It’s the weekend, you’d like to stretch your legs for a few leisurely miles, see something interesting along the way and perhaps treat yourselves with a pub lunch or a cuppa in a café at the end. Oh, and if you can avoid some hills that would be an added bonus. Well, your wish is granted as this walk takes you to the Roman town of Lendinis, commonly known as Ilchester, and the route that I’ve selected is 3.5 miles of flat drove way and riverside rambling.

Great British Life: Sheep sheltering from the rain. Photo: Rachel MeadSheep sheltering from the rain. Photo: Rachel Mead

There are just two or three stiles to clamber over but aside from those it’s fairly accessible and offers a peaceful insight into life along the riverbank. If you’re bringing your dog be prepared to keep them under close control for half of the loop as there are plenty of sheep quietly enjoying their riverside fields, but they can run freely along the drove way to their heart’s content. Birders will definitely need to bring binoculars. I was blessed with the most spectacular vision of a Cormorant holding her pointy wings aloft (sadly my camera doesn’t quite do this majestic bird justice) but if any species looks connected to its flying dinosaur ancestors, this bird was certainly channelling its inner Somerset dragon!

Great British Life: A flat riverside walk. Photo: Rachel MeadA flat riverside walk. Photo: Rachel Mead

There’s plenty of parking along the side streets, or there’s Limington Car Park just up the road from the church. You can obviously wander the loop in either direction but I began with the long straight Pill Bridge Lane as it gives the dogs the opportunity to expend all their energy before being back on the lead for the riverside section. This lane is firm and flat underfoot for quite a while so makes for easy walking and despite your close proximity to the A303, the humdrum of the traffic soon subsides and the birdlife chitter chatter takes over. For being so close to the town centre you’d expect it to be busy with fellow dog walkers but we exchanged just a couple of ‘good mornings’ before coveting the whole route to ourselves.

Walking through ancient footsteps

With Ilchester being a key stop along the Roman road; the Fosse Way, the town also majorly benefited from its location on the River Yeo. With import/export connections to Langport and Bridgwater via the River Parrett, the Romans built docks and a quay here and by the 3rd century, Lindinis was at its peak as a trading port. Pottery and glass production were important industries for the town and the stone houses demonstrated the wealth of the region with mosaic floors and hypocaust heating systems. In fact, a metal detectorist came across ‘The Lady in Lead’ in 2014 where archaeologists confirmed that the final resting place of Ilchester was that of a young woman from 3AD, she wore hob-nail boots and her wealth or status was proven by her extravagant lead-lined coffin.

Great British Life: Pill Bridge over the River Yeo. Photo: Rachel MeadPill Bridge over the River Yeo. Photo: Rachel Mead

After a mile along the drove, you’ll be stepping back in time by about 700 years or so as you trip-trap across the scheduled monument of Pill Bridge. At about 16 metres long and just over a metre wide, this particular stone arched bridge was installed in the 17th century but the original crossing actually dates from the 13th century along with a cobbled ford which can be revealed during very dry spells. It’s a picturesque spot and if you walked here in the late 1700’s you would have also seen Pill Bridge House which took tolls from all river going traffic as they moved goods between wharves.

The walk of the town

Once you’ve crossed the bridge, you’ll be tracking the river bank back into town and it is here that you’ll be most aware of the birdlife. Depending on the time of the year, swans have been known to cluster on the river here in huge flocks and my visit gifted viewings of a solitary crane and a cormorant; in combination with a remarkable soundtrack of birdsong. The river meanders, the flora gets freedom to grow and you are rewarded with a bespoke slice of Somerset countryside before you arrive back into the heart of the town arriving on Ilchester Bridge. The bridge itself has played a pivitol role in the town over the years with some grizzly tales from the Norman period where the prison building actually formed part of the bridge’s structure. Today however, you can look north along the run of the river and see a former brick summer house gracing the bank with a certain prestige before you head to a local pub for your well-deserved roast dinner, or to the tearooms, Claire’s of Ilchester, for a slice of homemade cake.

Great British Life: Ilchester Town centre. Photo: Rachel MeadIlchester Town centre. Photo: Rachel Mead


START POINT: Almshouse Lane off Church Street (B3151).

PARKING: Limington Car Park near the church or on-street parking.

MAP: OS Explorer Map 129 Yeovil & Sherborne

REFRESHMENTS: Claire’s of Ilchester, in Church Street, is a popular café.

PRACTICALITIES: The route is mostly flat riverside walking. There are a few stiles. Keep dogs on leads where there is livestock in fields.