150b Dunster to Watchet

From Dunster Beach I begin walking westwards towards Watchet. I am looking across a wide bay. Below the rocky foreshore are lines of wooden groins, an expanse of mud, and then a stretch of water, with low cliffs on the far side.

b01 across Blue Anchor Bay, Ruth's coastal walk, Somerset Coast Path
My map shows only minor curves along the coast, so the wide bay comes as a surprise. And where is Watchet? It must be hidden around the corner, just beyond where the flat land rises to form a headland.

Inland are fields and wooded hills. I see an impressive looking building among the trees. Dunster Castle – once a Victorian home, now belongs to the National Trust.
 Dunster Castle across the fields, Ruth Livingstone
The shoreline continues curving around towards the small village of Blue Anchor.  It’s not the most scenic of coastal walks. The wooden groynes are partially destroyed by the sea, and the bank is showing signs of erosion.
heading for Blue Anchor, Ruth walks the Somerset Coast Path
A little  further on and I am startled by the noise of a train. I hadn’t realised the tracks came so close to the shore. It’s the wonderful West Somerset Railway line, that runs along the coast, connecting Watchet with Blue Anchor, then on to Dunster, and terminating in Minehead.
steam train comes past, Blue Anchor Bay, Ruth Livingstone
I look forward to riding that train back at the end of my walk.

Blue Anchor may be tiny, but it has an impressive sea wall. I walk along the beach for a while.
Blue Anchor, Ruth's coastal walk, Somerset
And then I climb up onto the esplanade. The wind is ferocious. I brace myself against a railing and take this photograph along the beach. Watchet is somewhere on the other side of that low cliff.
beach at Blue Anchor, Ruth walking the coastline, SomersetAs I take this photo, I am aware of a middle-aged couple watching me. Have I just finished walking the South West Coast Path? Yes. But I wonder how they knew this. They tell me they saw me yesterday, having my photo taken beside the wonderful sculpture that marks the end/beginning of the path.

Time for lunch. There are two pubs in the area, but I head for the nearest one, even though it involves a trek down a track. [It was a wise choice, I pass the other pub later and it doesn’t look as nice.] The pub has a walled garden and, despite the wind, I manage to find a sheltered spot and enjoy my favourite coastal-walking lunch: fish & chips, and a pint of cider, plus my usual glass of iced water for rehydration purposes.

After lunch, I continue along the coast, passing a field with a large car-boot sale going on. I notice they are using their vehicles as wind breaks. All the cars are facing in the same direction, like cows in a field.
car boot sale, Blue Anchor, Ruth's coastal walk, North Somerset
At the end of the sea front is a rocky groyne and a marker pole makes a defiant gesture against the crashing sea.
groyne and muddy sea, Blue Anchor, Ruth on coastal pathI remember how I first met these structures, and learnt their strange name, during my early days of coastal walking. There were plenty of groynes in Norfolk – around Sea Palling and Mundesley, for example – but I realise I’ve seen few along the shores of Devon and Cornwall.
 Dad, memorial, Ruth on the Somerset Coast PathSomething pink catches my eye. On one of the stones are a couple of roses and an envelope addressed to ‘Dad’. They are weighted down with a pebble to prevent the wind blowing them away.

I have come across many memorials in my walk along the coast. Often they take the form of benches, sometimes carved stones, occasionally statues like the one in Ilfracombe. I have become hardened to them, but I find this simple tribute particularly moving.

The cliffs beyond the promenade are scarred with recent landslips, exposing crumbling brown earth. I see a footpath fingerpost on the cliff. It looks precariously close to the edge. To get up there, according to my map, I need to take a short detour inland.

erosion, Blue Anchor, Ruth walking the coast in North Somerset
So I trek along the road and up the hill, until I find an official footpath leading off to the left. It runs along the side of fields and climbs high. I expect it to turn down towards the coast. But it doesn’t.
fields, inland deviation of coastal path to Watchet, Ruth Livingstone
Then I enter some wonderful woods. Signs warn the coastal path has been closed, due to erosion, and this is a permissive path. I catch some fine views of Minehead through the occasional gap in the trees.

view to Minehead, from trees, Ruth's coastal walk to Watchet
After walking through the woods, and along more fields, I find myself unexpectedly in a campsite. There are no footpath signs and I am unsure of the right way to go. As I walk around the edge of the field, the sight of a nearly naked woman (sunbathing) unnerves me, and I plunge off along a narrow path, down a tree-covered slope.

campsite, Warren Bay, Ruth on her coastal walk, near Watchet, Somerset
When I find myself on a shingle beach. I know I have gone the wrong way. The waves are rough and the wind is fierce.

Along the shore I can see the red and white lighthouse of Watchet – not far away.

Warren Bay, on way to Watchet, Ruth walking the Somerset coastI sit down and wedge my hat beneath a stone to stop it blowing away. Then I look ahead through my binoculars, wondering if I can walk to Watchet along the beach. But the tide is high and there is only a narrow strip below the crumbling cliffs.

