Wellow Combe Hay loop

We arrived in the sleepy village of Wellow around 8:30am. Today was going to be a special walk because it had a few interesting sites along the way. This route was taken from one of Marks walking books 50 walks in Somerset.

We parked just outside the Fox & Badger inn and changed into our walking gear. It was a lovely morning and we had 7.5 miles (originally 9) ahead of us. Sarah joined us today in training for her big challenge in a few weeks - Pen-Y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons.

We set off down the street and took the first right after the pub. This lead us down quite a steep hill past some cottages towards an idilic stream.

The stream was wide and quite deep, it may have been a ford at one point as there was a normal pedestrian bridge to our right. A concrete platform had been created for cars to cross though after a lot of rain I can imagine it becoming a fast flowing ford again. We crossed the bridge and followed the road right towards a cross roads.

We took the right fork on to Hassage Hill for a short time until we reached our first off road path. This was a narrow route carved out between two high hedgerows on either side like a corridor to the countryside.

The hedgerow fell away as we sauntered through into open land. We had our eyes peeled for the first and probably the most anticipated of our 'interesting' sites. We reached a point where we had to study the map as I had not seen a path to the site but I knew it was close to our location. Ahead of us was a steep slope towards Wellow Brook (stream) which was too far and I certainly did not fancy walking back up the hill.

I noticed a large stone in the distance that looked a little out of place to its surrounding. It also had a grass mound above it. We headed towards it and the nearer we got the more neolithic it looked. It was indeed the Stoney Littleton Long Barrow, a burial chamber built around 3500BC. It is a very interesting place and open to investigation (at your own risk).

We had all brought torches and explored the tomb. It was quite narrow and had small chambers that lead off from the main corridor that went through the middle. At the end it opened up into a larger area that could perhaps have rested two to three bodies. Trinkets and photos had been left by modern man, not really sure why. Sarah stood watch outside incase she had to make the call should we be unfortunate enough to fall victim to the very old roof.

After soaking up the history of this sacred place we took on some refreshment and headed back towards our path and the long slope towards the Brook.

In a field to our right was a pillbox which we thought was a little weird because there was not anything obvious worth defending. It could be to prevent German invaders reaching Bath or maybe to give farmers a chance of protecting precious farmland.

We were surround by sheep and rolling hills, the sky was blue and the sun was starting to glare down upon us - what more could you ask for? As we walked by the Brook we noticed some large concrete cubes that were placed on the banks where trees were scarce. We come to the conclusion that because of the pillboxes these blocks may be to prevent tanks from crossing the Wellow Brook - after doing some research after the walk we realised that we were in fact right - glad they were never used.

We followed the banks of the brook missing the actual path that lead up to the farm which was on the hill to our left. It was not clear that is where the path went but as I look at it on Google earth whilst writing this I can see that it does. Our way was nicer but it did involve passing under a very low electric fence. We passed across a bridge and emerged out from the trees on the opposite bank on to a narrow road. It was a very idilic spot as the sun was beaming down through the trees as the road twisted through the countryside.

We followed Littleton Road round to a junction where yet another pillbox was situated. They were surely prepared round these parts for a good tear up should it have happened. Now on most walks we use both a map and the ViewRanger app that Mark has on his phone. Since using the app we have made fewer mistakes so it is an invaluable tool.

However recently the app has been playing up, especially around various parts of Bath. So all we had was our hand map and the map in the handbook, neither of which were very clear. It was at this point of the walk we were a little confused because we could not tell whether we should take a public footpath off Grays Hill or carry on along Greys Hill. We did the obvious solution and turned our phones off and on whilst Sarah kindly ventured off down the footpath to see where it led. Luckily our phones picked up the route and we were able to see that our route stayed on Greys Hill to Hang Hill.

We took a right turn down a footpath towards two ponds that we could not see from the path as it was overgrown with trees and bushes. At the bottom we took a left and headed along the bottom of the field along the hedgerow. The path was quite clear at this point until it disappeared then reappeared but in the wrong direction. To cut a long route short we followed the newly emerged path which was indeed wrong. We should have stayed at the fields bottom edge but ended up following the only path up the meadow. We turned around and went back to the far corner of the field where we saw a walking gate hidden in the bushes surrounded by thick mud.

