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Bus To Bluebell Walks

In April and May, our ancient woodlands are awash with the much-loved, nodding heads of the bluebell. Millions of bulbs can exist in just one wood, giving rise to the 'blue carpets' that are a springtime joy.


Bluebells grow up to 50cm. They are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

The bluebell spends most of the year as bulb underground in ancient woodland, only emerging to flower and leaf from April onwards. This early flowering allows it to make the most of the sunlight that is still able to make it to the forest floor habitat, before the canopy becomes too dense. Millions of bulbs may exist in one bluebell wood, causing the blue carpets we so keenly associate with spring, and new plants are sometimes able to split off from these bulbs and grow as clones.


The Bluebell attracts the attention of plenty of pollinating insects.


The bluebell is, perhaps, one of our most famous and unmistakeable woodland flowers: look for long, narrow, drooping leaf fronds, and bending flower stems that are heavy with nodding, blue bell-shaped flowers

Mendip

King’s Castle Wood, near Wells

Combine bluebells and history – this nature reserve is on the site of an Iron Age hill fort, just a mile away from the centre of Wells – with views across to Glastonbury Tor and the Somerset Levels.https://www.somersetwildlife.org/nature-reserves/kings-castle-woodhttps://footpathmap.co.uk/map/?zoom=14.0&lng=-2.64138&lat=51.20387https://www.google.com/maps/place/King's+Castle+Wood/@51.20932,-2.6314604,15z/data=!4m6!3m5!1s0x487223b6b82f537f:0xda03257b6f7cad0a!8m2!3d51.2084441!4d-2.6180924!16s%2Fg%2F1tj49y89

Bishop's Palace, Wells

IHome to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for over 800 years, Bishop’s Palace is surrounded by a moat and visitors enter via a gatehouse and drawbridge. The palace grounds include 14 acres of landscaped gardens to explore, including an arboretum designed by Sir Harold Hillier which has encouraged the development of wildflowers. From snowdrops in February and early March to gorgeous displays of bluebells in late April, among primroses, violets, cow parsley and orchids, there’s plenty to admire during the spring and summer months.

For more information: https://bishopspalace.org.uk

South Somerset

Ladies Walk, Montacute
A short, semi-circular walk from a pathway alongside the village school, up through a hillside beech wood thronged with bluebells – you can just see the village and Elizabethan Montacute House through the trees – before heading down through a lane cutting deep through the hamstone back into Montacute.

Pit stop: Or go back into Montacute for the more formal The King’s Arms.

South West and Taunton


RSPB Swell Wood, Fivehead, between Taunton and Langport
https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/swell-wood/
As well as bluebells, you might also see nesting grey herons and little egrets (aaawww) in this part ancient woodland part abandoned oak plantation stretching 10 miles from Langport to the Blackdown Hills.  Over 100 pairs of birds come to breed between March and June making it one of the largest colonies in the south west.  Swell Wood is about 11 miles from Taunton, off the A378 between the villages of Fivehead and Curry Rivel.
https://www.google.com/maps/place/RSPB+Swell+Wood/@51.0105773,-2.9115948,18z/data=!4m6!3m5!1s0x48720cf2b4a7eef5:0xda30c82965e379d1!8m2!3d51.0103071!4d-2.9119408!16s%2Fg%2F12jsk25xn

 

Brockholes, along the South West Coast path, Exmoor
Six miles of rugged track and footpath (some narrow and exposed – eek) but it’s worth holding your nerve for amazing views across the Bristol Channel to the Brecon Beacons in Wales and the three valleys filled with bluebells and other flowers in amongst the gorse. And the brockholes? Ancient quarries.
https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/walksdb/221/
https://footpathmap.co.uk/map/?zoom=14.7&lng=-3.54938&lat=51.04793
https://www.google.com/maps/search/Brockholes,+along+the+South+West+Coast+path/@51.0484941,-3.5382814,15z

Compton Dundon Fort and Woods walk via the 77 First West Bus
 

To reach Compton Dundon, I took the 77 bus operated by First West of England and got off at the main stop in the village, Ham Lane/War Memorial. From here you follow Ham Lane and after some time you will see a footpath heading off to the left in a diagonal direction crossing a wide open field. You follow this footpath as it crosses through a farm and then through a tunnel of trees. The path starts to slope upwards and you keep walking until you get to a wider path where you turn left and are greeted with a gate and a small bit of information about Dundon Beacon.

After a short climb, you will see a very steep permissive path which will take you up to the top of the Somerset Wildlife Trust run Dundon Beacon Nature Reserve. Not long after the gate at the bottom, you will see a small path heading off to the left, but be careful because it’s easy to miss. This trail through the woods takes you past beautiful bluebells in the Spring.

