7 Autumn walks, jaunts (and pubs)
Wrap up warm and get outside while the days are still crispy bright. Here are seven walks and jaunts with a cosy pub nearby.
Forde Abbey and The Lord Poulett Arms, Hinton St George
The gardens and grounds of the former Cistercian Abbey are spectacular at this time of year: golden, moody and sooo Instagrammable.
Hop in the car and whizz over to nearby Hinton St George to the 17th century The Lord Poulett Arms, newly under the management of the same team (ex-Soho Housers) behind The Talbot in Mells. Find a seat by one of the fires and peruse a menu serving up Somerset twists on pub classics – so cider, rather than beer, battered fish and chips – and inventive fusion-style dishes like braised squid stuffed with chorizo. Or just have a pint.
Around about The Packhorse, South Stoke
So many walks in this undulating area around community pub The Packhorse outside Bath – up out through the kissing gate at the top of the field, along the old canal, South Stoke Woods – that they’ve produced their own series of leaflets. The Packhorse was saved from being turned into flats or offices earlier in the year and thank goodness: the 17th century building is fabulously atmospheric and the Autumn menu looks amazing (we’ve got our eye on the venison with tortelloni, roasted parsnips, broccoli and pickled blueberries but you can also have a sarnie).
Stourhead Gardens and The Spread Eagle, nr Warminster
Must be one of the most spectacular Autumn walks in the whole of the country, Stourhead’s famous landscape gardens; with shades of red and gold specimen trees and a fistful of follies – mini Parthenon, Greek temple, grotto and all – reflected in the lake. And this amazing photo? Taken by Muddy reader and ace photographer Judith White.
Stop for hot drinks, cakes and sometimes mulled wine in the Gothic cottage (above), hot choc or ice cream in The Parlour or a ploughman’s or the full monty lunch in The Spread Eagle, just under new management.
Harridge Woods and The Oakhill Inn, Oakhill, nr Radstock
Two easy, marked trails around a magical woodland with streams, ancient trees, and a dilapidated cottage (once now inhabited by rare bats. Aeons ago, part of the Somerset coal mining scene Harridge Woods near Radstock, is now a nature reserve run by the Somerset Wildlife Trust. The cosy Oakhill Inn‘s got a reputation for great food, with a midweek 2-course lunch for £15, cream teas Sat & Sun and stonking Sunday lunches. Stay over in AA 4* rooms if you can’t bear to leave.
The Avalon Marshes and The Sheppey, Godney, nr Glastonbury
Starling time again on the Avalon Marshes, but you have to be up at dawn (eek) or get over there at dusk to see one of nature’s most amazing phenomena, the swirling shapes made by thousands and thousands of starlings coming to roost in the reed beds. Call the starling hotline 07866 554142 to find out whereabouts they’re expected to appear that day. Awesome photographer Lynne Newton captured this shot.
So a spot of nature in the gloaming and then into the warm embrace of The Sheppey? Not your usual Somerset boozer, this place has been described as a cross between the Glasto VIP glamping area and posh gastropub, with electic decor, fab food, a wide selection of booze, including 10 types of ciders and brilliant live music. You must book for Sunday lunch.
Two Tunnels cycle circuit and The Hope & Anchor, Midford
You could do this on foot but it’s a hefty 13 miles, so might be best to get on yer bike. The circular route takes in parts of the Kennet & Avon Cycle Route (including the spectacular Tucking Mill Viaduct) and the Colliers Way, linking central Bath, Midford, Monkton Combe and beyond via the Devonshire Tunnel and the Combe Down Tunnel. At just over a mile long, the latter is the longest cycle/walking tunnel in the UK, with an interesting AV installation inside. Stop off at the historic Hope & Anchor (on the Colliers Way section), for coffee, ales, homemade lunches as well as paninis, burgers and pies. Where does the Anchor come from? Barges on the now defunct Somerset canal used to pull up alongside.
Shearwater lake and forest and The Bath Arms, nr Warminster
Huge forest and lake criss-crossed with paths, with dens to build, streams to stomp in and a long rope swing. Walk up to the sculptures at Heaven’s Gate for far-reaching views of the Longleat Estate at your feet.
Just up the road, The Bath Arms at Horningsham, is on hand for a Bloody Mary and gastro nosh up, from sandwiches (fish finger and tartare foccacia anyone?) to a full roast.
Around Minehead and The Old Ship Aground, Minehead
Take a trip on the West Somerset railway, starting at Minehead but getting off the train at Dunster (time to visit the castle?) on the return journey. Then walk into Minehead and eat at the trad pub The Old Ship Aground on the harbourside (be sure to book). The food’s said to be delicious. Vegan haggis anyone?