This week's walk starts from Southstoke, where every conceivable space carries posters proclaiming 'Save Southstoke Plateau'. There can be no doubt as to how the residents feel about the plans to build 300 houses on nearby land. The walk heads downhill through Horsecombe Vale to reach Tucking Mill, a diminutive hamlet where a vast railway viaduct towers about the local reservoir.
The former Somerset & Dorset Railway, now a cycle path, is followed through to Midford, with Midford Castle being a landmark along the way. This handsome residence was built to the design of the club symbol used on playing cards, a reference to the original owner's gambling success that funded its construction. After an almost obligatory stop at the Hope & Anchor in Midford, the bed of the long disused Somerset Coal Canal is followed through to Combe Hay, where we find the decaying remains of a noted flight of locks. A walk with history and intrigue.
Distance: 4 miles
Start: Southstoke (GR 747613).
Maps: OS Landranger 172 or OS Explorer 155.
Terrain: Some steep hillsides.
Getting there: Follow the A367 south from Bath to its junction with the B3110 near to the former St Martin's Hospital at Odd Down. Follow the B3110 for ½ mile to a crossroads by the Cross Keys pub, before turning right along the lane signposted to Southstoke. In 350 yards, park on the roadside above a small green at the top of the village.
1. Facing the green and looking down into the village, take the road to the left passing the entrance to Southstoke Hall. In ¼ mile, by the entrance to Southstoke House, pass through a handgate on the left and follow a path across to the far right corner of a field. Beyond a gate, cross the B3110 and pass through a gateway opposite to join a footpath. Walk the length of the field ahead to a gate at the bottom of the field. Walk down the next field and, in 120 yards, pass through a gate on the left. In the field, drop downhill to a gap in a hedge before continuing downhill to the next gate and a footbridge over a stream. Continue along a woodland path, a stream on the right, to reach a gate and junction in 350 yards.
2. Turn right, walk down past a water board facility to an old railway viaduct at Tucking Mill. Pass under the viaduct and, in a few paces, follow a path on the right that climbs up some steps to reach the former S&D Railway, now a cycle path. Follow this path to the left for ½ mile through to the car park of the Hope and Anchor Inn in Midford, just past the former railway station. Bear right down to the B3110, turn left and pass under the railway viaduct to reach the Hope & Anchor. Cross the main road and follow an enclosed path opposite to a gate and field divided up into horse paddocks. Walk the whole length of this field to an old bridge on the right in 350 yards, continue to a handgate, turn left and follow a path that passes under an old railway bridge. Turn right and, in a few paces, pass through a gate on the left. Walk across the field ahead, the bed of the former SCC on the right, to reach a gate and junction in ½ mile, passing through one gateway along the way. Turn right and, in a few paces, left through a handgate. Follow the enclosed path ahead for 200 yards through to a gate and lane on the edge of Combe Hay.
3. Cross the road, pass under a bridge opposite and follow the footpath ahead that borders the SCC on the left. In 300 yards, where the SCC bears sharply left, pass through a gate ahead. Follow the path ahead, a stream on the left and, ignoring a left turn, keep ahead into a hillside field. Walk ahead uphill across this field to a gate to the left of a property. Continue along an enclosed path to a gate before continuing to a hillside field. Keep ahead uphill to a stile at the top of the field and a lane. Follow this lane ahead for 50 yards to a junction, turn right and continue to a gate in Southstoke. Ahead is a telephone box and the parking at the top of the village.