An elderly gentleman comes down the path with a dog. I ask him if I can get to Watchet along the beach, but he says it is too dangerous with the tide coming in, and I will get cut off. But there is another footpath, a little further along, and that will take me up the slope and in the right direction.

I walk along the beach and find the path, with difficulty because it is disguised among the long grasses and tall bushes.  It joins a wide track and eventually I find myself on the edge of another camp site. But this time, the official path is clearly marked.
another caravan site, walking the coast path to Watchet
I trudge up a hill and am rewarded by a great view over Watchet. In the distance is the shoreline I will walk along tomorrow. More cliffs and fields. And at the end of the curve is a set of tall blocks. Hinkley Point power station.

Watchet, Ruth on Somerset Coast Path
The last part of the walk is along the B3191 into Watchet. Luckily there isn’t much traffic.

walking down into Watchet, Ruth on her coastal walk, Somerset
I make my way to the harbour and, from the shelter of the harbour wall, look out over the wild waves towards the distant headland of Minehead. Spray lashes up against the wall and I nearly get a soaking.
wild waves off harbour wall, Watchet, Ruth walking the coast
There are a few other tourists about, braving the wind and waves. I hear somebody ask their companion, “What do you think about salvation.” The other replies, “Now that is an interesting question.” I would like to have heard the answer, but the wind whips their voices away.

I walk to the end of the harbour wall. The lighthouse is very slim.
lighthouse Watchet, Ruth walking the coastline, Somerset
Back into the streets of Watchet and I walk along the quayside, where they are packing away market stalls.  It is 4:30pm. The whole of Somerset seems to pack up at 4:30 pm.

I come across a couple of fine statues.
Ancient Mariner, Coleridge, Watchet, Ruth walking in Somersetb21 Yankee Jack, Watchet Harbour, Ruth walking the coast in Somerset

One is Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, apparently inspired by a visit to Watchet in 1797. The other is John Short, a local sailor and singer, sometimes known as Yankee Jack.

I am early for the train back to Minehead, but look forward to buying a drink at the station café. But that, too is closed. In fact, everything is closed. The café and the ticket office too. At 4:40 in the afternoon with two trains left to run. Why, oh why, does everything close so ridiculously early? I am not the only one disappointed. There is quite a crowd waiting.

The first train arrives, blowing steam and with a long set of old-fashioned carriages. But it isn’t mine. This one is going to Bishops Lydeard. The wrong direction for me.

 all aboard steam train, Ruth in Watchet, coastal walking

I wait for the next one. There is a buffet bar on the train, apparently, but I don’t go and seek it out. Once I’ve sat down, I don’t feel like getting up and risking further disappointment!

steam train, Watchet station, Ruth Livingstone

The conductor seems surprised I haven’t already bought a ticket. The officials are very smart in their uniforms and are all, I gather, volunteers. It is an enjoyable (albeit slow) ride back to Minehead.

At some point, during this journey, I realise I have left my hat behind. It is still under a stone, somewhere on that pebbly beach near Watchet.

Miles walked today: 9 miles
Total since beginning: 1,461 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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15 Responses to 150b Dunster to Watchet

  1. Accidental abandonment is the inevitable fate of all hats. 😦

  2. jcombe says:

    Quite a coincidence you were spotted by the same couple two days running who saw you finish the SWCP. I wonder if they were walking the coast as well, or planning to in future?

    The England Coast Path is supposed to be opening along this part of Somerset soon. I would hope that might sort out some of the problems with the footpaths here that you found. I think it should also give a much better coastal route east of Dunster, but I suspect it is too late for you now.

    I have however walked a couple of sections of the new England Coast Path now (from Hartlepool to Sunderland), so it happening, albeit slowly.

  3. grahambenbow says:

    Someone’s somewhere has blogged that they left their hat behind!

  4. Helena says:

    Beautiful statues at Watchet, especially the ancient mariner!

  5. mariekeates says:

    It is strange how everything seems to stop so early isn’t it. Those statues are wonderful. The Ancient Mariner was another of those poems I learnt at school. Although I don’t remember the whole thing now. I wonder if anyone will see your hat under a stone and think it is a memorial like the flowers and card?

    • I don’t think I’ve read the Ancient Mariner. I need to dig out a copy. And I find it hard to understand why our coastal resorts still insist on shutting up so early. Still entrenched in 1950s mind set :/

      • Ann Howlett says:

        I share your frustration with cafes closing so early. It is hard to enjoy a leisurely cup of tea with broom or vacuum cleaner almost nudging your ankles.
        I remember the Ancient Mariner from school and used to assume it was just a good yarn but now I presume the influence of recreational drugs on the part of the poet.

  6. paul sennett says:

    Well done…signs have been hugely improved..we saw where you went off trail..Easily done…your blog saved us making the same mistake..WE loved also Dunstr village Christmas fair by candlelight…first Sat of December…p

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