This medium-length walk explores the deep coombes north of Bruton. It includes some excellent views and visits the oldest oak in the entire area. Most of the route is either on quite country lanes or through fields. Paths are often indistinct, but the route is easy to follow. There is a very short stretch along a narrow and windy minor road where care needs to be taken, and one section that is very muddy in winter. All stiles and gates are dog-friendly (for retriever/german shepherd or smaller). Livestock are usually found somewhere on the route, and there can be deer and the occasional hare at Greenscombe.
5 miles (8km), 170 m of ascent. About 110 to 140 minutes. Easy but with some steep ascent and descent. Route last checked January 2021.
Start at Bruton Community Office
Walk west along the High Street (against the traffic) and take the first right turn up steep and narrow St Catherines Hill. The road levels and crosses a junction into Higher Tolbury. Continue straight ahead. The road becomes a track through the wood and eventually emerges onto the B3081.
Turn left along the road and follow for 200 m (ignoring a stile to the right). Take great care here: although there is not much traffic the road is narrow and windy with blind corners. Go through a gate to the right onto a footpath (signed Snakelake and Milton Clevedon), and continue on an obvious route with the fence immediately to your right then between two lines of trees. The next stretch is often very muddy. Go through a gate, down through a wood and another gate (often open) to a gate into a field at the bottom. After heavy rain the patch of field just beyond the gate can be awash.
The path disappears. Note the return route, which comes straight down the hedge ahead past a water trough. The outgoing route heads uphill and gradually away from this hedge, on a straight line to the left of an obvious copse in the middle of the field higher up the hill. The landowners intend to fence the route, so it may become much clearer in early 2021.
Pass on the uphill side of the copse swinging slightly to the right and continue much more gently uphill, heading towards the trees and hedge on the left. Eventually at the far corner of the field go through a gate.
Look round after going through the gate and ponder the meaning of the sign which gives the walk its name. Go straight across the field on the obvious path and out onto Snakelake Hill. Turn right downhill. As the road bends to the right at the bottom of the hill an obvious footpath leads off to the left through a delightful wood and to a small bridge and stile at the end.
Here the path vanishes again. Keep to the left of the field along the valley, with the fence immediately to your left. Soon two stiles and a plank lead across the narrow ditch to the left. Henley Grove Farm is clearly visible ahead. Climb up the bank and through the gate into the farm.
The public right of way runs straight through this large busy dairy farm. Watch out for large tractors and other manoeuvring vehicles. The farmer is very respectful of walkers. Respect his workplace in turn, following the correct route, keeping dogs on a lead and children under control. Go straight ahead through the farm passing a barn on the left and several on the right then turn left up the drive between two cottages. At the top of the drive turn left onto Copplesbury Lane.
There is very little traffic on this lane. Perhaps because of this, and because it is so straight, some vehicles go too fast. Take care. Continue west towards Creech Hill visible in the distance. Cross the Batcombe Road at Hedgestocks, (where a leaftlet fixed to a tree gives a detailed history of this ancient junction) pass a farm drive on the left then the Spargrove road on the right to reach the junction with the B3081 as it crests Creech Hill.
Go through the gate into the field on the left. The path is very feint: it skirts the cattle pen and leads over to and along the hedge on the left-hand side of the field to reach a gate. Excellent views open up on all sides. Go through the gate and follow the more obvious path (recently fenced on both sides) directly ahead along the ridge, with drops into Greenscombe on either side. Descend to the magnificent old oak with glorious views ahead over Greenscombe to the Stourhead ridge in the distance.
This tree, registered as the ‘Magic Tree’ and also known as the Wishing Tree is by far the oldest oak in the area, and is thought to be about 600 years old. It is 7.8 m in circumference and has recently been heavily trimmed to prevent further splitting. Continue downhill, heading for a gate onto the drive to Greenscombe Farm. Turn right down the drive for 100m, where another gate leads onto a track off the drive. Follow the track to reach the gap in the hedgeline. Turn right downhill past the water trough to re-join the outgoing route for the return to Bruton.