To quote from the SWT’s website, this is… “A mosaic of calcareous grassland, scrub, ancient oak woodland, secondary woodland and conifer plantation. The top of Dundon Hill features significant archaeological remains with a hill fort, Bronze Age round barrow and ancient quarry…”

The Trust is in the process of creating a balance of ancient oak woodland combined with managed coppice and restored grass downland. And I have to say it is a fabulous place…

The hilltop is dominated by the an Iron Age fort and hilltop settlement, and a tumulus where a kneeling skeleton was excavated in the early 19th century. At one time Dundon Beacon was part of a communication chain linking other beacon hills at Ilminster, Shepton Mallet and the Mendips.

So, after taking a turn around the historic and wildlife rich hilltop we made our descent down another steep path which took us to the public right of way that runs east to west from the main village of Compton Dundon to the school and the church at Dundon. 

You could turn right here if you wished so that you could visit the Castlebrook Inn down on the main road, or walk up a second hill called Lollover.

 

As you walk back down Dundon Beacon, you get to a small car park with a small school adjacent. You continue to walk along a tarmac road until you hit a larger road called Peak Lane. Straight ahead, you will see a public footpath ascends away from the village in a westerly direction to climb magnificent Lollover Hill. At just under 300 feet, this might not be a mountain, but Lollover really does have that sense of being magnificent because it rises so steeply, straight out of the dead flat Levels. A wondrous fact which you will be able to enjoy once you’ve climbed to the trig-point at the summit.

Strange name, by the way… Some locals believe Lollover comes from ‘Look Over’ referring to the fact that locals went up the hill to watch the 1685 Battle of Sedgemoor which so infamously and bloodily took place about eight miles away across the Levels. 

The hilltop is overseen by English Heritage as a nature reserve which helps preserve the traditional hillside farming techniques (lynchets) and the wild orchids which grow around the steep flanks. Not that we saw any during our warm and sunny walk a couple of weeks ago - it was February, after all. 

There are many vantage point around the Somerset Levels, but the top of Lollover has to be one of the best there is. The flat green ocean seems to spread forever into the haze, but you will see the distant Quantock Hills far to the west and I’m told you can spy Hinkley Point nuclear power station, although why you’d want to do such a thing I can’t imagine. 

After you’ve been suitably wowed by the views, carry on along the footpath which descends as it heads west boards Bartletts Farm. Before it gets there the path veers to the left and now head south towards the large sheds of Upper Hayes Farm, but before it reaches this busy looking place there’s a chance to turn left again and now head back east towards the village along a track which traverses the lower flanks of Lollover. 

There’s no phone reception in the area of Compton Dundon next to the main road so prepare your directions beforehand. Wether that’s a paper map, or a downloaded version of Google/Apple Maps. Buying your ticket on the bus couldn’t be easier with Tap On Tap Off, simply tap your contactless debit card or Apple Pay on the reader and get on the bus, then tap off when you get disembark. No need to tell the driver where you’re going or worry about a return ticket, Tap On Tap Off automatically charges you the cheapest adult fare.
 

Sedgemoor

Mascall's Wood

Mascall's Wood comprises of an area of broadleaved ancient woodland on very steep slopes with a great diversity of woodland flora and lower slopes.

https://www.somersetwildlife.org/nature-reserves/mascalls-wood

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Mascall's+Wood/@51.277629,-2.7732708,16z/data=!4m6!3m5!1s0x48721e6463e22a47:0xd287ae375bcb8fd3!8m2!3d51.2798047!4d-2.7614551!16s%2Fg%2F1tf6lnp3

https://footpathmap.co.uk/map/?zoom=15.8&lng=-2.77294&lat=51.27884

Aller and Beer Woods, near Othery
One of the Somerset Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves, this ancient woodland along the western slope of Aller Hill is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), with oak and ash trees, wood-peckers, the odd deer, the rare star-shaped earthstar fungi  as well as all those bluebells.

https://footpathmap.co.uk/map/?zoom=14.5&lng=-3.05436&lat=50.97014

Fyne Court, Bridgwater (National Trust)
 

Located in the heart of Quantock Hills, witness the wild garden of Fyne Court in National Court where you can explore the blankets of beautiful snowdrops adorning the woodland floor with the pops of colour from yellow archangel, primroses, and bluebells. Fyne Court is supposed to be the great starting point to enjoy the walks through the countryside where you can enjoy the pristine and exotic views from the top of Quantocks.

 

For more information: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/somerset/fyne-court

BY BUS: Hatch Green 23 service to Kingston St Mary where it is a 10mins walk.

Just over the border....
 

Bathwick Wood

Bathwick Wood is the ideal location for Bath residents hoping for an afternoon walk amongst bluebells.

The National Trust wood fills with wild garlic and bluebells in the spring amid remnants of medieval terraces and embankments.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Bathwick+Wood/@51.3859095,-2.3509213,15z/data=!4m6!3m5!1s0x4871819878d6e4c1:0x5bf290e982463f9b!8m2!3d51.3887115!4d-2.335709!16s%2Fg%2F12hpxb5tx

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