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Over the Edge to Sedgemoor

From Curry Rivel to the Cider Monument for a view over the moors.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient 350ft (100m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Paths, tracks and field edges, 13 stiles

Landscape Wooded scarp, gentle farmland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 128 Taunton & Blackdown Hills

Start/finish ST 391252

Dog friendliness Mostly on leads - enclosed pasture and lanes

Parking Car park at village centre

Public toilets None on route

1 Head back from the car park to turn right into the main street. Just after the post office a green arrow marks a high-walled path on the right. At its end turn left, in front of a trimmed yew hedge. Follow the right-hand edge of the field beyond, and cross a driveway to a stile under beech trees. The tall Pynsent Monument comes into sight ahead: a 140ft (42m) waymark for the next part of your walk. It was designed by 'Capability' Brown and commemorates an act of 18th-century political sleaze. Sir William Pynsent lobbied the Prime Minister, Pitt the Elder, on behalf of the cider industry. Pitt refrained from raising the duty on cider and in gratitude Pynsent left to Pitt in his will the Burton Pynsent estate. At the time this was a perfectly respectable proceeding, and Pitt raised the column to celebrate it.

2 Follow a fence on the left to a stile. Ignore another stile on the left, but keep ahead towards the monument. A final stile leads on to a lane. Turn right for 170yds (155m) to a gateway with stone pillars. Turn left into a field, and follow its edge round to the right to a stile and the Pynsent Monument with its sudden view ahead over West Sedgemoor.

3 Pass the monument into a dip, to find a stile at the right-hand end of a row of fir trees. A path leads down through a gloomy wood. At the bottom turn left, just inside the wood, for 275yds (251m) to a stile on the right. Cross open parkland, just to the left of a pond, to a distant gate. This leads back into Burton Wood.

4 Turn left, on a tarmac track that climbs out of the woods. Some 100yds (91m) later comes a stile on the right; bear left across the field corner, to a stile in the hedge on to the A378. Cross into Moortown Lane. This jinks right then left to pass an orchard. It then repeats the manoeuvre, jinking right then left to pass a second orchard. Here you may notice mistletoe in the apple branches. This parasitic plant feeds on the sap of other trees.

5 Straight after this orchard turn left through a gate. Cross the top edges of two fields, with a wide, flat view away to your right. A gate leads you on to a green track. Here grows a plant with the divided leaves of the elder, the berries of the elder, but clearly not the elder as it's herbaceous, dying back in winter, unlike a tree. It's the fairly uncommon Danewort. The track emerges on to Holden's Way. Turn left, uphill, ignoring a side road on the right. In another 220yds (201m) take a stile on the right, signed 'Williton'. Follow a field edge to a grey house with pink edges. Pass to its left, to a gap in a tall Cupressus hedge. An enclosed track leads out to the B3168.

6 Turn left along the pavement, then take the first left into Stony Lane. Opposite the turn-off is Old Father Time on a high wall above a letter box. After 200yds (183m) take a street on the right with an ivy-covered wall - it leads back to Curry Rivel's main street.

Curry Rivel is a fairly typical Somerset village, with its mixture of small shops, pubs and stone houses, with the church rising above the tiled rooftops. Modern estates around the village have tried to blend in by using traditional building materials - and perhaps with another couple of centuries of weathering they will. 'Curry' is from the Celtic 'crwy', meaning boundary; 'Rivel' is pronounced like the end of 'arrival' and is the name of the 12th-century feudal overlord Sir Richard Revel.

In July 1685 the Earl of Feversham was sent to crush the Monmouth Rebellion. He chose a camp down in the watery moorland of West Sedgemoor, well-protected by the many rhynes (drainage ditches). Outnumbered and outgunned, Monmouth staked all on a surprise attack. In mist, at dead of night, his pitchfork army crept out of Bridgwater. Each man carried a knife, with orders quietly to stab to death the man next to him if he made a sound. However, a shot was fired - either by accident or treachery. Feversham surrounded the rebels among the rhynes. Some 200 were killed outright (against the King's 16), and in the aftermath many hundreds more were hanged from the signboards of nearby inns.

What to look for

The local blue Lias limestone gives Curry Rivel its rather sombre colouring. The stone weathers to a pale beige colour. In some of the buildings a mixture of dressed stone and natural, weathered faces gives a blue-and-beige, chequered effect.

Where to eat and drink

The Old Forge Inn and beer garden, at the walk's start, has a rather classy menu of pheasant terrine and frogs' legs - you may feel more comfortable changing into clean shoes in the car park first.

While you're there

Sedgemoor battlefield is a short, signposted walk from near the Sedgemoor Inn at Westonzoyland. Because of its brutal aftermath the battle lingers in the collective memory, and many claim to have heard the cries of its victims and the clatter of hooves drifting through the mist. A small monument marks the site, and the Sedgemoor Inn has some relics of the battle.


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