Somerset Coal Canal
Somerset , England
- The Somerset Coal Canal
- remains of a historic caisson lock
- woodland and scenic views
- Southstoke Millennium Viewpoint
- a walk through a tunnel
Walk out of the car park and turn right. Turn in to Coombe Hay Lane, passing an alternative car park (opposite side of Coombe Hay Lane). Walk about 400 metres then turn right, though a gate, onto a footpath (GR 733612). The bank, which the footpath runs alongside for a while, is the remnants of old diggings for “fullers earth” (a mineral that was used in past times for cleansing raw wool). Follow the footpath through woods and across fields and again through woods for about ¾ mile to a gate (GR 724609). The footpath is close to the road at this point though you may not be able to see if (but you will probably hear the traffic!). This is part of the Fosse Way (Roman road).
The path veers slightly left and continues for another ¾ mile to come out at a crossroads beside a farm (GR 721603). Turn left at the crossroads and follow the minor road for a further ¾ mile (700 metres) to pass a road junction (on the right) at GR 727600. Continue ahead to a cross roads (GR 729599) where turn left. Before leaving the crossroads try looking over the wall to see the remains of the Somerset Coal Canal. (Unfortunately the wall is quite high and trees may also obscure the view.) Follow the road (Coombe Hay Lane) for 250 metres to a fork (GR 729602). Take the right fork and follow that minor road for about 200 metres, then turn right onto a footpath. Go through/over a gate and follow the footpath for about 320 metres till you come to a tunnel. The tunnel may have running water (depending on recent weather) and will be quite dark, so a torch may prove useful.
Walk through the tunnel, then follow the same footpath as it winds through thin woodland and alongside a small stream for about 25 metres to a stile (GR 734601). Go over the stile and up some steps then through a gate and turn right onto a minor road. Follow the road down for about 100 metres to a road junction (GR 736600) where you turn left. Follow this road for about 175 metres then turn off left through/over a gate onto a track (GR 737601). After about 100 metres notice a sign for “Caisson House” (GR 738602) and look right to notice a depression in the grass indicating all that remains of a bold and early experiment in lock building – the creation of a “caisson lock” which lowered boats in a mobile tank, thereby avoiding the need for multiple locks. The system provided a transit time many times faster than multiple locks but, unfortunately, had to be abandoned because it was not effective enough at retaining water.
Continue up the track, which narrows to a footpath, and in 400 metres turn right over a stile (GR 741605). After about 100 metres the path veers left and 200 metres further ahead you come to another stile (GR 743607). The route continues ahead, but it is worth turning right (over the stile) and walking 100 metres to see a well-preserved short section of the Somerset Coal Canal – then retrace your steps to the stile and turn right to resume the route.
Follow the path for about 200 metres to another gate (GR 743608) cross a track and continue 120 metres to another (GR 744609) after which the path veers left. Walk 200 metres to join a track leading uphill (GR 745611) and after about 50 metres fork left to follow the track along a ridge for about 200 metres to the Southstoke Millennium Viewpoint (GR 743613) where there is plenty of seating for you to sit and refresh yourself and enjoy the view.
Rejoin the Track (which, at this point, runs quite close to the Wansdyke – an ancient trackway which you may notice as a ridge coming into view on the right). Continue to the end of the track (GR 741613) then cross a field in a northwest direction (the path is less defined at this point). Climb to the top corner of the field and go through a gate to join Burnt House Road (GR 738615). Follow the road (through a housing estate) round to the right and turn left at the T junction to join Sulis Manor Road. Cross the end of Combe Hay Lane (or turn into it if you used the alternative Car Park) and continue to the roundabout where you can re-enter the Odd Down Park-and-Ride Car Park.
This is a low-level walk, mostly on footpaths, with no steep climbs or descents. However, it does cross a few roads, so care must be taken; and some sections may become muddy after wet weather... so good footwear is advisable.