Two routes are offered: one on road, the other largely off road. Both routes are particularly attractive in the last week of April and the first week of May, when the Hadspen orchards are normally in full bloom. Both routes pass through Cole, so it is possible to pick and mix, walking one section on road and the other off road.
The on-road route is a few minutes quicker and passes through the delightful hamlets of Hadspen and Honeywick. The road is usually very quiet. The off-road route visits the delightful setting of Gants Mill and offers great views off Ridge Hill (particularly good on the return). In wet weather and in winter the section near Gants Mill can be slippy and hazardous.
IN MARCH 2023 THIS ROUTE HAS BEEN SLIGHTLY CHANGED BECAUSE OF A FOOTBRIDGE CLOSURE. See this post for more information and a very straightforward diversion adding about a minute. The route guidance below has not been edited to reflect this change. LINK TO DETAILS OF DIVERSION WITH MAP.
On road: 3.5 miles (5.6 km), 1 hour 15 mins to 1 hour 35 mins each way, easy.
Off road: 3.7 miles (5.9 km), 1 hour 25 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes each way, easy in dry spells, moderate in winter and after long spells of rain. From January 2022 this route is stile free.
[Photograph by kind permission of Joan Williams]
Map (both routes)
Route directions (both routes)
Both routes start at Station Road car park and follow the same route through Bruton…
From the car park turn right towards the town. Swing right opposite the church, cross the river and the road to reach a Town Map which will guide you along the Riverside Walk. Opposite the back of Sexeys Hospital (old medieval buildings set above gardens) turn left (before a house called Heybrook), cross the river and turn right at the junction to continue along the Riverside Walk to reach the main road. Here the routes diverge.
On road route via Hadspen
Turn left, cross the road, and pass under the railway bridge. A couple of minutes up Cole Road take the first right down Gants Mill Lane (un-signed). Continue parallel to the railway then through a small wood until a T junction is reached. Turn right and continue along the road through Cole, ignoring a road to the right and various tracks to the left.
After just over 1km the equally pretty hamlet of Hadspen is reached. Ignore two roads to the left (the second signed to the village hall) and follow the road round to the right, through the even more delightful hamlet (just a couple of houses really) of Honeywick, then steeply uphill to a junction on the edge of town and then a crossroads at the A371. Cross the road and go straight down North Street ahead to reach the centre of Castle Cary.
Return on road
Leave the centre of Castle Cary by walking up Upper High Street as it goes uphill and becomes North Street. Cross the A371 and continue along Wyke Road. Shortly fork right at the junction of minor roads. The road drops down into Honeywick, and then swings right and left through Hadspen.
Continue for about 1km to cross the River Pitt and enter Cole. Ignore the road to the left between two houses. After about 150 m take a sharp left turn into Sunny Lane (usually muddy and shady). The lane climbs slightly through trees then drops to run alongside the railway. Turn left at the end down Cole Road, under the railway bridge. Cross the road just after the junction, and go through the gap in the wall, past some houses along Riverside Walk. Swing left to cross the Brue, then right into Lower Backway and continue straight ahead where the road ends to come out on Church Bridge. Cross the road, turn left in front of the Church and back to Station Road car park.
Off road via Ridge Hill
Turn right, cross the road at the zebra crossing, turn back towards the filling station and immediately go up the drive to Mill on the Brue Outdoor Activity Centre. Just before the house turn left over a stile and continue to the right along a clear path (a bridleway) below the garden. Ignore a gate on the right, pass under a zip wire then through an obstacle course to a gate. Go through the wood, with a mill stream below to the left, to reach another gate and the delightful setting of Gants Mill.
Follow the path leading up to the right above the former Mill works and through a gate. The path becomes narrow and climbs steeply for a short stretch. Take care here, particularly in the wet, and consider returning by the on-road route if all seems too slippy.
The path levels out and runs high above the river, before reaching another gate. Just after the gate pass an oak tree. About 20 m further a narrow path turns off to the left, at another oak tree. It immediately becomes a short and steep downhill scramble, so take great care. Get down the hill as best you can and go straight ahead past a splendid oak to a gate and an obvious tunnel under the Great Western Railway.
