Cheddar to Temple Cloud 
15 miles

route diagram

Wells to Cheddar Back to Somerset Way index Temple Cloud to Bath

The Walk

Today we come to the raison d'être of the Mendips dogleg - the awesome limestone portals of Cheddar Gorge, arguably the scenic highlight of the Somerset way. The route hugs the southern lip of the gorge, then continues across the road to the northeast and through Velvet Bottom, effectively the continuation of the gorge proper.

The route crosses the ridge at Hazel Warren and then descends to the Chew valley, meandering between the villages of Compton Martin and West Harptree on local paths.  It then follows the Limestone Link, a local waymarked path, to Hinton Blewett and then out to Temple Cloud on the main Bristol to Wells road.

Map: OS 1:25000 Explorers 141 (Cheddar Gorge & Mendip Hills West), 142 (Mendip Hills East)

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Cheddar Gorge

  First Badgerline service 126, Wells - Cheddar - Weston Super Mare
  First Badgerline service 672/673 Bristol - Cheddar (Saturdays and Sundays only)

A look at the Gorge itself from below should be first on the menu, so wander along the B3135 westwards out of the village where you will find "tourist" Cheddar; the car parks, gift shops, cafes (useful for filling flasks, I've found) and the Cheddar Caves. If you've not yet seen the caves this would be a good opportunity to do so - they are as interesting as those at Wookey Hole yesterday and the more absorbing for being entirely natural. Venture along the road for a while into the gorge proper to admire the feast of rock architecture from below; there will be nothing like this again until Dovedale in Derbyshire.

  Cheddar Caves and Gorge

Our route runs along the top of the gorge on the south side. There is a path up from the caves (called "Jacob's Ladder", naturally) but a toll is payable; it's cheaper, and ultimately more satisfying, to head back into the village and keep turning left until you hit the public footpath - a rather unassuming lane between cottages at first - that climbs the nose of the scarp slope to the pastures at the top of the gorge. You can now have some devilment telling day trippers who've laboured up from the caves that they've wasted their money.

The gorge;  footpath up from the village;  Cheddar from the top

Limestone walls;  summit pastures;  view of Cheddar from the gorge top

The route now runs for the best part of a mile alongside the edge of the gorge. There's something of the flavour of the Cornish coast path here (and how long ago that feels now!) in that you can choose the direct "motorway" route or a more complex side path that hugs the lip of the gorge. Sections of either can be mixed and matched to taste, of course. The rock scenery makes the gorge-top path a must in my opinion - the retrospective views of Cheddar and its circular reservoir, with the sweep of the Somerset Levels beyond, are a bonus and you can have fun picking out the features of the past few days such as Wells cathedral, Glastonbury Tor and the dark line of the Quantocks far to the south west.

lone tree

The scenery on top of the gorge verges on heathland and can be quite wild in places. Having passed the best of the Gorge scenery and topped the 255-metre summit of this section of the scarp, it's time to head down through the trees towards Blackrock Gate. The correct route can be a sod to find; the trick is to find a nose of high ground jutting out eastwards and, heading down it, locating a stile on a northeast bearing at the edge of the trees. The issuing path nips smartly downhill (a bit too smartly if it's rained recently), first northeast then east, to hit the B3135 on a lazy meander.

Blackrock Gate

Velvet Bottom

Velvet Bottom

The road, having wound its way to the top end of the gorge, now follows what is effectively an offshoot to the southeast. Cross the road and walk through another short stretch of woodland to come out into Velvet Bottom. Effectively the continuation of Cheddar Gorge by another name, Velvet Bottom is appropriately named. It's floored by a pasture of lush green grass that could almost be used as a tennis court. The walls of this dale are downy slopes rather than naked limestone but the scenery, while lacking the drama of the lower gorge, is still more than pleasing. The dale winds sinuously along for the best part of a mile, the path climbing at least one bank that has every appearance of being a disused earth dam.

At the east end of Velvet Bottom you pass the Mendip Adventure centre to come to an area of slightly confused terrain; contours seem to wander everywhere at random and you need to keep a careful eye on the map. Avoid fenced-off areas as there are abandoned mine shafts hereabouts. You meet a minor road at a bend; follow the road for some 150 meters then follow a track leading straight ahead just before the road curves sharply to the right. This track bends left to come to the end of another surfaced lane; turn right, then left after a further 100 meters to take another track taking a long, lazy s-shaped meander through a slight depression, first half left then fully right. This locality is named "blackmoor" on the 1:25,000 scale map. With a patch of woodland on your left now, you have a straight track of some 1100 meters to follow, passing Nordrach farm (beyond which the lane is surfaced) and climbing steadily to come out onto the B3134 Wells road at a hilltop near Hazel Warren Farm.

Hazel Warren

Hazel Corner;  Blagdon Lake;  Ubley village

Turn left onto the B-road but then take a turning to the right almost immediately; this is an unclassified road heading initially east, then northeast, to Hazel Corner. Here you're at the highest point of the route as it crosses the Mendip scarp, at approximately 260m above sea level. At this point our route joins the Limestone Link marked trail, which we shall follow for the rest of the day and for much of tomorrow. At Hazel Corner the road curves right again; here, take a track leading straight ahead. It soon gives a view out across the dip slope of the Mendips into the Chew valley, where you will see Blagdon Lake slightly to the left and the rather larger Chew Valley lake over to the right. The lane passes Hazel Manor on the left and, just before it reaches the steeper part of the downslope, you should turn right for the track to Hazel Farm and continue past it steeply downhill into Compton Wood.

