A country walk in the pretty Somerset village of Corton Denham
- Credit: Simone Stanbrook Byrne
Corton Denham, on the Somerset-Dorset border is a lovely village of attractive houses nestled in alluring countryside and surrounded by jaw-dropping views. Simone Stanbrook-Byrne pays a visit
With your back to The Queen’s Arms, turn left and walk down through the village, passing Middle Ridge Lane then the defibrillator phone box. Stay on the road as it bends and, 550m from the pub, just after the last house on the left (where you can buy Lawrence’s Traditional Cider) turn left down Ridge Lane.
Just beyond the last house Ridge Lane becomes an unsurfaced track and climbs steadily. Follow it for another 500m, where you will be confronted by two gates, both sporting arrows.
Go through the right-hand gate and turn right, walking along the top of Corton Ridge with vast, thirst-quenching views to the left (west). A new pond has been constructed in the valley, by Corton Wood Farm; what looks like a distant and larger lake is, in fact, a solar farm. More than 12 miles to the north-west Glastonbury Tor rises out of the Levels.
There now follows a glorious stretch of walking along the ridge, one of my favourite places. This path is part of The Monarch’s Way, a long-distance route of more than 600 miles that follows the flight of Charles ll when he fled Parliamentary troops after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. As you continue above the valley the even-loftier heights of The Beacon on Corton Hill rise to your right – you may see people up there making the most of the bench.
The path passes through three gates as it heads north. After the second gate the impressive façade of Paddock House comes into view down in the valley. After the third gate you find yourself winding round the slopes of Parrock Hill, rising to the right. Ahead, just under a mile to the north, historic Cadbury Castle Hillfort can be seen, a place of deep history where humans have had a presence since the Bronze Age.
Stay on the clear path as it starts to curve right round Parrock Hill, the way becomes slightly sunken between grassy banks. You begin to descend and, as these banks disappear, look for the left fork in the path just beyond the end of the banks and take this left-hand path, descending away from Parrock Hill to reach a fence-line. As you reach it, keep ahead with the fence to the left and follow it round to a blue-arrowed gate. Pass through and follow the track to the road.
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Turn left along the road, ignoring an immediate right turn to South Cadbury. The road passes the entrances to Paddock Cottage and Paddock House and in half-a-mile arrives at a junction with the attractive house of Home Farm opposite.
Turn left, following the road for another 120m then turn left along a surfaced drive with an adjacent fingerpost. Follow this, past attractive houses, for about 100m, to reach the gates of Montague House. Here, veer right off the surfaced drive following a track for about 100m to avoid Montague House’s garden.
As the track veers right, towards a gate, go left off the track, crossing the grass to another gateway beyond which you find a yellow arrowed stile and, to the left of the stile, an arrowed footpath gate.
Go through the latter and follow the clear path beyond, which soon leads to a gate into a field. Go through and follow the right-hand hedge, with Parrock Hill rising over to the left a few fields away. When the hedge ends, in about 100m, the footpath diversion starts.
Turn right at the end of this right-hand hedge, passing into the adjacent field, and walk ahead to follow the line of the left-hand hedge. In 100m, as the hedge starts to bend right, pass through a gap in the hedge (which I hope has been cleared!) and cross the small footbridge. This leads to a very stark new drive. Cross this and pass through the gap in the hedge immediately opposite. None of this was signed when I was there in April, but I hope that, by now, the faults have been rectified.
Beyond the drive and the hedge-gap walk straight across the field, heading south; Corton Wood Farm is to your leftThis line leads to another plank bridge. Cross into the next field and keep straight ahead in the same direction across the field. This line joins a track across the field and reaches another plank bridge. Cross it and then walk across the middle of the next field, heading slightly right to a visible gateway in the far hedge. When you get there you find an arrowed (deep joy!) but very rickety contraption crossing into the next field. Mind your step.
From here head across the next field in the direction of the arrow, aiming for a gate in the far right corner. Go through/over this and now walk diagonally across the next field aiming towards the obvious buildings of Woodhouse Farm, 200m away. As you approach the farm a gate to the left of the buildings leads onto a track. Follow this as it curves past the buildings (they are to your right) and round the front of Woodhouse Farm, to reach a surfaced road.
From here walk along the road. It bends right in 120m; ignore any paths off and stay on the road for another 250m, where you find a stile on the left with two yellow arrows. Cross this into the field and head diagonally right across the middle (the arrows are misleading!) aiming for a metal gate in the far hedge.
Pass through this gate and turn left along the road, following it for almost half-a-mile to reach a sharp right-hand bend by a house. Leave the road here, keeping ahead along the middle of three tracks, rising to a footpath fingerpost in about 50m. Ignore the footpath going left and keep climbing along the track.
In 600m, just before the track starts to descend, another track goes left – take this. In 220m the track emerges above a vast view and you find yourself once more on Corton Ridge, following the Monarch’s Way.
Very soon you pass an appealing memorial to Sheila Mary Gibbons. Beyond this ignore a track going right by Sharilyn’s Bench and continue along the ridge for another 220m, to find a yellow-arrowed kissing gate up steps in the right-hand hedge.
Go through here then head straight across the next three fields, heading downhill towards Corton Denham. After the third field a stile leads onto a path. Follow this towards the church, passing the delightful ‘garden’ cemetery next to a converted chapel. The track leads to a residential road, Middle Ridge Lane.
Turn left; the road soon bends right. In another 200m you reach the road through the village, opposite the pitchen path to St Andrew’s Church and the historic, restored water trough.c
Turn right, back to the centre of the village, your car and the embrace of The Queen’s Arms.
At its furthest point the walk dips briefly into Dorset, as a blocked footpath necessitated an alternative route, but you don’t notice the join. One footpath has been rerouted and is poorly maintained: this has been reported to Somerset County Council and will, I hope, be resolved before you get there. I had some secateurs in my rucksack which were handy to snip brambles away from stiles.
But don’t be put off! Pack your sense of adventure along with your sandwiches and enjoy the superb scenery.
Map: OS Explorer 129 Yeovil & Sherborne 1:25 000
Directions to start and parking: Corton Denham is about 9 miles north east of Yeovil, south of the A303. Park on-road in the village, with consideration for residents
Start point: The Queen’s Arms, Corton Denham. Postcode: DT9 4LR; Grid ref: ST635225
Distance: 6 miles
Exertion: Moderate, some steady uphills
Terrain: Fields paths, tracks and some very quiet roads
Dog friendliness: Animals grazing; some awkward stiles, roads. The Queen’s Arms is dog-friendly
Refreshments: The Queen’s Arms, Corton Denham, DT9 4LR, 01963 220317 (one of my favourite pubs)