Fancy an invigorating country walk with plenty of refreshments en route? Andrew Swift follows a trail from Norton St Philip to Hinton Charterhouse, Wellow and Hassage
A frequent criticism of country walks is the lack of a pub en route. When there is a decent pub, however, another problem can arise, for most country walks entail driving to the starting point, which means at least one member of the party has to remain abstemious.
Happily, neither problem arises on this month’s walk. To celebrate the coming of spring, it offers the choice of five excellent pubs, and, as the starting point is served by a half-hourly bus service from Bath, there is no need to drive.
Although only seven miles long, and, at its furthest point only six miles from the centre of Bath, it is a proper country walk, following green lanes and muddy bridleways through quiet valleys and across breezy farmland.
It starts in Norton St Philip, many of whose ancient buildings are tucked away off the busy main roads that plague this historic village. Then it’s across the fields to Hinton Charterhouse, from where a green lane leads to Tait Wood and the valley of the Norton Brook – a spot which seems utterly remote. A brisk climb up another green lane leads to the high ground above Wellow, with views back towards Bath, before bridleways head down to the hidden hamlet of Hassage, with its glorious 17th-century manor house. A little further on is Tucker’s Grave, one of the most celebrated and unspoilt pubs in Somerset, from where quiet lanes and bridleways lead back to Norton St Philip.
The other pubs include The George in Norton St Philip, built by the monks of Hinton Priory it is believed to have had a licence since 1397. On the other side of the road is The Fleur de Lys, a relative newcomer, having only been licensed since 1584. Hinton Charterhouse also has two pubs – The Rose & Crown, rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1880, and The Stag, first licensed as a beerhouse in the 19th century, but as welcoming and traditional as any of them.
The walk starts in the centre of Norton St Philip, opposite the bus stop (ST774559). Go down Bell Hill, beside the George Inn, and take the first right along North Street.
At the end turn right uphill, and at the main road cross and go over a stile. Follow a faint track diagonally across a field, heading to the right of a white house. On the far side of the field, cross a stile and follow a waymark sign alongside a fence. Go through a gate at the end and head for a kissing gate (KG) on the other side of a drive.
Go through it and follow a faint track alongside the hedge on the left. At the end of the field, go through a handgate a few metres to the right, which leads across a plank and through another gate into a field. Head across it, bearing slightly to the right towards a metal gate, and go through a handgate beside it (ST775572).
Go through the gap in the hedge a few metres further on and follow a faint track across a field towards a KG leading into woods. The track through the woods curves slowly right, before coming to a broad track, along which you bear left.
Carry straight on across a field, continue through an avenue of trees and, after emerging into the open, carry on through a KG and turn left along a lane (ST776582).
As you enter Hinton Charterhouse, look out for a house – No 21 – with a lamp over the door. This was The Mason’s Arms, which closed in the 1950s. A little further on, however, you come to The Rose & Crown, still very much in business. The Stag, Hinton’s other pub, is 100m to the right along the main road.
To continue the walk, cross the main road and head along the lane to the left of the Post Office. After 100m, when the lane ends, continue along a bridleway. Although narrow at first, it soon broadens to assume the character of a green lane.
Carry on in the same direction and after 1200m, go through a KG into Tait Wood (ST760576). Follow the track heading straight downhill, bear left at a T junction at the bottom, and after 100m, when the path branches, bear right. After another 200m, look for a waymark on the right and follow it down to a KG.
Turn left along a lane for 100m, before turning right along a byway. After crossing the Norton Brook, follow a track steeply uphill (ignoring a turning to the left). As you climb, the village of Wellow comes into view to the right, and, when the land eventually starts to level out, you can see Norton St Philip away to the left.
Carry on past the converted buildings of Upper Baggridge Farm and continue along a lane in the same direction. From here, you can see the buildings of Odd Down clustered on the hillside three miles to the north.
After 350m, opposite a turning on the right, go through a handgate on the left and follow a track across a field (ST745567). Carry straight on through another field as the land drops steeply away. At the bottom, bear left for 60m before following a track winding down to the right through the hedgerow.
Carry on downhill and, after crossing a stream, continue along a muddy green lane which soon starts to climb.
After 350m, go through a gate to enter the hamlet of Hassage. After 100m, when the lane swings right past Hassage Manor, a byway branches off to the left (ST752558). This is the way back to Norton St Philip, but, before turning along it, carry on along the lane for 700m, turn left at the crossroads, and after another 300m you come to Tucker’s Grave (ST751551).
From here, head back to Hassage and turn up the byway. After 400m, ignore a track bearing left, and carry straight on past a ruined barn. After another 200m, the track curves right before turning left 50m further on (ST758558). Instead of carrying on along it, however – and coming to a dead end – carry straight on along a rough track heading towards a gabled house surrounded by farm buildings in the valley below.
Carry on downhill in the same direction and cross a footbridge over a brook at the bottom. Go through a KG, bear right and almost immediately left to follow a bridleway alongside the brook. After 250m, the track leads through a gate to start climbing a high-banked, muddy green lane to Norton St Philip.
At the end, turn left along a lane and, after 125m, turn right at the crossroads. Look out for a 15th-century dovecote 50m along on the right, follow the lane as it curves past the 17th-century Manor Farmhouse, and at the end turn left up Bell Hill to return to The George.
Andrew Swift is the author of On Foot in Bath: Fifteen Walks Around a World Heritage City and co-author, with Kirsten Elliot, of Ghost Signs of Bath
Distance: 7 miles
Challenge: Straightforward, although with some climbing and muddy sections. Sheep may be encountered at a couple of points.
Map: OS Explorer 142
Bus: D2 from Bath bus station, half hourly Monday to Saturday until around 5.30pm
George Inn, Norton St Philip (georgeinnnsp.co.uk); Fleur de Lys, Norton
St Philip (fleurdelysnsp.co.uk); Rose & Crown, Hinton Charterhouse (theroseandcrownbath.com); Stag, Hinton Charterhouse (thestaginn.plus.com); Tucker’s Grave (tuckersgraveinn.co.uk)