Somerset Coal Canal and South Stoke
Walk 4 - printable instructions (1 x A4)
3 miles from Midford 1.5 hours or 4.5 miles from Monkton Combe 2 hours
Time: about 1½ - 2 hours hours
Start: Either from the Hope and Anchor pub at Midford or follow Walk 3, starting at Wheelwrights Arms, to Point X at Tucking Mill.
Maps: OS Explorer 155 Landranger 172
Take the footpath opposite the Hope and Anchor and go under the railway bridge and over a stile on to the old towpath with the dry bed of the Somerset Coal Canal on the right and the brook (now the Cam Brook) on your left. Past a house and a bridge over the canal to the right, cross a stile and bear left to go back under the disused railway alongside the Midford Brook, then bear right again and over a stile to rejoin the towpath. You now have a pleasant stretch of about ¾ mile. The canal on your right and the woods on the opposite bank. Near the end of this stretch, where the canal and brook converge, you can see the remains of a lock.
Over the stile you turn right along the bridle path, up the hill to the lane, and turn left down the lane to the footpath on the right, nearly opposite a house. Under the railway again (this is the Titfield Thunderbolt line) and pause to read the board giving the history of the canal and the remarkable engineering feats carried out at this spot to convey the coal barges up the 140ft hill to Combe Hay to avoid a long tunnel. Boat lifts and inclined planes were tried, before finally settling on a flight of 22 locks going round a horseshoe bend. Eight of these locks survive, and some can be seen to the left of the footpath.
At the gate, cross the stile and continue up the valley with a stream on your left, and across a field towards a house above. This house was derelict for many years, but has now been restored. Cross the stile and the private road in front of the house and continue uphill, through a "squeeze" and alongside a wood on the left, full of primroses in spring. The path swings left, uphill across a field towards farm buildings on the horizon. Another squeeze on your right takes you into a lane: turn left into South Stoke.
On your right is a fine tithe barn with stone roof and dovecot, and the church with a Norman north door. Take the road to the left of the telephone box (but if you need refreshment after the climb, the right hand fork leads to the Packhorse Inn). Continue straight ahead, with the old Brewery and its vaults and castellated roof on your left and fine views soon opening up on the right. *Look out for a footpath sign on your left which points you across a field to the B3110. Cross this with care, and take the footpath opposite down into Horsecombe Vale. However, if you started the walk at Midford and left your car at the Hope and Anchor, you can return there by bearing right at the (*) above, down the quiet lane to cross the B3110 below Midford Castle and straight over the next small crossroads to the pub's car park.
Returning to the * above, a broad grassy track leads down into the valley, with a hedge on the left. Nearly at the bottom of the hill you cross a stile, bear right across a field, and alongside a barbed wire fence to the stream, which you cross. Turn right past the parish boundary stone - "L and W 1894" - follow the stream, pass the Water Treatment building, under the railway viaduct, beside the angling lake, and left along the lane back to Monkton Combe