Compton Martin

Compton Wood;  Compton Martin

As you pass into Compton wood you cross another significant local authority boundary; you're leaving Somerset and crossing into what was the county of Avon (based on Bristol and Bath) between 1974 and 1997. Avon has since been turned into four so-called Unitary Authorities - areas that have the status of both a county and a district or borough. You're now in Bath & North East Somerset UA.

Drop through Compton Wood, reaching a dell at the top of a lane above the village of Compton Martin. Find another path heading due east from here, skirting the village along the contour. This brings you to the head of a minor road pushing out of the village to the south. Go left then right, crossing a small enclosure on the edge of the village, to hit Highfield Lane; turn right and follow it uphill between hedgerows. About 100 meters after a sharp right bend turn left onto a footpath heading generally southeast; this is making for Beaconsfield farm. Short of the farm you reach the minor road of Harptree Hill; go down the hill for about 100m, then fork right onto a farm track called Cowleaze Lane. This takes you towards West Harptree and can be rather wet underfoot.


West Harptree

West Harptree is a charming little place, well worth a linger if you have time. The Bristol to Cheddar bus calls here should you wish to break the journey. Wander along the main street to the east and find the driveway between cottages known as Whistley Lane (second picture above). This is our route for the next mile.

Whistley Lane

Whistley Lane is a pleasant route, fringed by hedgerows and trees and falling quite smartly downhill to the little stream of Molly Brook. The surrounding countryside is particularly lush.

Whistley Lane

The lane ends at Molly Brook, after which you follow a couple of field paths out to a road near South Widcombe.

Stiles and field paths near Molly Brook


South Widcombe

Once you reach the road follow it eastwards, past a row of cottages just west of South Widcombe (second image above). The road goes round two right-hand bends. At the point where it bends to the left again, go down a short lane to your left and then follow the public footpaths across the fields to Heyden's Farm, about 400 metres to the east.

Approaching Heyden's Farm

At Heyden's Farm go south along the road a few paces and then turn left again for another footpath. You're at the foot of an impressive scarp slope at this point.

Heyden's Farm, road, and scarp slope

The wanderings of the path are a little intricate here so follow the 1:25000 map closely. Initially you follow the course of a little stream on its right hand side, reaching a terrace part way up the slope. Go a bit to your left to find a gate (first picture below). Here you're on a steep slope of rough pasture. Climb it, always tending well to your left. At the top you should come to Prospect Stile, a splendid viewpoint at which a fenced-off bench seat has been constructed. It's a great place to have a ten minute refreshment break as you gaze out across the Chew valley and the ground you've recently covered.

Climbing the scarp to Prospect Stile

The view over Chew Valley

Hinton Blewett

Our route now takes us eastwards to the village of Hinton Blewett. Immediately behind Prospect Stile a road leads away to the east. Follow this to a fork and go left. At the cottage of West End the road swings hard to the right, the cottage standing square to both roads. The village is a little way ahead.

Hinton Blewett

There are two lanes through the village but it's moe satisfying to take the more northerly of the two, the first left turn. At the far end of the village you reach the church, the pub and the crossroads.

Hinton Blewett crossroads, and the village hall.

At the crossroads (a junction more complex than it looks on the map) go down to the lower road and then take the lane to the southeast. You pass the village hall to your right, immediately after which you cross the stream of the Cam. Turn left to follow a public footpath beside the stream on its southeast bank.


Pastures beside the Cam

The right of way (not always obvious on the ground) runs through a succession of pastures for just over a kilometre, passing Camley House en route. A short way beyond the house it runs down a spur to reach a road. Turn hard left and walk northwest along the road to Lower Farm.

The Cam pastures

The short road walk and Lower Farm

At Lower Farm find a footpath heading off to the right, heading almost due north. The path climbs smartly uphill, is a little rough, and is penned in by tall hedges on both sides.

Path north of Lower Farm

Near the top of the slope look out for a gap in the hedge to the right, where another footpath leads off to the northeast. From here the route traverses a series of rather rough pastures, a couple of hundred metres below the lip of the slope (which is up to your left). This section is about a kilometre long but is hard going in high summer when the vegetation is rank. It seems rather longer than it looks on the map.

The path across the slopes above Cameley

There's a good view down to the right, where the hamlet of Cameley stands in the Cam valley. Keep trudging along through the pastures. The path is not always that easy to find. At one point there is a stand of trees to your right and you will find the stile  into the next field half hidden in the hedge at the corner. At another point the footpath was nonexistent when I did the walk in July 2004 and instead I followed a tractor furrow (third image below). You will no doubt be relieved when this uncertain section is over and a good path appears once again.

A view of Cameley, and the path across the slopes above

Temple Cloud

Bovine picket linedecent path at lastdriveway to road

At last the uncertainties end and you find yourself on a good path once more. The day's walk is nearly over and you will soon spot the line of the A37 Bristol to Wells road crossing ahead. The correct line of the right of way is easily missed as you near the road and instead you will probably find yourself on a short driveway heading southeast (third image above). This comes out onto the road about a hundred metres south of the correct point, so walk back along the road to the north. You've reached Temple Cloud. At the side of a wide layby you will find a bus stop for the service to Bristol (cross the road for the bus to Wells). The continuation of the route, which will take us to Bath tomorrow, is opposite.

Temple Cloud

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Wells to Cheddar Back to Somerset Way index Temple Cloud to Bath

This page last updated 5th September 2004