Trevor Wedlake's Writings
Treasures within reach
First published in the Village Journal April, 1982
|Take the rolling A39 out of Bridgwater through Cannington, Nether Stowey, Holford and on to Williton. Williton is not particularly attractive in itself but there is a thatched-roof shop where you can buy home-baked bread and really good picnic fare, and there is a convenient car park.
Continue then to Washford and visit Cleeve Abbey. Cleeve represents some of the best monastic buildings still standing in the West Country. It was a Cistercian monastery lived in by as many as 30 monks, not always apparently very devout ones, since in 1339 they were found guilty of apostasy. The church is gone but the living quarters, refectory hall and dormitory remain to give an idea of life as it was there from 1198 to the Dissolution. The free car park is an ideal picnic place.
Rejoin the A39, drive past Dunster and Minehead, and look for a right turn-off to Selworthy. It is a fairly steep, narrow road up to Selworthy but there is a car park at the top of the village next to the church. Of all the pretty villages in the Vale of Porlock, Selworthy must be the most famous and with marvellous views to Dunkery. The church is white and neat with a 14th century tower. The lady sexton, when on duty, is a ready fount of local knowledge. Older Wringtonians may be interested to know that the Rev. A.J. Hook [one-time rector of Wrington - Ed]was married here in 1912.
Selworthy, owned by the National Trust is mainly famous for its extremely pretty thatched cottages and for its green, around which stand a number of them. In the season there is a NT Information house and shop, and one of the cottagers sells cream teas. From the church there is a ¾-mile walk up to Selworthy Beacon, and there is a daunting 6-mile footpath to Dunster. Of the several other walks we took the path from the green to Allerford, a cross-country walk of about 1½ miles.
The track passed through Selworthy Wood, a way lined with rhododendrons and holly. A number of large forest trees had been up-ended across the path by the December 13th gales. It was a still day, this first day of February. Low cloud drifted very slowly between the hills. The trees, leafless to permit the rarer light of winter, stood sentinel-like in the middle dis-tance; Porlock Hill just a ribbon flung over the moors. With robins chirruping and the new-born lambs playing around their mothers it was tempting to believe that the giant bones of girt Jan Ridd really do lie in the comfortable folds of Exmoor.
On towards Allerford, japonica was already in bud on the walls of Jasmine Cottage. “Jasmine” is a variegated red-stone and thatch cottage typical of the area and at present under-going extensive repair. We reckoned it a very cosy retreat.
Allerford has a fine high-arched pack-horse bridge built beside a ford and shaded by a walnut tree. "The Pack-horse", sadly was not a pub, but attractive holiday flats. You can't get refreshment in this hamlet but there are public conveniences and a tiny Post Office-cum shop. And so back through the woods to Selworthy. The day can be completed by driving through Porlock, up the famous hill (1 in 4) or via the toll road, over the moor and down Countisbury hill to Lynmouth, then back across Exmoor via Simonsbath and Exford.
Lynmouth is pretty, in season and out, and some of the cafés are open in winter. It is 50p to climb the prepared path beside the River Lyn to the ravine through which the great floods of 1952 poured to destroy much of Lynmouth. The river here is really a great flight of waterfalls. On our visit it was amiable enough. Cascading over its falls and boulders it chitter-chattered its way down to the sea, as W.H.Davies might have said, like one bereft of brains.