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The Route - An Overview

The Somerset section of the England Coast Path can be walked from east to west or vice versa. For this overview, we are starting in the west at Minehead and finishing at Brean Down but the signs work in either direction.


A good place to begin in the holiday resort of Minehead is the Map Sculpture on the Quay. The former fishing village is on the edge of Exmoor National Park and has the impressive back drop of North Hill.


The longest heritage railway in England is based here and its first stop is Dunster which is the next stop on our journey too with its fairy-tale hill top castle, medieval streets and beach of sand and shingle.


Sand, shingle and old sea defences also characterise Blue Anchor Bay painted by Turner and named because of the coloured alabaster, rich seams of which run through the cliffs layered with shale and lias.


A port for more than 1000 years, Watchet now has a modern marina but has lost nothing of its old world charm. Here is a sculpture of the Ancient Mariner from the poem by Coleridge who took his inspiration from a visit to the town.


Crags at St Audries Bay at the foot of the Quantock Hills see fresh water cascading down onto a beach with rocky promontories and pebbles reflecting the range of hues in the cliffs above.
The remains of a lime kiln at East Quantoxhead testifies to its past as a small harbour for importing limestone and exporting alabaster. The village is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty AONB.


Limestone is a feature of Kilve where some of the best fossils can be found among the rock formations that draw geologists from far and wide. Shale from the cliffs was once converted into oil here.


At Lilstock there is evidence of more lime kilns and the cliffs are topped with grass and wiild flowers to set off the extraordinary patterns of the rocks below which give way at Shurton to a small sandy beach.


The construction of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point requires a diversion of the Path around the vast site before it heads back to the coast at Stolford where cliffs are replaced by a flatter topography requiring man made defences to hold back the high tides.


Steart is an example of where the natural flood control can replace the constructed as it has been engineered to use salt marsh to absorb the energy of the sea which otherwise might overwhelm the shore. The reserve is managed by the Wildfowl and wetland Trust.


The Roman Port of Combwich is the last village on the route before it takes you down the mouth of the River Parrett and along its banks all the way into the town of Bridgwater – once one of the top ten ports in the country.


Walking up the banks on the opposite side will lead to the quay at Dunball and onto the towns of Highbridge and Burnham-on-Sea which boasts a sea side pier and three lighthouses, only one of which still operates.

 
A six mile stretch of sand runs from here to the end of our walk passing rare sand dunes protected as a local nature reserve. The natural extension to the Mendip Hills AONB that is Brean Down looms into sight with the promise of extraordinary views of the Path that brought you.

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