Follow the narrow field between the river and the railway line. The field gradually widens. The right of way goes right slightly uphill towards Cole Stile Farm ahead, over the stile which gives the farm its name and into the lane. However, the owners have created a permissive path that continues along the riverbank leading to a gate into the lane. This route is altogether better than the right of way and should be followed if possible. Turn left (at either the gate or the stile) to follow the lane, cross the River Brue, turn left on reaching Wyke Lane, and continue a few metres to reach Cole.
Turn right along the road, crossing the River Pitt. After a sharp right-hand bend pass Cole Farm and go through the gate immediately after Cole Farm Barn on the right. (Fingerpost signed Ridge Hill). Go diagonally across the field on a footpath to a gate hidden in the opposite corner. Go into the orchard and almost immediately turn right, across a bridge and straight ahead uphill between the lines of apple trees. Turn left at the hedge and follow the rough track along the top of the orchard to a gate. Go straight on gradually uphill, with trees and fence on the right. The path meanders along the hillside, with great views (particularly behind), to eventually reach a gate in the far top right corner of the field.
Cut across the short corner of the next field then down steps and onto Wyke Road. Turn left.
After about 100m take the bridleway on the right (Solomon’s Lane). Follow it ignoring a track to the right till it emerges on the A371. Make a note of where the bridleway leaves the road as it is easy to miss on the return. Turn right then first left down Ansford Road to the centre of Castle Cary.
Return off road
Walk up the High Street then take the first left up Ansford Road. On reaching the A371 at the top turn right and cross the road. After about 50m go left up an access road between houses (there is a fingerpost, but it is very hard to spot). The road becomes a bridleway. Follow the bridleway past a track on the left till it emerges onto Wyke Road. Turn left on the road and take second waymarked footpath up steps on the right (clearly signed Cole and Leland trail).
Go along the short right-hand field-edge and through a gate. Turn left. From here the path meanders across the side of the hill just below the fence. Once a corner is rounded there is a glorious rural view up the valley to the east, with St Marys Church in Bruton in the distance and the Stourhead ridge beyond. In the last week of April and first week of May the Hadspen orchards below are a sea of pale pink apple blossom.
The path gradually gets less distinct, but the route is obvious, with the fence close by to the left. It drops gently downwards to a gate through into the orchards. Go through the gate and follow the rough track next to the hedge down the left-hand side of the orchard. Near the bottom watch for a sign to the left of the track, indicating where the path turns right downhill off the track, between the rows of apple trees. Go down through the orchard and across the brook. Turn left, go through a gate hidden in the bottom corner and diagonally across the field to the opposite corner, where a gate leads on to the road. Turn left and follow the road past houses and a farm, over the River Pitt and into Cole.
At the junction turn left between two houses, then immediately right into the private lane leading to Colestile (also known as Cole Style). The lane crosses the Brue by a narrow bridge. The landowners have established a permissive path through the field in front of Colestile which is more direct, easier to follow and altogether better than the ‘official’ route. Follow it if open, by turning right through the gate immediately after the bridge. Continue through the field with the River Brue to your right. [If the permissive route is closed walk up the drive to the house and take the stile into the field on your right]. The field narrows as the river and railway line gradually converge. Go under the railway.
Go through the gate and straight on up the hill ahead past a fine oak tree. The bridleway becomes indistinct. Scramble straight ahead up the steep muddy bank then turn right to go through a gate.
The bridleway continues high above the River Brue then drops very steeply down towards Gants Mill. This section can be slippy in the wet, with a significant drop to the right, so take great care here. Go through a gate and follow the bridleway through a second gate, a small wood, and a further gate into the grounds of Mill on the Brue Outdoor Activity Centre. Pass beneath the house, turn left up to a gate then right down the drive to reach the main road at West End. Cross the road and turn right, then left after crossing the river to follow Riverside Walk past houses, left to cross the river again then right along Lower Backway. Continue to reach Church Bridge, cross the road turning right then left in front of the Church to reach Station Road Car Park.