Walking with the Wordsworths and Coleridge

IMG_3028 Quantock view - CopyWe’re surrounded by wonderful walks here on Exmoor and many have been linked to the famous Romantic Poets Wordsworth and Coleridge. Wordsworth lived in Holford with his sister Dorothy and Coleridge lived in Nether Stowey, both of which are within easy reach if you stay with us We have discovered the following walks taken by the poets, so you can follow in their footsteps.

Start at the car park next to Holford Bowling Green (OS Explorer 140).

Follow the road west. It is almost like a track but has recently been patched up by the locals. Stroll past the Dog Pound, which is a corral for all stray animals found on the Common. Its name comes from the crest of the St Albyn family that features a dog-like wolf.

Walk on up to Alfoxton House, which is in some disrepair now having been used as a hotel and home and more recently all but abandoned. Some of the out buildings have been converted into a dwelling.

Here the track is fringed by oak and holly trees, both looking gorgeous at this time of year with either golden falling leaves or glossy green ones with berries. There is a stream to the right, which goes into a ravine. After a further few hundred yards, look out for a signpost pointing down to a footbridge. This crosses roaring dell, which is said to have featured in Coleridge’s ‘This Lime Tree Bower, my Prison’.

Use the wooden steps up the other side to the lane. Then turn right past the old silk mill, following signs for Holford Combe.

The lane is now a bridleway as it goes up the valley and into the woods. It crosses the stream several times as it winds its way up the valley through oak woods used in the past for the charcoal industry in the area.

After roughly half a mile, you will see another bridleway, down the hillside on the right.

Here you can go left into Lady’s Combe. There is no official footpath at this stage, but it is not too difficult to follow the stream up the hill, to its source in a patch of bog beneath two ancient oaks. This is Lady’s Fountain.

From here take an unofficial pathway onto the open common. Make your way up the gentle slope to the left until you reach a track running east to west. The gnarled, stunted thorn trees, which were the inspiration for Wordsworth’s ‘The Thorn’ are still here, while behind you there’s the great dome of Dowsborough, one of the mightiest hillforts in Somerset, where Dorothy would lie in the sunshine with Col (this is what she called Coleridge in her Alfoxden Journal).

Turn right along the track as it goes over the heathland, where the heather in autumn is a beautiful hue.

Follow the track until you reach the bridleway that forks off right above the head of Frog Combe and follow it along the broad ridge towards Higher Hare Knapp.

On a bright, clear day, you can see the twin islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm in front, to the left the coastline and mountains of Wales and on the right, Bridgwater Bay and Brean Down stretching out into the Channel. While below there are the fields, farms, woods, villages and church towers that Dorothy loved.

Once the track reaches Lower Hare Knapp, you can turn left down into Hodders Combe and follow that back to Holford.

This walk was adapted with thanks from one featured in Anthony Gibson’s book ‘With Magic in my Eyes’, which is available to order from Amazon.