marked by the silos, is open every day. At White House Farm it is about three hundred yards to the right after the exit from Easthill Lane.
Creech is from the celtic word criic meaning hill.
Lamyatt Beacon. There are a number of beacon sites on the hills around Mendip, such as Beacon Hill above Shepton Mallet or Beacon Batch on the Mendip Hills (Leg 8a). They linked with lines of similar sites. The firing of the beacons was more than a general alarm; they could only be lit on the order of a Justice of the Peace and were the signal for a prearranged series of troop movements. During the reign of Elizabeth I these defence measures were constantly at the ready until after the defeat of the Armada. They were lit again in 1988 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of that event. The Beacon area itself has been consistently associated with many strange apparitions, in particular a huge black dog.
There was a Home Guard Auxiliary unit based at the Beacon in WWII.
To the east, on Selwood Ridge is Alfred's Tower. Completed in 1772 for Henry Hoare of the banking family, it commemorates King Alfred's victory over the Danes in 879. It is triangular in shape, 131 feet high and carries a statue of Alfred under a canopy with an inscription. It was damaged in 1944 when an American aircraft crashed into it killing the crew. The tower has been recently restored.
To the south is Bruton on the River Brue. Just visible is the church tower of St Mary the Virgin, founded by St Aldhelm. Also of special interest are a 15th century packhorse bridge, a medieval dovecote (Leg 7b) and Sexey's Hospital established in1638. The Priory of Austin Canons, founded in 1142 and surrendered at the Dissolution, was a major landowner in the area.
Bruton has a Tourist Information Office and a Museum.
At the top of the hill is the site of a Roman Temple. It is in a clearing in an Ash wood. There are no surface features except a slight undulation.
At the B3081, the area down to Milton Cleveland was, in 1256, covered by 300 acres of woodland known as Ridgewood. In 1905 the woodland was still recorded as covering 276 acres. There was at one time a mill on the brook near Green's Combe Farm. The farm is an early 17th century building, remodelled in the 19th century.
By Combe Brook the fields display the medieval terracing for agriculture known as strip lynchetts, with field boundaries that lead down towards Bruton.
At the entry into Snakelake Hill there was a toll bar in the mid 18th century, when this road was turnpiked by the Bruton Trust from Bruton to Batcombe and beyond. Snakelake Hill is a Hollow Way in places 20 feet deep, which given the academic criteria of a hundred years for every two inches of wear, suggests a possible usage of 1200 years. As the walk route turns left with a small stream on the right, there was a manmade pond. The shape is still just visible. The pond was used by the Priors of Bruton for raising eels, hence the name Snake Lake.
Henley Grove Farm dates from about 1800. The chapel like building in the farmyard has the initials of the builder, John Harding, and the date 1802. The Tithe map of 1838 shows a large area of woodland called Henley Wood which ran up the hillside to the top of Cuckoo Hill. It was part of the Bruton Priory estate before the Dissolution and later belonged to the Berkeley family. Henley Wood had been cleared by 1884.
Ahead towards Batcombe, Cranmore Tower flanked by two BT masts, is on the horizon. The tower is an Italianate folly some 306 ft high and built in 1865, following a fashionable trend, by the Paget family from Cranmore Hall. The Hall is now All Hallows Independent School. The Tower was used by the Home Guard and the Royal Corps of Signals during WWII. It stands on Pen Hill which is said to be the most easterly of the Mendip Hills.
Batcombe is almost entirely a Conservation Area. There is a Somerset Vernacular Buildings Research Group publication on the village. In the 14th century this was an important wool producing area specialising in fine cloth and hosiery and there are still houses of the 15th to 17th centuries here. The Old Cider House in Kale Street is a Listed Building considered to be At Risk. St Mary's church was built in 1540 on the site of an earlier building. On the tower is the badge of the Earls of Arundel (Leg 4b). There is a history of the church in the church. In the churchyard is a Yew Tree described as Ancient and Venerable in the Tree Register of the British Isles. The Wesleyan Methodist chapel built in 1861 is now a private house.