I had noticed that the path we were led on our merry dance along came from the bushes behind us (hope you are following this) the path came from the stream and shoved in the bushes was a farm gate. I thought it looked passable and although my peers believe that I have a mud fetish I felt like an adventure was on the cards.

The stream was quite shallow and once I had passed through the gate I had all the brambles to contend with. I tried to snap them or wrap them around branches above my head.

It was a green corridor a bit like being in the long barrow again. I walked along the stream feeling quite pleased with myself when I heard a voice ahead of me. The rest of the crew had managed to create stepping stones in the mud and had already made it to the gate. Mark got his phone out and took a snap of me walking up the stream looking all Bear Gryills.

We carried on along the path now that we had found it again. It was around this area that we should have seen a 'tractor graveyard' which I was looking forward to seeing but either we missed it or it had since been cleared. We did see some old farming machinery when we passed through a small farm on the Wellow road but nothing that constituted as a graveyard for vintage vehicles which is what we were hoping for.

When I originally created the route our path took us right up the Wellow road and then left along a farm track. Instead we cut straight across and went up the field exiting at the top near a large water troff. This saved us a bit of time and milage making up for the last trip round the houses (fields).

We followed the farm track for quite a while as it snaked between cropped fields until we reached a fork in the road. We needed to take a left on the first fork and a right at the second which wasn't that far away. Heading along the White Ox Mead Lane for a short while until we picked up our next public footpath.

From White Ox Mead Lane we crossed into open countryside as far as the eye can see. We were about half way at this point heading towards the banks of Cam Brook once again. We passed though in to a large open field and we could feel lots of eyes watching us. In the distance was a herd of cows or maybe bulls we weren't sure. They were a little bit inquisitive and moved as one even though there was about twenty of them. They all came into the field as we walked through the middle - then they ran out of it. We were alone, we neared the middle then they all came running back in. We wondered how this might pan out, we started to walk towards the nearest fence incase it turned nasty. They trotted within 50 feet of us then they turned around again. Luckily we were near our path that lead us into the next field.

As we walked along the hedgerow we could here the cattle on the other side they had come right up to the boundary. Because the hedges were very dense we could not see each other but we could hear them. It was creepy because they sounded like they could charge through at any moment as they slushed through the mud.

Luckily we reached the banks of the brook unscathed but you never know with cattle, they look docile but they can be very dangerous because of their sheer strength. We walked along the banks until we reached Comb Hay Lane. We took in some refreshment at the bridge before passing over it and taking the public footpath on the right. This led us into a managed area of land that I thought was a golf course but it turned out to be a nature reserve.

Once we reached the top of the hill the heat of the sun had also risen quite considerably we stumbled out of the hedgerow in to a small hamlet by the name of Comb Hay. It had some very large houses dotted along the quiet road that ran through it. We walked through envying over the dwellings and then to top it all we saw a pub which was whispering our names but we soldiered on ignoring its cries of refreshingly chilled beer.

Around this area was our third and final interesting site to see. According to the booklet in which we found this walk there was an old Caisson barge elevator somewhere around here. Coal that needed to be transported from the Paulton Basin to Bath needed to manage a 165ft climb up Comb Hay Hill so they built an underwater elevator. A barge entered at the top into a metal container called a Caisson. Water was then pumped in from above (on top of the caisson) The weight would sink the caisson down the shaft. However this theory worked very well but in practice it was scrapped after only two years because the whole thing was mined from fuller's earth which expands when wet. This caused a lot of problems for the huge caissons that kept getting jammed.

I thought we maybe able to see some remanence of the shaft but it wasn't to be. I did look on Google earth and just a bit further north of our position there is a cottage suitably named Caisson Cottage that does have something quite suspect in its back garden that looks narrow enough to fit a barge within it.

We passed through some trees across the Cam Brook once more and into a large field surrounded by trees. Our path took us through a wooded area where we began to get attacked. The midday heat was upon us and so was the flies, we were getting attacked from all angles. Our original route lead us up and around Twinhoe farm and then down back through into Wellow but because of the heat and the bugs we decided to leave that bit out and venture on down the road taking us straight into Wellow.

We arrived back at Wellow tired and thirsty, although we did not get to see all the things we had hoped we still saw the interesting burial chamber. Overall this was a very enjoyable walk - see you on the next one Cheers!

Created By
Stewart Scott

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